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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 24, 1967

Recording: Lovely Rita

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Work continued on the Sgt. Pepper song Lovely Rita during this session, which began at 7pm and finished at 1.15am the following morning.

The Beatles were visited in the studio by Tony Hicks of The Hollies and David Crosby of The Byrds. Also present was Leslie Bryce, the staff photographer from The Beatles Book Monthly magazine. A report on the session appeared in its sister publication Beat Monthly.

From this we know several key details of Lovely Rita's development. John Lennon and Paul McCartney took themselves off to a corner of Studio Two, together with Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and completed the song's lyrics.

In one of Bryce's photographs McCartney is seen holding the original lyrics sheet, which had only the opening chorus and verse. It also had Rita "filling in a ticket with her little blue pen". Below, in Evans' handwriting, were two more rough verses including an unused line, "Now I go to meet her".

Once the words were complete, McCartney recorded his lead vocals. As with the previous session, this was done with the tape machine running slower - at 46.5 cycles per second rather than the usual 50 - raising the pitch and speed upon playback.

Beat Monthly reported that David Crosby assisted with the vocals, but these cannot be heard on the final version.

At the end of the session two reduction mixes was made to free up space on the tape. These were numbered takes 10 and 11, the latter of which was used for further overdubs on 7 March 1967.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 23, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

This 7:00 pm to 3:45 am session began with Geoff Emerick preparing the stereo master of "A Day In The Life". When completed, the Beatles set to work on a new song; Paul's Lovely Rita, recording eight rhythem track takes and reducing the eighth into take nine, onto which Paul overdubbed bass.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 22, 1967

Recording, mixing: A Day In The Life

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Following the February 10th session, in which the orchestral overdubs were added to A Day In The Life, the song was completed on this day with the recording of the final piano chord.

At the close of the 10 February session an ad-hoc choir was assembled for the recording of a hummed final note. This was felt to be not dramatic enough, and an alternative was sought.

The idea of a piano chord was eventually settled upon. Initially using three pianos, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans all played an E major chord. McCartney led the recording, which was captured by Geoff Emerick in the control room of Studio Two.

Paul: "Have you got your loud pedal down, Mal?"
Mal: "Which one's that?"
Paul: "The right hand one, far right. It keeps the echo going."
John: "Keep it down the whole time."
Paul: "Right. On four then. One, two, three..."
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

It took nine attempts to record a satisfactory version, as the five performers had trouble hitting the chord at precisely the same time. Take seven was the longest at 59 seconds, but take nine was the best.

Three more overdubs were added to further thicken the sound. Two of these were of more pianos chords, and the third was of
George Martin playing a harmonium.

I wanted that chord to last as long as possible, and I told Geoff Emerick it would be up to him, not the boys, to achieve that. What I did was to get all four [sic] Beatles and myself in the studio at three pianos, an upright and two grands. I gave them the bunched chords that they were to play.

Then I called out, 'Ready? One, two, three - go!' With that, CRASH! All of us hit the chords as hard as possible. In the control room, Geoff had his faders - which control the volume input from the studio - way, way down at the moment of impact. Then, as the sound died away, he gradually pushed the faders up, while we kept as quiet as the proverbial church mice. In the end, they were so far up, and the microphones so live, that you could hear the air-conditioning. It took forty-five seconds to do, and we did it three or four times, building up a massive sound of piano after piano after piano, all doing the same thing.

Mono and stereo mixes for A Day In The Life were made towards the end of the session. This required two four-track tape machines to be played in sync - a first for EMI. The main part of the song was mixed first in four attempts, numbered 6-9, onto which the final chord was then edited to create the mono master.

Nine stereo mixes were then made. These were numbered 1-9, but there were problems with keeping the two tape machines in time and the attempt was abandoned until the following day.

At the end of the session The Beatles recorded an experimental piece, its purpose unknown. It lasted 22'10" and primarily featured Ringo Starr's drums, augmented by tambourine and congas. A single take was recorded, and was known in the studio as Anything, or Drum Track (1).

Source: The Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 21, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

"Fixing A Hole", one of the least complicated recordings on Sgt. Pepper, was completed during this 7:00 pm to 12:45 am session by means of overdubs onto a reduction mixdown of the second take from the Regent Sound session of February 9th. The song was then mixed into mono several times, with an edit of mixes numbered three and six serving as the master.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 20, 1967

Studio Three, EMI Studios, London

When the Beatles started work on "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite" John had told George Martin that he wanted the recording bathed in circus atmosphere. Unable to trace an authentic hand-operated stream organ for the part, George realized that the required sound would have to be self-created inside Abbey Road using other means. So he got hold of old calliope tapes of Sousa marches and had Geoff Emerick chop them up into small sections, throw them in the air and re-assemble the pieces at random.

The work was done in this 7:00 pm- 2:15 am session (although the effects were not superimposed on the Beatles' recording until March 29th), along with a rough mono mix of "Good Morning Good Morning" for acetate-cutting purposes.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 19, 1967

February 19, 1967 - Fan photo of Cynthia on husband John's lap with Ringo Starr in the backseat of a car after attending a Chuck Berry concert at the Savile Theatre. Brian Epstein's reflection is captured in the window.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 18, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording sessions.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 17, 1967

UK single release: Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever

A key date in The Beatles' career came with the UK release of perhaps their finest single of all, the double a-side Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever. Although heralded upon its release as a major advance for the group - and, indeed, for Western music - the single failed to reach number one in the UK, the first time this had occurred since Love Me Do in 1962.

Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever entered the charts on February 23, 1967, and climbed to number two. It was held off by Engelbert Humperdinck's Release Me, and spent 11 weeks on the charts.

The failure to reach the top was because many chart compilers counted the double a-side as two individual releases; it did, in fact, outsell Release Me by nearly two to one.

It was pretty bad, wasn't it, that Engelbert Humperdinck stopped Strawberry Fields Forever from getting to number one? But I don't think it was a worry. At first, we wanted to have good chart positions, but then I think we started taking it for granted. It might have been a bit of a shock being number two - but then again, there were always so many different charts that you could be number two in one chart and number one in another.
(George Harrison)

Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever was issued as Parlophone R 5570. Initial copies came in a picture sleeve, unusually for the time. Indeed, only two Beatles singles were issued with picture sleeves in the UK, the other being Let It Be.

It's fine if you're kept from being number one by a record like Release Me, because you're not trying to do the same kind of thing. That's a completely different scene altogether.
(Paul McCartney)

George Martin later regretted not including the two songs on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album.

The only reason that Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane didn't go onto the new album was a feeling that if we issued a single, it shouldn't go onto an album. That was a crazy idea, and I'm afraid I was partly responsible. It's nonsense these days, but in those days it was an aspect that we'd try to give the public value for money.

The idea of a double A side came from me and Brian, really. Brian was desperate to recover popularity, and so we wanted to make sure that we had a marvellous seller. He came to me and said, 'I must have a really great single. What have you got?' I said, 'Well, I've got three tracks - and two of them are the best tracks they've ever made. We could put the two together and make a smashing single.' We did, and it was a smashing single - but it was also a dreadful mistake. We would have sold far more and got higher up in the charts if we had issued one of those with, say, "When I'm Sixty-Four", on the back.

George Martin
Anthology
 
 
 
The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 16, 1967

Studios Three, EMI Studios, London

A 7:00 pm - 1:45 am session which began wit the overdubbing of vocals and bass onto the best February 8th basic track recording of "Good Morning Good Morning". A rough mono mix was done before take eight was reduced into take nine and ten. Overdubs onto the latter would begin on March 13th.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: February 15, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording sessions.