- EMI Studios, Abbey Road
More from year 1995
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(the content of this page is taken from https://reunionsessions.tripod.com/al/faabsessions/1995d.html and https://reunionsessions.tripod.com/al/faabsessions/1995march.html – with some few changes)
According to an excellent and lengthy article in L.R.E King’s book “Fixing a Hole: A Second Look at the Beatles Unauthorized Recordings“, the first time anyone at EMI officially went looking through the archives for unreleased Beatles material was in 1976, when the Beatles contract with them legally expired.
At irregular intervals between then and 1985, EMI executives and staff, including Geoff Emerick, worked on mixing and compiling a single album of previously unreleased material eventually called “Sessions“. Although the album made it as far as the test pressing stage (and was subsequently bootlegged), the whole project was finally abandoned (mainly due to the objections of George, Ringo and the John Lennon’s estate, who were apparently never consulted about the album) and the EMI tapes were left to gather dust for another decade.
Eventually, in 1995, immediately after the completion of the “Live At The BBC” album, the remaining Beatles and George Martin began compiling and mixing unreleased Beatles material for the forthcoming Anthology series of archive CDs.
I am trying to tell the story of the Beatles lives in music, from the moment they met to the moment they split up in 1970. I have listened to everything we ever recorded together. Every take of every song, every track of every take, virtually everything that was ever committed to tape and labelled ‘Beatles’. I’ve heard about 600 separate items in all. I didn’t start any serious listening until early this year when I got Paul, George and Ringo to come in occasionally and listen with meGeorge Martin, producer and project leader
For a long time when asked about unreleased Beatles material you would state that it was all ‘rubbish’ and there was nothing worth issuing. Working on Anthology 1 , 2 & 3 disproved that.
I was convinced that there was nothing in the vaults that people hadn’t heard that was worthwhile. But I was thinking like singles. Is there a great song that people hadn’t heard? No, there’s not a great song that people hadn’t heard, there’s little bits of rubbish. But what did emerge is I was given a brief by EMI who asked me to put together stuff that would reflect the visual Anthology that wouldn’t be a soundtrack, but like an accompaniment or a companion.
I thought the only way to do that is to see what there is. And I started listening, I found that there were different versions of songs that people would be interested in. The more I listened, the more I was convinced that people would want to have an analysis of what’s gone. In order, admittedly to give me more material, I would then put in things like Eleanor Rigby without the voices to show you the construction of it. Conversely, Because without the accompaniment to show you the beauty of the voices, that kind of thing. And I thought, okay, I’m spinning things out a bit here, but I think it’s valid.George Martin, interviewed by Rock Cellar Magazine, April 2013
The material guarded at Abbey Road Studios was largely in excellent condition. In fact in 1988, Abbey Road engineer Allan Rouse was given the mammoth task of copying all of the Beatles’ analogue recordings onto digital as a safety precaution. As a result, Rouse holds the unique distinction of being the only person to have heard literally every surviving Beatles tape stored at Abbey Road (historian Mark Lewisohn comes close, but even he didn’t have the time to listen to everything when he spent several months compiling his stunning Complete Beatles Recording Sessions guide). Allan Rouse quickly joined the Anthology project, serving as co-ordinator and George Martin’s assistant.
They really know how to look after their tapes. Those that they have kept, that is, because they destroyed an awful lot of the early ones. In fact, there are few tapes left from the early 1962-63 sessions. A lot of the material that has come to light from that period has been in the from of laquers and acetate discs. Occasionally, some quarter inch tapes have emerged, but no masters as such. We only managed to get hold of two tracks from the very first session the boys did in June 1962, and I happened to have one of them. My wife found it and it transpired that no one else had it. That was Love Me Do, the other being Besame Mucho, both with Pete Best on drums. There are other things which I thought had gone forever, such as an early version of Please Please Me which we recorded in September 1962. It doesn’t have the harmonica on it but it’s very interesting, with a totally different drum sound.George Martin
Archived Beatle tapes are never allowed outside the Abbey Road building. As a result, all the listening and subsequent mixing sessions were held at the studio’s penthouse suite. The normally beneficial modern technology that is plentiful at Abbey Road posed a dilemma for George Martin.
George Martin: If I was going to remix a recording made in the 1960s on four or even eight tracks, there would be no point in processing it in a modern manner. What I really wanted was an old valve desk, although I knew that it would be causing more trouble that it was worth, because if we found something suitable it would inevitably be unreliable. To our great fortune we discovered this early 1970s console and there is no question that it does affect the sound.
Geoff Emerick: We discovered that Jeff Jarratt, who used to be an engineer at Abbey Road and actually did some work with the Beatles, had bought one of these old consoles when it was sold off in 1987. It was one of EMI’s first transistorised TG Series desks, and although this particular one had been taken out of the studio, and adapted for use by Mobile Recording Unit, it was basically the same desk that I’d used for the Abbey Road album
US$788,000 worth of modern equipment was replaced with this 1970s mixing board for a string of mixing sessions which began in earnest at Abbey Road on 22nd May 1995 (precise mixing details and dates are unknown, although the old mixing console was installed in the Penthouse Studio for around sixteen weeks in total that stretched into 1996).
