Paul: “The whole Beatle thing – it’s like it was all years ago – like going back a distance more than anything, and that’s the whole point.
The Beatles are really finished, over with, and it’s just each of us alone now, living our lives the way we choose. I think while the Beatles were on – I can’t really use any other word – while they were just on, there was no question of any of these normal hangups interfering with it because we just had an understanding. It’s like a married couple. When we started off we were all aiming for pretty much the same thing. I think the troubles really began when we weren’t aiming anymore for the same thing, which began, I think, when we stopped touring in 1966.
During the making of the White Album, Ringo left the group saying he wasn’t ‘getting through’ to the rest of us. But he came back in two days. By the time we made Abbey Road, John and I were openly critical of each other’s music and I felt John wasn’t much interested in performing anything he hadn’t written himself. When we made the ‘Let It Be’ album, George walked out over a row about the performance of some songs – and said he was leaving the group. A few days later there was a meeting at Ringo’s house, and he agreed to come back at least until the recording was finished.”
“So I felt the split coming. and John kept saying we were musically standing still. One night – this was the autumn of ’69 – Linda and I were lying there, talking about it, and I thought, ‘That’s what I miss, and what they miss too – Playing.’ Because we hadn’t actually played for anyone for a long time. and being an actual good musician requires this contact with people all the time. The human thing. So I came into the idea of going to village halls which hold a couple of hundred people. Have someone book the hall and put up posters saying, maybe, ‘Ricky and Redstreaks, Saturday Night.’ and we’d just turn up there in a van and people would arrive and we’d be there. I thought that was great. John said, ‘You’re daft.'”
“At this time John’s thing was playing for 200,000 people because he’d been at a big festival or something. So he wanted to do that. and I can see now what he thought. I can see which way John sees progress. I see it sometimes another way.”
“We were talking in the Apple offices. Ringo was there – he agreed – and maybe George wasn’t there. So then John says, ‘Anyway, I’m leaving the group.’ He said, ‘I want a divorce.’ He literally said, ‘I want a divorce.’ and for the first time ever, he meant it. So that just hit everyone. All of us realized that this great thing that we’d been part of was no longer to be. This was the chop. That hits anyone, no matter what it is. It’s like leaving school, and you love it then it hits like a chop. Or whatever your thing is. Our thing was the Beatles.”
“The Beatle way of life was like a young kid entering the big world, entering it with friends and conquering it totally. and that was fantastic. An incredible experience. So when that idea really came that we should break up, I don’t think any of us wanted to accept it. It was the end of the legend, even in our own minds. Marilyn Monroe gets to believe eventually that she’s Marilyn Monroe. Now I feel that’s how the Beatles got to be – I’m just speaking for me. You were very much a Beatle in your own eyes, and to an extent we all still are.
Thinking back, I think it was great what John said. and he told us, ‘Look everything sort of comes together right.’ and now I agree. We’d just made this album and it was to be called ‘Get Back’ and on the cover was a photograph showing us in exactly the same position as in the first album we’d made – the whole lettering and the background was exactly reproduced. So John said, ‘It’s a perfect circle, you know.’ I think what John did was tremendous from the point of view of ‘Okay, so we are actually going to go our own ways.’ You just can’t be as tied together as we were for so long a period of time, unless you all live in the same house. From then onward it was to be a question of living your own life, which was the first real turn-on for me in a long time – and this coincided with my meeting Linda. So early in 1970 I phoned John and told him I was leaving the Beatles too. He said, ‘Good! That makes two of us who have accepted it mentally.'”
“I do think if it were just up to the four of us, if we were totally unencumbered, we would have had a dissolution – I hate these heavy terms – the day after John said he was leaving. We would have picked up our bags – these are my shoes, that’s my ball, that’s your ball – and gone. and I still maintain that’s the only way, to actually go and do that, no matter what things are involved on a business level. But of course we aren’t four fellows. We are part of a big business machine. Even though the Beatles have really stopped, the Beatle thing goes on – repackaging the albums, putting tracks together in different forms, and the video coming in.
So that’s why I’ve had to sue in the courts to dissolve the Beatles, to do on a business level what we should have done on a four-fellows level. I feel it just has to come. We used to get asked at press conferences, ‘What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?’ When I talked to John just the other day, he said something about, ‘Well, the bubble’s going to burst.’ and I said, ‘It has burst. That’s the point. That’s why I’ve had to do this, why l had to apply to the court. You don’t think I really enjoy doing that kind of stuff. I had to do it because the bubble has burst – everywhere but on paper.’ That’s the only place we’re tied now.”
“You see, there was a partnership contract put together years ago to hold us together as a group for 10 years. Anything anybody wanted to do – put out a record, anything – he had to get the others’ permission. Because of what we were then, none of us ever looked at it when we signed it. We signed it in ’67 and discovered it last year. We discovered this contract that bound us for 10 years. So it’s ‘Oh gosh, Oh golly, Oh heck,’ you know. ‘Now, boys, can we tear it up, please?’ But the trouble is, the other three have been advised not to tear it up. They’ve been advised that if they tear it up, there will be serious, bad consequences for them. The point, though, to me was that it began to look like a three-to-one vote, which is what in fact happened at a couple of business meetings. It was three to one. That’s how Allen Klein got to be the manager of Apple, which I didn’t want. But they didn’t need my approval.”
“Listen, it’s not the boys. It’s not the other three. The four of us, I think, still quite like each other. I don’t think there is bad blood, not from my side anyway. I spoke to the others quite recently and there didn’t sound like any from theirs. So it’s a business thing. It’s Allen Klein. Early in ’69 John took him on as business manager and wanted the rest of us to do it too. That was just the irreconcilable difference between us.”
“Klein is incredible. He’s New York. He’ll say ‘Waddaya want? I’ll buy it for you.’ I guess there’s alot I really don’t want to say about this, but it will come out because we had to sort of document the stuff for this case. We had to go and fight – which I didn’t want, really. All summer long in Scotland I was fighting with myself as to whether I should do anything like that. It was murderous. I had a knot in my stomach all summer. I tried to think of a way to take Allen Klein to court, or to take a businessman to court. But the action had to be brought against the other three.”
“I first said, ‘No, we can’t do that. We’ll live with it.’ But all those little things kept happening, such trivia compared to what has happened, but the kind of things that… well, for example, my record McCartney came out. Linda and I did it totally – the record, the cover the ads – everything presented to the record company. Then there started to appear these little advertisements. On the bottom was ‘On Apple Records,’ which was okay. But somebody had also come along and slapped on ‘An Abkco-managed company.’ Now that is Klein’s company and has nothing to do with my record. It’s like Klein taking part of the credit for my record.”
“Maybe that sounds petty, but I can go into other examples of this kind of thing. The build-up is the thing – All these things continuously happening making me feel like I’m a junior with the record company, like Klein is the boss and I’m nothing. Well, I’m a senior. I figure my opinion is as good as anyone’s, especially when it’s my thing. and it’s emotional. You feel like you don’t have any freedom. I figured I’d have to stand up for myself eventually or get pushed under. The income from the McCartney album is still being held by Apple, and Linda and I are the only ones on the record. John has a new record out with a song called ‘Power to the People.’ There’s a line in it – sort of shouting to the government – ‘Give us what we own.’ and to me Apple’s the government thing. Give me what I own.”
