The Beatles Remastered and Rediscovered with quotes by Brian Wilson By Harvey Kubernik
On September 9, 2009 the Beatles entire original recorded catalogue digitally remastered by Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music Marketing was released worldwide coinciding with the “The Beatles: Rock Band” video game. www.thebeatles.com
In addition, there is a boxed set of “The Beatles in Mono” that have been remastered by Paul Hicks, Sean Magee with Guy Massey and Steve Rooke.
This set has been created with the collector and record geek in mind. “The Beatles in Mono” puts together, in one place, all of the Beatles recordings that were mixed for a mono release. It contains 10 of the albums with their original mono mixes, plus two further discs of mono masters. Similar ground to the stereo tracks on “Past Masters.”
As an added bonus, the mono “Help!” and “Rubber Soul” discs also incorporates the original 1965 stereo mixes, which have not been previously released on CD. These albums will be packaged in mini-vinyl CD replicas of the original sleeves with all the original inserts and label designs retained.
Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a short documentary film about the album.
On the same date, two new Beatles boxed CD collections were released to the awaiting public.
The collection houses all 12 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork as originally released in the UK, and ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ which became part of The Beatles’ core catalogue when the CDs were first released in 1987.
In addition, the compilations “Past Masters Vol. I and II” are now combined as one title, for a total of 14 titles over 16 discs. Which means it’s the first time that the first four Beatles albums will be available in stereo in their entirety on compact disc. These 14 albums, along with a DVD collection of the documentaries, can also be purchased together in a stereo boxed set.
Inside each CD’s new packaging, booklets include detailed historical notes along with informative recording notes
With the exception of the “Past Masters” set, newly produced mini-documentaries on the making and evolution of each album, directed by Bob Smeaton, are included as QuickTime files on each album.
The Stereo Albums (available individually and collected in a stereo boxed set) have been remastered by Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee. All CD packages contain original vinyl artwork and liner notes
The stereo box contains the 14 stereo titles that are also available for purchase individually (in the same CD packaging). All of the stereo and mono remasters were created from the original masters.
A dedicated and hard working team of Abbey Road Studio engineers in London assembled the re-mastered editions using state of the art recording technology with vintage studio equipment that maintains the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings.
Since 2005 the production team helming the re-mastering process conducted tests before finally copying the analogue master tapes into the digital medium. When this was accomplished, the transfer was achieved employing a Pro Tools workstation operating at 24-bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter.
The transferring aspect was a lengthy procedure done a track at a time. It was apparent that the EMI tape did not suffer the oxide loss associated with some later analogue tapes, but there was nevertheless a slight build up of dust, which was eliminated from the tape machine heads between each title.
From the onset, the team had concerns to what audio restorative processes were going to be allowed. It was mutually agreed that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be improved where possible, so long as it didn’t intrude and impact on the original integrity of the songs.
In addition, de-noising technology, which is often associated with re-mastering, was to be used, but sparingly. Less than five of the 525 minutes of Beatles music was subjected to this process.
Finally, as is common with today’s music, overall limiting – to increase the volume level of the CD – has been used, but on the stereo versions only. However, it was unanimously agreed that because of the importance of The Beatles’ music, limiting would be used moderately, so as to retain the original dynamics of the recordings.
After the entire catalogue had been transferred, each song was then listened to several times to locate any of the agreed imperfections. These were then monitored and addressed by Guy Massey, working with audio restoration engineer Simon Gibson.
When an album had been completed, it was auditioned the next day in studio three – a room familiar to the engineers, as all of the recent Beatles mixing projects had taken place in there – and any further alteration of EQ could be addressed back in the mastering room.
Following the initial satisfaction of Guy and Steve, Allan Rouse and Mike Heatley then checked each new re-master in yet another location and offered any further feedback and suggestions. This continued until all 13 albums were completed to the team’s satisfaction.
As the mastering stage emerged, early vinyl pressings along with existing CD’s were loaded into Pro Tools, thus allowing comparisons to be made with the original master tapes during the equalization process.
Music journalist, Randy Lewis, in the August 30, 2009 edition of “The Los Angeles Times” in a story with Allan Rouse about the new Beatles remasters and sampling, reports that the Beatles’ set doesn’t quite reach its full sonic potential, “because of the inherent limitations of the compact disc. CD’s can only hold 15% to 20% of the digital information in masters that use the current state-of-the-art 192kHz, 24-bit sampling rate. The same used for the Beatles’ new masters, according to Rouse. Blu-ray disc offers 100% of that sampling rate for playback,” states Lewis. “An EMI U.K. marketing executive said there are no plans to issue the Beatles remasters on Blu-ray, adding, however, that “it’s only a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if” they’ll be released in audiophile vinyl pressings,” in addition to the new CD’s.
Allan Rouse is the Project Coordinator of this monumental undertaking.
Rouse joined EMI straight from school in 1971 at their Manchester Square head office, working as an assistant engineer in the demo studio. During this time he frequently worked with legendary Norman (Hurricane) Smith, The Beatles’ first recording engineer.
In 1991, Rouse had his first involvement with The Beatles, copying all of their master tapes (mono, stereo, 4-track and 8-track) to digital tape as a safety backup.
