The Results of a Day Spent Crate Digging for Beatle Treasure

We had the chance to visit the lovely city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia last weekend. A friend directed us to a record store they knew nearby – Licorice Pie – in the suburb of Prahran, not far from the CBD. If you are ever in Melbourne, this place is well worth a visit as they have heaps of well catalogued stock and at very reasonable prices.

Of course we were on the trail of some Beatle treasure, trying to fill in some gaps in the collection, and Licorice Pie did not disappoint.

We’ve been looking for some time for a copy of John Lennon’s Mind Games on the Axis label. Axis was an EMI subsidiary, the Australian equivalent of the UK budget label Music for Pleasure.

Axis released Mind Games three times in all, and each release is slightly different and even has different catalogue numbers. We had two of the three, but not the third – until now: 

This one has the catalogue number AXIS.6441 (the others are AX701272 and AX1009, both of which have yellow Axis labels). This one has black and white labels:

The sleeve also contained an original advertising insert with lists of other Axis budget titles on both sides, all for just A$4.99!

Licorice had some other John Lennon records we couldn’t resist. For example, this 7″ single in a picture cover, released in November, 1981 on the Parlophone label. It’s got two ‘A’ sides:

And this Lennon/Ono 7″ picture sleeve, a single taken from the Milk and Honey LP, released in 1984:

This next find is going to sound pedantic. It’s an Australian pressing of The Beatles ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’. We had it already, but not with the Northern Songs publishing credit printed on the left-hand side of the Apple label:

When we discovered ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ it was in a large box full of other Apple 7″ singles – quite a few of which we were after. Probably the most collectable was Paul and Linda McCartney’s ‘Eat At Home’ single from the Ram period (1971):

This one is interesting because not only is it kind of rare (you don’t see many copies of it around), but it has an uncut Apple label on the ‘B’ side (the song ‘Smile Away’, also from Ram):

There was a nice clean pressing of George Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love [Give Me Peace on Earth]’ in the box too: 

Then two non-Beatle artists signed to the Apple label. First up, Badfinger with ‘No Matter What’:

And finally, the late great Billy Preston from 1969 and ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’:All these records filled gaps – they were records we didn’t have, despite years of collecting. That’s testament to a great record store. Get along to Licorice Records in Melbourne if you can!

(As usual, click on images to see larger versions)

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Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album – First Look

Some reviewers are flouting the embargo on showing and reviewing The Beatles new 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album).

While it is not officially released until November 9, Michael Fremer – who is an equipment reviewer for the legendary Stereophile magazine, but who also runs his own YouTube channel and a blog called AnalogPlanet – has given fans a tasty preview of what to expect.

Fremer shows us not only the 4 LP set, but also the Deluxe 6 CD plus Blu-ray box containing Giles Martin’s new remix, the Esher Demos, and much much more in this YouTube clip:

He’s also published this lengthy review. In a nutshell – he really likes the vinyl:

“….the reissue does not sound like the original U.K. pressing nor was it intended to. Yet it remains true to the original’s intent, in part because there was less Mr. Martin could do to change it.

The new mix does sound more “modern” because modern techniques and gear were used, and the final source was a modern digital storage system, but this reissue does not sound “digital” as the pejorative use of the term has come to be used.

You’ll definitely be able to hear further into the reissue mix because it has greater transparency. And you can crank it up farther because it’s less harsh and somewhat smoother but not to where it’s soft.”

Mr Fremer also says that the Esher Demos LP is exceptional:

“…..they are truly wondrous. John brought 15 songs, Paul 7 and George 5. You are in the Kinfauns Bungalow as they strum, bang and shake and you’ll love every minute of it.”

So, how was the CD box set by comparison?

“When I played the CD version….all of that magic disappeared. I was hearing a plastic-sounding recording. Was it different EQ? Was it the downrez from 96/24 to 16/44.1? I don’t know and I don’t care. Am I prejudiced against CDs? Damn straight I am! Based on what I hear and nothing else.”

And how does he sum it all up?

“My conclusion about this remix is that if you have an original British pressing that you love, you will still love that. If you have an open mind you will also love this re-mix. You might be surprised which one you choose when you want to revisit this album. Yes, The Beatles has been “Martinized” but you won’t be left thinking you’ve been taken to the cleaners!”

