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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 23, 1966

Strawberry Fields Forever was finally completed the day before. Now the Beatles are taking a break until after Christmas.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 22, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Mixing, editing: Strawberry Fields Forever

After reviewing the tapes of previous sessions, John Lennon decided that he liked both the original recording of Strawberry Fields Forever and the later remake.  He asked George Martin to join them together, despite them being in different keys and tempos.

George Martin - That November John came into the studio, and we went into our regular routine. I sat on my high stool with Paul standing beside me, and John stood in front of us with his acoustic guitar and sang the song. It was absolutely lovely. Then we tried it with Ringo on drums, and Paul and George on their bass and electric guitars. It started to get heavy - it wasn't the gently song that I had first heard. We ended up with a record which was very good heavy rock. Still, that was apparently what John wanted, so I metaphorically shrugged my shoulders and said: 'Well, that really wasn't what I'd thought of, but it's OK.' And off John went.

A week later he came back and said: 'I've been thinking about it, too, George. Maybe what we did was wrong. I think we ought to have another go at doing it. Up to that time we had never remade anything. We reckoned that if it didn't work out first time, we shouldn't do it again. But this time we did. 'Maybe we should do it differently,' said John. 'I'd like you to score something for it. Maybe we should have a bit of strings, or brass or something.' Between us we worked out that I should write for cellos and trumpets, together with the group. When I had finished we recorded it again, and I felt that this time it was much better. Off went John again.

A few days later he rang me up and said: 'I like that one, I really do. But, you know, the other one's got something too,'

'Yes, I know,' I said, 'they're both good. But aren't we starting to split hairs?'

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word 'split', because John's reply was: 'I like the beginning of the first one, and I like the end of the second one. Why don't we just join them together?'

'Well, there are only two things against it,' I said. 'One is that they're in different keys. The other is that they're in different tempos.'

'Yeah, but you can do something about it, I know. You can fix it, George.'

And indeed he could, during this 7-11.30pm session. The first recording had been performed in C major, while the second was in A major. Against the odds, Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick found that by speeding up the first version and slowing down the second, they matched perfectly. The resulting pitch was around B flat.

We gradually decreased the pitch of the first version at the join to make them weld together.

First of all new mono mixes were made of both versions. These were numbered RM10 (remix mono 10) from take 7, and RM11 from take 26 (the remake). The mixes were then edited together, and the resulting version was named RM12.

The edit can be found at approximately one minute into the song, following the words "Let me take you down, 'cause I'm". From the first cello note onwards, the sound of the remake is heard.

 

Sources: Beatles Bible and The Complete Beatles Chronicle

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 21, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Originally planned for December 15th, (but there was no time to do it that day), "When I'm Sixty-Four" was adorned with the sound of three clarinets between 7:00 and 9:00 pm two ordinary and one a bass clarinet, played by Robert Burns, Henry MacKenzie and Frank Reidy. The recording was then mixed into mono, for acetate-cutting purposes, between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. Between 10:00 and session's end at 11:45 pm John's added yet more vocals and another piano track to take 26 of "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 20, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

A 7:00 pm-1:00 am session in which Paul, George and John overdubbed backing vocals onto "When I'm Sixty-Four", with Ringo adding the sound of bells. This was followed by another reduction mix, take two becoming takes three and four (the latter marked "best").

Keen to put an end to the nonsense that proliferated in the world's media about the group breaking-up, each of the Beatles consented to give an interview to Independent Television News (ITN) reporter John Edwards for inclusion in the 25-minute weekly series Reporting 66 ("reporting on depth on key stories of the week"). This edition was at first subtitled "Beatles Breaking-Up Special" but then became, more correctly, "End Of Beatlemania", and each member of the group was filmed outside EMI Studios upon arriving for this session, all sporting moustaches and Geore, additionally, a beard. Each one chatted about how the four were remaining together and working on new song material. Reporting '66 was seen all over Britain, although screened by the various ITV regions on different days and times. This edition went out on Wednesday and Thursday, December 28th and 29th (in London, Rediffusion screened it at 6:08-6:35 pm on the Thursday), the remainder of the 25 minute program comprising library footage of the group - and interviews with fans.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle-Mark Lewisohn

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 19, 1966

The Beatles in-between sessions

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 18, 1966

On December 17, 1966, Mr. Tara Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lots Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h).

He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.

Browne was survived by his wife Noreen (Nicky) (MacSherry) and their two sons, Dorian and Julian Browne. According to some sources, he was the inspiration for the Beatles song "A Day in the Life".