That gig was followed by four years working with Sir George Martin as assistant and project coordinator on the TV documentary “The Making of Sgt. Pepper’s” and the CDs “Live at the BBC” and “The Anthology.”
In 1997, MGM/UA Studio were preparing to reissue the film “Yellow Submarine” and, with the permission and cooperation of Apple Corps Ltd., asked that all of The Beatles’ music be mixed for the film in 5.1 surround and stereo. Allan requested the services of Abbey Road’s senior engineer Peter Cobbin and assistant Guy Massey and, along with them, produced the new mixes.
Further projects followed, including The Beatles “Anthology,” “The First U.S. Visit” and “Help” DVD and the albums “Let It Be…Naked” and “Love” along with George Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh” DVD and album. For a number of years now, Allan has worked exclusively on Beatles and related projects.
I interviewed Allan Rouse from the U.K. at Abbey Road and asked him some questions about this new awe-inspiring Beatles’ product.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about Norman (Hurricane) Smith and his contributions as an engineer on the initial Beatles’ sessions and your own EMI world with him starting in 1971? He engineered every Beatles’ recording through “Rubber Soul.”
A: Norman was a musician’s engineer, and had formed his own band in the 1940s. So for The Beatles’ early sessions, he understood that they had hardly any experience in a recording studio but a great deal in performing live and that is the feel he wanted to capture. I believe the approach Norman took in recording them this way helped them settle into studio life and allowed them to perform in a way that made them feel the most relaxed and I think it shows in their performances.
“I started at EMI’s Head Office in 1971, where they had a small studio. Within a few days I was working as a tape op on Norman’s follow-up single to “Don’t Let It Die.” I have to confess that I didn’t know who he was even though he’d had a hit record and I certainly wasn’t aware of his past. This only transpired later after we had been chatting during one session and discovered that we lived a couple of miles from each other. After this he would call me in the control room at 5.30 when he was about to leave and ask if I wanted a lift. With an hour’s journey we did a lot of talking and it was then that I learned about his work with the Beatles and Pink Floyd. On a few occasions I was lucky to record demos of his new songs, and with hindsight I now realise how lucky I was to be recording Norman on the very same equipment (Abbey Road-provided Manchester Square with a four track mixing desk and four track tape machine) that he had used during the Sixties. This situation could have been intimidating but Norman made me feel totally at ease despite the fact that I hardly had a clue what I was doing, but he never let on.
“Norman and I became good friends and I was very happy when I was asked to interview him for an archive project only a few years ago. We spent two hours in Studio Two and finally finished the interview off at his home talking about his life as a musician, engineer, producer, artist and the “good old days.” We also probably said a few times, “It’s not like it was in our day.”
Q: Do you remember in 1991 copying all the master Beatles tapes to digital and what have been some of your feelings working on the new products?
A: By the time I started copying The Beatles’ tapes, Abbey Road was already able to sync two 24 track analogue machines together and also had 24 and 32 track digital machines. When I started copying their four and eight track tapes and was able to isolate the different tracks I was astonished at what they had been able to achieve, particularly when they started bouncing down (mixing) four tracks to another four track tape to allow them to do overdubs. In particular I think it illustrates the skills of the engineers and George Martin. The other thing that I remember vividly was isolating the vocal tracks; it was remarkable to listen to their unaccompanied voices, be it solo or as a group.
“Having listened to the multi-tracks in detail I had been made aware of the astonishing quality of the recordings. But one of the problems that was eventually encountered during the Sixties was too few tracks to record a song. So the engineer would mix the first four tracks of the recording to a new four track tape, but only using one or two tracks, leaving two or three for further overdubbing. We eventually devised away of syncing these two four track tapes together, allowing us to then use the initial four track tape rather than the later mix down with the overdub tape. This often gave us as many as seven instead of four tracks and it is this practice that allowed us to re-mix in new stereo and surround sound for the film “Yellow Submarine” and subsequently the “Anthology” and “Help!” DVDs. Hearing The Beatles in surround is a unique experience and, because of the greater separation of tracks, permits you to hear the arrangements in a totally different way.
Q: Can you discuss working with Sir George Martin as his assistant and project coordinator on the TV documentary “The Making of “Sgt. Pepper” and Live BBC. After being involved in the new Beatles’ digitally remastered releases is there even one more thing you learned or respected even more about what Sir George Martin contributed and brought into the sound of the Beatles’ recordings?
A: Having managed to get a job at Abbey Road Studios and working on many sessions as a tape-op then eventually engineer, I thought that the closest I was ever going to get to a Beatles experience was being able to work in Studio Two. However, to sit in my room many years later with George Martin researching The Beatles’ four track tapes for “Sgt. Pepper’s” was as good as it gets. At the end of that job I had no idea that I was going to work with George again and with the “Live At The BBC” I ended up spending many more months with him.
“I think everybody learned a lot from each other during the sessions. It was a perfect combination of group, producer and engineers, but George’s previous musical experiences brought something different to The Beatles’ arrangements and productions that made them unique from other groups at the time.
Q: What do you notice about the digital world format you have overseen from the transfer of analog world and how it enhances the Beatles’ catalogue in 2009 products?
