Recording "Fixing A Hole"

Thursday, February 9, 1967 • For The Beatles

Part of


Recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

Nov 24, 1966 - Apr 20, 1967 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (UK Mono) LP.
Studio:
Regent Sound Studio, London

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About

On this day, February 9, 1967, all the studios at EMI Studios in Abbey Road were booked, so The Beatles went to Regent Sound Studio to start recording Paul McCartney’s “Fixing A Hole.” George Martin produced the session, but engineer Geoff Emerick couldn’t join because, as an employee of EMI Studios, he was contractually prevented from working in another studio. Adrian Ibbetson, the chief engineer of Regent Studio, replaced him.

The session began with rehearsals of “Fixing A Hole,” and at least six takes were recorded. Afterward, they recorded two formal takes of the basic track.

The credits for the basic track vary depending on the sources. Jerry Hammack, in his book “The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)“, takes a critical eye on the various sources (including “That Magic Feeling: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966-1970” by John C. Winn, and the 2017 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” box set by Kevin Howlett) and concludes that the basic track featured Paul McCartney on bass and lead vocals, John Lennon on maracas, George Martin on harpsichord and Ringo Starr on drums.

Take 1 had the harpsichord, maracas, and drums on track one, bass on track two, and vocals on track four. Paul then double-tracked his vocals on track three. According to Kevin Howlett, in the 2017 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” box set, Take 1 was “bounced back to the four-track from another machine” to become Take 2. Two tracks were freed up through this tape reduction, and George Harrison added a double-tracked guitar solo on tracks two and three. He also added backing vocals, along with John, on track three.

A new backing track was attempted, named Take 3, but it went no further. Takes 1 and 3 were released in the 2017 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” box set.

Work on “Fixing A Hole” continued at EMI Studios on February 21, 1967.


I’m afraid the boys didn’t plan very much, and when they wanted to come into a studio they never said to me, ‘keep the next two weeks free, because we’re sure we’re going to be needing a studio.’ They would ring me up at 10 in the morning and say, ‘We want to record tonight at 7 o’clock, OK?’ And I had to find a damned studio.

George Martin – 1987 interview – From Recording Sgt. Pepper’s: Unpublished Conversations with | Reverb News

‘Fixing A Hole’ was the first time we went outside Abbey Road studios to record during Sgt. Pepper. Quite often Paul had a song suddenly come to him, and while it was fresh in his mind he would want to crystallize it. He could not write music, so apart from scribbling down the lyrics and noting a few chord changes underneath, there was no other way for him to be sure of grabbing the song while it was there in his head, other than by recording it. A Walkman would have come in useful!

Normally, Abbey Road moved heaven and earth to accommodate the Beatles in their hour of need. Nevertheless, the studios and staff could hardly be kept idle in case a Beatle had a flash of inspiration. Although there had been talk of finally building a special recording studio solely for the Beatles — grabbing studio reservation ahead of any others was becoming a bit of an embarrassment — nothing had come of it. It so happened that all the studios were in use that particular night, 9 February: there was no room for them at the inn. We had to find a studio, and quickly, while Paul had the urge. The one we found, Regent Sound in Tottenham Court Road, was little more than a demonstration studio, in the heart of Tin Pan Alley. It was a low-ceilinged, boxy little room with a low-ceilinged boxy little sound to it.

On top of this, we weren’t allowed to take our engineers with us: Geoff Emerick was employed by Abbey Road in those days and contractually prevented from recording elsewhere. A man called Adrian Ibbetson was head of Regent Sound then, so he did the recording.

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

Paul knew exactly where he was going with ‘Fixing A Hole’. As a result, it was one of the fastest tracks we recorded, in an album of thirteen songs that took some five months to complete.

It took only two days. It’s a very simply constructed song, built around a harpsichord and a bass guitar. Even before we got into the studio, Paul had decided to use a harpsichord as the mainstay of his rhythm; even so, the bass line is more important than the harpsichord line. Paul had to play bass guitar on it, because nobody could (or can) play that instrument quite like him. That meant someone else was going to have to play keyboards. This was unusual, because Paul always liked to play his own keyboards on his own compositions. The part of honorary stand-in keyboard player to the greatest group in the world was offered to me. It wasn’t too difficult, and it didn’t seem likely to tax my non-virtuoso technique too much.

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

McCartney polished off “Fixing A Hole” quickly, although it actually was begun at another studio. George Martin couldn’t get the group booked into Abbey Road on the night they wanted to record, so they moved to Regent Sound Studio in London’s West End instead. Ridiculously, even though we’d recorded almost every note on the album up to that point, Richard [Lush] and I couldn’t go there because we were EMI employees. George Martin, on the other hand, could attend, because he was working as an independent contractor. We listened to the tapes a few days later, and while they were a bit disappointing sonically, I was impressed with the vibe: all four Beatles played together on the backing track, just like in the old days, and George Harrison played a good guitar solo, too.