“So then we began to talk again about the suit, over and over. I just saw that I was not going to get out of it. From my last phone conversation with John, I think he sees it like that. He said, ‘Well, how do you get out?'”
“My lawyer, John Eastman, he’s a nice guy and he saw the position we were in, and he sympathized. We’d have these meetings on top of hills in Scotland, we’d go for long walks. I remember when we actually decided we had to go and file suit. We were standing on this big hill which overlooked a loch – it was quite a nice day, a bit chilly – and we’d been searching our souls. Was there any other way? and we eventually said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do it.’ The only alternative was seven years with the partnership – going through those same channels for seven years.”
“And I’ve changed. The funny thing about it is that I think alot of my change has been helped by John Lennon. I sort of picked up on his lead. John had said, ‘Look, I don’t want to be that anymore. I’m going to be this.’ and I thought, ‘That’s great.’ I liked the fact he’d done it, and so I’ll do it with my thing. He’s given the okay. In England, if a partnership isn’t rolling along and working – like a marriage that isn’t working – then you have reasonable grounds to break it off. It’s great! Good old British justice! But before I went into this, I had to check out in my mind, is there such a thing as justice? Like I throw myself into the courts I could easily get caught – tell the story, put it all in there, and then justice turns around and… I mean, these days people don’t believe in justice. I really think the truth does win, but it’s not a popular thought. But then all my life I’ve been in love with goodies, as against the baddies.”
“You can read the other boys’ side to find out I’m the stinker. I think I’m right. But don’t we all! You couldn’t believe it! It’s a movie! Because I’ve had to take this action against the others, it looks like we can’t stand each other. I can really only speak for myself, but I still like the other three. and maybe it’s deeper than ‘like.’ But at the moment, I’m not stuck on them. I’m not pleased. We are not amused at the moment! I am not loving them. But I know when it’s over I will really like them.”
“People said, ‘It’s a pity that such a nice thing had to come to such a sticky end.’ I think that too. It is a pity. I like fairy tales. I’d love it to have had the Beatles go up in a little cloud of smoke and the four of us just find ourselves in magic robes, each holding an envelope with our stuff in it. But you realize that you’re in real life, and you don’t split up a beautiful thing with a beautiful thing. I ignored John’s interview in Rolling Stone (1971). I looked at it and dug him for saying what he thought. But to me, short of getting it off his chest, I think he blows it with that kind of thing. I think it makes people wonder why John needs to do that.”
“I did think there were an awful lot of inconsistencies, because on one page you find John talking about how Dylan changed his name from Zimmerman and how that’s hypocritical. But John changed his name to John Ono Lennon. and people looking at that just begin to think, ‘Come on, what is this?'”
“But the interview didn’t bug me. It was so far out that I enjoyed it, actually. I know there are elements of truth in what he said. and this open hostility, that didn’t hurt me. That’s cool. That’s John.”
“I can’t really describe what direction I’m going in musically, because it’s ever-changing – and that’s what it’s all about. I have my personal influences, and they come from everywhere, from age nothing to today. Sounds I heard on the radio. Sounds I heard my father play on the piano. Sounds I found myself in rock and roll. Sounds that the group made. My music is all that – very personal – especially now that it’s one person putting it down instead of four. I do what I feel. Make myself comfortable. It’s a good job to have.”
“Linda and I have been writing songs together – and my publishers are suing because they don’t believe she wrote them with me. You know, suddenly she marries him and suddenly she’s writing songs. ‘Oh, sure – wink, wink – Oh, sure, she’s writing songs.’ But actually one day I just said to her, ‘I’m going to teach you how to write if I have to just strap you to the piano bench. I’m going to teach you the way I write music’ –because I never write music anyway. I just write by ear. and I like to collaborate on songs. If I have to just go out in another room and write – it is too much like work – like doing your homework. If I can have Linda working with me, then it becomes like a game. It’s fun. So we wrote about 10 songs and then we discovered that it was becoming too much like work. We were getting serious about writing. and I’ve never been serious.”
“When we decided to do the new album, we wanted to make it fun, because it isn’t worth doing anything if you can’t have fun doing it. The album will be out early in May, and then I’m thinking about getting a band together – another band – because I don’t like to just sit around. I really like to play music.”
“My musical direction – I’m trying for music that isn’t too romantic, yet contains a romantic thing. I personally don’t like things to be too cute – except babies. My music comes off best, I think, when there’s hard and soft together.”
“The best things are often the free bits, and that gets very tricky. I go out into the studio and I know I’m going to ad-lib. If I announce I’m going to ad-lib, I can’t ad-lib because I’m no longer ad-libbing. So I’ve just got to go out there and improvise, and someone’s got to be in there in the control room very cleverly thinking, ‘He’s going to ad-lib now, I’d better tape it.’ It’s very hard because good things get missed. Last night I was doing a real ad-lib and I was in a great mood and I was exploring what there was to be done – and they missed it. The next time around when they tried the tape, I wasn’t exploring any longer. I was trying to repeat past glories, and that doesn’t work. But there are compensations. Sometimes you don’t want to share those moments. Okay, the record-buying public didn’t hear it, but you and I did. That’s beautiful. That’s real. The moment was temporary like everything is. Nothing in life really stays. and it’s beautiful that they go. They have to go in order for the next thing to come. You can almost add beauty to a thing by accepting that it’s temporary.”
“I suppose musically I’m competing with the other three, whether I like it or not. It’s only human to compete. But I think it’s good for us. I think George has shown recently that he was no dummy. I think we’re really good, each one of us, individually. You know, there’s like three periods in my life. There’s the time when I was at school and just after leaving it. That was when I used to read alot – Dylan Thomas, paperbacks, alot of plays, Tennessee Williams, things my literature master had turned me onto. I used to sit on the top level of buses, reading and smoking a pipe. Then there was the whole sort of Beatle thing. and just now again I feel I can do what I want. So it’s like there was me, then the Beatles phase, and now I’m me again.”
“It’s rather serious – life. and you can’t live as if you have nine lives. I find myself doing that often. I think everybody does, saying in his mind, ‘I’ll get it tomorrow.’ But I can’t do that anymore. Take One with the Beatles should have been like I said, with a puff of smoke and magic robes and envelopes. But we missed Take One, so now we do Take Two. and in the disappointment of Take Two – I feel I can always find something good in the bad – the good thing is that it really has made me come to terms more with my life. As a married couple, Linda and I’ve really become closer because of all those problems, all the decisions. It’s been very real what I’ve been through – a breath of air, in a way – because of having been through very inhuman things.”
“The Beatle thing was fantastic. I loved every minute of it. It was beautiful. But it was a very sheltered life. Why, somebody would even ring me up in the morning and say, ‘You’ve got to be at Apple in an hour.’ It got very nursemaidy. If you are a real human, you’ve got to wake yourself up. You’ve got to take on these tedious little things because out of the tedium comes the joy of life. I got fed up by Apple this year over Christmas trees. ‘Did we want one, because the office was buying Christmas trees for everyone?’ I hated that. Actually we pinched one from a field in Scotland.”
“I love my life now because I’m doing much more ordinary things, and to me that brings great joy. We’re more ordinary than ordinary people sometimes.”