A: Since The Beatles first appeared on CD in 1987, digital technology has improved a great deal, and the recent transfers now sound much closer to the master tapes. In addition, computer technology has allowed us to do things today that were previously hard or impossible to achieve, such as remove or improve technical issues such as tape drop-outs, bad edits, electrical clicks, vocal sibilance and microphone pops. I believe that the combination of the improved transfers and the removal of technical problems has allowed us to issue the catalogue in the best possible way since the albums’ initial release.
Q: What did you enjoy the most about the Beatles’ Anthology sets?
A: Going through all the multi-track tapes for a second time with the added bonus of listening to them with The Beatles’ producer, whilst Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick mixed the selected songs in another studio. However, one particular occasion will remain with me forever — when George Martin was joined by Paul, George and Ringo in Studio Two to listen back to some of the alternative takes that had been selected.
A few years later, we embarked on re-doing the soundtrack to the video Anthology for DVD. This project to provide the whole soundtrack in surround sound and new stereo was done by a team of seven people and was spread over two years. At one point, both Studio Two and Three were working simultaneously for nearly three months; it was almost like The Beatles were back in the studios again and it is rated as a career highlight by us all.
Q: Is there one particular observation or response you can offer that has been the most rewarding in assembling the new reissues? What are the things that strike you immediately during playback?
A: I have had the good fortune of working on a number of projects in recent years that have involved re-mixing to stereo and 5.1 surround with remarkable results by engineers Peter Cobbin, Paul Hicks and Guy Massey. But, I still have the utmost admiration for the sound that The Beatles, Sir George Martin, engineers Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott, Phil McDonald and Glyn Johns managed to achieve in the Sixties with recording technology in its infancy.
There isn’t a music fan or a person on planet earth who hasn’t been profoundly influenced by Beatles engineer, Geoff Emerick. Since “Revolver” he was the full-time recording and remix engineer under George Martin.
Emerick was behind the console until midway through the recording of the Beatles’ “White”album.” He later returned to helm “Abbey Road.” The first time the Beatles were recorded through a transistor board.
“I hear music in colors,” Geoff Emerick explained to me in Hollywood earlier this decade at the famed Capitol Records Studio B.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” was his first Beatles’ session.
“Bass and drums are always my favorite,” Emerick discloses. “And just building stuff around that, from color textures in my head, based upon what’s happening in the studio.”
Geoff’s influential drum and bass sounds have inspired generations of musicians. His recording techniques and innovations include automatic double-tracking; backwards guitar solo and loops, and real-time varispeed manipulation that informed John Lennon’s signature vocal echo.
His “Here, There and Everywhere My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (with Howard Massey) is a terrific memoir.
Richard Bosworth, a veteran music producer and engineer, who oversaw a 1991 Hollies recording session at Abbey Road Studio presents one other reason why the Beatles’ recordings, particularly their vocals, have sounded sound so good since 1963.
“Norman Smith the first engineer helped make them a hit. Regardless of his age at the time he was a young engineer. Not a long term staff guy at the Abbey Road who happened to come along in an era and started doing things like closer microphone placements for the aggressive sounds. When you consider he went all the way through ‘Rubber Soul.’ Incredible. Emerick took over for ‘Revolver.’
Bosworth stresses the one thing both engineers Smith and Emerick had in common regarding their vocal department duties. “Abbey Road had a unique wind screener pop filter closer to the mike being the plosives where certain sounds would become very powerful and actually collapse the microphone capsule. You could get the vocalist closer to the microphone and a ‘more in your face sound.’ They came up with a metal windscreen that had two different screens and two different meshes on them and different physical angles where the one metal mesh was rounded and one was flat.
“The pattern of the mesh,” he describes, “were diagonal to each other. Bolted tight on to the microphone made with custom metal for Abbey Road. People started noticing quickly that moister would get on the microphone capsule and you’d have to replace the capsule. Any pop filer changes anything to a certain extent. Unlike screen pop filters made out of foam these were made out of metal and certainly not dampening high end. Those are unique.”
“One of the other reasons the Beatles’ recordings sound so good still to the day,: he pontificates, “is that the tape machine format was one inch four track. A much wider tape width per track than other analog tape format that has ever been conceived. The equivalent of 24 track would require that the tape format be six inches wide to get the same fidelity that the one inch four track provided.
“The Beatles started with four tracks, moved to once inch 8 right track machine half way during the ‘White’ album and then ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Abbey Road’ were all recorded in one inch 8 track format.”
“Abbey Road’ was done on a transistor recording desk. “Geoff Emerick told me a few years ago at a Phil Spector-hosted bowling party in Montrose (California) that he found the transistor board very distressing to use because he said it didn’t sound as good as the tube console that he had recorded all the other albums he had done. He was horrified because he had lost his sound.” Bosworth himself feels “that ‘Abbey Road’ does not have the sonic depth of the earlier recordings.”
DJ James Cushing is a poet and longtime fixture on KCPR-FM as well as being an English and Literature Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
A noted Beatles’ collector and scholar, Cushing is thankful there will be Beatles for sale in mono retail outlets.
“I’m glad that the Capitol boxes exist with the U.S. editions from a few years ago of the first American albums,” reflects Cushing. “Because Americans heard the Beatles that way and not the way the British box set will have. But as far as extras, embedded documentaries, the Capitol albums are in stereo and mono on one disc and it fits nicely. And I don’t think that violates the original integrity of the album at all. Beatles in mono. That’s the way the group originally mixed the music. To be heard out of a small speaker, and because most record players in 1963 and ’64 were mono. 1963-1965. Stereo was for weirdo audiophiles.
