New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 3

If you’ve got the first two volumes in this impressive (and growing) body of work, then you’ll definitely want to have Jerry Hammack’s latest installment, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967) as part of your collection:

Hammack is a Canadian-American musician, producer and recording engineer known for his in-depth knowledge of vintage recording techniques. You can learn more about Jerry at his website jerryhammack.com

Like previous volumes, this book contains song-by-song reconstructions of the session work (for both performance and technical) that went into each of The Beatles’ singles, EPs and albums – from the start of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era to the release Magical Mystery Tour.

Hammack’s reconstructions of what went down come from his painstaking examination of the most reliable and authoritative resources, including original EMI studios documentation; recollections and interviews with the original engineers who worked on the sessions; photographic and film evidence of the band at work; and of course analysis of the actual recordings themselves, including the many out-takes, session recordings and remixes available. Where there’s doubt or conflicting information, Hammack tries to document and reconcile discrepancies and offers well-considered justifications for the views he is putting forward.

The particular period covered in this volume offers rich pickings because The Beatles had recently given up touring in preference to immersing themselves entirely in the recording process and learning to make the studio itself another one of their instruments. As Hammack writes: “Spanning 189 days between November 24th, 1966 and June 1st, 1967 the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era forever set The Beatles apart from any other band in the history of popular music. If Revolver had freed the band from the four-piece format that best suited live performance, Pepper shattered those shackles entirely.”

A good example comes from the first song to be recorded in the Pepper sessions, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. This required work, on and off, over a 35 day period with 12 different recording sessions before it was completed.

What we find for each song is when and where each recording session took place; which instruments were played; what type of microphones were used; what signal processing was in place; what effects units were used; even details on the types of speakers in the studios and control rooms used to listen back to and mix the recordings. The detail here for those who are into the minutiae of this sort of stuff is extraordinary. Added to the detail are informative, song-by-song visual representations of how each song came together:Looking ahead, Hammack has only Volume 4 to go. It will be the final book in the series and covers off the LPs The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) through to Abbey Road (1968-1970). The plan is to release that volume in about 6 months time.

See also our review of Volume 1 and Volume 2 in the series, plus Jerry Hammack’s official Beatles Recording Reference Manuals website for the book, and Amazon’s Look Inside if you’d like to get a better idea of the format and what each book contains.

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Strange/Unusual Find of the Month

It’s not every day that you walk into your local second-hand record store and find an almost mint copy of The Beatles’ 1967 EP Magical Mystery Tour, but that’s what happened last week.

Dropped into Audiomania in the Sydney suburb of Manly Vale and as we were quietly browsing the LP section we looked up to a shelf just near the “New Arrivals” bin, and this is what we spied:

This is a UK pressing, and we’re pretty sure it is an original from 1967, making it just over 50 years old. For it’s age this example is in exceptionally good condition, both the laminated gatefold sleeve, and the two EP records it contains.

This is the mono UK pressing. You can tell that from the catalogue number MMT-1 which is printed on the upper right of rear cover (and of course the word MONO is also there!). Stereo pressings have an SMMT catalogue number:

The labels also carry the MMT catalogue number. As you can see below this pressing came with a solid centre. There are also examples with a push-out centre. The labels have the “Sold in the U.K. subject to resale price conditions…” text:

Don’t know if you can see it, but the Side 1 label (on either side of the spindle hole) has two raised letters, a K and a T. Not sure if this is significant, or helps identify the pressing date. We think it has something to do with a tax code for the record.

The inner 24-page booklet is also in excellent condition:

It also comes with the 4-page blue lyric sheet pages still intact in the centre. This also helps identify it as being an original pressing. The paper sleeves holding the records are white though, and have a wave-cut top. I think originally the discs may have come in black paper sleeves? If anyone knows please contact us, or leave a comment.

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

So, this was too good an item to pass over. We have Australian mono and stereo pressings of the Magical Mystery Tour double EP, plus a nice French pressing (with a story attached), but a UK pressing in almost pristine condition was our find of the month.