"A Day in the Life"

On January 17, 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song  "A Day in the Life", later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The second verse features the following lines:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

According to Lennon, in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, "I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash."

However the song's other lyricist-composer, Paul McCartney, had a very different inspiration. He is quoted as saying: "The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash."

Lennon remembered McCartney's contributions differently however, saying in Playboy, " Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song 'I'd love to turn you on.' I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn't use for anything. I thought it was a damn good piece of work."

A less well-known memorial to Browne was composed by Sean O Riada.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 17, 1966

The Beatles were in-between sessions today.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 16, 1966

UK single release: The Beatles’ Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas

The Beatles' Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas was sent to members of The Beatles' UK fan club on this day.

The audio had been recorded on November 25, 1966, and mixed and edited on December 2, 1966.

Side one: Song: Everywhere It's Christmas; Orowanya; Corsican Choir And Small Choir; A Rare Cheese; Two Elderly Scotsmen; The Feast; The Loyal Toast.

Side two: Podgy The Bear And Jasper; Count Balder And Butler; Felpin Mansions (Part Two); The Count And The Pianist; Song: Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back; Everywhere It's Christmas; Mal Evans; Reprise: Everywhere It's Christmas.

I drew the cover myself. There's a sort of funny pantomime horse in the design if you look closely. Well I can see one there if you can't. "Paul McCartney"

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 15, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Four trumpets and three cellos, brilliantly scored by George Martin, provided the distinctive brass and string sound which he and John had decided was necessary for the remake of "Strawberry Fields Forever". (The trumpeters were Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen, Derek Watkins and Stanley Roderick, the cellists John Hall, Derek Simpson and Norman Jones). The instruments were recorded onto take 25, which was then reduced again into take 26; onto this was then added two separate Lennon Lead vocals.

By the end of the 2:30 - 12:00 pm session "Strawberry Fields Forever" had taken on an intensity of almost frightening proportion. With its frantic strings, blaring trumpets, heavy drum sound and two manic, exceptionally fast John Lennon vocals it was now but a distant relative of the original, acoustic take one. Would John be satisfied with it? For the time being, at least, it was labelled "best" and so was subjected to more rough mono mixing.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 14, 1966

John Lennon Interview: Look Magazine 12/13/1966 (Part Two)

This is what a Lester set is like: Once more, they are in a deserted German square, now, with all the paraphernalia of movie-making, with British 'soldiers,' Lennon among them, ready to comb the streets, with German 'soldiers' lying in wait. "Quiet please!" an assistant shouts -- just as a little boy walks into the scene. Apoplectic, the assistant rushes forward and shoves the child aside. Lester, whose normal weapon is humor, flushes. "Don't push!" he commands.

Once again, they are ready to shoot -- and once again, the child intrudes. For 15 seconds, Lester eyes the man silently. Then, "Boo," he calls, and "Boo" the cast joins in.

 

For Lester, a director makes no statement against violence by having thousands die. To him, each death must matter -- and in his new film, each does. Such were the ideas that captured Lennon, despite his doubts about himself.

He did not doubt alone. How I Won The War is staffed with seasoned British actors, all trained in repertory, all well-known at home and all suspicious. But none is today.

Samples:

 "We expected someone a bit kinky, bitchy, arrogant. He is none of those things. He's completely natural."

 "You're not working with another actor, you're working with an OBE, a multimillionaire -- in sterling, not dollars -- whose every word will be reported in the world press. The miracle is that he's so normal. I could wrap him up dialectically in two minutes, intellectually, in three. But he's got a certain inborn, prenatal talent. I have my talent, which I think is considerable, but it doesn't compare in his field."

 "I don't think he does anything with a conscious thought of trying to impress. He's remarkably free. He does not act the part."

"We talk about him all the time. All of us feel the same thing. We find it difficult to be as normal with him as he is with us."

Lennon's lack of pretense astonished the actors. "He's someone who just tries anything," one of them marveled. "No stand-in, no special treatment, no chair for him."

During a break for tea one raw morning, Lennon queued with the rest. When his turn arrived, his heart's desire was gone. "You don't have to be a star to get a cheese sandwich," he mused. "You just have to be first."

They like his humor too. That same morning, a German mother pushed her three-year-old son up to the Beatle, clutching his autograph book in his hand. "Sign it!" she demanded. Lennon did as bidden, telling the boy, "Yes, sir, you put us where we are today." On location in Spain one afternoon, the script required Lennon to drive a troop carrier along the beach. Accelerating too fast, he spun the wheels; the rear of the carrier sank. As his crestfallen director approached the cab, Lennon peered sheepishly over his glasses and gave him a limp salute.

