- Published by:
- Entertainment Weekly
- Chris Willman
- Album This interview has been made to promote the Love Official album.
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The phrase ”new Beatles album” is loaded with all sorts of potentially blasphemous connotations for the millions of diehard fans who might be considered the Fab Faithful. But initial reactions to LOVE suggest that there won’t be any burnings at the stake for the father and son producing team of Sir George and Giles Martin 80 and 37, respectively who spent three years on the project.
Sort of a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name in Las Vegas and sort of its own thing, LOVE really does feel fresh in a way that other latter-day Beatles products like Let It Be… Naked and even the Anthology collections haven’t, quite. Freed from the need to adhere to chronology or chart success like the 10-million-selling 1’s collection of a few years back, this instantly replaces that uninspired hits set as the album you’d give a kid who needs to discover the Beatles for the first time. It also manages to be the album you’d give the jaded boomer who’s hearing these songs for the ten thousandth time.
EW.com sat down with the intergenerational tag team behind the album in the basement studios of Capitol Records in Hollywood recently. As the Martins played tracks from the new collection, we Sgt. Pepper-ed them with questions about the philosophy that went into gingerly but boldly remixing the classics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you think of this primarily as a soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil show, or as something that should exist completely independent of that?
SIR GEORGE MARTIN: The Beatles themselves wanted it to represent the show, and to think of it as a soundtrack. But while a lot of people have seen the show, a hell of a lot more will have the record.
GILES MARTIN: The show was led by the music. If it didn’t work musically, it wasn’t in the show. And in a way, we were doing the album as we did the show. We didn’t want to make this a ”show album,” we wanted to make it a Beatles record. And we thought it would be great to do the live Beatles show that never was, since they stopped touring before most of this material was recorded.
There are ambient bird sounds in the background of the opening track, ”Because,” that sound like they were recorded out on the street. Was that a sound effect you recorded?
SIR GEORGE: No, the birds are from ”Across the Universe.” Well, actually, we did add a wood pigeon to make it more British.
So even though you wanted to stick with elements of the original recordings, you cheated for the sake of adding a wood pigeon!
SIR GEORGE: That was one of the two things we recorded especially for this, the other being the new orchestration for ”While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
On ”I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was the crowd noise lifted off the Hollywood Bowl live album?
SIR GEORGE: Actually, the front speakers in the 5.1 mix have the studio recording, and the rear speakers have the band performing at the Hollywood Bowl. They’re in tune with each other, and we found a way to match them. We wanted to put across Beatlemania at some point. The crowd is like white noise… like something frying.
”I Am the Walrus” doesn’t sound like it was tampered with, for most of its length.
SIR GEORGE: We didn’t do anything on this one until the last chorus. It was already what George Harrison would have called ”avant garde.” George had a favorite saying: ”Avant garde? Avant got a clue!”
But then you really went all-out in mixing up ”Drive My Car” with ”The Word” and ”What You’re Saying.”
SIR GEORGE: That’s the only true medley.
GILES: Too medley for us.
SIR GEORGE: It was hard sometimes to match things up. But we tried to avoid speeding things up and slowing them down. Ringo was very fluid in his playing. His playing was great, but if you tried to fix him to a click track, it would sound awful.
GILES: I know, I tried it once.
”Come Together” is another one that sounds hardly changed, till you introduce some other elements at the very end, yet even the unaltered part sounds completely fresh somehow.
SIR GEORGE: The thing is, you can really hear that they’re playing here. The whole idea is to make people listen. They’re such a good band! Each track was finished in a day in the 1960s just live performances, for the most part. They’re a good band playing good music, and that’s it… Technology hasn’t made us do a better job.
I’ve heard ”Something” so many thousands of times in my life, I never thought I’d need to hear it again, but…
SIR GEORGE: Well, you should have told us, and we would have skipped that one!
No, no, I wanted to hear it; whatever you did with the mix really rejuvenated it.
SIR GEORGE: ”Something” is a good example: Sometimes if you change just one thing, people really start listening in a new way. The guitars are taken off the front, and it really makes you hear the whole thing differently. These are not definitive versions, of course. But if we were taking anything off, we were careful to not remove any of the soul of what’s there.
Why does the 5.1 version run two minutes longer than the CD version? What’s the difference?
SIR GEORGE: The time constrains of a CD mean you can only fit about 78 minutes on before you begin to sacrifice quality. So ”Revolution” and ”Back in the USSR” are a little shorter on the CD than they are on the DVD.
I’m not an audiophile, but it will be hard to listen to the standard CD after being immersed in the 5.1 surround version.
GILES: It’s a trap, becoming obsessed with 5.1. I prefer the stereo.
SIR GEORGE: I know you do. People can get both versions and make up their minds. I’m very proud of the 5.1. I think it’s better.
GILES: The stereo is better to me being more old-fashioned than my very modern dad.
SIR GEORGE: MONO is better! Laughing
It’s too bad you didn’t do a third version of this, then, in mono.
SIR GEORGE: Laughing We should have. It’s funny. When we were doing Sgt. Pepper, they spent three weeks mixing the mono. That was the one they considered important. Then they said, ”You do the stereo, George it’s nothing,” and left me alone to do it. So I spent three days on that mix. That’s the one everybody listens to, and they had nothing to do with it!
GILES: Kidding You only had four tracks to play with! Why did you need three days?
Retirement doesn’t seem to have diminished your enjoyment of the process at all.
SIR GEORGE: Creating music, it’s such a joy. When I first went into Abbey Road Studios in 1950, I went into a toy shop. That feeling never went away.
Last updated on March 9, 2019