“In New York, we go to Harlem on the subway – a great evening at the Apollo. We walk through Central Park after hours. You may find us murdered one day. Last time we went it was snowy like moonlight in Vermont – just fantastic. and I figure anyone who scares me, I scare him.”
“We try never to organize our lives very much. We do things on the spur of the moment. We were in Scotland and we decided to take a trip to the Shetland Islands. So we piled in the Land Rover with the two kids, our English sheep dog, Martha, and a whole pile of stuff in the back with Mary’s potty on the top. On the second day we get up to a little port called Scrabster at the top of Scotland. When we tried to get on the big car ferry, we got in queue but were two cars too late – missed it. So, don’t despair. Okay, make the best of it. We really didn’t want to go on that big liner, a mass-produced thing. So we thought, let’s beat the liner. But we gave that up – it became a bit difficult with airplanes and such. Let’s try to get a ride in one of the little fishing boats, and how much should we offer.”
“So the romantic idea was that they’d rather have a salmon or a bottle of Scotch than the 30 pounds. I went to a bunch of boats but they weren’t going to the Orkney Islands. So I went on this one and I went to this trapdoor sort of thing, and they were sleeping down below – the smell of sleep is coming up through the door. At first the skipper said no, and then I said there was 30 quid in it for him, and they say they’ll take us. It was a fantastic little boat called the Enterprise and the captain named George, he’s wearing a beautiful Shetland sweater.
We brought all our stuff aboard and it was low tide, so we had to lower Martha in a big fishing net and a little crowd gathers and we wave our farewells. As we steam out, the skipper gives us some beer, and Linda, trying to be one of the boys takes a swig and passes it to me. Well, you shouldn’t drink before a rough crossing to the Orkneys. The little one, Mary, throws up all over the wife, as usual. That was it. I was already feeling sick. I sort of gallantly walked to the front of the boat, hanging onto the mast. The skipper comes up and we’re having light talk, light chit-chat. and I don’t want it. So he gets the idea and points to the fishing baskets and says, ‘Do it in there!’ So we were all sick, but we ended up in the Orkney Islands, and we took a plane to Shetland. It was great.”
“We do things like that – do it sort of eccentricordinary because we have got the money to do it eccentric. I always wondered what happened to those maharajahs who used to do things. But there never are really any of those people. So we try and do a bit of it in our own lives.”
“People do recognize us sometimes, but they respect our privacy. It’s a beautiful thing. If you come on as a star, you get star treatment and all the disadvantages. But often, when we dress in dungarees and sneakers – Last night we got turned out of two restaurants. The guy in an evening suit turns us out. But I quite like it when they chuck us out.”
“I love to find that, even in this day of concrete, there are still alive horses and places where grass grows in unlimited quantities and sky has got clear air in it. Scotland has that. It’s just there without anyone touching it. It just grows. I’m relieved to find that it isn’t all pollution. It isn’t all the Hudson. It’s not all the drug problem. When we are in Scotland we plant stuff – vegetables – and we’ll leave them there, and of their own volition they will push up. and not only will they push up and grow into something, but then they will be good to eat. To me that’s an all-time thing. That’s fantastic. How clever! Just that things push their own way up and they feed you. We don’t eat meat because we’ve got lambs on the farm, and we just ate a piece of lamb one day and suddenly realized we were eating a bit of one of those things that was playing outside the window, gamboling peacefully. But we’re not strict. I don’t want to put a big sign on me, ‘Thou Shalt Be Vegetarian.’ I like to allow myself. I like to give myself a lucky break. Give yourself a lucky break, son.”
“So I think you’ve got to live your own life. That sounds like one of those statements, but it is, in fact, just very necessary to realize that. and particularly necessary for me. Or else someone else is going to be living part of your life for you. But now I would like to stop talking and get up and get to work. I haven’t done any today, and it’s beginning to frustrate me. I’ve got that album to finish. We’ve got to get back to plant the seeds. Nature doesn’t wait.”
Paul McCartney Interview for ‘Life’ magazine (1971 April 16)
John Lennon’s “Glass Onion”, a daffy throwaway from the Beatles’ self-titled album, isn’t among the band’s best songs. But a snippet fits very nicely in the third position on Love, the Beatles catalog remix album and Cirque de Soleil soundtrack created by George Martin and his son Giles. After an angelic “Because”– a capella, but here fluffed up with bird songs– there’s the “A Hard Days Night” chord into Ringo’s drum solo on “The End”, which then fades into “Get Back”.
“Glass Onion” was Lennon having fun with the Beatles myth, referencing his earlier songs and mocking the tendency to “decode” them that would eventually get way out of hand when Beach Boys pal and “Never Learn Not to Love” composer Charles Manson sent his minions into Beverly Hills to commit mass murder. “Glass Onion” was Lennon’s attempt– on the fly, while the band was at its peak– at recontextualizing his Beatles work, to remind us all that music is supposed to be fun. The joker was laughing with us, jabbing an elbow in our sides to say, “Hey, we’re just a pop band here, folks.”
That’s a good thing to keep in mind with the Beatles. They were just a pop band, even if they were possibly the greatest entity ever to fit that particular classification. The Beatles were so good that they’re not very interesting to talk about– it’s like listening to someone drone on about the Grand Canyon. No other band has generated as much dull commentary, even as the music remains unimpeachable.
They’re certainly the best band I almost never listen to. I’m guessing I share this with a lot of music obsessives; the Beatles’ music has been so thoroughly absorbed into our consciousness that we can play the songs in our heads any time we like. Which is why the idea of someone doing something new with the catalog– mixing and matching different songs, blending the whole thing into an epic suite– is potentially exciting. Any attempt to fiddle with this music is like long-distance brain surgery, toying with our collective memory with the hope of creating something new.
Listening to Love I’m reminded first of a few artists that took from the Beatles without their permission, and how illicit beginnings gave their samples an extra hit of fun. There’s the entire Danger Mouse/Jay-Z mashup The Grey Album, of course, but I’m thinking of smaller details. When Ringo Starr’s solo from “The End” appears early here I go immediately to Jason Forrest’s “Ten Amazing Years”, not Abbey Road. The swirl of strings from “Good Night” stitched here to Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden” brings to mind Ekkehard Ehlers’ drawn-out loop of the same phrase that comprises the entirety of one side of “Ekkehard Ehlers Plays John Cassavetes”. Having all the mixes band-sanctioned loses a little something. Paul McCartney is said to have heard Love and remarked that he wished it went a bit further out. And it’s hard not to agree, especially for people used to hearing mash-ups and guerilla sonic deconstruction via laptop. How badly do you want Yamatsuka Eye to do a Rebore Vol. 0 on this material?
Really, the mashed-up bits here are just a seasoning, the occasional jarring effect to remind us that we’re not just sitting around listening to Beatles records. Who knew that the backing track for “Drive My Car” fit perfectly over verses from “The Word” and “What You’re Doing”? The a capella “Sun King” sounds great backward on “Gnik Nus” leading beautifully into “Something” and doesn’t contain any hidden messages beyond the one conveyed by the opening “Because”– that the Beatles were great singers. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” seems a natural soundtrack for tumbling acrobats, and the coda to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” sounds like it was made for this project.
