By Bob Wilson
Brooke Halpin has given a ‘fab’ new title to the Beatle faithful for their perusal. Experiencing the Beatles: A Listener’s Companion (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017), isn’t a run of the mill edition. Brooke offers insights to the tricks behind the recording process that only an expert musician can explain in a way that everyone can understand. If you thought you had seen and heard it all, this work will add to your experience.
Brooke took the time to answer some of our queries, and fill us in regarding his new work, as well as his hit radio show, Come Together With the Beatles.
“I write about every song that the Beatles recorded and released while they were together, their influences, how songs were inspired, and focus on the way their songwriting evolved.” Brooke continued that his work “focuses on the U.S. releases because it was here in America where and when they were initially released. That includes their singles and albums released from early 1964 to 1970”. The author points to this short window of time which produced such a heady number of elite compositions that it is hard to fathom.
“Their chemistry and healthy and healthy competitiveness accelerated their creative output”, The Beatles knew they had an insatiable buying audience and they eagerly met their fans desire for new recordings”, remarked the author on the band’s prodigious output.
On George Martin’s influence, Brooke had this to say. He “was a classically trained musician who played the oboe and keyboards. Before working with the Beatles, he produced comedy records for Peter Sellers, among others. His input and contribution to the Beatles recordings is hugely significant. In the book, I write about what Martin did to the Beatles songs and how he enhanced, orchestrated and produced their songs”.
As to why the band started to do it in the studio and no longer on the road, Brooke opined the following. They “stopped touring for a number of reasons. Because John had said in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus that caused a negative, destructive ‘Ban the Beatles’ and ‘Burn the Beatles Records’ backlash. As a result, ticket sales were down from their record breaking 1965 U.S. tour. When they were in the Philippines, they were roughed up because they didn’t attend a breakfast at the Royal Palace. Sound systems were inadequate at the time, so it was difficult for them to hear what they were playing. Some of their new songs had instruments and electronics that could not be duplicated live on stage. Put all that together, and they decided to stop touring and retreat into the recording studio with more time to focus on recording. They became more experimental in the recording studio which resulted with more complex recording techniques and production, such as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album”.
The author’s insights on George’s development as a songwriter were equally intriguing. “George was a fine songwriter, but he knew that John and Paul were more prolific songwriters. George also knew that John and Paul’s personalities were more dominant, and at times overbearing, so he did feel hindered. During the January 1969 Twickenham rehearsal/recording sessions, John and Paul took little interest in George’s new songs, and he temporarily quit the band.
As for the keeper of the backbeat, “Ringo’s principal contribution to the Beatles was his natural ability to play drums in a way that enhanced the songs without getting in the way of the vocals.
Brooke recalled that he “had the great fortune to meet John at his 31st birthday party in Syracuse, New York, and met Yoko a number of times when I lived in New York City”. In his novel based on this story, A Magical Mystery Time, you can read on all of this in greater detail.
Come Together With the Beatles can be heard 6 times a week on www.radiomalibu.net, and wwwrockradio.com collectively. Brooke informs us that his guests have included “Ringo Starr, Julia Baird, Ivor Davis, Laurence Juber, and Spencer Davis. Experiencing the Beatles can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at Barnes and Noble stores.