In the spirit of the exercise, I couldn’t justify using modern effects processors like digital reverb or even echo plates, which didn’t exist in the 60s. The only way we could achieve echo was by using either a chamber or tape delay. Unfortunately, neither of the two echo chambers that we used at Abbey Road was available. One has an enormous electrical plant in it, emitting terrible humming noises. Eventually, they were able to dig out and refurbish the second chamber to make it work for us the way it used to, even to the extent of putting back a lot of the old metalwork sewage pipes, which were originally glazed and actually contributed to the chamber’s acoustic qualities.George Martin
As each item was eventually given approval by the Beatles, it was passed onto Geoff Emerick and his assistant, Paul Hicks (son of Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks) for remixing.
I have fought very shy of being pushed into using alot of the modern devices. So many of today’s digital processors are based on the sounds that we used to achieve manually, but quite honestly I don’t think they sound as good. We can still get those sounds by old methods quite easily, and much quicker too. In fact, thinking about it we haven’t really progressed that far, if anything it’s probably the opposite. The old 4-track masters are on one inch tape, so every track is almost a quarter of an inch wide. As a result, apart from the lack of noise, the quality of the bass is outstanding, you just can’t create that now. The same applies to the snare and and bass sound, they sound so natural it’s uncanny.Geoff Emerick
The three ex-Beatles began attending these sessions at Abbey Road on 31st March 1995.
It was March 31, a day I shall never forget. I was in Studio Two control room at the time, playing back some more archive recordings to George Martin. At any other time, this would have been par for the course, but on this occasion were joined by Paul, George and Ringo. This was the first time all four of them had been back in that studio since 1969, and quite honestly the atmosphere can only be described as sheer magic. They were all totally at ease in each others company, taking photographs and videos and obviously enjoying the unique occasion as much as everyone else.Allan Rouse (co-ordinator and assistant to George Martin)
It’s strangely unchanged. Studios One and Two are largely unchanged. But Three is modern. Two, well, they don’t wanna change the room that ‘got’ the Beatles. And it got a lot of Cliff’s early good stuff, Move It, Living Doll. And now Oasis. EMI is like the Beeb, it has rules. And we used to make a lot of noise, doing things like Helter Skelter or a loud track anyway, and you’d always get the classical guy next door – in our time it was Daniel Barenboim’s producer – going bang, bang, we’re doing a quiet classical piece and we can hear you through the walls. The walls obviously aren’t that good for soundproofing. And we’d be going, under our breath, fucking bastard classical, we subsidise them! However, we would turn it down a little bit, pull out a bit of a sulk, put the acoustics on. We lived with it.Paul McCartney
Harrison, McCartney and Martin went for a nostalgic meander on their first day back at Abbey Road, popping into Studio Three where a dumbfounded Michael Nyman, composer of The Piano soundtrack, was recording. Mel Gibson, observing the soundtrack recording for the movie Braveheart in Studio One, was overcome when he learned that Paul, George and Ringo were in the same building on their first day here together for something like twenty-five years (by an odd quirk of fate, it was George, Paul and Ringo who attended the very last group session here, again without John, on the 3rd of January 1970).
During the afternoon, they even decided to pop down to the canteen for a snack.
They just strolled in as natural as anything, there were no airs or graces, they just served themselves with salad, tea and coffee, and then apologising for any inconvenience, asked if it were possible for me to get them a large bowl of chips. Then they took their meals, sat down at one of the tables and tucked in. I stood there at the bar, totally fascinated by the casual presence of these idols from my past. Mind you, I couldn’t help thinking how sad it was that John wasn’t there with them.Doreen Dunkley
Nostalgic sightseeing eventually put aside, the group finally got down to work, sitting down to listen to some of the hundreds of hours of tapes George Martin had been painstaking combing through over recent weeks.
Paul: There were those same steps up to virtually the same control room. And then just looking at each other, older and slightly different maybe, but nevertheless it was still three of The Beatles sitting there; and with who? George Martin; and what boxes were we looking at? The actual boxes from the sessions. And although it sounds silly, I swear to god, as we played the tapes I was praying that I wouldn’t make a mistake.
George Harrison: The main gist of it with the music is to find the most ancient Beatles music possible and come in chronological order through the various other records we made and bring it up to date.
It’s deja vu, actually. We’re sitting in Abbey Road Studio Two, where we always worked, listening to the work we did when we were twenty. It is quite strange but it’s exciting as well. It’s like being archaeologists. We’re actually finding tracks that we didn’t remember recording, that we didn’t want, or thought ‘No, that’s not too good’. Now of course, after thirty years, they don’t look too bad at all. There were obvious reasons why a lot of the stuff didn’t make it into the shops, but we’re not looking at it from a recording quality point of view. It’s history, and what we’ve been putting together is a historical document.Paul McCartney
George Harrison: There are some funny songs, there are some songs that we didn’t even remember. I heard this song that Ringo’s singing, I still don’t know the title of it, but it’s got the most amazing lyrics and it’s a quite a good production. And quite a good tune. I don’t recall what it was, but the words are just like ridiculous…
Paul McCartney: It’s been trippy going through it all, sitting there in Abbey Road with George Martin and George and Ringo trying to make some sort of story. God it’s so strange after all this time.