As the album wears on, the songs get “bigger” and are also made to stand on their own, without the mix trickery. But they also suffer from truncation. It’s great to hear a round of the “Hey Jude”‘s epic chorus with just voice and drums, but the song means so much less at four minutes than it does at seven, with a full verse cut and the final fade happening earlier. I will say that hearing it pulled apart finally confirms that Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain” steals from it almost completely, one instrument after another.
It seems impossible to follow the final chord of “A Day in the Life”, but the Martins are just closing the door on the darker, artier aspect of the Beatles, letting the uplifting pop band carry the day during the album’s final section. The trimmed “Hey Jude”, the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (let’s face it– not great, but included because of all the showbiz connotations) and then closing with “All You Need Is Love”.
What seems to consume people most about this record is the sound of the thing, just how beautifully the original material was recorded and how great it comes over on a purely sonic level. The art of recording a rock band, it seems, reached its zenith in the late 1960s. In terms of capturing guitar, bass, drums, and voice, nothing since– no matter how many tracks– sounds as pure and lovely as what the Beatles did at Abbey Road studios. Love is turning everyone into an audiophile, then, which means it’s making younger people a little older. And it’s also a mashup remix, which means it’s making older people a little younger. They were just a pop band, yes, but if anyone can bring all these music fans together under one tent, it’s the Beatles. Which is what Love is ultimately all about.
Tune In is the first volume of All These Years—a highly-anticipated, groundbreaking biographical trilogy by the world’s leading Beatles historian. Mark Lewisohn uses his unprecedented archival access and hundreds of new interviews to construct the full story of the lives and work of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
Ten years in the making, Tune In takes the Beatles from before their childhoods through the final hour of 1962—when, with breakthrough success just days away, they stand on the cusp of a whole new kind of fame and celebrity. They’ve one hit record (“Love Me Do”) behind them and the next (“Please Please Me”) primed for release, their first album session is booked, and America is clear on the horizon. This is the lesser-known Beatles story—the pre-Fab years of Liverpool and Hamburg—and in many respects the most absorbing and incredible period of them all. Here is the complete and true account of their family lives, childhoods, teenage years and their infatuation with American music, here is the riveting narrative of their unforgettable days and nights in the Cavern Club, their laughs, larks and adventures when they could move about freely, before fame closed in.
For those who’ve never read a Beatles book before, this is the place to discover the young men behind the icons. For those who think they know John, Paul, George, and Ringo, it’s time to press the Reset button and tune into the real story, the lasting word.
I first heard of this project almost 10 years ago. I already had two of Mark Lewisohn’s books on the Beatles: Recording Sessions and The Complete Beatles Chronicle. I knew they were books which were objective, yet with an eye for everything interesting and humorous. When the news came out that Lewisohn was writing a complete biography, I waited anxiously for its publication. And waited. And waited…. as it got pushed back ever further. Well, finally it’s here; and the waiting was all worth while.
‘Tune In’ tells the story of the years before Beatlemania, weaving together the biographies of four boys from Liverpool who grew up with a shared passion, to play music. They each found ways of working towards realizing their dream; in fact, it’s about the only thing they did work at, since nothing else seemed to be interesting to them. Their paths gradually came together, first John, then John and Paul, then John, Paul and George and finally, a few months before this part of the story ends, John, Paul, George and Ringo. Lewisohn cleverly constructs the book chronologically, bringing the stories together rather than dealing with each person separately. This gives the book a ‘real time’ feeling, in which events are recounted as they occur. This sense of immediacy is one of the book’s biggest strengths; no other biography (and I’ve read many) gives the reader such a sense of being there, almost as if watching the story unfold in front of you.
Lewisohn’s greatest attribute is his willingness to take the trouble to get it right. He makes sure that he not only finds the best sources, he sets them out in extensive footnotes. Where there is not a definitive source, he says so; there is no reciting of rumor, gossip and biased opinion as fact. His objectivity is admirable, for although he is a fan of The Beatles’ work, he does not gloss over their human weaknesses and foibles. This is a warts and all account, but never loses sight of the fact that every experience and every character trait is part of what made them so iconic as a band.
There are surprises. One of the most intriguing questions for me has always been why The Beatles first contract with EMI (George Martin’s organization) was dated 2 days before Martin ever saw them; Lewisohn solves the mystery and it isn’t at all what I was expecting. He answers the questions about why Pete Best was replaced and whether ‘Love Me Do’ was pushed into the charts by Brian Epstein. However, the revelations are not the reason for reading the book. The quality of writing is the main attraction here. This book is always hugely entertaining, even fascinating. It’s witty without being pretentious, sad without being maudlin and affectionate without being sentimental. As this part of the story ends, you find yourself feeling uplifted and eager to read about what happens next.
Ah, there’s the rub. The book ends just as The Beatles are about to make history- not just pop music history, but history-book history, as one of the most important cultural influences of the second half of the 20th century. Mark Lewisohn is working on it. I’m already waiting for it.
As many times as I’ve heard someone say they love The Beatles, I have heard someone else say they think they are overrated.
To a generation of listeners raised in the era of the Casio keyboard this lack of appreciation may be understandable. It is kind of like trying to explain what people did to entertain themselves before every home had a television. The genius of the Beatles lies in their innovation. Their songs are tangible evidence of what was possible when you broke the rules of accepted song writing styles and production techniques. What they produced nearly half a century ago on analog tape with limited tracks stands the test of time. It remains relevant even in today’s age of digital production, seemingly limitless tracks, and computer aided sound engineering.
Due to their unprecedented phenomenal success, The Beatles had a license to kill. By the end of that summer, 1966, the band stopped touring all together. Their primary focus would be recording albums, while the individual members settled into domestic life in England. While Rubber Soul, released in December 1965, kicked off the Beatles evolution from four mop tops playing simple guitar based pop/rock songs to ventures with ethnic instruments and a folk rock sound, Revolver pushed the band into a new direction with an eclectic mix of sounds spun together in unconventional ways that shouldn’t have worked. Not only did it work brilliantly, it laid the groundwork for the future of sound production. The album is also marks the beginning of more individualistic styles in the band’s song writing. Like in the past, most of the songs are credited to “Lennon/McCartney”, but on Revolver the songs are more distinctly Paul McCartney or more distinctly John Lennon.
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of this review of Revolver, it is important to realize that there were two different versions of this album. It was customary at this point in the international music business to release a UK version of an album as well as an altered US release with less songs and jumbled sequence. Revolver was not released in the US in its present form until the release of the digital CD in 1987, when it was settled that the UK versions were the “official” Beatles albums.
The album kicks off with George Harrison’s “Taxman”, inspired by the shockingly high income taxes paid by the band and other high earners in Great Britain – sometimes as high as 95%. It is a political song that takes a direct shot at Harold Wilson the British Labour Prime Minister and Edward Heath, Britain’s Conservative Leader of the Opposition. This was a very bold move for the times.
Like “Taxman”, there are several straight-forward rock/pop songs on Revolver, moulded in the Beatles’ mid-60s, “Swinging London” style. These include Lennon’s guitar driven “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Doctor Robert”, and McCartney’s uplifting “Good Day Sunshine”. But the heart of the album is built from multiple unconventional songs.