“In mono you get a more blended sound. One gets the sense you are hearing a single source coming at you. The emphasis is the organic singleness of the music. And with the stereo, sometimes the mixes give a little too much distance between instruments. The voices on one side and the instruments on the other. So you hear things with a little too much space between them. Although that situation improves as the stereo mixes improved in quality.”
Record producer and guitarist David Kessel, who heads the www.cavehollywood.com website recorded with John Lennon on the Phil Spector-produced “Rock and Roll” album in 1973 at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. Kessel provides an insight about what he feels the sonic advantage of mono are for the listener and the uninitiated.
In a phone interview he reminded me, “It’s the way Americans heard the original records. As for mono, well, first of all, it’s all powerful and coming out of both speakers the same. OK? That means you are getting the full signal right at you. Like with Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ in mono, now you are having to worry about stereo placement.
“Originally, you were or are making these records for a transistor radio. And ultimately you want it to sound really great out of that small transistor radio speaker. You’re also thinking in terms of when the needle goes down on the record. It’s going to go out through the needles as a whole signal. Whereas when you start dividing the instruments, ‘part of this on the left side, part of this on the right side, you can hear that on that on some of the Beatles’ mid career records, trying to get a stereo thing going, but you lose the full impact of the solid centered power. With mono you get a thicker piece of music on tape.”
Gary Pig Gold started up Canada’s very first music fanzine, “The Pig Paper.”
Gary’s widely syndicated “Pigshit” column has just now entered its third
decade of regular publication.
Being eight years old in the Toronto suburbs of 1963, Gold was at the perfect age – and in the perfect place – to, yes, “Meet The Beatles.”
“Remember, the Capitol Canada “Beatlemania!” long-player was the FIRST Beatle album released Anywhere in North America: just three days after its UK release
(as “With The Beatles”). Us Canadians were already READY
the week JFK died…..
“Because by the time ‘those four youngsters from Liverpool’ hit ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on 9 February 64, my friends and I had already spent the past six months familiarizing ourselves with John, Paul, George and Ringo’s initial A-sides via Ontario’s mighty CHUM 1050-AM Radio.
“In other words then, the British Beat had no reason to invade Canada. It was invited.
“Unlike with our big neighbors to the immediate south you see,” Gold recalls, “each of the Beatles’ earliest discs garnered automatic release on Captiol Records of Canada, beginning right at the beginning with ‘Love Me Do’ in February of ’63 (the version with Ringo on drums, by the way!), and the Canadian Beatle Discography boasts many other rare slices of vintage vinyl totally unique to the genre, and as a result extremely collectable.
“Plus, may I just add that every single original deep-grooved, meticulously mastered Canadian (mono!) pressings put their U.S. counterparts – not to mention even the latest CD incarnations, truth to tell – to total, unequivocal sonic shame. Really!
Like all Sixties Top Forty-bound pop, it was arranged and mixed to play back most powerfully through a single, six-transistor radio speaker. But even ‘Pepper’ sounds best monophonically. And, don’t just take it from Beatlegeeks like us, either:
To quote Abbey Road tape operator Richard Lush (from Mark Lewisohn’s landmark “The Beatles: Recording Sessions” book),
“‘The only real version of SPLHCB is the mono version. The Beatles were there for all the mono mixes. Then, after the album was finished George Martin, Geoff Emerick and I did the stereo in a few days, just the three of us, without a Beatle in sight. There are all sorts of things on the mono, little effects here and there, which the stereo doesn’t have.’”
“As a teen Growing up in America, music excited me more than hot rods, sports, or even girls,” admits Alex Del Zoppo, keyboardist and co-founder of the seminal band Sweetwater who performed at the 1969 Woodstock Music festival.
“Early R & B, and rock held my attention as I grew from a ‘party musician’ into a ‘working musician’ while still in Jr. High through High school. I learned every variation of blues & rock pattern possible, and was just beginning to become somewhat bored with playing the same stuff over & over at gig after gig.
“Then came the Beatles. At first, they seemed lukewarm when they covered American hit songs, and their original songs, though played with a certain amount of enthusiasm, had bubble gum lyric themes. Consequently, I dismissed them as only a cultural phenomenon, given their looks, etc. But they soon got my attention . . . in a positive way: through the rapid progress of their original music. They began to use melodies that painted outside of the lines we had all grown so used to, and to use chords that were unexpected surprises, pulling our emotions in directions that were totally new to us.
“Their lyrics began to grow up, too – covering subjects that had serious social implications. More important,” Alex underlines, “they continually grew with each new record, and did this as the entire world was paying attention. And because of that timing, they single-handedly advanced popular music to the endless spectrum it is now – all within just a few years, opening up possibilities to everyone who heard them, including other musicians, songwriters and performers. Because their personal evolution changed everything, I will always view popular music as either ‘Before Beatles’ or ‘Post Beatles.’ And I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced it all. What a ride,” acknowledges native Angeleno Del Zoppo who is currently recording his debut solo album with producer Michael Giangreco for Meroke Sky Records.
