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Posts tagged "the beatles"

Feb 03, 2014
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Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:


  Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…


The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:


  George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.


The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:


  John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.


On leaving in mistakes:


  If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.


And whether there could be another Beatles:


  There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.


Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Geoff Emerick, My Life Recording The Beatles

Emerick was there at the very first Beatles recording sessions, and he wound up engineering, among other albums, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road. This book isn’t terribly well written, the portraits of the Beatles seem unfairly judgmental (Ringo is a dullard, John is a maniac and a jerk, George can barely play guitar—Paul is the only one who comes off remotely likable), and the pacing and structure are very uneven, but for a look at the Beatles recording process and insight into their sound, it’s a very interesting read.

Some notes:

At a few points, creative decisions were often driven by legal constraints. When coming up with the sound effects for “Yellow Submarine”:

Phil McDonald was duly dispatched to fetch some records of Sousa marches, and after auditioning several of them, George Martin and Paul finally identified one that was suitable—it was in the same key as “Yellow Submarine” and seemed to fit well enough. The problem here was one of copyright; in British law, if you used more than a few seconds of a recording on a commercial release, you had to get permission from the song’s publisher and then pay a negotiable royalty. George wasn’t about to do either, so he told me to record the section on a clean piece of two-track tape and then chop it into pieces, toss the pieces into the air, and splice them back together. The end result should have been random, but, somehow, when I pieced it back together, it came back nearly the same way…

The limitations of the primitive, 4-track recording equipment at EMI led to much of the recording innovation:

George Martin has said in many interviews that Pepper wouldn’t have been as good had it been recorded in twenty-four-track, and I completely agree. It was because of those very limitations that we were put on the spot, forced to make creative decisions every step of the way. Necessity was the mother of invention, and that was part of the magic of the album. You had to put the right echo on, the right EQ, the right signal processing; the playing had to be right, the vocal had to be right. It made things easier in a way, because otherwise there are too many variables and too many decisions to be put off until the mixing stage.

The Beatles were into sound collage and cut-ups:

John and Paul were both heavily into avant-garde music, especially compositions that were based upon randomness. At home, they often kept their televisions on with the sound turned off while simultaneously playing records. The next morning, they would regale us with tales of how the music often dovetailed, as if by magic, with the on-screen visuals. At one point, Paul even brought in a film projector so he could demonstrate the principle.

On leaving in mistakes:

If someone made a tiny mistake or sang something a little funny in a Beatles session, it would generally be left in if it was felt it added to the character of the record. Sometimes we’d even accentuate the mistakes during mixing, just to underline the fact that the music was being made by fallible human beings. Today, there’s plenty of technology, but precious little soul.

And whether there could be another Beatles:

There aren’t breeding grounds like Hamburg anymore, places where bands can develop in anonymity and hone their craft. Every musician is isolated in his or her bedroom now; there’s little collaboration, little opportunity for ideas to be nurtured and developed.

Again: it’s a really uneven book, but Beatles nuts and recording geeks (like me) might like it.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

PS. I’m posting the cover of the Portuguese version, because it’s 100% cooler than the English version.

Nov 17, 2013
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Sep 28, 2013
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Aug 08, 2013
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Booker T. & The MG’s, Mclemore Ave

Booker T & The MG’s cover The Beatles. (McLemore Avenue was the home of Stax Records.) Saw this in a record store with my buddy Julien. Sorry I didn’t buy it.

Feb 06, 2013
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Girls dancing to The Beatles

From episode four of The Beatles Anthology

Filed under: girls

Girls dancing to The Beatles

From episode four of The Beatles Anthology

Filed under: girls

Nov 06, 2012
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Feb 13, 2012
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I’ve always referred to the Beatles as elevator music, because that’s exactly what they were. “Michelle” in German is the one Beatles song that meant something to me, because I was in Germany when I was seven years old and heard it on the radio and thought it was really pretty. I mean, I didn’t know they were the Beatles. I’ve never sat down and listened to a Beatles record from beginning to end. Those guys just didn’t mean a fucking thing to me.
Michael Stipe (lucky for R.E.M., Peter Buck listened to a shit-ton of them)

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My brilliant friend Julien Devereux responds to the “Who is Paul McCartney?” thing.

Another great response came from @diss1:


  Who is Paul McCartney? why, only the guy who wrote "Temporary Secretary"!

My brilliant friend Julien Devereux responds to the “Who is Paul McCartney?” thing.

Another great response came from @diss1:

Who is Paul McCartney? why, only the guy who wrote "Temporary Secretary"!

Oct 14, 2011
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This week’s spirit animal. (Pinched from this clip of George Harrison: Living In The Material World.)

This week’s spirit animal. (Pinched from this clip of George Harrison: Living In The Material World.)

Sep 12, 2011
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While My Guitar Gently Beeps - The Beatles - Rock Band - NYTimes.com

I took this snapshot of a NYTimes pullquote a few years ago. Here’s Paul McCartney on Rock Band, emulating his heroes, and why The Beatles started writing their own tunes:

“Miming was always fun. When I was growing up, there was always, on TV, people who mimed to records. It was a thing people did. I always admired the way they had to learn every little nuance.” McCartney’s own musical beginnings weren’t too different from picking up Rock Band and pretending to be a star, he pointed out. “I emulated Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis. We all did.” The group might have kept going that way, he said, except that they’d find themselves backstage, “and we’d hear our complete set being played by the band before us.” That’s the reason, he said, he and Lennon started writing their own songs. “It’s grown to something so big, but it really just started as a way to avoid the other bands being able to play our set.”

I have vivid memories of making a fake guitar out of cardboard and a yardstick and playing along to Genesis records when I was a kid…and it’s funny, but I consider that part of learning to play the guitar! I mean, when you want to play an instrument so bad that you’ll make a fake one and pretend to play it…that’s when you know you’re on to something. (I did the same thing for drums with gallon tubs of ice cream and wooden spoons…)

While My Guitar Gently Beeps - The Beatles - Rock Band - NYTimes.com

I took this snapshot of a NYTimes pullquote a few years ago. Here’s Paul McCartney on Rock Band, emulating his heroes, and why The Beatles started writing their own tunes:

“Miming was always fun. When I was growing up, there was always, on TV, people who mimed to records. It was a thing people did. I always admired the way they had to learn every little nuance.” McCartney’s own musical beginnings weren’t too different from picking up Rock Band and pretending to be a star, he pointed out. “I emulated Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis. We all did.” The group might have kept going that way, he said, except that they’d find themselves backstage, “and we’d hear our complete set being played by the band before us.” That’s the reason, he said, he and Lennon started writing their own songs. “It’s grown to something so big, but it really just started as a way to avoid the other bands being able to play our set.”

I have vivid memories of making a fake guitar out of cardboard and a yardstick and playing along to Genesis records when I was a kid…and it’s funny, but I consider that part of learning to play the guitar! I mean, when you want to play an instrument so bad that you’ll make a fake one and pretend to play it…that’s when you know you’re on to something. (I did the same thing for drums with gallon tubs of ice cream and wooden spoons…)

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