“Eleanor Rigby” consists of layers of strings and vocals. The stark instrumentation and arrangement set the scene perfectly for the tale of the ‘lonely people” in the song. It is noteworthy that this is a song where no Beatle plays any instrument, just McCartney’s lead locals and backing vocals by the other band members. The music is driven by a string octet arranged by producer George Martin. McCartney also wrote “For No One”, a mellow song featuring the writer playing clavichord and a famous horn solo played by guest Alan Civil, and “Here, There, and Everywhere” which showcases his knack for writing and arranging stunningly beautiful melodies.
Got To Get You Into My Life was influenced by the Motown sound with extensive use of brass. The song was not released as a single in the US until 1976, ten years after Revolver and six years after the Beatles disbanded, and amazingly, it became a top ten hit at that time. Harrison’s “Love You To” is a nod to his fascination with Indian music featuring the sitar front and center, which was used previously on “Norwegian Wood” from Rubber Soul, but is more famously used here. Harrison’s third and final composition on the album is the piano-driven “I Want To Tell You”, a far more traditional song with lyrics about his difficulty expressing himself.
John Lennon wrote “I’m Only Sleeping”, an odd stroll through a state (most likely drug induced) between being awake and being asleep. The backwards guitars add to the confused and muddled feeling of John Lennon’s vocals. “She Said, She Said” includes lyrics taken almost verbatim from a conversation between Lennon and actor Peter Fonda while they were under the influence of LSD in California in 1965. During a conversation, Fonda said “I know what it’s like to be dead,” because as a boy he had almost died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The most ground breaking song on this album from a technical aspect is the psychedelic final song, “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The lyrics were inspired by Timothy Leary’s book, “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead”. Musically, the drone-like song included such ground breaking techniques as reverse guitar, processed vocals, and looped tape effects. The elaborate recording, which included several simultaneous tape machines and creative processing of Lennon’s vocals, was conducted by engineer Geoff Emerick.
The light and childlike “Yellow Submarine” was written to provide Ringo Starr his token lead vocal for Revolver. With the help of all band members and the Abbey Road production team, overdubbed stock sound effects from the studios’ tape library were used to add the memorable sound scape to this famous song.
Revolver is considered by many critics to be one of the top albums of all time. It marked the beginning of the second half of the Beatles’ career, when they produced a string of highly influential, classic albums right up to the very end of their storied run.
I’ve been a fan of the Beatles since the first night that they were on Ed Sullivan in 1964. I could not be more in the Beatles camp without needing medication.
Actually some people think I do need medication over my Beatles fixation, but never mind. The reason I say this is so that you’ll know whose “side” I’m on.
The most recent histories of the World’s Greatest Band (this one and “The Beatles: The Biography” by Bob Spitz) are more reliable as general retellings than most of the previous dreck we’ve gotten, with the possible exception of Phillip Norman’s, excellent “Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation.” In fact, most of the previous general histories we’ve got on the Beatles have been garbage–being either authorized fan-club/teenie-bopper raves, or idiot kiss-and-tell scandal tomes (like “The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles” which paints the Beatles as victims and jerks simultaneously).
In fact, even “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles” by the very odd Geoff Emerick (who, despite having been in on the most important of the Beatles recording sessions seems to have entirely missed the point) is pretty good.
So we’ve got an excellent crop of fairly recent Beatles books out now. So what? Well, I think that for those of you who want to understand the Beatles story on a gut level, this is one of the must-have volumes.
Cynthia Lennon is honest in this volume on the level that her famous ex-husband always claimed to be, and generally wasn’t. The feeling I get as I read this volume is that, for an autobiography, the book is unusually truthful. I suspect we’re getting about 75% of the truth, and 99% of the truth as Cynthia saw it (understanding the distinction in those two points is critical in reading autobiography). Her portrait of John is unflinching and to the point when she speaks of the events she witnesses. It is also solid from the standpoint that a lot of the action that occurred in and around the Beatles circle happened just off of Cynthia’s radar, and she tells us plainly when she was off stage. It is interesting that she seems honestly bemused by so many of the events that occurred in her own life.
The portrait of the “Cynthia Era” Lennon that emerges is the one we always suspected was the truth: that John was a funny, warm, intelligent person–usually. We also see the Post-Yoko John, and the bizarre head changes that Ono put John through.
Cynthia suggests that the changes in Lennon’s temperament were symptoms of drug abuse, and I’m certain that was a contributing factor, but she either doesn’t see or leaves us to read between the lines about the influence that Ono had over Lennon. I suspect that she’s being kind; the combination of Ono’s machinations, and Lennon’s emotional and intellectual vulnerability were a frightening force, and changed John completely. In fact, the immediate post-Ono Lennon seems more like a cult adherent than a drug casualty, and that was, the way it seemed to fans like me at the time.
Lennon switched from the affable (if temperamental) head Beatle to a surly, smug, unsmiling but silly media manipulator who was more than delighted to exchange creative credentials for media attention. As Cynthia points out, “He never smiled and he took himself so seriously.”
Best of all, Cynthia asks the ultimate question about Lennon, ‘How could he be so interested in world peace, and so uninterested in making peace with his own son?”
Cynthia also seems aware that McCartney, who has received bad press in the last few years for having the bad taste to remain (Quelle Horreur!) popular and mainstream, is a talent in his own right, and half of the Beatles songwriting legacy. Cynthia is also aware that the Beatles were a band, an organism of four men, not John Lennon and three other guys. It was nice to hear someone say this; the other Beatles have gotten short shrift since Lennon’s death.
Of course, a central part of the “Lennon Problem” is carefully discussed here; Lennon wanted a divorce from his wife. In the early 21st century that situation is considered sad, but with the current 50% divorce rate it might also seem unremarkable. In the late 1960’s it was scandalous, and the way Lennon dealt with his ex-wife and child we even worse.
You won’t learn a lot about how the Beatles music was made here, Cynthia wasn’t allowed in that part of her husband’s life (no big deal there, how many of you reading this take your spouse to work?), but you will learn a lot about who John Lennon was, and how he mutated into the media-hungry self-righteous maniac he became in the 1970’s. Best of all, Cynthia still loves John, and despite the degree that he wronged her, she leaves us room to do so as well.
Most beloved public figures have many facets — some of them nasty, some of them pleasant and admirable. Most biographies either focus on the good, or the bad.
But fortunately, Philip Norman is making a valiant effort to show, if not all of John Lennon’s facets, then as many of them as possible. Having explored the Beatles and their impact on a generation, Norman narrows his focus down to “John Lennon: The Life” — and he does a superb job unearthing the many details, relationships and differing faces of this much-lamented rock star. We’ll never get a John Lennon autobiography, but Norman does a pretty good job of getting inside his shaggy head.
John Lennon was born into an incredibly stormy marriage (which broke up soon after) and raised by his loving, strict Aunt Mimi, though he was something of a hellraising trickster as a child. The one blot: the tragic, shocking death of his mother Julia.
Of course, everyone knows what happened later — after a brief stint at art school, Lennon became part of a band with an ever-shifting name, and started working on pop songs alongside Paul McCartney. Though briefly devastated by the death of a bandmate, Lennon quickly rose to fame and fortune when the renamed Beatles became not just a hit band, but a new way of life for the youth of Britain, and then the entire world. Hit album after hit album poured from the Beatles, along with the usual rock-star intake of drugs, sex and occasional PR disasters.
