On November 9, Apple Corps will release a 50th anniversary version of The Beatles’ 1968 ‘White Album.’ The album’s original 30 tracks are newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, joined by 27 early acoustic demos and 50 session takes, most of which are previously unreleased in any form.
Rock and roll fans know about the historic meeting in 1965 between Elvis Presley and The Beatles. However, most mistakenly believe that was the only connection between the two biggest rock and roll acts of all time.
After that meeting (and even before), there were many positive ways that The Beatles and Elvis Presley connected personally and professionally, and at the very least, had empathy for each other. However, on the surface, it looked like The Beatles and Elvis couldn’t be farther apart.
by David Bedford and Garry Popper
The Beatles phenomenon is one amazing story that John Lennon tried to sum up by stating: “I met Paul and said, ‘Do you want to join me band?’ and then George joined, and then Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very, very big.”
That is one of the biggest understatements ever, because it was so much more complicated than that, and the story involves 18 drummers.
Neil Aspinall once said that “the story of the Beatles always seemed to be about John, Paul, George and a drummer.”
When examined closely, that is exactly what happened, yet nobody has concentrated on the story of those drummers, and the crises in the evolution of The Beatles that always seemed to be around losing, or gaining, a drummer.
How many drummers can you count that played with the Fab Three between 1956 and 1970? We have found 18!
In a new book, and forthcoming documentary film, Finding the Fourth Beatle tells the story of The Beatles from 1956-1970 through the 18 drummers, including Colin Hanton, Pete Best and Jimmie Nicol, and some you will not have heard of before. The book and film explore the Beatles’ crises, changes of musical direction, getting a record deal, and finding the drummer who would put the beat into The Beatles: Ringo Starr, the Fourth Beatle.
It was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper and Beyond is a new documentary film celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. It serves as a complement to the Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary from 1992 and also the recent PBS documentary, Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution. While those films offer more of a focus on The Beatles’ recording process, It was Fifty Years Ago Today gives a more cultural context to the Sgt Pepper album.
This film was not officially sanctioned by The Beatles, and therefore no Beatles music was included. Instead it offers interviews with many people who were in the Beatles inner circle and also famous Beatle biographers. They all have some great insider stories and details to share.
Another plus is all of the rare historical footage of The Beatles that you don’t often see in “official” documentaries. However, the flow of the film is at times disjointed with one interview popping up in-between two other unrelated segments.
Also, the film title and DVD cover text leads you to believe that the focus is mainly on Sgt. Pepper. The film starts in August 1966 giving the background of why The Beatles stopped touring which led to their unlimited time in the recording studio. However, the film goes on for 2 hours, and covers material way past the release of Sgt Pepper in June 1967 to include the Beatles trip to India in 1968.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the film was about 30-40 minutes too long and all of the information about what happened after the death of Brian Epstein in August 1967 should have been omitted. The fact that it continues through 1968 leaves you to wonder where this “Sgt. Pepper” documentary is headed and wondering when it will end.
With that said, the interviews are very intelligent and interesting. There is also a second DVD of bonus extra footage of extended interviews with a few people featured in the original film. Highlights are the in-depth interviews with former BBC radio host, Andy Peebles, who interviewed John Lennon two days before he died, and Pete Best. Also included is a brief visual tour of Beatle-related sites in Liverpool and London, with a special stop at 34 Montagu Square, which has a special connection to John, Paul and Ringo.
For Beatles fans who like to get their hands on rare footage and interviews of The Beatles, then this DVD is for you. – T.Y.
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“Sgt. Pepper – Wow! Was it really 50 years ago today? Can’t be true…”
– Paul McCartney in April 2017
Mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround audio, this is a vast improvement over the 2009 remastered Beatles CD version. This is the first time the album has been remixed. The original four-track session tapes were the source and Giles Martin used the original mono mix produced by his father, Beatles producer George Martin, as a guide.
When comparing the 2009 remastered Sgt. Pepper CD to the remixed 2017 version, it’s like going from black and white to color. The 2009 remastered version almost sounds muted when compared to the 50th anniversary remix due to the fact that the sound of the vocals, guitars and drums are all brought to the front.
Paul McCartney commented on the remix in a recent Q&A with Japanese fans: “It’s very clear. So whereas the old mix was just sort of a general mix, this time you can hear every little instrument. And it was quite surprising to hear, ‘Ooh, I’d forgotten we did that.'”