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

The funny thing about that was the night when we were going to record it, at Regent Sound Studios at Tottenham Court Road. I brought a guy who was Jesus. A guy arrived at my front gate and I said ‘Yes? Hello’ because I always used to answer it to everyone. If they were boring I would say, ‘Sorry, no,’ and they generally went away. This guy said, ‘I’m Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘Oop,’ slightly shocked. I said, ‘Well, you’d better come in then.’ I thought, Well, it probably isn’t. But if he is, I’m not going to be the one to turn him away. So I gave him a cup of tea and we just chatted and I asked, ‘Why do you think you are Jesus?’ There were a lot of casualties about then. We used to get a lot of people who were maybe insecure or going through emotional break downs or whatever. So I said, ‘I’ve got to go to a session but if you promise to be very quiet and just sit in a corner, you can come.’ So he did, he came to the session and he did sit very quietly and I never saw him after that. I introduced him to the guys. They said, ‘Who’s this?’ I said, ‘He’s Jesus Christ.’ We had a bit of a giggle over that.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

“Fixing A Hole” is a song I wrote in the 60s for the Sgt. Pepper album, and the craziest story about it was, the evening we were going to have the session… The session was booked and I was getting ready to go out to the session, and a guy knocked on my door in London and, at that time, I was living on my own, kind of my bachelor pad in London, you know, so everyone always came around. It was the place to hang out, you could always come to Paul’s, any time of the night you could always crash there. Anyway, this guy comes to the door and I didn’t recognize him. I said “who are you”. He said “I’m Jesus.” So just kind of looking, I said “would you better come in then, what are you gonna do”. So I got the kettle on, I say “you want a cup of tea?” I thought well you know gotta treat him right, you never know. So it was fine and I was chatting away and he seemed like a great bloke, so I said “do you want to come to a session?” He says “yeah”, I said “you’ll have to be very quiet and just sit in a corner though, so I don’t want to upset everyone you know” and that lord knows, what they’re gonna think, you know, so I went around, I just sort of said “this guy, he says he’s Jesus, you know, I don’t know but I’m not taking any chances, is it okay if he sits in the corner?” So he sat there for the session on “Fixing A Hole”, we just made the record, said good night, I’ve never seen him since.

Paul McCartney – 1993 interview

From Sgt Pepper (2017 boxset) – what’s new – The Daily Beatle (webgrafikk.com):

Fixing A Hole [Take 1] (partially NEW)

Fixing A Hole [Speech And Take 3] (NEW)

We have something weird happening here with the “Fixing a Hole” takes. Mark Lewisohn documents that TAKE 2 was marked “Final Master” from the Feb 9, 1967 Regent Studio session and was the one used to work on Feb 21. He says the Beatles did three takes at Regent, One and Two complete and the third being a breakdown (which could only mean incomplete), but the following track on this new Deluxe Box has Take 3 complete (2:38 plus the dialogue and warm up and the intro), only Paul changing and missing a few verses but the take is complete not a breakdown. Then he says that of Feb 21 they did another Take 1 to be mixed together with the original Take three recorded Feb 9. Yes, Take 3! (a breakdown take?), Take 2 was “Final Master” but they wanted to use a Breakdown take 3? But as that didn’t work, they used that original Take 2 from Feb 9. But if you listen carefully this Take 1 on the new Deluxe box set is the released Take (with the original bass, the released version has (apparently) a small part re-recorded), not only the instrumentation but also Paul’s vocal (not double tracked yet), it lasts longer than the released take (this is 2:49 (+ ten extra seconds of post-take) and the released take is 2:37) and maybe that’s why it could sound like a different take and also Paul singing different vocals near the end. But this is the released take, after a back to back comparison using also Rockband’s moggs for backing track (slight different speed on the released version) and for vocal track (playing both at the same time, even the “Heeh” during middle eight that is buried on the official version and that can be heard with the Rockband mogg is present on both versions). Other people who have also been listening to it have posted the very same. More weird, this doesn’t have a double tracked vocal from Paul yet but at 2:34 we can hear another Paul vocal singing with himself. Also this “Take 1” is not slated at the intro and also is incomplete, we can’t hear the actual end, the tape cuts at 2:49 and after that we can hear like another warm up intro for a following take (or part from an overdub?), so we can’t compare the actual end of “Take 1” versus the actual Take 3 from Regent Studios.

Maybe documentation for this song was incorrect and now it’s accurate and Take 1 was the one used to add overdubs and not Take 2. Still, if you also do a back to back comparison between this Take 1 and 3, some instruments sound different, Take 3 has a more “naked” and “live” sound and Take 1 sounds already mixed. Also, Paul’s vocal tones and intentions on many of the lines of the song are way different compared to the released take (or “Take 1” here). Maybe Giles also added a vocal overdub from Feb 21 that was also double tracked that day and erased the actual live vocal take from Feb 9? With the liner notes perhaps we will find out more, or maybe not.

Part of the “Speech” before Take 3 was already on the Rockband “pre song” chats.

Last updated on December 30, 2023

Songs recorded


1.

Fixing A Hole

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1

Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset)


2.

Fixing A Hole

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Copy of Take 1, labelled Take 2


3.

Fixing A Hole

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto Take 2


4.

Fixing A Hole

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3

Album Officially released on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th anniversary boxset)

Staff

Musicians on "Fixing A Hole"

Paul McCartney:
Lead vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Maracas
George Harrison:
Electric guitar, Backing vocals
George Martin:
Harpsichord

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Adrian Ibbetson:
Engineer

Going further


The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

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!

Shop on Amazon


The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)

The third book of this critically - acclaimed series, nominated for the 2019 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) award for Excellence In Historical Recorded Sound, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)" captures the band's most innovative era in its entirety. From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time. Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.

Shop on Amazon


If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.

Read more on The Beatles Bible

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