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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 7, 1967

The Beatles are taking a break from recording at EMI Studios

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 6, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Still more overdubbing onto "Penny Lane". Paul on bass, John on rhythm guitar and Ringo on drums. John also overdubbed conga drums. With all four tracks on the tape full again, another reduction mix was made, take seven becoming take eight with two vacant tracks. Onto this was overdubbed handclaps, John and George Martin playing pianos and John, Paul and George (Harrison) scat-singing at the points where brass instruments would later be added. A further reduction, take eight into nine, was made before the end of the 7:00 pm to 1:00 am session, vacating two more tracks.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 5, 1967

Recording: Penny Lane, Carnival Of Light

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road

The Beatles worked on two recordings during this session: their next single Penny Lane, and a long-unreleased piece known as Carnival of Light.

The session began at 7pm and finished at 12.15am the following morning. First of all, Paul McCartney re-recorded his lead vocals onto track three of the four-track tape, replacing the previous night's attempt.

With that completed to his satisfaction, The Beatles turned their attentions to an experimental piece which was recorded in a single take. It was given no official title, listed as Untitled on EMI's recording logs, although it later became known as Carnival Of Light.

In 1966 the design team Binder, Edwards and Vaughan painted a piano in psychedelic colours for Paul McCartney, who had met David Vaughan through a mutual friend, Tara Browne, the Guinness heir whose death in December 1966 partly inspired the lyrics of A Day in The Life.

That same month, Vaughan asked McCartney to contribute a recording for two events, to be promoted by the designers in the Roundhouse venue in Camden, London, on 28 January and 4 February 1967. The events were variously known as The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave or the Carnival of Light Rave.

McCartney agreed to make a recording for Vaughan, although the artist wasn't entirely impressed with the results.

Of all The Beatles' recordings, relatively little is known about Carnival Of Light. It came to public attention in 1988, with the publication of Mark Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.

Carnival Of Light lasted 13'48" and constituted the basic track along with a series of overdubs. During the recording McCartney briefly sang the as-yet-unrecorded Fixing a Hole on the piano, according to Dudley Edwards of Binder, Edwards and Vaughan.

Source: The Beatles Bible

"Track one of the tape was full of distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds; track two had a distorted lead guitar; track three had the sounds of a church organ, various effects (the gargling of water was one) and voices; track four featured various indescribable sound effects with heaps of tape echo and manic tambourine.

But of all the frightening sounds it was the voices on track three which really set the scene, John and Paul screaming dementedly and bawling aloud random phrases like 'Are you all right?' and 'Barcelona!'

Paul terminated the proceedings after almost 14 minutes with one final shout up to the control room: 'Can we hear it back now?'

Source: Mark Lewisohn

Carnival Of Light was also described by Barry Miles in Many Years From Now, his authorised biography of Paul McCartney. Miles reportedly played a part in the genesis of the recording.

The tape has no rhythm, though a beat is sometimes established for a few bars by the percussion or a rhythmic pounding on the piano. There is no melody, though snatches of a tune sometimes threaten to break through. The Beatles make literally random sounds, although they sometimes respond to each other; for instance, a burst of organ notes answered by a rattle of percussion. The basic track was recorded slow so that some of the drums and organ were very deep and sonorous, like the bass notes of a cathedral organ. Much of it is echoed and it is often hard to tell if you are listening to a slowed-down cymbal or a tubular bell. John and Paul yell with massive amounts of reverb on their voices, there are Indian war cries, whistling, close-miked gasping, genuine coughing and fragments of studio conversation, ending with Paul asking, with echo, 'Can we hear it back now?' The tape was obviously overdubbed and has bursts of feedback guitar, schmaltzy cinema organ, snatches or jangling pub piano, some unpleasant electronic feedback and John yelling, 'Electricity'. There is a great deal of percussion throughout, again much of it overdubbed. The tape was made with full stereo separation, and is essentially an exercise in musical layers and textures. It most resembles The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet, the twelve-minute final track on Frank Zappa's Freak Out! album, except there is no rhythm and the music here is more fragmented, abstract and serious. The deep organ notes at the beginning of the piece set the tone as slow and contemplative.
 