The really sad news is that the Audiomania store will soon be no more. The owner let us know that they will be closing their doors because the site in which they operate has been purchased and its buildings demolished. All the tenants have to get out. They hope to continue online, but it’s just not the same as being there to flip through record bins of used LPs and singles in person…..

Mystery of a “Mystery Tour” Original EP Solved

Originally I was annoyed with the eBay seller, and also annoyed with myself for not checking properly before bidding….

You see, I’d been the successful bidder on what I thought was an original, 1967 German pressing of The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. That’s the way it was advertised by the seller. It was a double EP on the Odeon label and in very good condition for its age. Got it for a really good price, too:magical_ger_ep_h1_large magical_ger_ep_h4_large

Then the record arrives in the post. We open it up and pop open the gatefold cover. There, at the bottom right, it clearly says: “MADE & PRINTED IN GERMANY”. All good so far:mmt-germay

Then we get the records out. They’re in mint condition and on the red Odeon label:mmt-france-label

But hang on, the small print on the label says “MADE IN FRANCE”! mmt-france-closeup

What’s going on here? Has this eBay seller done a swifty and tried to pass off a “Frankenstein-ed” copy of Magical Mystery Tour? Have they conveniently mixed a cover from one country, and the two vinyls from another?

Thankfully, no.

A little bit of “after-the-fact” internet research reveals that all is well. This is indeed how this edition was originally released. In France, Odeon manufactured the vinyl locally, but they imported all the covers from Germany. This is easily proved by a visit to the Discogs database here, and here where members have similar copies to the one we have.

There is also an excellent explanation (and photos) on The Beatles Record Collection site, where it is revealed that there are even more variations in the way the French issued the Magical Mystery Tour EP set.

So, we indeed do have a correct and original French (not German) pressing of this disc after all. Phew!

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

A Couple of Beatle DVD Finds

We went “op shopping” recently and discovered a little bit of Beatle treasure.

First up a copy of Paul McCartney’s 2005 concert film In Red Square:

McCartney Red 1

It comes in an outer slip-case. Here’s the rear cover:McCartney Red 2

There’s also an inner booklet included with a range of images from the historic concert:McCartney Red 3

McCartney Red 4

The other DVD we found is a 2008 documentary called Magical Mystery Tour Memories:MMTM1

This is a documentary, a behind-the-scenes/memories of making the actual1967 Beatle film Magical Mystery Tour. Narrated by actor and Beatle friend Victor Spinetti (who not only appeared in MMT but also the films Help! and A Hard Day’s Night), there are lots of stories about what happened during the filming. They range from those who were officially there as part of the cast and crew, through to the many innocent bystanders who just happened to bump into the Beatle entourage as they travelled by bus around England making their largely improvised film. There are appearances and reminiscences from the likes of Paul’s brother Mike McCartney; Beatle Fan Club secretary Freda Kelly; former Beatle insider Tony Bramwell; their press officer Tony Barrow; and Neil Innes from the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (and later The Rutles).     MMTM2MMTM3

It has to be said this is a fairly low-budget affair that received only mixed reviews when it was first released, but it’s an interesting documentary to have in the collection and contains some very nice stories and memories of what it was like making Magical Mystery Tour.

Magical Mystery Tour – New Zealand Variation

Being located in Australia means it is only a hop, skip and a jump across the Tasman Sea to our very close neighbor, New Zealand. And that means the occasional (and interesting) New Zealand Beatle items turn up here from time-to-time.

I recently scored a nice copy of the New Zealand Magical Mystery Tour LP, which came out in Australia and NZ on the World Record Club label. In both countries this release was unique to the rest of the world, but the New Zealand version has a number of differences again to the Australian. Here’s the front cover:

The-Beatles-Magical-Mystery-T-524861

The picture is very similar to the Australian edition, but there is a large World Record Club/EMI logo over the white piano. And the rear is different too. The Australian cover is printed in colour, while in New Zealand it was black and white:

mmt rear nz

The most startling difference is the label – this is the one I have:

260951892943

In New Zealand there are two variations of this label. Here’s the second:

mmt nz variation

I’m told there is an even more unusual New Zealand Apple label version. It still has the same outer cover, but with a different catalogue number – and green Apple labels on the vinyl….

