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ENGINEER ALAN PARSONSRECALLS “INTIMIDATING EXPERIENCE” OF WORKING WITH THE BEATLES, SAYS PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS “ALWAYS PRETTY DEMANDING”

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Alan worked as an assistant engineer on the 1969 album ‘Abbey Road’ and 1970’s ‘Let It Be.’ He later worked with Paul McCartney and on the 1973 Pink Floyd classic “The Dark Side of the Moon,” among other projects. A part of an interview below:

Let’s jump back to the early years. At 18 years old, you’re an assistant at Abbey Road Studios. How did that happen?
“I had been working for the parent company, which is EMI Records, in the department known as Tape Records. This is before cassettes; it was a department that was making reel-to-reel plastic spools on quarter-inch tape, putting up EMI’s products. “I was involved with making copies of master tapes, maintaining the production machines. We could run off 24 copies at the space of four minutes because everything was run at four-times speed, both sides together. “That department gave me access to a lot of great music; and because it was an allied department to Abbey Road, I’ve been one of the first people to hear [The Beatles’ 1967 classic album] ‘Sgt. Pepper’ when it was completed, and that had a pretty profound effect on me. “I just was very lucky. I timed things right; the management at the time wanted to fire a couple of people and I got the job. Soon after writing a letter, I was working there, very much as a trainee in the tape library.”That was the first thing that the new recruits got to do, working in the tape library. But that was only about a month before I was down, being a fly on the wall on sessions.”

You had such an enviable opportunity to be there at some incredible sessions. Tell us a little bit about ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let It Be.’
“‘Let It Be’ was the first to happen, though they released in reverse order. That was actually nothing to do with the Abbey Road Studios except that I was sent down as a member of staff to help them out. “And it was quite an intimidating experience, walking into the Apple basement studio. There were all four Beatles there, their wives, and it was intimidating, but amazing at the same time.”

You worked later with Paul McCartney and Wings…
“Well, yes. As a result of working on the ‘Abbey Road’ album, at least half the time they were there making it, but I got to know Paul a bit better. “And as I progressed from being an assistant engineer to a fully-fledged balance engineer as they were called at Abbey Road at the time, yeah, I was let loose with Paul on some of the sessions for [1973’s] ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ and ‘C Moon’ as singles. “And I probably got to know Paul and Linda best on the [1971] ‘Wild Life’ album, which I didn’t engineer; I did a mix on one of the songs on Wings’ ‘Wild Life,’ and Paul said, ‘It’s fine, we’ll go with it.’ “So that was my first real breakthrough, just getting a mix of the Wings onto that first album.”

Talk a little bit about how you approach doing a mix for all those artists.
“As an engineer, you have to give the results that the producer is looking for. But I think I would always start by approaching it in such a way that I felt comfortable with it.
“If the producer doesn’t comment on the sound, then you can be fairly confident that you’re doing an OK job. I mean, McCartney would always say just as a matter of principle, ‘Make the drums sound better.’ “So, what is it that makes the drums sound better? I’d say, ‘OK, I’ll try a different mic, I’ll try a different EQ, I’ll change the balance.’ And eventually, he’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s fine, that works.’ “Some artists, some producers are much more demanding than others, but Paul was always pretty demanding.”

What mistakes do you see looking at a recording that someone’s done? What mistakes do you see bands making commonly today?
“It’s a different world, the pop world, the Top 10 world is not something I particularly aspire to right now. I find a lot of pop music is tending to sound the same, tending to use the same effects, the same kinds of beats.”And I still think that my skills are in classic rock; they’re based on the period I grew up with. I’m still making records now the way I did back then. “That’s not doing one track at a time, getting a drum loop, adding the bass, adding the guitar part – I like to get four or five musicians all playing together, all interacting with each other. “It’s the way I’ve always done it. I think it’s the way I always will do it. So, just the interaction is something I look for when I’m making records. I think that sometimes interaction is missing in modern pop music.”

What makes a great artist?
“I would have to say charisma and, of course, the ability is hugely important as well, you know? All the talent shows used to use the expression ‘star quality.’  “And if somebody is a great singer but does not have ‘star quality,’ he or she is going nowhere, they just got to have that charisma that makes people say, ‘I like this artist, I’m gonna buy this artist’s music.'”

