Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BBC radio and TV to celebrate 50th Sgt. Pepper anniversary on radio, TV

Via the Beeb:
To mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles on 1 June 1967, the BBC will celebrate with programmes across radio and TV. 
Considered by critics and music lovers to be one of the greatest records ever made and a major cultural moment not only for this country but globally, the album features classic songs including , A Day In The Life, With A Little Help From My Friends, She’s Leaving Home and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
The range of programmes will explore the stories around the recording, release and subsequent life of this seminal album.
In early June, BBC Two presents Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution, a new documentary from Huge Films directed by Francis Hanly, which will present Sgt. Pepper as you have never heard it before. The film will include extracts from material never before accessible outside of Abbey Road, studio chats between the band, out-takes, isolated instrumental and vocal tracks as well as passages from alternative takes of these world-famous songs.
The programme will be written and presented by one of Britain’s leading composers and most admired music broadcasters, Howard Goodall. He will be getting to grips with the album’s musical nuts and bolts.
Howard Goodall says: “Whatever music you like to listen to, if it was written after 1 June 1967 then more likely than not it will have been influenced, one way or another, by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The record’s sheer ambition in its conception, composition, arrangements and ground-breaking recording techniques sets it apart from others of the time. It’s a landmark in 20th century music, and I’ve hugely enjoyed exploring the story behind the music.”
Producer Martin R. Smith says: “This will be Sgt. Pepper as you’ve never heard it before. We’ve been granted unprecedented access to The Beatles’ own archive, photographs and multi-track studio tapes so we’ll be able to give an insider’s view into the making of this landmark album and, through Howard Goodall's insight, just why it was so revolutionary.”
Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning, says: "So delighted to have Howard Goodall back on BBC Two with his brilliant insights into this outstanding album and how it all came about, and to celebrate this special moment in our music history."
Using visually-striking set dressing, projections and props the film will be conjuring up the multi-coloured, phantasmagorical world of Sgt. Pepper.  Following on chronologically from the 2016 documentary Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution will show what happened when the studio took over from the stage and the screams.
To help assess the phenomenon of Sgt. Pepper the programme will find out out why the album came to be made. It will rediscover The Beatles at a pivotal moment in their career - both as a band and as four individuals, each with his own musical tastes, and ambitions. Having given up touring, they poured their energies into the studio: Sgt. Pepper, as Paul McCartney remarked, would be the performance.
BBC Radio will also commemorate the anniversary across Radio 2, Radio 4 Extra and 6 Music.
BBC Radio 2 will present two documentary series - Sgt. Pepper Forever and Paul Merton On The Beatles.
Over two programmes, broadcast on 24 May and 31 May, Martin Freeman presents Sgt. Pepper Forever, which will reveal the revolutionary studio techniques used during the remarkable sessions dating from November 1966 to April 1967 and also examine the album’s huge impact on the history of music. They will feature ‘work-in-progress' versions of Sgt. Pepper tracks - and the songs on the double A-side single Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, which were also recorded during the sessions - to illustrate the pioneering techniques used by The Beatles and George Martin.
This two-part documentary special, written and produced by Kevin Howlett of Howlett Media Productions, features interviews with Paul, George, Ringo and George Martin, and in a new interview composer Howard Goodall talks about, and illustrates on piano, the musical innovations of the album’s songs.
Having worked with the original four-track tapes to create a new stereo mix of Sgt. Pepper for its 50th anniversary, producer Giles Martin (son of Sir George Martin) describes the innovative recording techniques used at the time and how he approached making his new version.
There will also be interview material with the album cover’s co-designer Peter Blake, Beatles press officer Derek Taylor, Tony King (George Martin’s assistant in 1967), Mike Leander (the arranger of She’s Leaving Home), poet Adrian Mitchell, DJ John Peel and some of the producers and musicians who were influenced by the achievements of the album, including T Bone Burnett, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, Jimmy Webb and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.
Martin Freeman says: “Sgt. Pepper is the most celebrated album by my favourite band. These documentaries will shed light on how The Beatles, with George Martin, created a piece of work that marked a watershed for what a long playing record could be. It’s my absolute pleasure to help tell you about it."
Paul Merton on The Beatles is a four-part series, produced by Radio 2’s Mark Hagen, which airs weekly from Monday 29 May.
The four programmes allow Paul to take a quirkily individual look at The Beatles’ career and legacy. In his world, The Beatles didn’t break up at the end of the 60s but instead went on creating albums and returning to the concert stage - and these four programmes all attempt to answer the 'what if' question.
In the opening show, remembering the covers that the band performed on their early albums, Paul looks at the way this trend continued in their individual solo careers, with John, Paul George and Ringo playing songs originally recorded by the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and more.
The second and third programmes imagine the band’s return to live performance with two idealised concerts including songs like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, What Goes On, Let It Be and Here Comes The Sun.
And in a special final show Paul Merton attempts to answer that most beloved Beatle fanatic question: what album would the band have made after Let It Be and Abbey Road if they hadn’t broken up?
Paul Merton says: “I’ve had great fun selecting tracks from John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo careers to firstly create a magical live ‘Beatles’ concert, and secondly a new ‘Beatles’ double album. I am immensely looking forward to sharing my choices with the Radio 2 listeners.”
BBC Radio 4 Extra will delve deep in to the iconic album artwork to bring listeners a special day of programmes from 9am-10pm, inspired by the famous faces that are featured on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
On Saturday 3 June, Samira Ahmed will introduce a diverse 13-hour mix of documentaries, dramas and comedies that all focus on this celebrated crowd, from Marlene Dietrich to Albert Einstein, Marlon Brando to Oscar Wilde. Programmes will include Alan Bennett reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Joan Bakewell interviewing Jonny Weissmuller for Start The Week in 1975, a drama about the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy starring John Sessions and Robbie Coltrane, and a look at the life of William Burroughs from the musician Laurie Anderson.
In between, brand new interviews will reveal more about the members of this Lonely Hearts Club Band, discover why these people were chosen for the cover, and explore what it was like to be there on the actual day this art work was created.
Produced by Luke Doran for the BBC, across one day let BBC Radio 4 Extra bring the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to life in this unique and imaginative celebration.
On BBC Radio 6 Music, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie will be broadcasting their show on Thursday 15 June (1pm-4pm) from Liverpool, celebrating the music of the city from Sgt. Pepper to the present day.
Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution was commissioned and executive produced for BBC Two by Jan Younghusband, Head of Commissioning, Music TV. It is made by Huge Films, director is Francis Hanly and the producers are Martin R. Smith and Jonathan Clyde.
Paul Merton on The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper Forever were commissioned by Robert Gallacher, Editor, Commissioning and Scheduling, Radio 2.
Radcliffe and Maconie is a Smooth Operations production for BBC Radio 6 Music.