But Lennon’s interests began to stray in more spiritual directions, and as his marriage to the sweet-natured Cynthia fell apart, he met and fell in love with eccentric Japanese artist Yoko Ono. Suddenly he was devoting himself not to pop hits, but to experimental numbers, “bed-ins” and sitting in bags, and using his world-wide celebrity for the furtherance of peace. While this lifestyle didn’t quite tame Lennon’s wild side, it led to new focuses in his life — until it was tragically cut short.
You have to hand it to Philip Norman. While most biographers tend to portray Lennon as a hippie saint or a hopeless jerk, he tries very hard to find a happy medium that encompasses all of Lennon’s personality: a flawed man who had a boatload of issues and could be both cruel and kind. While he gets a bit worshipy in the latter parts of Lennon’s life, Norman does a pretty good portraying both the musician and those around him in a realistic, compelling light.
Additionally, Norman gives as much careful attention to Lennon’s youth as he does to the Beatlemania and John/Yoko years — in particular, his relationships to his mother, Aunt Mimi, Paul McCartney and the delicate artist Stu, as well as the months and years as a struggling young musician. There’s lots of pop psychology, but it works.
In he meantime, Lennon’s life is carefully framed in the political and social climes of the time — the post-war fifties, colourful psychedelic chaos of the 1960s, and the later, grimmer times of the Vietnam War. Politicians, pop art, Liverpudlian slang and changing societies are all explored in detail, and Norman has the perspectives of a lot of people who actually lived in the time and knew Lennon — his wives, his sons, his bandmates, and even his Aunt Mimi (and she gets a LOT of words in).
He also injects a wry sense of humour into the story (Lennon’s aunts turning up at a Beatles performance) as well as a steady, sometimes evocative writing style (“The room reeked of stale beer and wine, and was lined in dusty velvet drapes…”). At the same time, there’s some pretty shocking allegations here, such as the claim that Lennon may have been inadvertently involved in the death of his bandmate, but Norman avoids tabloid journalism by explaining why he doubts Lennon actually did any of that.
Lennon himself is a colourful mosaic of seemingly contradictory qualities — he could be mean-spirited (mocking the disabled), wild, kindly, romantic, neglectful, vibrant, brilliantly unconventional and craving a spirituality that’s hard to get when you’re filthy rich. As seen by Norman, much of his personality seems to be based on the fear of loved ones dying and leaving him, but we get glimpses of dozens of different sides to his psyche.
“John Lennon: The Life” attempts to accurately portray one of the twentieth century’s most unconventional and beloved pop stars, and for the most part, Philip Norman does a brilliant job.
Is the world ready for a thousand-page critical history of the boys from Liverpool? The answer is a resounding yes, because Bob Spitz addressed this project with the thoroughness of a presidential biography. Moreover, he is a magnificent story teller, and even at its length this work is a page turner. The young reader will find this a remarkable tale of a defining moment in the entertainment industry, while old “Uncle Alberts” like myself will remember the days when we all hacked around on guitars to get that opening chord to “Hard Day’s Night,” George Harrison’s G7 with an added ninth and a suspended fourth, as the author explains.  So what can the reader expect to learn from this compelling tale of the foursome?
The British Setting. All four Beatles grew up in a country recovering from war, in an industrial port town [Liverpool], where the natives called themselves “Scousers” and nurtured a long-standing inferiority complex regarding London and England’s upper class. The government owned radio station, the BBC, effectively embargoed the emerging US rock music as substandard. Teenagers like John Lennon devoured American artists like Elvis and the Everly Brothers from a rogue radio station in Luxembourg, of all places, while revealing in England’s youth pop of the time, Skiffle.
The Lennon-McCartney Brotherhood. Spitz is masterful in describing the twelve year relationship of the two, who met at roughly the age of 17. They became like brothers, though in the mold of Esau and Jacob, perhaps. Much has been written of their composing mastery, but Spitz documents just how prolific and spontaneous they actually were. What is equally surprising is how they composed during periods of terrible strains in their relationships. When John and Paul could no longer be reconciled, the Beatles dissolved.
Brian Epstein. He is, as the story unfolds, the best thing and the worst thing to happen to the Beatles. He was the young manager of the record department in his family’s department store, who for a multitude of reasons made the Beatles his project. His moxie, coupled with the Beatles’ stage charisma and not a little luck, landed the group’s contract with Britain’s recording giant EMI [and its American subsidiary, Capital]. Again, for complex reasons, Epstein was able to control the group’s inner dynamics after it became internationally famous. But he was a dreadful business manager–the EMI contract, for starters, paid pennies for most of the Beatles’ greatest hits and copyrighted lyrics, and as an afterthought he sold marketing rights to Beatles’ products to an unknown entrepreneur for a 10% return. [465ff] Distracted by a dark and violent homosexual lifestyle, he probably cost the group close to a billion dollars in lost revenue.
Ringo Starr. Aren’t drummers a dime a dozen? Not superstar drummers, apparently. As the Beatles stood on the threshold of their breakout in 1962, McCartney and Lennon determined that the absence of a first rate drummer was the missing piece. Although it meant parting with the handsomely popular but average stroker Pete Best and a lot of fan fallout, the Beatles raided Rory Storm’s band for Richie “Rings” Starkey, and the rest, as they say…
The Turbulent American Tours. Those of us who remember the two Beatles’ tours of the US-including that Sunday night TV extravaganza with Ed Sullivan-will probably be shocked to discover the Beatles’ own bitter reactions to their treatment by American audiences. Mick Jagger attended the Shea Stadium concert in the stands and became “visibly shaken,” telling a friend “it’s frightening.”  Aside from stage crashing and riots in the audiences, American fans mistook “jelly babies,” the little gummy candies reportedly enjoyed by the Beatles, for “jelly beans” and pelted the group mercilessly with these painful missiles. John Lennon in particular became convinced that the noisy crowds had no interest in their musical art [impossible to hear in the melees] and after their second tour of the US the group decided to become a recording studio group only.
Reinvention. Spitz carefully examines the evolution of Beatles’ style and substance. The milestone markers of the evolution were the albums. Beatle fans to this day can probably identify each Beatle album as a particular statement of where they were-artistically, emotionally, philosophically-at the time of release. And within the group itself, George Harrison came on strong at the end to establish himself as a lyricist, soloist, and musician. Harrison brought Eastern sound to the medley and later penetrated the mysteries of the new “synthesizer,” making the Beatles the first to use new age gadgetry in the recording process.
John Lennon’s Drug Addiction. Spitz does not back away from the truth that the Beatles were no strangers to mind altering substances, and all indulged prodigiously in alcohol, amphetamines, and marijuana [not to mention tobacco and, apparently, coffee]. But Lennon became a regular LSD user, and believing it expanded creative powers, he was enraged with McCartney’s caution about the drug. Lennon later declined into serious heroin use, which led to paranoia. He came to believe, for example, that “Hey Jude” was McCartney’s permission for Lennon to court the questionable Yoko Ono.
Yoko Ono. In a departure from his uniform decorum, Spitz refers to Ono as “loopy,” and this may be an understatement. What else can be said about a woman who marketed the sound of her miscarried child’s heartbeat on an album?  Of course, by the time she “stole” the deeply disturbed Lennon from the Beatles, it was petit larceny at worst.
