Mixing "Only A Northern Song", recording "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove"

Friday, April 21, 1967 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Yellow Submarine (Mono) LP.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Songs recorded


1.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from takes 3 and 11


2.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from takes 3 and 11


3.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from takes 3 and 11


4.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from takes 3 and 11


5.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 5 from takes 3 and 11


6.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 6 from takes 3 and 11


7.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 7 from takes 3 and 11


8.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 8 from takes 3 and 11


9.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 9 from takes 3 and 11


10.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 10 from takes 3 and 11


11.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 11 from takes 3 and 11


12.

Staff

Musicians on "Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove"

Paul McCartney:
Noises, Vocals
Ringo Starr:
Noises, Vocals
John Lennon:
Noises, Vocals
George Harrison:
Vocals, Noises

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Richard Lush:
Second Engineer

About

On February 13 and 14, 1967, The Beatles recorded “Only A Northern Song” with George Harrison. The day before, they returned to the song and recorded two different takes, which were then mixed together. Take 3 had the rhythm track, including drums, trumpet, glockenspiel, and bass. Take 11 had double-tracked vocals and a track with miscellaneous percussion sounds, studio chatter, organs, and piano.

On this day, the engineers had the challenging task of manually syncing the two four-track tapes and mixing the takes together. They made 11 attempts, labeled RM 1 to 11, and determined that Remix Mono 6 was the best version.

Due to the difficulty of manual synchronization, they did not create a stereo version of the track at that time. They postponed this task until October 29, 1968, but only produced a mock stereo mix on that date.


For the second part of the session, The Beatles and the engineering team returned to the “Sgt. Pepper” album and recorded the sounds that filled the run-out groove of the vinyl record. The Beatles recorded some nonsense talks on a two-track tape, which was then cut up and re-edited, some parts even reversed. Just before the run-out groove, they finally added a few seconds of 20 kilohertz tone, an idea to make dogs react when listening to the album. This session, which started at 7 pm, ended at 1:30 am.

Mastering engineer Harry Moss was responsible for transferring the final mixes, including the run-out groove, to vinyl. It took him several attempts to get this run-out groove right. The mono master was done on April 28 and the stereo master on May 1. This marked the completion of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.


When we came to putting the record together, Paul said: “You know, when these records are pressed, there’s a run-out groove that takes the needle to and fro to get the automatic change working. Why don’t we put some music in there? Something silly.”

“O.K.,” I said, “if you want a bit of a joke. I don’t think anyone’s ever done it, but why not?”

“Let’s go down and do something in the studio, then,” he said. So the four of them went down and chanted silly little things, each one different, without any sense; ‘yum tum, tim ting’ sort of sounds. I snipped about two seconds off the tape of that and put it into the run-out groove so that it went round and round forever. Of course, when the record came out, all the fanatics heard this weird noise on the run-out groove and started wondering what it was, and why they had done it. Then the interpretations started.

Finally, it came back to me as the craziest of all Beatleanalyses: “Hey, if you play that backwards, it says an obscene phrase.” Well, with a huge stretch of the imagination, I suppose, it did, but that was certainly never intended. It was simply typical of what the Beatle cult could produce, with every record being turned inside-out and upside-down in an effort to discern hidden meanings.

George Martin – From “All You Need Is Ears“, 1979

At the end of Pepper, when we finished the whole thing, we all felt pretty elated to have finished it. So, as a little in-joke for ourselves, we decided to fix the end of the record so that there would be something on it. On the run-out grooves on the album, on the second side, we put a bit of nonsense. In fact, the way we did it we said, ‘Let’s just put a noise on the end, so people will say, ‘What the hell is that?’ And Paul, John, George and Ringo went down into the studio and just started shouting, saying a lot of gibberish in a chaotic sort of way. I recorded them for about thirty seconds and I took, literally, about four seconds and we wrapped it into the groove around the centre, so it just kept on going round and round, the same noise. It was a completely random recording. EMI engineers thought I had taken leave of my senses when I explained what I wanted. But, a month after the album was released, we found out that people had been playing the damn thing backwards, and found out, by playing it backwards, there was an obscene word to be heard. And, sure enough, Paul said, ‘Have you heard it?’ And when you play it, it does say an obscene word.

