New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4

How did The Beatles get the particular and unique sounds they achieved on their records?

If that’s a question you’ve been asking, then you’ll find a lot of the answers in a series of books written by Canadian musician, producer and recording engineer Jerry Hammack.

To date Jerry has produced an impressive body of work across three previous volumes in what he calls The Beatles Recording Reference Manuals (check out our reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3). In these books you’ll discover in intricate detail how The Beatles went about the recording process: the studios and equipment they used, their instruments, personnel, processes and recording dates and times. In short, just how they created their masterpieces.

Well, released today is the latest instalment in the series, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968-early 1969).

This new book picks up where the third left off, covering the period 1968 and early 1969. The songs recorded for the double LP, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) are dealt with in great detail. By comparison Yellow Submarine, which is included due to it’s release in the time span covered, isn’t. That’s because most of the Beatle songs used for that project (except for ‘Hey Bulldog’) were recorded earlier and are covered off in previous volumes. Also included here are the singles ‘Lady Madonna’/’The Inner Light’ and ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’.

This series is a labour of love that has taken Jerry Hammack more than ten years to complete, and this latest volume serves as a fantastic companion to last year’s remixed and remastered 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles double LP.

You can follow the journey of each song, from first take to final mix. There are text explanations and simple diagrams detailing what occurred in the studio as each track became the songs that we know and love today.

As Hammack says: “We are aware of most of the “when” and “where”, but the “what was done?” isn’t always clear. We rarely know what guitars or amplifiers were used on a song-by-song basis. There is even less knowledge about the format of the recordings or the studio equipment used on a specific song or session. It takes a lot of detective work to figure these facts out, and a number of popular sources for the information are in conflict, out of date, or just plain wrong. A picture of the work that comprised the creation of each song must be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Thus began my quest to research, gather and organize both the narrative and core technical details of each of the classic Beatles recording sessions.”

The background introductions to each song often contain some pertinent observations. Take this one for ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’:

“The fact that McCartney would insist on beating the song to death over eight recording sessions, and three different versions, would only add fuel to the fire of frustration. While songs like Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields Forever had taken more sessions to record, they were perfected in a spirit of cooperation, where everyone was on-board regarding the value of the work being done. Times had changed. No doubt the extent of the animosity surrounding The Beatles sessions was somewhat exaggerated (though Starr did walk out, Martin deliberately absented himself, and business affairs under Apple were another matter). However, the seeds of the band’s ultimate unravelling through a single member’s insistence on his own particular vision were undoubtedly planted here. Bra.”

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

Bring on the fifth and final volume that will cover the period 1969 to early 1970 (Let It Be and Abbey Road) where maybe, finally, the lengthy and sometimes tedious debate on Beatle chat rooms at the moment about who played drums on ‘Old Brown Shoe’ might finally be put to rest! (If you’re interested in this discussion it’s on this particular thread beginning about here. It continues for about fifty pages…..)

In the meantime, try and get yourself a copy of Jerry Hammack’s The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4. Check it out here on Amazon.

More ABC Radio Beatle LP Podcasts

Back in 2014 the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) began hosting an ongoing series celebrating the 50th anniversary release of each British Beatle LP.

As each album marks its anniversary ABC Radio presenter Rod Quinn speaks to US John Lennon biographer and Beatle expert Jude Southerland Kessler. Jude is the author of the extraordinary (and ambitious!) nine-volume John Lennon narrative biography. The latest instalment in Jude’s amazing series was released late last year – Volume 4: Should Have Known Better (to see the details scroll down after clicking).

Well, after a bit of a break, the pair are back. In October last year they took a look back at both sides of the original Yellow Submarine album:

Then came the big one, The Beatles (or The White Album) 50th Anniversary. It took Jude and host Rod Quinn some time to work through all four sides of the legendary album on air, but they’ve put the results together in one, long podcast:

They also talked through highlights of The Esher Demos bonus disc that came with 50th Anniversary release of The White Album last year:

Each of these podcasts are very insightful – and really are well worth a listen.

Previous broadcasts/podcasts have covered Please Please MeWith the BeatlesA Hard Day’s NightBeatles For Sale and of course, Help! – in two parts: Side One here, and Side Two here.

You can hear Rod and Jude talk about Rubber Soul; Revolver; and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by clicking here.

Beatles “White Album” 50th Anniversary Turntable

There’s another Beatle-themed turntable out there: 

Turntable manufacturer Pro-Ject Audio Systems, in association with Universal Music, has launched a Beatles White Album model to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the legendary recording.

