Search
Filters
Close
RSS

Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 21, 1967

Recording, mixing, editing: Getting Better, Lovely Rita

This session saw work continue on two Sgt. Pepper songs: Getting Better and Lovely Rita. It was perhaps more notable for being the one time when John Lennon took LSD in the recording studio.

Visitors to the studio on this occasion included music publisher Dick James, NEMS employee Peter Brown, and Ivan Vaughan, who had introduced John Lennon and Pal McCartney for the first time on July 6, 1957.

Also present was journalist and writer Hunter Davies, who had recently been commissioned to write The Beatles' authorised biography. His book, simply titled The Beatles, was published in September 1968 and documented a number of recording and songwriting sessions for the Sgt Pepper album.

The backing track for Getting Better had been recorded on March 9th and 10th, Ringo Starr was not needed on this evening so didn't attend.

The session began with a playback of the progress so far. McCartney was the most actively-engaged of the group, discussing with balance engineer Geoff Emerick on how the song should sound.

Two reduction mixes, numbered 13 and 14, were made to free space on the four-track tape. These mixes put the 9 March rhythm track and the tambura on one track, and bass guitar and drum overdubs on track two.

George Harrison and Ivan [Vaughan] went off to chat in a corner, but Paul and John listened carefully. Paul instructed the technician on which levers to press, telling him what he wanted, how it should be done, which bits he liked best. George Martin looked on, giving advice where necessary. John stared into space...

They played the backing track of It's Getting Better [sic] for what seemed like the hundredth time, but Paul said he wasn't happy about it. They'd better get Ringo in and they would do it all again. Someone went to ring for Ringo.

Peter Brown arrived... They played him the backing track of It's Getting Better. As it was being played, Paul talked to one of the technicians and told him to try yet a different sound mix. He did so and Paul said that was much better. It would do. They didn't need to bring Ringo in now after all.

'And we've just ordered Ringo on toast,' said John. But Ringo was cancelled in time and the studio was got ready to record the sound track, the voices... The three of them held their heads round one microphone and sang It's Getting Better while up in the control box, George Martin and his two assistants got it all down on track. The three Beatles were singing, not playing, but through the headphones strapped to their ears they could hear the recording of the backing track. They were simply singing to their already recorded accompaniment.

In the studio itself, all that could be heard were the unaccompanied, un-electrified voices of the Beatles singing, without any backing. It all sounded flat and out of key.

The Beatles
Hunter Davies

The vocals were re-recorded, more successfully, on March 23, 1967. The Beatles' involvement in this session, meanwhile, drew to a close once John Lennon began to feel the effects of a tab of LSD he had mistakenly ingested.

Lennon carried with him a small silver art nouveau pill box which he had bought from Liberty of London. He kept a range of stimulants inside the box, and was in the habit of taking it out and selecting different drugs to take.

We were overdubbing voices on one of the Pepper tracks, and John, down in the studio, was obviously feeling unwell. I called over the intercom, 'What's the matter, John? Aren't you feeling very well?'

'No,' said John.

I went down and looked at him, and he said, 'I don't know. I'm feeling very strange.'

He certainly looked very ill, so I told him, 'You need some fresh air. Let's leave the others working, and I'll take you outside.'

The problem was where to go; there were the usual five hundred or so kids waiting for us at the front, keeping vigil like guard-dogs, and if we had dared to appear at the entrance there would have been uproar and they would probably have broken the gates down. So I took him up to the roof, above Number Two studio. I remember it was a lovely night, with very bright stars. Then I suddenly realised that the only protection around the edge of the roof was a parapet about six inches high, with a sheer drop of some ninety feet to the ground below, and I had to tell him, 'Don't go too near the edge, there's no rail there, John.' We walked around the roof for a while. Then he agreed to come back downstairs, and we packed up for the night.

It wasn't until much later that I learned what had happened. John was in the habit of taking pills, 'uppers', to give him the energy to get through the night. That evening, he had taken the wrong pill by mistake - a very large dose of LSD. But Paul knew, and went home with him and turned on as well, to keep him company. It seems they had a real trip. I knew they smoked pot, and I knew they took pills, but in my innocence I had no idea they were also into LSD.

George Martin
All You Need Is Ears

Although they occasionally smoked cannabis during recording sessions, The Beatles never intentionally took acid while working.

