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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 28, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Recording, mixing: Strawberry Fields Forever

The Beatles recorded three more takes of Strawberry Fields Forever during this 7pm-1.30am session.

They chose to arrange the song differently from the first session for the song, and lowered the key from C to A major. The three takes were numbered 2-4.

The Beatles' first task was to complete a satisfactory rhythm track. Take two followed a similar arrangement to the first session's, with a Mellotron introduction performed by Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison on electric guitars, and Ringo Starr on drums and maracas. It ended after the final chorus.

Take three broke down during the introduction, after Lennon complained that the Mellotron was too loud. The fourth take was complete, however, and featured Harrison using the Mellotron's guitar setting to add slide guitar and Morse code-style notes. Lennon then added lead vocals, with the tape running faster so it was slower upon playback, and McCartney added a bass guitar part to the final track.

Take four was marked 'best', albeit temporarily. Three rough mono mixes were then made for reference purposes, but after further reflection, The Beatles decided to re-record the rhythm track on the following day.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 27, 1966

Broadwick Street, London

Lennon played the role of Dan, a doorman at the fictional nightclub Ad Lav. The name was a spoof on the Ad Lib Club, a venue often frequented by The Beatles and other leading showbusiness personalities of the mid-1960s. Dan the doorman

Lennon wore a uniform complete with top hat and gloves, and for perhaps the first time in public wore the wire-framed granny glasses that would soon become his trademark.

The 51-second sketch was filmed early in the morning on London's Broadwick Street, beside the entrance to the underground men's toilet on the corner of Hopkins Street. It also featured Peter Cook as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 26, 1966

Strawberry Fields Forever was one of The Beatles' most complicated recordings. With George Martin they spent some time working on the arrangement, going through various re-makes and spending an unprecedented 55 hours of studio time completing the song.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 25, 1966

Recording: Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas

The Beatles' fourth Christmas record, Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas, was recorded on this day at the first floor demo studio owned by their publisher, Dick James.

Each member of The Beatles sang on the recording, with Paul McCartney also playing piano. A number of songs and skits were recorded, which were edited into a 10-part, six-minute piece on 2 December. The songs included Everywhere It's Christmas, Orowainya, and Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back, and the sketches included Podgy The Bear And Jasper, and Felpin Mansions.

The Beatles' Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas was edited by The Beatles' press officer at Abbey Road on December 2, 1966, and was sent to members of The Beatles' UK fan club on December 16th.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 24, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

And so the beatles entered the new phase of their career! No longer the tidy, smiling "Fab Four", singing boy/girl pop songs on stage. Now they were the casually dressed, sometimes mustacioed, not always smiling Beatles who would make the greatest ever batch of rock recordings at and for their merest whim, strictly not for performing on stage.

John, Paul, George and Ringo had scarely spent a day together since early September.  Now they had decided to reunite and begin recording a new album. "Strawberry Fields Forever" captured in one song much of what the Beatles had learned in the four years spent inside recording studios, and especially 1966, with its backwards tapes, vari-speeds and uncommon musical instruments. And it could only have been born of a mind (John Lennon's) under the influence of outlawed chemicals. Strawberry Field is a Salvation Army home in Liverpool, around the corner from where John was brought up. He went there for summer fetes and had called the surrounding wooded area Strawberry Fields. "Strawberry Fields Forever" evoked those childhood memories through a dreamy, hallucinogenic haze. It was, and remains, one of the greatest pop songs of all times.
It is also known, correctly, for being among the most complicated of all Beatles recordings, changing shape not once but several times. Take one, recorded from 7:00 pm to 2:30 am in this first session, was certainly far removed from the final version, the only similarity being a mellotron introduction. (The precursor of the synthesier, this instrument contained tapes which could be "programmed" to imitate another instrument, in this instance a flute.) By 2:30 am take one sounded like this: simultaneous with the mellotron, played by Paul, was John's first lead vocal, followed by George's guitar, Ringo's distinctive drums (with dominant use of tomtoms), maracas, a slide guitar piece, John's double-tracked voice and scat harmonies by John, Paul and George. The song came to a full-ending with the mellotron. The entire take was recorded at 53 cycles per second so that it sped up on replay, but still it lasted only 2 minutes, 43 seconds.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 23, 1966