Traveling Wilburys – 30th Anniversary Picture Disc Announced

The official George Harrison social sites (Instagram, Twitter) have been carrying cryptic Traveling Wilbury teasers for a couple of days:

It’s now been revealed what it’s all about:

Universal Music, via a Concord Records’ subsidiary Craft Recordings, is to release a limited edition, 30th Anniversary picture disc pressing of The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 LP.Pre-order pics show that Side 1 carries the Wilbury logo, while Side 2 features an image from this video for ‘Handle Me With Care’, shot by Alberto Tolot:

The picture disc will be issued on November 2.

The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Picture Disc Track List

A1. “Handle With Care”
A2. “Dirty World”
A3. “Rattled”
A4. “Last Night”
A5. “Not Alone Any More”
B1. “Congratulations”
B2. “Heading for the Light”
B3. “Margarita”
B4. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”
B5. “End of the Line”

Paul McCartney – 2018 Record Store Day Single

The Record Store Day people have just announced their Black Friday release list, and it features a Paul McCartney 7″ vinyl single.

On November 23 Capitol Records will issue a limited edition, hand-numbered, one-time pressing of the special Double A Side single ‘I Don’t Know’/’Come On To Me’.

The two tracks, from Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album, Egypt Station, were initially only released as a “digital” Double A Side single in the lead-up to his LP release.

The vinyl single is described as a Record Store Day exclusive (i.e. a title that is physically released only at indie record stores), and only 5,000 will be issued worldwide.

Vale Geoff Emerick – Audio Engineer Extraordinaire

Very sad to learn that Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer who worked on so many legendary Beatle and McCartney recordings, has passed away. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 72.

Paul McCartney pays tribute on his official site, and recalls Geoff being central to the recording of his classic Band On The Run LP from 1973.

Rolling Stone magazine says he was a crucial collaborator who helped The Beatles re-invent music.

When reviewing his 2006 book Here,There and Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles, the magazine said “Emerick was integral to the sounds of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper – he is, in his way, as responsible for McCartney’s bass tone at the time as the bassist himself – and the band’s sonic palette was never richer.”

As we said in our own review of his memoir: we wouldn’t have the Beatle canon without him.

Egypt Station – The Packaging

Now that the general public and the reviewers verdicts are in (all generally very positive btw), and now that Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station has entered the Billboard 200 at No.1, making it his first No.1 album on the US charts in over 36 years (the last time was Tug Of War in 1982), maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the cover art and design of the album – both in LP and CD form – because these too seem to have met with a very favourable reception from fans:

Explaining the album’s concept, Paul says, “I liked the words ‘Egypt Station.’… I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from.” The title is taken from the piece of art which is featured on the album cover. It’s a limited edition lithograph, the original of which Paul himself painted back in 1988:

“My original inspiration [for the painting] was….Egyptian symbols and shapes I got from looking at a reference book on Egypt. I was interested in the way they drew sunflowers, so two appear on the left and on the right. It was a nice shape, so I took that and then I also love the way they symbolize trees. I like the way they reduce a tree to just some very simple symbols.”  Paul McCartney

The art directors hired for the project are Ferry Gouw, an illustrator, graphic designer and video director based in London, and Gary Card, a set designer, illustrator and artist also based in London. They’ve taken McCartney’s original painting and extended out its themes and style across many panels (for both the CD and the LP) in a spectacular way.

At first the two seem an odd choice as on the surface they both appear to work in very different worlds to that of Paul McCartney. Gouw inhabits more of an out there, conceptual electronic dance music, skater/cartoon world. He’s also the in-house designer for James Blake’s record label, 1800-Dinosaur. This video is a little old, but it gives a taste of Gouw’s style:

So, you might wonder how Gouw got the McCartney gig. Then you discover that earlier this year Roxy Music hired him to produce a new video interpretation of their legendary song (from 1972), ‘Virginia Plain‘. Gouw says:

“I wanted it to feel like a kaleidoscopic holiday in glamorous, but surreal locations, that only exist in vintage posters and your imagination. The song is so dense – the imagery comes thick and fast, so they all have to pop up in a stream of consciousness. So I researched vintage holiday posters, Americana pin-up icons, art deco jazz posters, and re-drew all the elements to make up the video.”