Lennon is not on; he is simply original. "America used to be the big youth place in everybody's imagination. America had teenagers and everywhere else just had people." He recognizes his own impact on the changes since then, but he refuses to concede that youth today is all that different -- particularly youth in England.

The last generation might have been just like today's young adults, he maintains, had it not had to fight the war.

"If they said, 'Fight the war now,' my age group would fight the war. Not that they'd want to. There might be a bit more trouble gettin' them in line -- because I'd be up there shouting, 'Don't do it!'"

"It just so happens that some groups playing in England are making people talk about England, but nothing else is going on. Pop music gets through to all people all over the world, that's the main thing. In that respect, youth might be together a bit. The Commie youth might be the same as us, and we all know that, basically, they probably are. This kind of music and all the scene is helping. But there's more talk about it than is actually happening. You know, swinging this, and all that. Everybody can go around in England with long hair a bit, and boys can wear flowered trousers and flowered shirts and things like that, but there's still the same old nonsense going on. It's just that we're all dressed up a bit different."

"The class thing is just as snobby as it ever was. People like us can break through a little -- but only a little. Once, we went into this restaurant and nearly got thrown out for looking like we looked until they saw who it was. 'What do you want? What do you want?' the headwaiter said, 'We've come to bloody eat, that's what we want,' we said. The owner spotted us and said, 'Ah, a table sir, over here, sir.' It just took me back to when I was 19, and I couldn't get anywhere without being stared at or remarked about. It's only since I've been a Beatle that people have said, 'Oh, wonderful, come in, come in,' and I've forgotten a bit about what they're really thinking. They see the shining star, but when there's no glow about you, they only see the clothes and the haircut again."

"We weren't as open and as truthful when we didn't have the power to be. We had to take it easy. We had to shorten our hair to leave Liverpool and get jobs in London. We had to wear suits to get on TV. We had to compromise. We had to get hooked, as well, to get in and then sort of get a bit of power and say, 'This is what we're like.' We had to falsify a bit, even if we didn't realize it at the time."

If Lennon is compulsive about anything today, it's about truth as he sees it. But he protests when he's labeled a cynic.

I'm not a cynic. They're getting my character out of some of things I write or say. They can't do that. I hate tags. I'm slightly cynical, but I'm not a cynic. One can be wry one day and cynical the next and ironic the next. I'm a cynic about most things that are taken for granted. I'm cynical about society, politics, newspapers, government. But I'm not cynical about life, love, goodness, death. That's why I really don't want to be labeled a cynic."

It is in the context of the young man who recoils at distortion that his now-famous remark should be viewed. "I said it. I said we were more popular than Jesus, which is a fact." What he could not explain then was why.

He does not feel that one need accept the divinity of Jesus -- he, personally, does not -- in order to profit from his words. A frequent reader of ancient history as well as philosophy (his current lists includes a book on Indian thought and Nikos Kazantzakis's 'Report Greco'), he contends that man has mishandled Christ's words throughout the centuries.

"I believe Jesus was right, Buddha was right, and all of those people like that are right. They're all saying the same thing-- and I believe it. I believe what Jesus actually said-- the basic things he laid down about love and goodness -- and not what people say he said."

Christianity has suffered, he believes, not only because Christians have distorted Christ's words but because they concern themselves with structures and numbers and fail to listen to their vows. They 'mutter' and 'hum' their prayers, but pay no attention to the words. "They don't seem to be able to be concerned without having all the scene about, with statues and buildings and things."

"If Jesus being more popular means... more control, I don't want that. I'd sooner they'd all follow us even if it's just to dance and sing for the rest of their lives. If they took more interest in what Jesus -- or any of them -- said, if they did that, we'd all be there with them."

Would he call himself a religious person? "I wouldn't really. I am in the respect that I believe in goodness and all those things." And if being religious meant being 'concerned,' as Paul Tillich the late Protestant theologian, once put it? "Well, I am then. I'm concerned alright. I'm concerned with people."

At the age when most men are just beginning to adjust to the world, John Lennon has already nudged it a bit. The hysteria that surrounds him can no longer disguise the presence of a mind. His ideas are still rough, but his instincts are good and his talent, extraordinary. You may love him, you may loath him, but this you should know: As performer, composer, writer or talker, he'll be around for a long, long time.