Leonard Bernstein analyzes the Beatles in a Young People's Concert

Leonard Bernstein, who took an ongoing interest in the Beatles, analyzes the harmonic structure of "Norwegian Wood" in the televised Young People's Concert, "What is a Mode?"

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 22, 1966

The Beatles are getting ready to record a very famous tune. Can anyone guess?

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 21, 1966

Nothing to mention on this day 50 years ago.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 20, 1966

Brian Epstein holds a party for The Four Tops in London

The Four Tops had performed at the Savile Theatre in London on 13 November 1966. The venue was owned by The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, and the backdrop for the performance was said to have been designed by Paul McCartney.

Seven days later Epstein held a party for The Four Tops at his home at 24 Chapel Street, London. It was attended by John Lennon and George Harrison.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: November 19, 1966

Paul McCartney has the idea for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Paul McCartney had flown to France on November 6, 1966 and met Mal Evans in Bordeaux on November 12 before flying to Kenya for a safari holiday.

In Kenya they were joined by McCartney's girlfriend Jane Asher, and the three of them visited the Ambosali Park at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, and stayed at the Treetops Hotel in Aberdare National Park.

They spent their final night on 18 November at the YMCA in Nairobi before flying back to London on this day. During the flight McCartney had the idea for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top boys approach. We were not boys, we were men. It was all gone, all that boy shit, all that screaming, we didn't want any more, plus, we'd now got turned on to pot and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers. There was now more to it; not only had John and I been writing, George had been writing, we'd been in films, John had written books, so it was natural that we should become artists.

Then suddenly on the plane I got this idea. I thought, Let's not be ourselves. Let's develop alter egos so we're not having to project an image which we know. It would be much more free. What would really be interesting would be to actually take on the personas of this different band. We could say, 'How would somebody else sing this? He might approach it a bit more sarcastically, perhaps.' So I had this idea of giving the Beatles alter egos simply to get a different approach; then when John came up to the microphone or I did, it wouldn't be John or Paul singing, it would be the members of this band. It would be a freeing element. I thought we can run this philosophy through the whole album: with this alter-ego band, it won't be us making all that sound, it won't be the Beatles, it'll be this other band, so we'll be able to lose our identities in this.

Me and Mal often bantered words about which led to the rumour that he thought of the name Sergeant Pepper, but I think it would be much more likely that it was me saying, 'Think of names.' We were having our meal and they had those little packets marked 'S' and 'P'. Mal said, 'What's that mean? Oh, salt and pepper.' We had a joke about that. So I said, 'Sergeant Pepper,' just to vary it, 'Sergeant Pepper, salt and pepper,' an aural pun, not mishearing him but just playing with the words.

Then, 'Lonely Hearts Club', that's a good one. There's lot of those about, the equivalent of a dating agency now. I just strung those together rather in the way that you might string together Dr Hook and the Medicine Show. All that culture of the sixties going back to those travelling medicine men, Gypsies, it echoed back to the previous century really. I just fantasised, well, 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. That'd be crazy enough because why would a Lonely Hearts Club have a band? If it had been Sergeant Pepper's British Legion Band, that's more understandable. The idea was to be a little more funky, that's what everybody was doing. That was the fashion. The idea was just take any words that would flow. I wanted a string of those things because I thought that would be a natty idea instead of a catchy title. People would have to say, 'What?' We'd had quite a few pun titles - Rubber Soul, Revolver - so this was to get away from all that.

The Beatles began recording the Sgt Pepper title track on February 1, 1967.