New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 2

As author, recording engineer and musician Jerry Hammack says in the introduction to his book: “If you have read Volume 1 of The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, you will understand that the goal of these books is a straightforward one; to document the creation of The Beatles’ catalogue of recorded work – from first take to final remix. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Now comes the next installment in his impressive series, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 2: ‘Help!’ through ‘Revolver’ (1965-1966).

Hammack’s intention here is to fill in the gaps between Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Andy Babuik’s Beatles Gear, and Recording The Beatles by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. It’s also about how the band’s recording processes evolved as they became more experienced recording artists, as recording technology developed, and as the resources available to them expanded.

Jerry has spent nearly ten years now carefully de-constructing each Beatle recording. He does this by listening to out-takes, bootlegs, and original stems containing isolated solos and vocals (which can be unlocked in the video game RockBand). He pores over studio logs to see exactly where the recording took place, who the engineer was, even what tape machines were being used. Then there’s studio film footage and still photography that can also yield up valuable evidence. These things can all give hints as to how each song must have been created. The information can then be logically worked through to make a near-as-can-be definitive picture of what we now hear on the final mixes. Bear in mind that in arriving at his conclusions Hammack cross referenced some 5,500 tracks!

These reference manuals serve as a terrific listening companion to use as you sit in front of your speakers, or have your headphones on. With them at hand you can clearly identify what is going on with any given track. There are both text explanations and simple diagrams detailing what occurred in the studio as each track became the final mixes we have today, and sometimes these contain fascinating new information. I mean, who knew John Lennon played drums on the George Harrison composition ‘I Need You’ from Help!?

As in Volume 1 there are numerous appendices at the back of the book covering release versions, gear and instruments used, and more.

Gotta say too, just in passing, that the cover image for Volume 2 is super cool!

Jerry Hammack has created a website to support the book series, and you can purchase his book through Amazon.

Additionally, the fab Something About the Beatles podcast, hosted by Robert Rodriguez (with Ben Rowling), recently interviewed author Jerry Hammack. It comes in two parts. Have a listen to both Part One and Part Two. Well worth it.

Looking ahead, Volume 3 will cover off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, and then the final book in the series, Volume 4, will take in the LPs The Beatles (aka The White Album, through to Abbey Road (1968-1970). The plan is to release each at  about 6-monthly intervals.

If you are a “gear nerd” or you just want to get the absolute detail, song-by-song, on how each Beatle track was recorded, the instruments and technology used, and who played what, these books are a must.

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Brilliant New Beatle Book – Visualizing The Beatles

They say there are four basic types of learners: those who like to listen (auditory); those who like to take notes and read (reading/writing); those who like to be hands-on (kinaesthetic); and those who prefer to see the information in order to visualise the relationships between ideas (visual).

Well, if you fall into the visual camp, then you’re going to love this new Beatle book because on each of its 276 pages it packs a huge amount of data told in a truly unique way: using fantastic infographics.

Even if you’re not a “visual” person you’ll love this book for the breadth of the information it contains, and the fun, innovative way it tells the Beatle story anew. There’s really nothing else like it on the market:

The book is called Visualizing The Beatles – A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band. Not only does it mange to squeeze three US spellings into it’s title, it crams a truly amazing amount of facts, figures, maps, history, stories and information between it’s covers – all told using infographics. Because of this the book forces you to think about the band we all know so well in very different ways, often bringing new understanding to how four young musicians from Liverpool had such an impact on the world.

Authors John Pring and Rob Thomas organise their information in a fairly standard fashion – each album in the order it was released, starting with Please Please Me and ending with Let It Be – but the way they go about deconstructing each has a unique telling. As they say in their introductory note: “It is by no means a definitive history of The Beatles. Instead, it is an attempt to create something beautiful, vibrant, and original from the data their music left behind. It is an attempt to present the facts in a way you haven’t seen them before, so you can spot, in an instant, the patterns, anomalies and changes.”

There are infographic pages for each LP detailing (amongst many other things):

  • An album overview
  • A song lyrics “word map”
  • Composer
  • What keys the songs were in
  • Instruments used
  • Album design details
  • Track lengths + original work v. covers
  • Who took lead vocals?
  • Success of the album – and any singles released

By way of example, here are a couple of pages. The first visually represents the many instruments used – and who played what – on Abbey Road, released in September, 1969:

As usual, click on these images to see larger versions. This next page covers off songwriting duties for the 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour

And this page shows the song titles – and the musical keys for each – on Rubber Soul from 1965:

Slowly, as you flip through the book, these images build to reveal a unique way of looking at the band’s output. Additionally, there are pages graphically representing things like all their US releases and the chart positions each achieved; a Beatle filmography; there are timelines detailing what else was happening in the world at the time of each album release; what the Beatles were wearing and their hairstyles through each phase of their career; where each album was recorded; tour maps; and key places of interest in the cities they lived in and visited, and much, much more.

One particularly interesting map page shows the city of Liverpool with flags dotted across it marking where the band lived in relation to each other; the locations of places like Strawberry Field and Penny Lane; schools and key performance venues from the early days. It is simple, but instantly gives a whole new context by visually representing basic facts from the Beatle story in a brand new way.