George Martin. A middle-aged man with classical tastes, he was assigned the task of producing everything we know, love, and remember of the original Beatles’ sound. Underpaid, infinitely patient [particularly in the Yoko Ono days], and remarkably open-minded in his shirt and tie, he gave the imprimatur to every sound of every track. Of everyone in this book, Martin is the man of shining character. God bless him.
You will never hear the Beatles again in quite the same way.
Here, There And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Music Of The Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey (2007)
When it comes to books about The Beatles, they usually fall in one of two categories: “memoirs” and “archives” (including timelines, analysis, photos, recording info, etc). Now Geoff Emerick has joined the throe of Beatles authors by publishing his account that actually falls in between the memoir/archive genre. His new book “Here There And Everywhere – My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles” is no “cash in”, but a valuable insight to the workings of the group. While there are no real “Beatles revelations” contained other than those that true Beatle aficionados already know, such as the working title of the “White Album”, John’s accidental acid trip on the rooftop of EMI etc), the true value of this book is the first hand observances of the Beatles in their most important environment: the recording studio!
Some people are lucky enough to realize their “calling” early in life – and Geoff Emerick was one of those lucky few. An early love of music caused a natural fascination with the mechanics behind recording. His experiments with tape recording and his persistence led him to a job at EMI! While Geoff Emerick wasn’t the Beatles recording engineer during their early years at EMI (he started as an assistant engineer), his employment there did grant him occasional views of The Beatles at work during the time of 1962-1966 when Norman Smith was their engineer. However, when Smith left to become a producer (going on to produce Pink Floyd’s first two albums at EMI) it was Emerick who was promoted to the position of Beatles’ engineer. So, Emerick was there during the true renaissance of the Beatles studio years: Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, (part of) The White Album, and Abbey Road.
What about Let It Be, you ask? Well, it is well documented how bad tensions were during the recording of The White Album, prompting Ringo Starr to be the first Beatle to quit the group at the time. Further evidence of the bad feelings during this album can be seen in the departure of Emerick – he also quit halfway through the recording (but unlike Ringo, didn’t come back for the album). So, he missed the whole Let It Be fiasco, until being asked to return for Abbey Road. He went on to design the Beatles personal recording studio, which sadly wasn’t finished in time for The Beatles to actually use!
As witness to one of the Beatles first recording sessions (“How Do You Do It?”), Emerick paints a fascinating picture of the individual dynamics and personalities of each Beatle in the recording studio. Paul was the easiest to get along with, a true workaholic in the studio who, curiously enough was pegged as “the leader” by Emerick during the early sessions. John was often impatient, but curiously enough – it was always a new Lennon song that was first recorded for each new album session! Later, John’s impatience actually paid off when they discovered they were one song short for completion of Revolver – they quickly finished John’s “She Said She Said”. Other tales include a funny story of the “fan siege” during the recording of “She Loves You” in which fans were running loose at EMI – which gave Emerick a first-hand view of Beatlemania and he comments that this “atmosphere” seemed to lend to the electricity of the recording. George Harrison was probably the least ‘at ease’ in the recording studio and had problems nailing his solos, such as his solo on “A Hard Day’s Night”. Ringo was basically quiet in the studio.
I read as quickly as possible to get to the Revolver/Sgt. Pepper recording sessions, and Emerick’s descriptions did not disappoint! I was in Beatles heaven hearing how each song was recorded and the whole spirit of invention that went into Beatles’ records – not just by the Beatles themselves, but by Emerick’s ingenious solutions to the seemingly impossible requests of the Beatles, especially John. It was Emerick who came up with a solution for Lennon, who wanted his voice to sound like the “Dahlai Lama chanting from a mountaintop” on “Tomorrow Never Knows”. His solution? Using a Leslie speaker(Which rotates) to achieve the proper effect on John’s voice. Also, in regards to Revolver, I wasn’t aware that the tape trick (cutting up random bits of tape and putting them back together) that George Martin used on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” was first used on “Yellow Submarine”!
Of course, Sgt. Pepper was the pinnacle of the Beatles collective studio experimentation and it is amazing to hear the casual attitude the Beatles had during the sessions – it being the very first time that they weren’t under any time restraints. George Harrison’s lack of participation in this ground breaking album is discussed. Fresh from his trip to India, George just wasn’t interested, especially with Paul taking a lot of the lead guitar breaks and his first contribution to Pepper (“Only a Northern Song”) being kindly put aside. The mysterious, still unreleased Beatles song, “Carnival of Light” (recorded during a five-hour session that also included vocal overdubs for the then-unreleased “Penny Lane”) is discussed.
It is amazing how the Beatles went from the happy, creative Pepper sessions to the dreary White Album sessions in just one year! While Emerick left EMI for Apple, he avoided the bad scenes of the White Album and Let It Be, to concentrate on building the Beatles recording studio. However, he did get to attend one Phil Spector Let It Be session and his observations are contained within the book. Finally, the Beatles swan song, Abbey Road is detailed, from John’s sometimes lack of interest (and Yoko’s bed being brought into the studio!) to George’s emergence as a studio talent.
Geoff Emerick went on to win a total of 3 Grammy awards for his Beatles work. While most of the book concentrates on The Beatles, he does mention some of his other projects, such as Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run, as well as his work with The Zombies and Elvis Costello. Finally, he comes full circle with his involvement with the “Threetles” reunion sessions for the Beatles Anthology.
“Here There And Everywhere – My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles” is truly a Beatles’ book that delivers! A descriptive story of the Beatles in the recording studio has been sorely missed…until now.
All You Need Is Ears: The Inside Personal Story Of The Genius Who Created The Beatles by George Martin and Jeremy Hornsby (1994)
Review There are very few memoirs published by record producers, especially producers as important as George Martin, producer and ?discoverer” of the Beatles. I do call it a memoir because that’s what it is – much more is covered than the Beatles. This is a book about George Martin, through and through.
The first 100 pages or so recount Martin’s early history in the British military up through his first job in the recording industry. There is staggering detail to this, naming even the most insignificant people he met along the way. But since we know this is all contributing to what would become Martin’s genius, it really isn’t all that tedious. Eventually we come to the chapter on the Beatles – how he discovered them, how he recorded them, and then single by singe, how they became the biggest band in the world. Whether he intends it or not, there is an epic quality to practically every word Martin writes (or rather, has ghost written for him).
Being a professional in today’s music industry and seeing literally all music being recorded on computers, it’s fascinating to see the technology they were working from. He writes of actually recording to *wax records*. It’s also nice to see someone getting so excited about the advent of stereo recording. It’s something we don’t even think about today, but to the producers of Martin’s era, recording in stereo was as profound as recording to hard drives today.
I also was amazed to learn that he made almost no money off the Beatles records. Today, a comparable producer – say Glenn Ballard, Alanis’ former producer – has probably made in the dozens of millions of dollars. Martin didn’t earn any royalties on those records, and he also refused an ownership stake in the publishing company set up exclusively for Beatles songs. This probably cost him upwards of $50,000,000 if not more. He goes on to say that he has no regrets in refusing the ownership, and whether or not you believe him, he does lay out a pretty impressive spiel about not doing it for the money. I arrived at the conclusion, however, that while a genius producer he is possibly the world’s worst businessman. Hundreds of people made millions off the Beatles and the one closest to them – Martin – managed to make almost nothing. That is truly staggering.