George Martin: It so happens that there is a take one of “Yesterday” that is charming and exquisite and of course, it doesn’t have any string quartet on it and we’re putting that out. I think people will like that. There’s one version of “And Your Bird Can Sing” when they were overdubbing a final track and they started giggling and they went through the song and they completed it but it was just giggles all the way through and you can’t help laughing with them. It’s so funny.
Paul McCartney: It’s interesting to hear George Martin now saying, “Why did we have to go to take thirty-six?” I know what he means, I can only assume it was part of the creative process, you know, keep on till we get better. But looking back on it, take two was often better, particularly when you listen to Anthology 3, because by the time take twenty-six or thirty had arrived, we’d lost the enthusiasm for the tune. Yes, we were getting slicker and more in tune, but what I like about the early takes is the ‘soul’ on them. You can really hear us enjoying ourselves on songs like “Dig A Pony“, “Let It Be”, “The Long And Winding Road” and “Two Of Us“.
Paul McCartney: In an outtake, I heard recently – recording “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” – John is saying ‘What’s wrong with that?’ and George Martin says ‘It wasn’t exciting enough, John.’ and John mumbles ‘Bloody hell…’ I think that’s just pressure of work.
The mixing sessions continued well into 1996, with George Martin, Mark Lewisohn and Allan Rouse continuing the search for material while the Beatles frequently popped in to check on progress and veto tracks.
Of course, they couldn’t sit through all the sessions, so I would tend to have them come in about once a week.George Martin
The special features disc on the Anthology DVDs features a large amount of footage of the Beatles at Abbey Road taken in May 1995. The group can be seen at the control desk with George Martin having a whale of a time listening to the multi-tracks of Tomorrow Never Knows and Golden Slumbers (‘which album is this?’ Harrison frowns, much to the amusement of Paul and Ringo). It’s also worth noting that Harrison has obviously been studying the Tomorrow Never Knows multi-tracks at some stage before this playback session with Paul and Ringo. Despite rumors of tensions, George, Paul and Ringo seem remarkably relaxed and friendly with each other, constantly laughing and making jokes at each other’s expense. The footage is, in fact, one of the highlights of the entire Anthology project.
It has given me the opportunity, for example, to take all the strings and heavenly voices off The Long And Winding Road, which I never really intended in the first place.Paul McCartney
Among those tracks considered for inclusion, but ultimately vetoed, were Love Of The Loved and To Know Her Is To Love Her (both from the Decca audition), Red Hot (live from Hamburg), She’s A Woman (live from Shea Stadium), Think For Yourself, Love You To, Paperback Writer (vocal only rendition), Nowhere Man (live from Tokyo), Getting Better, Magical Mystery Tour, the mysterious Hey La Le Lu / All Together Now and the legendary 27 minute version of Helter Skelter (all EMI studio tracks unless otherwise specified).
The live recordings we listened to from the Cavern and Hamburg were too poor to consider.George Martin
Alternate EMI takes of From Me To You, Getting Better, Magical Mystery Tour, Yer Blues and Paul’s demo of Goodbye were included on a reference DAT prepared in mid 1994 featuring material slated for the Anthology CDs. Apple is also believed to have acquired an acetate of Paul singing an acoustic version of Love Of The Loved.
The live Quarrymen tape with John singing Putting On The Style and Baby Let’s Play House (recently purchased at auction by EMI) also had some work done on it but was eventually omitted (possibly due to the extremely poor quality of the recording).
Some mixing work was apparently also done on several of the White Album demos that circulate on bootleg (apparently sourced from John’s copy of the tapes), but the poorer sound on these recording clashed with the limited selection of quality tapes (reportedly only eight songs) that George Harrison handed over. A few years earlier Harrison had claimed to hold a copy of the entire tape.
Harrison apparently also insisted on the editing of the complete You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) (to the point of editing the track himself) and the deletion of thirteen seconds from Shout. In both cases, his reported reason was that the tracks were self-indulgent.
Paul McCartney apparently wanted Carnival Of Light on Anthology 2 but George, Ringo and Yoko didn’t, and there was also speculation that George and Ringo originally vetoed Come And Get It from Anthology 3 because it was never intended for the Beatles.
The Anthology videos also include a large number of small selections from the EMI archive tapes, including many takes and a lot of Beatles studio chat that didn’t make it onto the CDs. Most of this material was presumably chosen, edited and mixed during these sessions.
The Beatles didn’t hold anything back from the three Anthology CDs. Everything they thought was worth releasing is on those three CDs.Neil Aspinall
Last updated on September 30, 2020
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The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!