Thursday, March 2, 2017

Beatles Over The Years

I thought of tracking the musical development of The Beatles by looking at what they were recording or releasing on or around the same date every year of their recording career.  I started with a mid-point, April 6, 1966, the day studio recording of Tomorrow Never Knows began.  A note as we get started; it is increasingly difficult to find any original Beatles recordings on YouTube.

The Beatles first recording session was on June 6, 1962.  Love Me Do, their first single came out of that session.

On April 11, 1963 From Me To You, their third single and second #1 in the U.K. was released.

Recording of A Hard Day's Night, the title song for their first movie, began on April 16, 1964.  It featured the opening "mystery" chord and was more sophisticated than the 1962 or 1963 songs.  John and Paul composed it over the prior two days.  The song was completed in only nine takes.

A year later, on April 13, 1965 recording of Help!, the title song for their second movie, was underway.  The song showcased a more introspective side of The Beatles.  It took 12 takes to finish the song that day.  This is a live version:

April 6, 1966 was the first day of recording for the album that was to be released on August 5 as Revolver.  The song recorded that day was called Mark I, the working title of Tomorrow Never Knows.  The song and its manner of recording was groundbreaking.  The Beatles Recording Session: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes describes Take One (not used in the final version as:
. . . a heavy metal recording of enormous proportion, with thundering echo and booming, quivering, ocean-bed vibrations.
By the time recording ended, George Martin, engineer Greg Emerick, and the band had introduced Artificial Double Tracking (ADT) for vocals; utilization of tape loops (the sound achieved by tape saturation, by removing the erase head of a machine and then recording over and over again on the same loop), it's worth listening to the isolated tape loops; altering Lennon's vocal by feeding it through a rotating Leslie speaker, and Ringo's booming drum sound achieved by moving the bass drum microphone much closer to the drums, and running the sound through compressors.  Eleven different mixes were made before it was complete.

 It was so different from anything previously done by the band that most people assumed it was the last song to be recorded for the album, particularly since it was positioned as the last song on the second side.  The message for the listener was "wait until you see what's coming on the next record!".

In April 1967 The Beatles were in the midst of making Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The landmark album was released on June 1, 1966.  April 3 saw the recording of George Harrison's Within You Without You, the weakest song on the record.  No other Beatle was in the studio that day.  George Martin took eight violinists and three cellists through a score he'd written based on Harrison's input.  Later that evening, Harrison recorded his lead vocal.

The Beatles were not in the studio in March or April of 1968, but on May 30 they were at Abby Road to begin work on the project that became The White Album, released on November 22.  That day they recorded 18 takes of Revolution, the rocking B side of Hey Jude (the biggest single in the group's history).  The final take ran over 10 minutes and the last six were later carved off to become the basis for the bizarre Revolution 9.

By 1969 The Beatles were emeshed in tensions among the band members.  Ringo had already briefly quit during the recording of The White Album the previous year and the presence of Yoko Ono in the studio created problems, particularly between John and Paul. But on April 14, the two of them got together to record The Ballad of John and Yoko.  Paul played drums, bass, piano and did backing vocals, while John performed on guitar and lead vocals.

The final time the four Beatles were in the studio together was on August 20, 1969 for I Want You (She's So Heavy), the last song recorded for Abbey Road, released on September 26.  The only other time more than one Beatle was in the studio for a recording or mixing session was January 3, 1970 when George, Ringo and Paul gathered to record Harrison's I Me Mine.

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