It was Bryan Ferry who commissioned the piece after being impressed with Gouw’s work on a video for his solo album, Olympia. The result has been described as the creative rebirth of an iconic track in British musical lore:

On the other hand, Gary Card seems more into groovy and colourful pop sculpture of late. By way of example there’s this amazing eight foot high plasticine Christmas tree he made for a London hotel last holiday season:Both Gouw and Card have been on Instagram since the release of Egypt Station“After months of hard work this beauty is finally out in the world. So proud to see it everywhere, it’s a real privilege to be a part of this. Expect me and @garycard to be spamming Instagram with this for the next few years LoL” – Ferry Gouw

Woke up this morning to news that the Paul McCartney album we designed is number 1 in the U.S 👍🏻 here’s the full art work @ferry_gouw n me based around @paulmccartney‘s original painting #egyptstation” – Gary Card. He then posted this image of the  6-panel “concertina” style packaging they devised for the CD:

When folded up the CD cover is held in place with a bright red cloth fabric elastic band:

For the exclusive Target and HMV editions (which have two bonus songs) the elastic band is green in colour to help set it apart:

It’s not the first time that McCartney has employed elastic bands to hold together a cover. In 1999, under his The Fireman persona, he released a 12″ vinyl featuring remixes of a song called ‘Fluid’, taken from the Rushes album. That folded cover has a red rubber band to keep everything in place too:

The Egypt Station “concertina” idea for the CD is also used for the vinyl record, but only in the “Deluxe Edition” design. This is a three-panel gatefold and you can see Sir Paul holding an example of it here:The LP cover is quite spectacular in this larger format, with a beautifully textured feel to the paper used giving a high quality tactile feel. There’s also a tri-fold lyric sheet in a deep blue which fits within – also beautifully designed by Gouw and Card. Here’s one page from the lyric sheet:

You can see how the LP package folds compared to the CD version a little more clearly here:

The attention to detail extends further inside, with the labels on each side of the LP being individually custom designed as well. Another nice touch:

And that brings us to the vinyl colours. Egypt Station is offered in black vinyl (140 gram standard, and 180 gram deluxe); in blue and orange coloured vinyls for the deluxe version – only available via McCartney’s official site; in red vinyl as a Barnes & Noble store exclusive; and in green vinyl – offered to Spotify subscribers first, but for a period also available to all via the McCartney site as well.

When the images for Egypt Station first began to appear many likened the cover to George Harrison’s 1982 outing, Gone Troppo:

Yes, there are certain similarities in the colours and the pastiche style used, but Egypt Station‘s artwork goes far beyond. It harkens back to the days when albums really were works of art. They could be folded out and explored and enjoyed as an immersive experience in themselves, quite apart from the music contained within. We think Ferry Gouw and Gary Card should be congratulated.

Interesting peice of trivia: In 2004, when Paul headlined the Glastonbury Festival in England, the same Egypt Station artwork from his original painting adorned the pre-show curtain:

There is a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package of the year. In 2018 there was a tie for first place and so two winners were recognised (click here to see the list and scroll down to Award Number 65):

Above on the left is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition) – Sasha Barr, Ed Steed and Josh Tillman, art directors.

On the right is Magin Díaz’s El Orisha De La Rosa – Carlos Dussan, Juliana Jaramillo, Juan Martinez and Claudio Roncoli, art directors.

There’s a good article about both albums and their cover art here. There’s further information on both here also.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until January, 2019 to see if: a) Egypt Station receives a Grammy nomination for its extraordinary packaging, and b) it wins!

Paul McCartney always puts a lot of effort into the design and presentation of his albums. Two excellent examples are the totally integrated concept for his Electric Arguments release as The Fireman in 2008/09, which saw the standard CD right through to an extraordinary limited edition deluxe box set executed with aplomb; and his album New from 2013. You can find the story behind the cover art for that one here.

FOR MORE ON EGYPT STATION SEE ALSO:

Record Store Day Double A Side to be released; a retro Egypt Station Cassette; some Egypt Station Reviews; the Spotify Egypt Station Green Vinyl; and Packaging Variations of Egypt Station.