The sound is so clear and enhanced that you can even hear McCartney shouting in the background at the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise).” You’ll also hear an unexpected addition to the end of “Within You, Without You.”
Ringo Starr also raved about the new remix. A friend of Ringo’s reported that “it originally was recorded on a 4-track with a lot of overdubs, which buried the drums. Now, the drums have been lifted and come through as they should. He was pleased.”
The remixed Sgt. Pepper CD is definitely worth getting, no matter how many previous versions you have. While you can just get the remixed CD by itself, here’s why you should get the Super Deluxe edition.
If you love to hear outtakes and get a glimpse into how The Beatles’ song process took place, you’ll especially enjoy Disc 2 of the Deluxe package. Here you get 18 tracks including five takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and five takes of “A Day in the Life.” These outtakes include an alternate attempt at creating the dramatic piano sound at the end of “A Day in the Life”, instead with all of The Beatles humming in unison. Note that Disc 2 on the Super Deluxe version is different from the outtakes included on Disc 2 of the 2-CD Deluxe set.
Disc 3 offers 15 additional outtakes for the diehard Beatles fan. Disc 4 offers the entire album in the original mono mix, along with 6 additional mono tracks including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”
If you are not that interested in outtakes, the Super Deluxe package is still worth the money because of the lavish hardcover book and The Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Making of Sgt. Pepper documentary was made for the 25th anniversary of the album’s release and contains great interviews with Paul, George, Ringo and George Martin. The highlight is watching George Martin sit at the engineering controls in the recording studio and isolate either the vocal or instrumental tracks on several of the songs and discuss The Beatles’ recording process.
The six-disc Super Deluxe set comes with a 144-page hardcover book the size of an album. The book includes chapters written by different writers on various aspects of the album. Topics include the design of the cover, the album’s musical innovations and its historical context by Beatles historian, author and radio producer Kevin Howlett; composer and musicologist Howard Goodall; music producer and writer Joe Boyd; and journalists Ed Vulliamy and Jeff Slate.
– Trina Yannicos
It was 50 years ago on June 1, 1967 when The Beatles surprised the world ushering in the Summer of Love with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the groundbreaking masterpiece that became popular music’s most universally acclaimed album. To salute the occasion, The Beatles will release special CD and Vinyl packages of the Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary Edition on May 26. The album is newly mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell in stereo and 5.1 surround audio and expanded with early takes from the studio sessions, including 34 previously unreleased recordings.
“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” says Paul McCartney in his newly-penned introduction for the Sgt. Pepper Anniversary Edition.
“Sgt. Pepper seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it,” Ringo Starr recalls in the Anniversary Edition’s book.
This is the first time Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been remixed and presented with additional session recordings. To create the new stereo and 5.1 surround audio mixes for Sgt. Pepper, producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell worked with an expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists at Abbey Road Studios in London. All of the Anniversary Edition releases include Martin’s new stereo mix of the album, which was sourced directly from the original four-track session tapes and guided by the original, Beatles-preferred mono mix produced by his father, George Martin.
Ringo Starr has expressed his delight at the new remastered Sgt. Pepper recordings. According to Keith Allison, former Paul Revere and the Raiders bassist, who was recently hanging out with Ringo: “He thought it was great! Why? Because it originally was recorded on a 4-track with a lot of overdubs, which buried the drums. Now, the drums have been lifted and come through as they should. He was pleased.”
Fans have been waiting for a new stereo remix of Sgt. Pepper since the original stereo release was rushed out with no input from The Beatles. The mono version was what The Beatles and George Martin had poured their heart and soul into back in 1967.
“The alternate takes are full of discoveries; hours of new Beatle music that gives a taste of how many treasures remain in the vault. It’s not just historic value — it’s an astounding listening experience,” says Sheffield, who got an exclusive first listen to the Sgt. Pepper outtakes.
The Super Deluxe set includes a 144-page hardcover book featuring new introductions by Paul McCartney and Giles Martin, and chapters covering comprehensive song-by-song details and recording information, the design of the cover, the album’s musical innovations and its historical context.
The Super Deluxe edition also includes a DVD and Blu-ray featuring the previously unreleased documentary film The Making of Sgt. Pepper (broadcast in 1992), with insightful interviews with McCartney, Harrison and Starr, and in-studio footage introduced by George Martin.
For Record Store Day on April 22, Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe will release an exclusive, limited edition seven-inch vinyl single of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” among the first songs recorded during the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ sessions, which began in November 1966.