Blondie drummer Clem Burke, a self-confessed British Invasion music fan offers his theory about the Beatles’ audio legacy. “Why I like the Beatles recordings? What hasn’t been said? The Beatles are the soundtrack of my generation. They are and always will be my muse. I’ll listen to a few songs before a show and get a rush of emotions. They had the best drummer in rock n roll who really made the recordings swing. They were the natural progression from the roots of the music. The early recordings spread the gospel of Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Motown to a new generation of rockers.”
“The Beatles were just supreme songwriters with a range that was breathtaking in its scope,” observes Texas-born singer/songwriter Josie Cotton. “They could even write love songs that weren’t corny which is really hard to pull off. They rocked, they popped, they covered, they trans-mutated, they crooned, they tripped, they brought in string quartets. They tried everything but everything they tried they made their own.
“I really think this was where youth pop culture took over the world for the first time,” she continues. “Elvis did it too but he was so vilified and really ahead of his time. The Beatles were only a couple of steps ahead of everybody else. They were like this meteor shower…it happened so fast.
“I have to say I don’t know if George Martin hadn’t been involved if it would have had the same resonance with people. Who knows? If not for him maybe they would have stayed in Germany and become a polka band! But a wildly popular one.
“I remember vividly the first time I tried to play a Beatles song on the guitar. I thought I’d choose a really simple one to start with so I decided on ‘This Boy.’ Well there were so many damn chords in that song that practically every beat was a different chord I had only read about in my ever-handy chord book. This wasn’t some Rolling Stones diddy this was musically complex with this very simple melody moving over it. That was the brilliance of it …you couldn’t hear it you just felt it,” concludes Cotton who recently issued her album “Invasion Of The B-Girls.”
Years ago I attended a press conference in Beverly Hills at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel when George Harrison was preparing for his U.S. solo tour. The results were published in the November 2, 1974 issue of “Melody Maker.”
On meeting the Beatles Harrison responded, “Biggest break in my career was getting into the Beatles. In retrospect, biggest break since then was getting out of them.”
About how he saw the role of entertainer in working with causes and charities?
“I don’t think it’s an entertainer’s job. He does what he can. And I do it through music. It’s nor isolated to musicians.
And in discussing the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Harrison said, “I have a lot of respect for him. He gave me help and plugged me in to a method of being able to contact that reservoir of energy which is within us all. Pure consciousness. I experienced it. He showed me how to reach that. Everything else is just words, beyond the intellect is to have an experience you have to have in order to know.”
Was he ever amazed about how much the Beatles still mean to people?
“Not really. I mean it’s nice. I realize the Beatles did fill a space in the sixties. All the people the Beatles meant something too have grown up. It’s like anything you grow up with you get attached to things.
“I understand the Beatles in many ways did nice things and it’s appreciated the people still like them. They want to hold on to something. People are afraid of change. You can’t live in the past.”
“The new 2009 reissues and re-masters sound really good,” volunteers Dr. James Cushing. “Much clearer, much crisper, more bass, more presence, better stereo image, not harsh, not flat, not sick with ‘digititis,’ like the 1987 Beatles’ re-masters were. I don’t think George Martin was involved in those restorations or mastering.
Cushing has his own concepts on why America welcomed the Beatles’ records into the country and airwaves and why they had a seismic impact on pop culture.
“It was a period post Dwight Eisenhower and now post John F. Kennedy. America was still in mourning for John F. Kennedy and we were all still feeling freaked out about the Russians on a Bay of Pigs level. Plus, the whole question about civil rights and civil rights for Negroes were still a bunch of big issues.
“Everything on the news was challenging,” instructs Prof. Cushing. “Everything was tragic and everything was a bummer. And the post war period had been primarily one of anxiety and conformity with a few interesting rebels that stood out like Allen Ginsberg and Elvis Presley.”
“It was the reality that now we had something positive and enthusiastic. Something that gave a kind of grand permission to let all those bottled repressed feelings out. Here was permission to shake your hair, scream and go crazy. There was a sense of tremendous cool, positive energy, tremendous potential for excitement, tremendous permission. Everything about the joy of romance that can happen in public was happening there with the Beatles.
“I wish I could be listening to the Beatles’ records for the first time,” he reminisces. “They’re so filled with associations, memories, psychological and emotional things to be able to hear the songs just as songs must be a remarkable experience now. And it’s real great that this new set has greatly improved sound so that people will be able to really enjoy it.”
Is it the enthusiasm, the freshness, the profound affirmation of life, plus that mysterious element that makes the recordings memorable and exciting?
“Maybe, but why their music has durability is because it existed primarily in terms of itself. Not primarily in terms as a motor to propel a financial empire. With the Beatles there was no sprit of calculation. There is a spirit of openness and sincerity. Which was immediately appealing and unpretentious.
“They still grip us and it may have something to do with our investment of our own personal history in them. My son Alex, age 14, has lived in a world where the Beatles has always been in the past.”
The Beatles’music was informed by America. Is that one of the reasons why their sound and catalogue is a permanent fixture Stateside? Before I was a teenager I was hearing and getting further exposed to Motown (Jobete Music), Chuck Berry, Larry Williams, as well as Carl Perkins and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller through their recordings.