This is the kind of book that’s a must-have for a Beatles fan or aspiring musician, and will proselytize everyone else. A classic book from a classic producer.
Review This is a truly amazing book. I had just finished reading “Here, There and Everywhere” by Geoff Emerick (the Beatles recording engineer) and decided I wanted to know more about George Martin, their producer. It was a great decision because the introspect gained from reading both of these books together tells a big picture that I before could only guess at.
George’s personality really comes out in this book and it makes it far easier to understand what went on during the Beatles many many recording sessions. It has been said that the producer is a major contributor to the outcome of any project and this book definitely confirms and educates about that process.
It is an easy read and the edition that I purchased has fairly decent sized type and makes it easy on the eyes. It is a paperback and tucks easily into your day bag or briefcase for those times when you can read a few minutes – but if you are like I am – you may devour the whole thing in one seating!
The early life of George Martin is also detailed in this book with it’s different perspective of growing up in Britain. I had no idea that George Martin was in pop music groups as he was growing up and that came as a terrific surprise. I might have known, though.
The classical side of George Martin comes out strong also. This came into very significant play as he produced the Beatles.
Great book. Don’t hesitate to buy this!
Review There is a reason that you call this guy Sir…he’s old, and he’s earned the title. To hear from George Martin what it was like to work with the Beatles is like hearing from Jesus what it is like to co-pilot for God. Well, that’s kind of blasphemous, but it’s still true. Martin’s style is direct and matter of fact…he is not prone to flowery language or overblown description.
I’m not so sure about all that Jesus stuff that he is talking about, but Martin definitely ranks up there as at least some kind of DemiGod in the church of Beatle. It is therefore essential that you read this book. Well, let me add a caveat here: read this book if you have an interest in the Beatles and the recording industry. As a good many of Martin’s stories focus, of course, on the magic of recording, the non-interested might find these sections a bit boring.
This book has the same good points as Emerick’s (though they both seem to take credit for certain studio achievements) in that Martin’s book adds a lot of peripheral information to the Beatles saga. There are sections about Martin’s earlier life, the joys of working for good old EMI, and the the trials and tribulations of forming his own studio, AIR. Though some folks just want people like Martin to shut-up about themselves and just talk about the glorious Beatles, the lives of these cornerstone studio wizards fill out the reader’s vision of working in the recording industry during the 60’s. As I said earlier, I find this kind of “rounding out” of the Beatles legend essential to knowing the “bigger picture.” (I also find that using quotes around common words helps you to “sleuth out” their “hidden meaning.”)
Martin recounts his first hand experiences helping record all the Beatles records (with a few minor exceptions around the Let it Be period.) Because his memories were not clouded in a drug haze like so many other players of this period, Martin’s recollections tend to be more reliable (sometimes even more so than the Beatles themselves!) Sir George always comes across as knowledgeable, lucid, and authentic.
What I don’t understand is why this book isn’t encyclopaedia sized. Martin, having seen the things he has, must have a treasure trove of great stories floating around that silver skull of his. Why not share a bit more?
Incidentally, this is the better of his two books. The Making of Sgt. Pepper, also by Mr. Sir Martin, is a decent read, but seems to rehash some of the themes he discusses here. I mean, how many more times can we hear the story of the Hurdy Gurdy Swirly backing track to Mr. Kite? If you can get it at the library, or from a friend, or if you are rolling in the dough, go ahead and pick it up too. Otherwise, I would start with this one.
Here is my unfinished review of “Let It Be…Naked”. I’m going to make two versions of it, decide they’re both rubbish and shove them in the drawer for a year, after which I’ll hand my rough notes over to Phil Spector for him to edit with a pair of garden shears. Which is more or less what The Beatles did with “Let It Be” originally.
It must have been difficult in 1969 having to compile an album from hours of material by a band who, whilst sounding much less ragged than rumours alleged, were not (except Paul) over-enthusiastic about the “Get Back” film and album project, or each other. Glyn Johns’ first version tried to replicate the documentary nature of the film, with a lot of studio chat etc. On his second go he put together an album not so far removed from “Let It Be…Naked”, but people were still not sure and the whole project was shelved. They may have thought it was too meagre a follow-up to the creative outpouring of the White Album just a few months earlier.
Whatever the reason, the poison chalice was handed to Phil Spector in 1970, and he had the unenviable task of revisiting old, rejected material to create an album retaining the fly on the wall documentary feel of the film whilst also being a cohesive set in its own right. He also had to try to satisfy the warring factions of a defunct band that had effectively collapsed when that material had been recorded. Unusually for Spector, he was actually a bit hesitant, so he gave some tracks ill-fitting new clothes and left others “naked”, and left in some chatter too.
The result was a ragbag of mismatched ideas and missed opportunities. It was neither a half-decent back to basics collection nor a full-blown studio set. John thought it was okay, Paul hated it. EMI stuck it in a box with a big booklet, which the NME promptly described as a cardboard tombstone. And that was the end of that. Until now.
Hearing “Let It Be…Naked”, you wonder why the band was reluctant to put out something along these lines in 1969. It might not have scaled the artistic heights of the White Album but it would have had the “authenticity” they were seeking, and they had scored a number one single with “Get Back” that spring. But that’s hindsight for you. So why is “Let It Be…Naked” better than “Let It Be”? It has a better running order than the 1970 version, and with Phil Spector’s production removed, and some careful remastering, it sounds a lot livelier.
It wasn’t just Spector’s inappropriate addition of strings etc to various tracks, it was his rather heavy handed production style generally that spoilt the original release. You wished someone had said at the time, “Come on Phil, you’re not producing the Ronettes now.” All the chat between tracks has been removed too. I thought I’d miss some of it but I don’t think I will and I doubt if the 1970 version will get much play now we have this alternative.
Paul has made a big fuss in the past about “The Long and Winding Road” in particular, even though the song is just candyfloss really. Now though, you get to hear George’s guitar on the track, rather lovely, far preferable to Spector’s violins. The stripped down “Across the Universe” now displays its delicate beauty. The track had been messed about in two versions on two albums before: first with unconvincing wildlife sound effects (for a WWF charity album) and dodgy backing vocals from a couple of fans dragged into the studio on a whim, and secondly with Spector’s burying techniques. The rockers like “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Dig a Pony” now have the raw edge they always deserved, and Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down” from the legendary rooftop session takes its rightful position in place of the fillers “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae”.
“Let It Be” itself appears with a more restrained guitar solo than the previous album version. That makes four officially released versions of the track, all slightly different, so I’m looking forward in a couple of years to a new release, “Let It Be…Twelve More Takes”. George’s “I Me Mine” is now freed of Spector’s syrupy strings and rocks in a lean, hungry fashion. “Get Back” retains its rollercoaster appeal. It escaped largely unscathed in 1970 but it makes much better sense as an opener, not the concluding track. The title track is the perfect finale at last.
After the cleaning operation “Let It Be…Naked” achieves the ragged glory previously obscured by Spector’s haphazard bolt-ons. It may not be the Beatles’ finest hour, and people might argue for hours in the pub as to when that was, but it is now a respectable conclusion to a momentous body of work.