(Source: Includes excerpts from official press release)
Quick Order Links:
Super Deluxe edition (4 CD/DVD/Blu-ray combo)
See the FULL Track listings of each CD package by clicking here
On November 18, the new documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years directed by Ron Howard will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray, plus a 2-Disc special edition.
The film was released last week in theaters for a one-day to one-week run which varied across different cities. After the film, the 30-minute Shea Stadium concert film from 1965 was also shown. This footage from the concert is not listed as being included on the DVD.
As a Beatles fan and journalist who saw the film in theaters, the title ‘The Touring Years’ seemed a bit misleading to me. Instead of focusing mostly on the shows that The Beatles performed, the film provided an overall look at their career during the years they were touring and spent lots of time on The Beatles’ efforts in the recording studio.
While there is not much new information offered in the documentary, the high points of the film are the rare photographs and video clips that were included to illustrate the story of The Beatles’ touring years. For example, in February 1964 during an interview in Washington DC, John tells a reporter his name is “Eric.” The uninformed reporter believes him and introduces Lennon convincingly on camera as “Eric” so that John has to enlighten him and tell him it was just a joke.
Another rare clip is an interview with The Beatles in Sweden circa 1963/64 where George is standing behind John who is seated. George keeps flicking ashes from his cigarette on the top of John’s head and John doesn’t necessarily notice.
There are also insightful interview clips from Paul and Ringo in the present day, as well as other celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg and Elvis Costello.
Another highlight is an interview with Dr. Kitty Oliver, an African-American journalist and author who went to The Beatles’ concert in Jacksonville, Florida as a teenager. The Beatles refused to play to a segregated audience at the Gator Bowl. They had it written into their contract, so the venue agreed to integrate the crowd.
“Here was a band I loved and music I was such a fan of, that seeing The Beatles overrode the idea of walking in to this all-white environment that I had never been in,” Oliver recalls.
Historians believe that this strong stand that The Beatles took in Jacksonville in September 1964 led to an end of segregation in most of the big stadiums in the South. – Trina Yannicos
Below is a description of content included on the DVD release as stated in the official press release:
Featuring a wealth of specially created supplementary material totaling 100 minutes of extras, the deluxe home entertainment editions contain exclusively-created featurettes for fans to delve even deeper into the band’s world. Accompanying these are stunning, fully restored full length performances of some of the band’s most iconic tracks including “Twist and Shout” and “She Loves You” recorded at the ABC Theatre, Manchester in 1963 and “Can’t Buy Me Love” at the NME Awards, 1964, in London, bringing the experience of seeing The Beatles in concert fully to life for all fans. A full breakdown follows:
2-disc Special Collector’s Edition (DVD and Blu-Ray) includes:
1 x DVD/Blu-Ray feature disc
+ 1 Bonus Disc (containing approx. 100 minutes of extras, highlighted below)
64 page booklet with an introduction from director Ron Howard, essay by music journalist and author Jon Savage and rare photos from The Beatles’ private archive
Words & Music (24 mins)
John, Paul, George & Ringo reflect on songwriting and the influence of music from their parents’ generation, Lennon/McCartney writing for other artists, The Beatles as individual musicians, and the band as innovators. Also featuring Howard Goodall, Peter Asher, Simon Schama and Elvis Costello. The interviews with Paul and Ringo are unseen.
Early Clues To A New Direction (18 mins)
A special feature touching on The Beatles as a collective, the importance of humor, the impact of women on their early lives and songwriting, and the band as a musical movement. Featuring John, Paul, George & Ringo, along with Paul Greengrass, Stephen Stark, Peter Asher, Malcolm Gladwell, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Curtis, Elvis Costello and Simon Schama. Again the interviews with Paul and Ringo are unseen.
Liverpool (11 mins)
The early days in Liverpool of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s are brought vividly to life by those who worked closely with them at that time including fan club secretary Freda Kelly, Allan Williams an early manager, and Leslie Woodhead multi-award winning documentary film director.
The Beatles in Concert (12 mins)
Five great but rarely seen full length performances of The Beatles live in concert – Twist and Shout, She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, You Can’t Do That and Help!
Additional features are:
- Three Beatles’ Fans
- Ronnie Spector and The Beatles
- Shooting A Hard Day’s Night
- The Beatles in Australia
- Recollections of Shea Stadium
- The Beatles in Japan
- An alternative opening for the film
Pre-order: Deluxe Collector’s Edition (2-DVD)
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