“I think that it’s complexly tied in with race and class,” reflects Cushing. “Cause the covers that the Beatles were doing, in almost every case, as Paul McCartney said at a press conference, ‘colored American groups.’ In other words, it was white people doing black music. Renditions of Barry Gordy, Jr.’s Motown label records. But it was nothing like Pat Boone de-clawing Little Richard. If anything, the Beatles were adding their own muscle to it.”
“Lennon and McCartney would perform these critical de-constructions of American popular music and what changed was the scope of their ambition,” Dr. Cushing continues. “McCartney has said that all the early songs had lyrics like spoke to a very limited range. ‘Me, you, we, she loves you.’ But there was a kind of protected intimacy to them. And as they grew as writers they grew to take more and more of the larger world as their subject. Until with things like ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘I Am The Walrus.’
“George Martin was the real fifth Beatles in terms of making the music happen. Their work still holds up because of the songwriting. Like the ‘Something New’ album, a combination of originals and covers. When they did someone else’s songs that’s was where the Beatles were a real rock ‘n’ roll band. And they really created the idea of a rock band doing a certain canon of hard hitting, fast, ‘get people up on their feet and dance to sound.’
“In the Beatles,” describes Dr. Cushing “Paul’s bass playing was supportive and creative. Solid and danceable. Always giving an underpinning for the whole song.
“John Lennon’s rhythm guitar playing used to seem buried a bit in the mix on the earlier releases. On the current CD’ it’s up a bit this time around. Instrumentally he served the song. This was a writer’s band not a virtuosos players band.
“The contributions of George Harrison tend to get overlooked a bit. I just read something about just how good were the Beatles? Their third best songwriter was awesome. He was the sanest of them all. The ultimate team player. The one who thought to bring Billy Preston into the ‘Let It Be’ sessions, therefore saving the whole thing.
His guitar playing was so economical. Everything was there to serve the song. Like a Motown player.
“Ringo’s drum work served the music perfectly. Beat is the first word in their name, after all.
“Paul and John’s magic was that they were close. They also grew apart. Which is a paradox of this whole thing as best demonstrated on the ‘White’ album. The Lennon and McCartney scope of songs were to become more experimental and built on the fundamental confidence that they always had. They both believed musically they could do anything they wanted to and aided by the belief that never died.
“I just saw McCartney and his band play a stellar two and a half hour set at Coachella and he delivered big time.
“Now we’re not just going into a record store for a new Beatles’ experience but the new Beatles’ album. The last time you could really say that was 1970. The excitement of being able to get something new from the Beatles is the excitement of being able to have a temporary victory over time. It can be 1970 again,” maintains Dr. Cushing.
“In general, the meaning of their music keeps on changing, of course. With the death of Michael Jackson the Beatles are now in an era that is previous to the era that has now ended. So they’ve become kind of more and more distant in history and hence more and more mythic.”
The Beatles recordings are like souvenirs from a dream. The dream being the great romance of the 20th century. These four people captured the imaginations of the world and put so much positive energy into their imaginations. Then turned the love and anxiety of the period into a lasting musical monument.
We now collectively get to enjoy one more time the Beatles mythical and physical sound achievements.
“Ah the Beatles, the madness is about to start with the remasters coming out. Mono and Stereo,” predicts native Angeleno/drummer Paul Body.
” I can’t remember whether it was mono or stereo that first heard the Beatles, I just know that it was different and it was good. First heard them on KRLA or KFWB I think in the middle of 1963.
“The song ‘From Me To You’ was pick of the week or something like that. I remember that it sounded kind of neat remember this was time that nothing was happening on the teen age channels you had to go down the dial to KGFJ to get the real deal,” he explains.
“’From Me To You’ was quickly forgotten and then a few months later in the Fall, there they were in ‘Newsweek,’ a whole article about them. By now they were huge in England, it was the first time that I got to see the hair do’s and see in print the name Ringo Starr which sounded like a gunfighter’s name. I was beginning to get intrigued. Then Kennedy was killed, the country was plunged into a major depression. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ came out after that, I dug it. It was being played all over the radio. Then there was that little clip on the Jack Paar show on New year’s Eve, WOW. They were something, that was the first time I ever heard ‘She Loves You.’The pump was being primed. Then came February 9th 1964. The world sort of changed that night. I remember that a cat named Kenny Smith had the Beatles’ album before anybody else, we played it in music class. It sounded pretty good. Don’t know if it was stereo or mono but it was damn fine. So from 1964, they have been in our DNA, never would have thought something like that back in 1963. For some reason they had something that Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele and Adam Faith didn’t have, for some reason they captured our imagination and have never let go,” chortles Body
“s great as they were and are, I still have go down the dial to dig some Garnet Mimms and Enchanters, the Impressions, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, JAMES, Motown, Stax and all of the other stuff that was played on KGFJ. That stuff has stood the test of time too, mono or stereo, it doesn’t matter because it rocked and it meant something. So did those Liverpool lads, what glorious time to live in same time as the Beatles and Willie Mays. Like that Elvis song, I will be first in line for the remasters.”
In 2007 Brian Wilson and I talked at length in a series of interviews and discussed the Beatles and the moment he heard them the first time.
Q: Let’s talk Beatles. Do you remember where you were the first time you heard “I Wanna Hold Your Hand?”