George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

They were all there discussing how to end the LP but the decision to throw in a bit of nonsense gibberish came together in about 10 minutes. They ran down to the studio floor and we recorded them twice — on each track of a two-track tape. They made funny noises, said random things; just nonsense. We chopped up the tape, put it back together, played it backwards and threw it in.

Geoff Emerick – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988

John and Paul felt that they wanted something additional to end the album, even after the final huge piano chord that concluded “A Day In The Life.” John had read somewhere that dogs could hear higher frequencies than humans could, and requested that a supersonic tone be placed at the end to give them something to listen to. (Ironically, he didn’t realize that most of the record players and speakers of the era were incapable of reproducing such a tone, so it didn’t actually become audible to the world at large until the CD release some twenty years later.) That was something which could be easily enough accomplished in the mastering room, but it didn’t satisfy their wish to have their two-legged fans hear something additional.

“Let’s just put on some gobbledygook, then bifurcate it, splange it, and loop it,” Lennon said irreverently; he always loved the sound of nonsense words. To George Martin’s amusement, the four Beatles endorsed the idea wholeheartedly and raced down to the studio while Richard hurriedly put up a couple of microphones. They looned about for five minutes or so, saying whatever came to mind as I recorded them on a two-track machine. When I played the tape back for them, John identified a few seconds that he particularly liked—it consisted primarily of Paul repeating the words “Never needed any other way” for no particular reason while the others chattered away in the background—which I duly made into a loop, then flew into the ending.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

An aura of mysticism grew up around the album, which we inadvertently fed, because of the silly things we did messing about: The high-pitched whistle on the end of the recording, audible only to dogs, for example, which people thought must mean something deep, certainly something mysterious. Actually, the 20,000-hertz tone went on the end of the album after I had been explaining to the blokes how there were certain frequencies that human beings could not hear. I mentioned that dogs, however, were able to hear much higher frequencies than we could. Inevitably, this prompted Paul to say, jokingly, ‘You realize we never record anything for animals, don’t you? What about my dog, Martha? Let’s put on something only a dog can hear.’

George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995

All that remained was for the final mixes to be transferred to vinyl, and we had specifically requested that Harry Moss, EMI’s most senior and experienced mastering engineer, be given the assignment. But George Martin and I knew that, as good as Harry was, he would probably do what most mastering engineers are trained to do: add EQ, or compression, or whatever he felt he could do to improve the sound. That was not what we wanted, however. We knew that we had come up with something very special, and we didn’t want it tampered with in any way. […]

The Beatles, however, had insisted that the loop of gobbledygook be cut into the final groove in the vinyl, known as the “concentric.” Their reasoning was that the automatic record players of the day would play it for a few seconds before lifting the needle off, while those people who still owned manual players would hear it drone on indefinitely until they got fed up and raised the needle themselves. It was a juvenile attempt at humor, but one that created a big technical problem for Harry. In the end, it took him nine attempts to get that concentric to work out correctly, and each time it didn’t, he had to cut the whole second side of the album again. Needless to say, it was one practical joke that I’m sure Harry didn’t appreciate.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

I was told by chaps who’d been in the business a long time that cutting things into the run-out grooves was an old idea that they used to do on 78s. Cutting Sgt Pepper was not too difficult except that because we couldn’t play the masters I had to wait for white label pressings before I could hear whether or not I’d cut the concentric groove successfully. These were the things which, at the time, I used to swear about! It was George Martin who first asked me to do it. I replied ‘It’s gonna be bloody awkward, George, but I’ll give it a go!’

Harry Moss – Engineer at EMI Studios who created the master of “Sgt. Pepper” – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn, 1988

After this session, which started at 7 pm and ended at 1:30 am, The Beatles paid a visit to Mama Cass, a member of The Mamas & the Papas, bringing an acetate of “Sgt. Pepper” that they played with the windows opened, for the benefit of the neighbourhood.

Last updated on February 7, 2024

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