What is it that makes a great producer?
“Having the respect of the artist and vice versa, that’s key.” You didn’t mention ‘technical skills’ in really any of them.
“It depends on how you define ‘technical skills,’ whether that translates to good sound. If ‘technical skills’ translates to ‘good sound,’ you can have engineers that are extremely untechnical but have incredible ears.”So, I mean, I grew up with engineers at Abbey Road that could not play a note on an instrument but were amazing engineers. “It’s a lot of parameters that go into making a good producer, a good engineer, just like the parameters that go into making a great artist.”


THE “WHITE ALBUM” TRACK PAUL MCCARTNEY REPORTEDLY “DIDN¨T SEE AS BEATLES MUSIC”

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Could you say a song was “by The Beatles” if only one member of the band played on it? That was a question the Fab Four first confronted in 1965, when Paul McCartney wrote and recorded “Yesterday” without any other Beatles on the record.

Producer George Martin wondered what to do with it. “It really wasn’t a Beatles record and I discussed it with [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein,” Martin said in Anthology. “This is Paul’s song — shall we call it Paul McCartney?” Epstein didn’t like the idea one bit, and “Yesterday” went out as a Beatles song.

But by 1968 he situation had changed. According to Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, Paul didn’t consider the sound collage to be Fab Four material.
Though Paul had led the Fab Four through a 14-minute experimental piece called “Carnival of Light” in early ’67, he never intended to release that track on a Beatles record. (As of 2020, it remains locked away, still unreleased.) And Paul apparently saw “Revolution 9” in the same light.

In his book Here, There and Everywhere, Emerick explained how John led the sessions for “Revolution 9” with Yoko beside him and George Harrison helping out. During the recording dates, Paul had been away and thus couldn’t participate.

When he returned to London, John played him the tapes and only got a “not bad” from Paul after the track ended. In Emerick’s recollection, John took offense to the reaction. “Not bad? You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Emerick quoted John saying.

Emerick, made a point of saying how Paul wasn’t against avant-garde music. But he thought Paul didn’t see a track like “Revolution 9” as having a place on a Fab Four record. “Paul simply didn’t see it as Beatles music,” Emerick wrote.

cheatsheet


“I FEEL FINE” FEATURES THE FIRST BIT OF GUITAR FEEDBACK EVER PUT ON RECORD

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The Beatles song John Lennon claims to have featured the first recorded guitar feedback

The song ‘I Feel Fine’, a track which features the first bit of guitar feedback ever put on record.

The song centres around the guitar. In 1964 when speaking of the song John Lennon said: “George and I play the same bit on the guitar together– that’s the bit that’ll set your feet a-tapping, as the reviews say. The middle-eight is the most tuneful part, to me, because it’s a typical Beatles bit.”

But the real revelation of the song came in 1972 when Lennon suggested that the feedback-heavy intro was a landmark moment.

“This was the first time feedback was used on a record. It’s right at the beginning,” John said .

It was a claim that he was happy to double-down on in his interview with Playboy in 1980, “That’s me completely,” he says in reference to ‘I Feel Fine’. “Including the guitar lick with the first feedback anywhere. I defy anybody to find a record… unless it is some old blues record from 1922… that uses feedback that way.

It was a claim that Paul McCartney was happy to back up in 1994, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pick-up on it so it could be amplified… We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it… and it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’

“‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object— an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp. The song itself was more John’s than mine. We sat down and co-wrote it with John’s original idea. John sang it, I’m on harmonies.”

The found object would become one of the most vital pieces of avant-garde artistry rock and roll had heard in years. With it, the acts mentioned by Lennon took the rock world by storm and transformed the pop music of the early sixties into the subversive rock records we know today. It all started with an accident by The Beatles.

Faroutmag


THE BEATLES´1964 MELBOURNE SHOW TO BE BROADCAST NEXT WEEK

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The show will air on Nine (Australia) this coming Monday
Footage from a ’60s Beatles concert in Australia will be remastered and broadcast on television next week.