A: I sure do. My mother-in-law (at the time) goes, “They’re called the Beatles. They are the biggest new things in radio.”
Q: You once told me that when you heard the Beatles for the first time they flipped you out and you viewed them as competition.
A: They didn’t scare me but made me jealous. I was so jealous I could have cried.
A: Because they got a lot of attention we didn’t get. And I didn’t want them to eclipse the Beach Boys, so to speak.
Q: You both inspired each other. You heard their “Ticket To Ride” record and then you immediately did “Girl Don’t Tell Me” for Carl Wilson to sing from your “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)” album.
A: I’ll say the influence was on ‘Here, There and Everywhere.’ Maybe it inspired them. I hope it did. I really do. Hmmm. I don’t know what to think. Get down!
Q: You love Sir George Martin’s production work.
A: The horn arrangement by (Sir) George Martin is very humorous on “All You Need Is Love.” I saw him last year at the UK Hall of Fame show and his son Giles. And James Brown. That was quite a night. Really cool.
Q: I just did a lengthy interview with producer Giles Martin, for the Waves website. He and his dad, Sir George Martin, who you both know well, produced the new Beatles’ “Love” album for the stage show in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel. I know you and your wife Melinda went to the opening night, and I’ve heard you went back for a second time. Run it down to me.
A: I thought it was one of the most brilliant pieces of music production I have ever heard in my entire life! I went there thinking it was going to be some look-a-like Beatles guys, a tribute thing. What! A totally different show! I wasn’t ready!
“What it did to me was make me so very proud of the Beatles. The sound of that theater probably couldn’t be equaled by any place anywhere in the world.
“I now realized about the sound that I heard something that was a manifestation of a very, very good natured person like Giles Martin. A very good sense of humor. You gotta see it. Seeing it made me more proud than ever of the Beatles. It made me realize how great they were with music. I could not believe how good Ringo’s drums sounded! I could not believe it. It was dynamic. You will not believe it.
In 2009 I subsequently wrote the feature essay and conducted the principal interview with Brian Wilson for his collaboration with Sir Peter Blake on the limited edition coffee size book “That Lucky Old Sun” available through Genesis Publications. www.genesis-publications.com for complete book details.
Earlier this decade, Wilson and Sir Paul McCartney together recorded the Steve Kalinich and Wilson penned song, “A Friend Like You” included on Wilson’s album of duets, “Gettin’ In Over My Head.”
I asked Brian for our Genesis Publications book endeavor about Paul McCartney and the Beatles.
Q: Paul McCartney has come to see you perform in the U.K. a few times this decade. In April 2009, you saw Paul McCartney play in California at the Coachella Festival.
A: It was unbelievable. Great. I was near the stage. Paul’s concert was the best concert I ever saw in my life. I’ve never seen a better concert. I’ve always loved Paul.
Q: How did his live set in the desert impact you that evening?
A: That day he made me inspired to want to play a little louder. Jack up our volume.
Q: Did one of the principal guitar leads on “Marcella” get inspired by George Harrison’s lead part trough a Leslie for the song “Let It Be?” You incorporated “Marcella” in a set around the “That Lucky Old Sun” shows.
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. Marcella was a Spanish chick that worked at a local massage parlor. On stage now Jeff Foskett and Scott Bennett turn it loose into a jam session.
Q: At your “That Lucky Old Sun” premiere you also acknowledged the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” You did a rendition of “She’s Leaving Home” at the encore. Peter Blake attended your “That Lucky Old Sun” shows as well as other earlier tours in England.
I know how much you love the album “Sgt. Pepper’s” and Blake’s album cover. When you performed “That Lucky Old Sun” in the U.K. your show also included some well known Beach Boys hits and obscure material. But tell me about the inclusion of “She’s Leaving Home” from that album in your set.
A: I wanted to do a ‘Pepper’s’ song to commemorate the 40th, and I always had a soft spot for that song because Paul played it for me on the piano when he visited me in the recording studio around April 1967. It knocked me out. I met Peter in London and he was great for us. I have the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ album in my music room.
Q: At Capitol Studios a few years ago around a Geoff Emerick engineered session Paul McCartney said to me how much he liked the bass lines on “Pet Sounds.” I know you dug employing the bass as a principal instrument. Like on “Here Today” you conceived the idea of the bass playing an octave higher on the rhythm bed track.
A: Because the bass parts resound better in a studio and you can take three hours to get one line if you really needed it. You could take forever and get a goddamn line, you know.
Q: Both you and Paul McCartney as songwriters go away from the root chord and establish counterpoint sound. It’s a structure both the Beatles and the Beach Boys did. You and Paul in particular. Talk to me about veering away from the melody away from the root chord as a composer.
A: I learned that from Motown. I learned how to play bass from Motown for Christ sakes!
Q: Maybe it’s because you and Paul are left handed bass players and born two days apart! But Brian, seriously, you played bass before you heard those Motown records.
A: Yeah, but I learned how to play different type of roots on certain chords. I love Stevie Wonder. We did his ‘I Was Made To Love Her.” I kind of like that song.
Q: What are your two favorite Paul McCartney bass lines?
A: ‘Michelle’ and ‘All My Loving’ would be two.