To more closely compare the two World Record Club editions click here to see pictures of the Australian MMT release.

See also the HMV Box Set CD of Magical Mystery Tour.

Greta’s Beatle Records

OK. We take a little bit of a sidetrack here. To a website I stumbled across by accident last week. As you do.

It’s still very much about “…adventures in collecting Beatles music…” though.

It’s a site called Greta’s Records, and it’s a fascinating concept realised by an American woman named Allison Anders. As she explains on her site: “Just before Christmas, I treated myself to a new and special experience — I bid in a live celebrity auction.  Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills, Ca. presented a 2 day live auction of the remaining estate of classic film actress Greta Garbo”.

And there was a mass of possessions on offer in the auction. (Click here to see the full Garbo collection catalogue).

Allison continues: “The question one needs to ask when you bid in an auction like this — what do I truly WANT, just something which belonged to her?  Everyone would love a dress she wore — but what would I really DO with it?…..Then I saw it.  WOW — Greta Garbo had records!  Of course!  Why wouldn’t she?  Everyone had vinyl records, stacks of them in the 50s, 60s onward.  What would possibly be in Greta Garbo’s private record collection?   All of it was thrilling and surprising.  There were several lots of records up for auction — including one of classical records and opera, one of spoken word, one of jazz, then one of international records, and one of rock and pop records…..[and] I was the winning bidder on the rock/pop records!   50 of them!”  (Click here to see the catalogue page featuring Lot 420 – the popular records).

Greta's Records 1

The first Beatles LP of Greta Garbo that she explores is Introducing the Beatles.

Greta's Records 2

As well as some detail about the release and it’s songs, Allison has researched Introducing the Beatles fairly thoroughly – even down to notes and links on this the most counterfeited of all popular LPs. She also includes a backgrounder on the Vee Jay label, the most successful black-owned record label before Motown. And there’s even a video on how to tell whether your copy of this record is legitimate or a phoney (….turns out Greta Garbo’s is a phoney):

Well, there’ll be more Beatle records coming up on Allison’s great blog. There are at lease two others (Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour which we can see in the photos) and I’m sure she will be worth reading when she gets to these.

For anyone with a collector’s heart this is a fascinating journey and a document of a famous person’s taste in popular music.

Mojo – The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Special Edition

OK. So I didn’t know this was out until I stumbled across it in my local newsagent store yesterday while looking for something else. Turns out it’s been out since October…

Mojo MMT Front

That’s the front cover of a special edition of “Mojo” the British music magazine. Clearly timed to co-ordinate with the release of the digitally remastered Beatles Magical Mystery Tour DVD and BluRay sets, this is a very good collection of articles and sometimes eye-poppingly good photographs – many of which I have not seen before. There’s a section called Unseen Photos, featuring snaps by Henry Grossman of the Beatles homes and parties, many of which have never seen the light of day:

Mojo MMT 3

This 132 page special focusses on the period 1967 and where the band was at at the time. It combines, amongst other things, archival features on the albums Rubber SoulRevolver, Sgt. Pepper and of course Magical Mystery Tour:

Mojo MMT 1

There’s a whole section on the influence of Indian music at the time, quite a coincidence with the passing just last week of master musician Ravi Shankar who played such a key role in the sound of the band at the time. And of course this period saw the Beatles play their last live concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The magazine features a lengthy transcript of a press conference given in Los Angeles – again the last they would give as a touring band.

Mojo MMT 2

If you can get yourself a copy of this special edition of Mojo I think it’s worth it. Very well put together and lots to interest the avid collector or those only occasionally interested in the band and the late 1960s era. Here’s the magazine’s rear cover:

Mojo MMT rear

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve had a couple of readers contact me about a special, limited edition cover to this magazine. After a bit of research I understand that there were only 1000 copies of an alternate “Walrus” cover produced and these were only available via online order. So, those people who got them have a bit of a collectors item:

mmtspecial