I never took it in the studio. Once I did accidentally. I thought I was taking some uppers, and I was not in a state of handling it. I can't remember what album it was but I took it and then [whispers] I just noticed all of a sudden I got so scared on the mike. I said, 'What was it?' I thought I felt ill. I thought I was going cracked. Then I said, 'I must get some air.' They all took me upstairs on the roof, and George Martin was looking at me funny. And then it dawned on me, I must have taken acid. And I said, 'Well, I can't go on, I have to go.' So I just said, 'You'll have to do it and I'll just stay and watch.' I just [became] very nervous and just watching all of a sudden. 'Is it alright?' And they were saying, 'Yeah.' They were all being very kind. They said, 'Yes, it's alright.' And I said, 'Are you sure it's alright?' They carried on making the record.
John Lennon
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
 
The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 20, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios in London

The Beatles deliberately kept themselves very much to themselves during the recording of Sgt. Pepper, so an interview by John and Paul to their old mate Brian Matthew this evening was certainly an important coup for BBC Radio. Underlining the Beatles new workshop use of Abbey Road, Brian Matthew had to interview them there - the first time any of the Beatles consented to this - the session recording sheet logging the interview "Beatle Talk" and showing that it was taped at the start on the 7:00 session.

Mathew's purpose was two-fold. He recorded John and Paul's acceptance speech for three 1966 Ivor Novello awards - for Yellow Submarine and for Yesterday. These speeches were broadcast by the BBC Light Program on March 27th. The event was otherwise recorded live, before a music industry audience, at the Playhouse Theatre in London on March 23rd. John and Paul had no wish to attend so their three statuettes were received on their behalf by NEMS' Tony Barrow and by Ron White, the general manager of marketing services at EMI Records. After each presentation, the relevant "Thank You" speech by John and Paul was played over the PA (and dropped into the program), following which the song was performed live at the playhouse by Joe Loss and his Orchestra. (the lead vocal on "Michelle" was sung by Ross MacManus, father of Declan, aka Elvis Costello.

Up to 1970, John and Paul won several Ivor Novello awards too, in presentation ceremonies, also broadcast by BBC radio, but they never again recorded a special interview, nor did they receive the awards in person. George Martin and Dick James accepted them on their behalf and made short speeches. The secondary visit of Brian Matthew's visit to EMI studios this evening was to record a brief addtional interview with John and Paul for exclusive use by the BBC's Transcription service in its weekly best of Top Of The Pops, sold by subscription to overseas stations. It was only a brief interview, for which precisely four minutes were used, although John and Paul had ample time to explain the Beatle's change in direction towards recording and away from touring- John in particular being emphatic about there being no more concert tours, succinctly saying that there be no more "She Loves You".

 

After the interview, John and Paul devoted the remainder of the session to "She's Leaving Home", overdubbing vocals onto take nine (a reduction of the previous night's take one). This lovely song was now complete because there were no overdubs of any of the Beatles playing an musical instrument: the only music playing on "She's Leaving Home" was the strings. The recording was then mixed onto mono before the close of play at 3:30 am.

 

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle -Mark Lewisohn

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 19, 1967

Another day in-between recording at EMI Studios in London

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 18, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 17, 1967

Recording: She’s Leaving Home

Recording began on the Sgt. Pepper song She's Leaving Home during this session.

The song had been written after Pau McCartney read a report about a teenage runaway named Melanie Coe in the 27 February 1967 edition of the Daily Mail newspaper. John Lennon contributed the chorus lines, and the pair decided that a string arrangement would suit it.

George Martin was unable to write a score after McCartney asked him to at short notice. Instead, McCartney approached freelance producer and arranger Mike Leander, who provided the string parts for the song. Martin saw the move as a slight, but later acknowledged that McCartney's impatience had been the key factor.

During the making of Pepper [Paul] was also to give me one of the biggest hurts of my life. It concerned the song She's Leaving Home. At that time I was still having to record all my other artists. One day Paul rang me to say: 'I've got a song I want you to work with me on. Can you come round tomorrow afternoon? I want to get it done quickly. We'll book an orchestra, and you can score it.'
'I can't tomorrow, Paul. I'm recording Cilla [Black] at two-thirty.'
'Come on. You can come round at two o'clock.'
'No, I can't, I've got a session on.'
'All right, then,' he said, and that ended the conversation.

What he did then, as I discovered later, was to get Neil Aspinall, the road manager, to ring round and find someone else to do the score for him, simply because I couldn't do it at that short notice. In the end he found Mike Leander, who could. The following day Paul presented me with it and said, 'Here we are. I've got a score. We can record it now.'