Visualizing The Beatles by John Pring and Rob Thomas is published by Dey Street Books. It goes on sale in the USA on May 1st. [FYI the book was originally published as Visualising the Beatles in the UK in 2016].

You will definitely learn things you didn’t know about the Beatles. Highly recommended.

Paul McCartney – ‘Music of the Spheres’

On Christmas Day, two keen music fans leaked their version of the as-yet unreleased original symphonic music composed for the the video game, Destiny.

There is of course a Beatle connection here in the form of Sir Paul McCartney who contributed to the soundtrack for the game, most notably the end-credits song ‘Hope for the Future‘.

The Destiny: Music of the Spheres suite is the work of Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, but it took the fan duo of Tlohtzin Espinosa and Owen Spence to bring it to the public. They spent more than a year pulling together all the elements they could get their hands on to compile what is essentially a complete soundtrack album of Destiny:

You can hear it on Soundcloud, and on YouTube. Download links are out there on the World Wide Web too if you are interested.

There’s more background on how all this came to be in an article on the Ars Technica site, plus you should also see this Reddit post by the two fans who took the risk of putting it out there in the first place.  

Some Sgt. Pepper’s Holiday Listening

With the holidays upon us, and to celebrate the release of the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (on 180 gram vinyl) in single LP form – plus the Sgt. Pepper vinyl picture disc, here are a couple of Pepper-related items for your listening pleasure.

They all come from the Australian Radio National program, The Music Show – hosted by Andrew Ford.

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper earlier this year The Music Show spoke to singer Barb Junger (whom you’ll hear has a record of Beatle covers out) and writer Joyce Morgan about their memories of first hearing the album back when it was first released in the Summer of Love:

The Music Show also spoke to Beatle biographer extraordinaire, Mark Lewisohn:

The program’s final Pepper installment came from Joanne Petersen, Brian Epstein’s personal assistant. Petersen, who now lives in Australia, recalls the time she heard a test pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s; details some of the launch activities (including John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce); and George Harrison refusing to cuddle British DJ Kenny Everett:

Their Pepper special also came with a special bonus. It’s a link to a fantastic mini documentary on the background to the people (and horses!) mentioned in the poster John Lennon used to inspire his song, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’. And, believe it or not, there’s another Australian connection:

All audio is ex ABC Radio National. Visit The Music Show website for more of their great programs.

 

McCartney Musical Memory for endthesilence.com

“When a baby in an orphanage cries nobody comes to comfort them. As a result, they learn not to cry; internalising their pain, causing lifelong mental and physical damage. Deprived of love, deprived of life. Left to grow up without laughter, without music, without hope. Left there, children will never experience the love and protection only a family can offer. Together we can End the Silence.”

So begins the explanation of what the charity End the Silence is about. It is asking everyone to share a musical memory, and to donate, so that 8 million children confined to orphanages around the world might have their silence ended.

Lots of music personalities have got behind the push to raise money by sharing their own musical memories, including Paul McCartney:

Get cracking. Every pound donated to the End the Silence campaign before the 27th December will be doubled by the UK Government. Every child should grow up surrounded by love, family and music.

Paul McCartney – ‘Take 5’ on triple j

Seems like this blog has become more paulmccartneyblogger.com than beatlesblogger.com lately…

Only natural I guess as Paul McCartney is in Australia at the moment, and that’s where we are too. There has been a lot more media as a result.

Just wanted to let you know that a lengthy radio interview has just been broadcast nationally on the country’s leading youth music station, triple j.

Presenter Zan Rowe each week sits down with a musician and talks about their craft. It’s called ‘Take 5’ and is based around five back-catalogue tracks chosen by the artist. This week they scored a big one – an extensive conversation with Paul McCartney.

The radio station has kindly uploaded the episode as a podcast – so you can have a listen to it here as well.

(Photo: MPL Communications/MJ Kim)

triple j has also published a few different angles on the content. Here are a couple of pages that will be of interest:

Paul McCartney On The Unheard Stories Behind His Songs

A Different Cut of ‘Take 5’ – Without Zan Rowe’s Intro Plus More Text and Song Links

And don’t miss his one and only Australian TV interview here.

Black Friday – McCartney’s ‘Holidays Rule Vol.2’

Getting up early to go into Red Eye Records this morning for the two different RSD Black Friday releases of Paul McCartney’s Holdays Rule Vol.2 has paid off.

This time around we got ’em both:

(Double click images to see larger versions)

This is in marked contrast to Record Store Day proper earlier this year and the quest to find The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’/’Strawberry Fields Forever’ single – which you can read about in two parts here and here…..it has a happy ending, but was painful at the time!

UPDATE:  The Black Friday RSD singles above are Made in the U.S.A. We were not aware that versions of these coloured discs were also pressed in Europe – until one of our very knowledgable and well-connected readers, Andrey in Russia, sent us through scans of the EU pressings:  

If you click on the images you can pull up larger images. In the small print on the rear covers you can clearly see that these are Made in the EU. The hype stickers on the front are different to those on the US copies as well.