Q: You invert that walking bass line from “All My Loving” a couple of months later and “I Get Around ” happens. Maybe the opening vocal intro on the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” was consequently influenced by “I Get Around?”
A: I watched the Beatles ‘Anthology’ on television and it was an awful lot of music to take in one night. I got sad at the end of the program when they were breaking up
“Paul McCartney’s song ‘Let It Be’ saved many bad nights of mine I was going through a really rough trip and ‘Let It Be’ would come right to me. Out of nowhere. It healed me. I would call Paul McCartney a very wonderful singer. I love Paul’s ‘The Long And Winding Road.’ Because of the chord structure and the message.
“My favorite John Lennon song is ‘Across The Universe.’ I also love ‘Because.’”
Special thanks to: Jennifer Ballantyne at EMI Music Marketing, Derek Taylor, Andrew Loog Odham, Allen Klein, Sue Michelson, Lonn Friend, Howard Kaylan, Bob Sherman, Bruce Gary, Heather Harris, Gary Strobl, Bill Lynch, Harrold Sherrick, Roy Trakin, Nancy Retchin, Tom Johnson, David Carr, Karma Dealers, Andy Johns, Jim Keltner, Michael Hartman, Amber, Dola, Henry Diltz, Cyrus Faryar, Gary Schneider, Frank Orlando, Wyline, Paul Body, Kirk Silsbee, Gomper, Nick Roylance, Morley Bartnoff, Little Steven, Rodney Bingenheimer and David Leaf.
(Harvey Kubernik has been an active music journalist since 1972, and a record producer since 1979. He is a former West Coast Director of A&R for MCA Records. In November 2006, Kubernik was a featured speaker discussing audiotape preservation and archiving at the special hearings called by The Library of Congress. Kubernik is acknowledged and credited in over 150 music and pop culture books.
For July 2009 publication, Kubernik conducted a full-length interview with Brian Wilson and penned the text essay for the Genesis Publications LTD. signed and limited edition book and print set “That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson and artist Sir Peter Blake.” The book includes 12 exclusive new prints created by Blake, presented and numbered, fine art serigraphs housed in a cloth bound volume. 1,000 books contain Brian’s hand-written sheet music and lyrics to “Midnight’s Another Day,” a VIP pass from the live performance of “That Lucky Old Sun” as well as a CD pressing of the album in every boxed set that is hand crafted in Italy. Blake designed the album cover for the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s” album.
Kubernik wrote the liner notes for the April 22, 2008 Sony/BMG Records release of the deluxe edition of Carole King’s Tapestry album, one of the biggest selling records of all time. He also penned the 5,400-word liner note booklet for the Sony/BMG Records 4-CD box set, Elvis Presley ’68 Special, that was released on August 5, 2008 coinciding with the label’s marketing plans for “Elvis Week.” Rhino/WMG Records in spring 2009 invited Kubernik to contribute a liner note to their fall 2009 4 CD box set release “Where The Action Is! Los Angeles 1965-1968” which chronicles the L.A. and Sunset Strip record world of that era. In May 2006, he penned the liner note essay for the Water Records CD reissue of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish LP, originally produced by Jerry Wexler in 1965 for the Atlantic Records label. Kubernik also wrote the liner notes on the expanded re-release of The Ramones’ End of the Century CD in 2002 on the Rhino/WMG label.
Kubernik during 2008 and early 2009, authored, assembled and served as curator of all visuals on a 384- page coffee table book with 350 photos, “Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon” that Sterling/Barnes & Noble will publish this October. Kubernik secured Ray Manzarek of the Doors to write the introduction to the book and producer Lou Adler to pen the afterword for the volume. Photographer Henry Diltz has licensed over 200 of his vintage photos for Kubernik’s endeavor.
Kubernik’s debut hardcover book, This Is Rebel Music: The Harvey Kubernik InnerViews, was published in 2004 by the University of New Mexico Press. Brian Wilson wrote the back cover book jacket endorsement.
The author’s second book, Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music in Film and on Your Screen, was published in January 2007 by the same UNM Press.
The testimonial text for the back cover of the book was supplied by Dr. David E. James, professor at the USC School of Cinema-Television.
Kubernik’s writings have been printed in several book anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats and Drinking with Bukowski. He is project coordinator of the recording set The Jack Kerouac Collection. Kubernik also conducted an exclusive 32-page interview with Brian Wilson for Wilson’s worldwide 2007 concert tour program.
Harvey Kubernik’s work has been published nationally and internationally over the last third of a century in Melody Maker, The Los Angeles Free Press, Crawdaddy!, Musician, Goldmine, MIX, The Los Angeles Times, MOJO, UNCUT, Discoveries, Music Life, HITS, Calabasas, and Record Collector News,” among other publications.
Kubernik was formerly a studio session percussionist on Phil Spector-produced recordings by Leonard Cohen, The Paley Brothers, and The Ramones. Kubernik also supplied handclaps for record producer Kim Fowley on the Runaways’s album “Queens of Noise.”
Since 1982 he has produced over fifty spoken word, poetry and music albums in the last twenty years. Kubernik is the Project Coordinator of “The Jack Kerouac Collection” and produced a live poetry recording with Allen Ginsberg. His studio credits include producing audio biographies on Paul Kantner and Ray Manzarek.).