I recorded it, with a few alterations to make it work better, but I was hurt. I thought: Paul, you could have waited. For I really couldn't have done it that afternoon, unless I had just devoted everything to The Beatles and never dealt with any other artist. Paul obviously didn't think it was important that I should do everything. To me it was. I wasn't getting much out of it from a financial point of view, but at least I was getting satisfaction. The score itself was good enough, and still holds up today, but it was the only score that was ever done by anyone else during all my time with The Beatles.

George Martin
All You Need Is Ears

Martin agreed to conduct the musician during this session. They were Erich Gruenberg, Derek Jacobs, Trevor Williams and José Luis Garcia on violin; John Underwood and Stephen Shingles on viola; Dennis Vigay and Alan Dalziel on cello; Gordon Pearce on double bass; and Sheila Bromberg on harp.

The recording was completed in six takes, with the first becoming the basis for further overdubs. This had the harp on track one, double bass on track two, violins on three, and violas and cellos on track four.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 16, 1967

Penny Lane - Number One this week!

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 15, 1967

Recording: Within You Without You

Although they had recorded George Harrison's song Only A Northern Song on February 13th and 14th, 1967. The Beatles decided not to include it on the Sgt. Pepper album. In its place, work began during this session on another Harrison song, the Indian-flavoured Within You Without You.

At this early stage the song was known as Untitled; Harrison often had trouble deciding on names for his songs, and working titles were often used instead.

The song had been written at the London home of Klaus Voormann, a friend to The Beatles since their Hamburg days. Harrison had composed Within You Without You on a harmonium.

Several musicians - their names undocumented - were recruited from the Asian Music Circle, a collective based in Fitzalan Road in Finchley, north London. They were joined by Harrison and The Beatles' assistant Neil Aspinall on tamburas.

Although it was recorded as one piece, the song was referred to as having three parts during the recording. Following rehearsals, the basic track for Within You Without You was recorded in one take during this session, and lasted 6'25".

The tamburas were recorded onto track one of the four-track tape. Track two contained tabla and svarmandal, and track four had a dilruba playing the main melody.

Within You Without You was a great track. The tabla had never been recorded the way we did it. Everyone was amazed when they first heard a tabla recorded that closely, with the texture and the lovely low resonances.
Geoff Emerick

Overdubs were added on March 22nd and April 3rd. None of the other Beatles appeared on the song.

Also present in the studio on this occasion was artist Peter Blake, who had been commissioned to work on the cover artwork for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

George was there with some Indian musicians and they had a carpet on the floor and there was incense burning. George was very sweet - he's always been very kind and sweet - and he got up and welcomed us and offered us tea. We just sat and watched for a couple of hours. It was a fascinating, historical time.
 
Source: The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
 
The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 14, 1967

Released as a double A-sided single with “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the flip side, “Penny Lane” was the 13th U.S. #1 single for The Beatles and the first Beatles song release in the U.K. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and never included on an official original Beatles album release.

Both songs were written about actual places in the band’s hometown of Liverpool. Paul McCartney wrote “Penny Lane” in response to Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields” (though both are credited to the Lennon/McCartney team). Both the street itself and particular sites along it mentioned in the song are actual places, and the name was also assigned to a bus shelter on a roundabout where the members of The Beatles often passed through in their youth.

The song in fact began many years earlier with notes McCartney took about the barber’s shop and woman selling poppies while waiting at the bus stop for Lennon. The shelter itself would later become a restaurant named Sgt. Pepper’s, one of a number of businesses along the street and in Liverpool to take their cue from The Beatles. The city has also in recent decades sought to encourage the lane as an alternative business and commerce district.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 13, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

The overdubbing of brass unto take ten of "Good Morning Good Morning" played by six members of Sounds Inc: three saxophones (Barrie Cameron, David Glyde and Alan Holmes), two trombones (John Lee and one other) and a French Horn (Tom someone - no one can recall his surname). Previously Sounds Incorporated. Sounds Inc. were a top instrumental group who had a long history of backing American stars in Europe,had first met the Beatles at the Star Club in April 1962, were signed to a NEMS management contract by Brian Epstein in March 1964 and had then played on some of the Beatles tours, including the August 1965 US visit that resulted in the TV film, The Beatles At Shea Stadium. The six were paid £201, via NEMS Enterprises, for this 7:00 pm to 3:30 am session.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 12, 1967

The number one song in the US on March 12, 1967 was Penny Lane by The Beatles.