As The Music Network reports, The Beatles played a sold-out show at Melbourne’s Festival Hall back in 1964, performing tracks including ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’. While John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were all there, the band relied on the services of stand-in drummer Jimmie Nicol during the concert. All up, the group played 13 shows across Australia.

“Now, 56 years later, the remastering of this incredible show will take rusted-on Beatle fans down memory lane and give the younger generation a rare glimpse at the phenomenon of Beatlemania in action,” said Nine in a press release.

Screening on Nine and streaming on Nine Now, One Night Only – The Beatles In Oz is set to air Monday, July 13 at 9:30pm.

It will also be available to stream on 9Now. The concert will be remastered and will include never-before-seen footage.


FIONA ADAMS, PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE BEATLES AND OTHER ROCK STARS, DIES AT 84

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Photographer Fiona Adams, whose famous shot of The Beatles jumping in the air was used on the sleeve of the Twist and Shout EP, has died at the age of 84.

Adams captured the iconic image of the Fab Four on a London bomb site for Boyfriend magazine in April 1963.

The photo was then used on the record sleeve and has been described by the National Portrait Gallery as “the one that defined their early look”.

Adams also snapped many other pop acts, from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones.
According to the late photographer’s website, The Beatles “readily agreed” when Adams asked them to pose for Boyfriend magazine.

Having previously spotted an undeveloped bombsite near Euston station, she hailed a taxi and took them to the abandoned area.

“I climbed down the rubble into a bombed-out cellar, open to the sky, and had a wonderful session with the Beatles lined up on the wall above,” she wrote.

 

Adams went on to take many more shots of John, Paul, George and Ringo, the last of whom celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this week.

Cilla Black, Adam Faith, Sandy Shaw and Dusty Springfield were among other icons of the 1960s who were photographed by Adams for Boyfriend, Fabulous and other publications.

She later moved into travel photography before marrying and having two children.

In 2009, some of her images featured in Beatles to Bowie, an exhibition of 1960s photography at the National Portrait Gallery.

Her death at a hospice on Guernsey on 26 June was confirmed by her son Karl, who said she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February.

Adams’ death comes two months after that of Astrid Kirchherr, the German photographer famous for her early shots of The Beatles.


U.S. POSTAL CARD SIGNED BY THE BEATLES IN JULY 15 KELLEHER FLAGSHIPSALE

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A diverse array of British and worldwide stamps and postal history will be up for bids when Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions holds its Flagship sale July 15 at the firm’s gallery in Danbury, Conn.

Highlights of the auction include the Robert Penn collection of Spain and colonies; the William D. Newcomb collection of Mexico, Canada and British North America; the David Pitts collection of Bermuda, Prince Edward Island and British Atlantic postal history; the Patrick Giddings collection of France; and “a vast array of interesting items from multiple consignors,” according to Kelleher.

The single-day auction opens at 10 a.m. with 163 lots of British Commonwealth material. Perhaps the most unusual item among the nine Great Britain lots is a United States 1951 2¢ carmine rose Benjamin Franklin postal card (Scott UX38) featuring the signatures of the four members of the Beatles rock band on the message side of the card. “Love from The Beatles” is written in the top left corner. Paul McCartney’s signature reads up the left side of the card. The signatures of John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr appear from top to bottom at right. Kelleher describes the four signatures as being “clean and as fresh as the day they were written.”

Included with the signed Franklin postal card is a presentation pack of Great Britain’s 2007 Beatles Album Covers stamps, which includes the six stamps (2421-2426) and the souvenir sheet of four (2420). Kelleher says that the pack provides “a fun and colorful backdrop” to the card.

Kelleher lists the signed card with an estimate of $5,000 to $7,500 and an opening bid of $2,500.

Kelleher states that “prior to 2009, most references in various Bulgarian stamp handbooks and catalogues held that this error only existed used, only nine of which had been recorded.”

The error stamp in the sale is “believed to be the only unused example,” according to Kelleher.

Kelleher describes the stamp as having “bright vivid colors, excellent centering and full o.g. [original gum] which is lightly hinged.”

Kelleher is offering the rare error with an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000 and an opening bid of $7,500.

linns