Based on a Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB model, the limited White Album version really is all-white, down to the platter, tonearm, switch gear, and even a specially produced white-bodied Ortofon 2M cartridge pre fitted at the factory:The company now has seven Beatle-related record players: the Yellow Submarine model; two Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band models (in Drum and Limited Edition versions); a Beatles 1964 edition; a George Harrison turntable , and now a Ringo Starr “Peace and Love” turntable as well:

PeaceAndLoveTurntable-1-1024x684 2The Beatles White Album turntable is limited to 500 pieces worldwide. It looks to have a limited edition number stamped on it, just like the original LP covers did back in 1968, but it’s not clear if these are individual or not:The Pro-Ject White Album Limited Edition is up at the higher end of Pro-Ject’s turntable offerings and retails for US$1799 (and in Australia for $2699). You can read the official press release here.

Yellow Submarine Picture Disc

The Beatles official site has announced that a limited edition ‘Yellow Submarine’ 7″ vinyl picture disc single is to be released on July 6:  
This will mark 50 years since the Yellow Submarine animated film hit movie screens around the world:

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an officially released ‘Yellow Submarine’ 7″ picture disc. As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations for each British Beatle single, EMI issued a series of picture discs. This one came out in 1986 – marking 20 years since the band’s 13th single ‘Yellow Submarine’/’Eleanor Rigby’ was issued in August, 1966:

The new 7″ vinyl picture disc will come in a coloured die-cut sleeve and will be released on Friday, 6 July. A high-resolution, 4K restoration of the Yellow Submarine film will open at selected movie theatres in the UK, Ireland and the US in the following days. Tickets are here.

Yellow Submarine – 50th Anniversary Celebration Ideas Taking Shape

This year, being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine LP and animated film, we’ll see some official Apple-backed activities to mark the occasion.

There’s to be a new graphic novel adaptation of the film story from comic-book artist, writer and editor Bill Morrison. This will be released on August 7 and is available for pre-order now from Amazon US and Amazon UK. See more on the background to the book hereAlso, The Beatles official site today also announced that, in the UK and Ireland at least, Yellow Submarine will be making a return to cinemas for one day only. It’s planned to show the film in multiple locations on July 8. Tickets go on sale from April 17. More details about this here – and you can keep up with the event on a new Yellow Submarine Film Facebook page.

Meanwhile, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Pro-Ject turntable company leaked some teaser vision of their latest collaboration with Apple – a Yellow Submarine themed turntable:

The company has already issued two Sgt. Pepper turntables (in Drum and Limited Edition versions); a Beatles 1964-themed player; plus a George Harrison commemorative model. No further details about availability or pricing of the Yellow Submarine model are available yet.

Yellow Submarine Lego Kit On Sale Tomorrow

When we wrote about this back in February it was still very much a “wait and see” proposition.

Now it is about to be a reality.

Tomorrow, November 1, the Lego Beatles Yellow Submarine kit goes on sale around the world.yellow-submarine-box

Based on an idea submitted to Lego last year by musician and Beatle fan Kevin Szeto, the kit was brought to reality by Lego designer Justin Ramsden who was given the opportunity to refine Kevin’s initial model: “I€ watched€ the€ film€ when€ I€ was€ younger€ and€ was €really €inspired€ by €how €it €oozed€ so€ much€ imagination€ –€ comparable€ to€ how€ I€ view€ LEGO€ elements.Š €I’m €also €a €massive €fan €of €The€ Beatles ˆ€having €grown€ up€ with €their €music€ all€ my €life ˆ€so €to €see €The €Beatles €in €LEGO €form €is€ a €dream €come €true.”yellow-submarine-figures

The finished model is very close to Kevin Szeto’s original idea, right down to what John, Paul, George and Ringo are wearing. The set contains 550 pieces and will retail for US $59.99 / EUR €59,99 / GBP £49.99, and in Australia $79.99.

To celebrate the release the Beatle mini figures gave Lego a tour of their hometown of Liverpool, including the famous Strawberry Fields:

Lego Beatles on tour in Liverpool - Strawberry Fields © Mikael Buck / Lego

Lego Beatles on tour in Liverpool – Strawberry Fields
© Mikael Buck / Lego

To see the kit up close go to Brothers Brick Lego fan site for a review and lots of pics.

Yellow Submarine DVD – Korean!

I don’t know why I bought this. Might have been something to do with all the hoopla about the recent re-issuing of the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” on DVD, BluRay and also the re-issue of the “Songtrack” CD….

I saw it on Ebay and the idea of having the official Korean DVD release in the collection seemed appealing, although it’s not a recent copy. The cover is kind of cool though.

It all looks like it is official. I think this one dates back to the same time as the Universal Pictures release to western countries in 1999. It is very similar features-wise to that DVD (below) which will be familiar to most people:

When you first load the Korean DVD there’s a different menu set on screen with different graphics and music, and the “Special Features” section (while similar to the United Artists release) is pretty limited. For a start there is no audio commentary by John Coates, and there are only about eight or nine “Behind the Scenes Photos” from the production included. In the United Artists release you get thirty photographs. Other than that the two are pretty similar, and the quality of the video transfer is about the same.