According to Lewisohn, a mono mix was made at the end of the session, which was then given by McCartney to Binder, Edwards and Vaughan on a reel of quarter inch tape.
When they had finished George Martin said to me, 'This is ridiculous, we've got to get our teeth into something more constructive." - Geoff Emerick
 
The Beatles' recording was played a number of times during the two Roundhouse events. Dudley Edwards has claimed that it was subsequently taken to America by Ray Anderson, who assisted with the events' light shows.

McCartney is believed to have wanted to include Carnival Of Light on Anthology 2, but the decision was vetoed by George Harrison. Since then, McCartney has occasionally mentioned a desire to see it released.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 4, 1967

Recording: Penny Lane

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

The Beatles' first recording session of 1967 saw work continue on Penny Lane.

The session began at 7pm and finished at 2.45am the following morning. Track two of the four-track tape was filled with piano played by John Lennon and lead guitar by George Harrison, Paul McCartney also added lead vocals onto track three.

The results of this session were never used, however. McCartney's vocals were replaced on the following day with another attempt, and Lennon and Harrison's parts were wiped on January 6th.

 

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 3, 1967

Tape to Tape copies of "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" had been made for dispatch to the USA.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 2, 1967

The Beatles still recovering from New Year's Eve.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 1, 1967

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 31, 1966

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 30, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

The mono mixes of "When I'm Sixty-Four" done on December 29th and marked "best" for the UK and US did not satisfy Paul. He suggested that they scrap all previous mixes and begin again, speeding up the new mix by as much as a semitone, a big difference. Such work began this 7:00 pm to 3:00 am session, and was followed by the making of simple tape-to-tape copies of the "best" mono mix of "Strawberry Fields Forever" from the previous afternoon. The remainder of the session was devoted to "Penny Lane", with a reduction of take six into take seven and an overdub of Paul's lead vocal, backed by John. It was well into the wee hours by the time these had been taped, so the other overdubs planned for the song had to wait until the next session and another year - 1967. All that was left to do in 1966 was mix into mono "Penny Lane", as it presently stood, so that an acetate disc could be cut.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicles

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 29, 1966

Recording, mixing, editing: When I’m Sixty-Four, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane

Studios Two and Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Work took place on three different songs on this day, during three different sessions. The songs were When I'm 64, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane.

The first session took place in the control room of Studio Three from 2.30-4.45pm. Four mono mixes of When I'm Sixty-Four were made, numbered 4-7. Mix number six was intended for the US market, and seven for the UK, but neither was used. Instead a new mono mix was made on the following day, rendering all these redundant.

Also for the US market, a tape copy was made of the December 22nd mono mix of Strawberry Fields Forever. In the second scheduled session, which began immediately after the first at 4.45pm and ended at 5.40pm, stereo mixes of the song were made.

The new mixes again required matching the tempos and keys of the two recorded versions, as George Martin and Geoff Emerick had done in the previous session. The first mix was of take seven, followed by one of take 26, followed by an edit of the two which was labelled remix three.

The results were deemed unsatisfactory, so a fourth mix was made of take 26. This was combined with the beginning of mix one to create a final stereo mix, numbered five.

In Studio Two between 7pm and 2.15am the following morning,Paul McCartney worked without the other Beatles on the first takes of Penny Lane. At this stage the song was known as Untitled, although McCartney had been speaking about writing a song titled Penny Lane since at least November 1965.

The recording of Penny Lane was almost as complex as for Strawberry Fields Forever. To begin with, McCartney laid down six takes of the piano backing track, and onto track two of the final attempt he added a second piano to the latter half of each verse. Track three was filled with a third piano part as well as tambourine, both of which were recorded via microphone signals fed through a Vox guitar amplifier.

The final track of the tape was filled with effects, some vari-speeded, including percussion, high two-note chords from a harmonium, and cymbals.

Work on Penny Lane continued on December 30, 1966 and into the following year.

Source: The Beatles Bible