Recording the Beatles
By hcadmin |
This definitive book is the Holy Grail for Beatles fans and recording enthusiasts
by Craig Anderton
The Beatles are passing into the Ancient History phase; after all, it was over 50 years ago they made their debut. While today’s generation may be wearing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd t-shirts – two other acts from the 60s that have managed to maintain their authority through the decades – the Beatles’ influence continues to be felt, and represents a touchstone for an entire generation. The Beatles-based Love show at Cirque de Soleil, the back catalog that continues to sell, the elements of soap opera (from John Lennon being cut down by a deranged madman to the continuing controversies surrounding Paul McCartney), and above all, the songs – innovative, crisp, and timeless – have insured the Beatles a unique place in musical history.
For those into recording, though, there’s another angle to the story. The Beatles utilized the studio with a degree of innovation that was unheard of at the time. Although they started out with the usual “bang out an album in a few days” ethos of that era, in conjunction with producer George Martin, they ended up using the studio as a musical instrument and songwriting vehicle. Wherever they went, others followed: When they released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which many consider to be their finest album, megagroups like the Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and many others knew the bar had been raised big-time, and responded with their own attempts to do their ultimate “concept” album.
It’s hard to appreciate the impact the Beatles had on society, because they indeed impacted society, not just the music scene – and the days when that type of thing could happen seem long past. Yet at the heart of it all was their recordings, and the process of making those groundbreaking recordings has now been treated lovingly, comprehensively, and definitively in Recording the Beatles, by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan (Curvebender Publishing). It costs $100, which seems excessive until you actually hold the book in your hands (which you might want to put on a table in fairly short order, because it weighs a lot) and open it up. This is a class act all the way, from the text, to the “Where the hell did they ever find those?!” pictures, to a separate envelope of “bonus materials” including the rough lyric sheet for “Day in The Life,” a take sheet, poster, some photographs, and more.
Fig. 2: A piece of the front cover. Why just a piece? Because the entire cover is too big to fit in my scanner!
The book itself is an 11” by 11” format, hardcover, with 540 pages and over 500 illustrations. Chapters include material on personnel, outboard gear, mics, mixers, effects, production, EMI’s Abbey Road studio, other studios, tape machines, speakers and amplifiers, and much more.
As someone who has written over 20 books myself, I know very well what goes into producing one. And after seeing Recording the Beatles, all I can say is that the task that was undertaken is almost inconceivable in its scope. How they managed to convince Ken Scott to part with exclusive photos of the Beatles, and how they managed to track down the people involved – let alone find the gear shots – could probably justify a book of its own, titled How to Write an Impossible-to-Write Book. The authors have certainly earned my admiration and respect, and I’m sure any reader would feel the same way.
But this isn’t just about the “dustbin of history.” The insights and techniques that fueled the Beatles art is, in many cases, just as applicable today as it was four decades ago. You’ll not only enjoy this book, you’ll learn a lot from it as well.
We don’t review books too often on Harmony Central, preferring instead to concentrate on gear. But this is something special, different, and inspiring. If you have the $100, I can think of few better ways to spend it…and if you don’t, I can think of few better reasons to forego Starbucks for a while and save your pennies. I guess that saying “highly recommended” is sort of superfluous, but it’s as good a way to close out this review as any.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.