Vintage The Beatles Are Here mag

Review: "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" RSD 2017 single

The Beatles' Record Store Day offering, a facsimile of the band's 1967 "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" single was had to find in many shops, but mine had several copies and I nabbed one.

The new version looks just like the original, with it unusual, wave-top picture sleeve and it artsy front cover photo of the newly mustachioed Fabs.

The sounds on the record, however, are fresh. Both tunes are presented in re-mixes by Giles Martin and Sam Okoff. "Strawberry Fields" is a 2015 re-mix that was included on the Beatles 1+ release a couple of years back while "Penny Lane" is a teaser for the 50th anniversary Sgt. Pepper set due out next month.

The tune gives us a good idea of the mono-in-stereo approach Martin says he took in re-mixing the Pepper LP.  There's little stereo separation, just a hint of depth, but the sound is vivid, with rich bass and clear definition in all the other instruments and in the vocals. While it's a "Paul song," "Penny Lane" is nearly a duel vocal by John and Paul and that aspect really comes through. I hear more of John in this remix, yet, overall, it doesn't sound startlingly different from the "Penny Lane" I've been listening to all these years.

Martin's approach seems right to me. The Beatles spent a lot of time on the mono mix of Pepper, yet the album's fidelity was compromised by the available technology of its time. All the "bouncing down" and tape copying the band was forced to do in order to overdub the LP's many instrumental and vocal parts using four-track recording resulted in generation-loss in the sound. Fortunately, though, early-generation elements were preserved and Martin was able to go back to these and essentially re-build the album, keeping the original mix as his guide. The result, I think and hope, will be the Pepper we all know in love, but in much-improved sound.

The Record Store Day single is a good pressing with no detectable surface noise to my ears. I'm looking forward, however, to the even better sound we'll likely hear on the higher-resolution CDs and Blu-Ray Audio tracks to be included in the upcoming Pepper box.

Frankly, the nostalgia value of the cover was the main reason I picked up this release. Growing up in the U.S. during the 1970s, I never had a chance to get an original.

Another Beatles-releated RSD release, which I skipped on, was a cassette replica of three demo tunes Paul McCartney recorded with Elvis Costello during the late 1980s. These are also included in the download portion of the recent Flowers in the Dirt box. Penny Lane picture sleeve aside, I tend to buy things just for the music, not the packaging, and a "fake" cassette with Paul's reprinted handwriting on it just seems silly and cheesy to me.

Below you can see old/new pictures of the "Penny Lane/Strawberry Field" single.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sgt. Pepper Photos site tracking down original cover collage photos

Sgt. Pepper Photos is a site well worth checking out for Beatles history buffs.

As we all know, Peter Blake's cover design features the real-life Beatles standing among a panoply of  cardboard cutouts depicting dozens of historical and pop culture figures. The Sgt. Pepper Photos site is at work tracking down the original photographs used for Blake's cutouts, such as this one of Mae West.

You can see much more, here.

Artifact: The Beatle Book paperback

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New series of limited-edition Revolver collages coming from Klaus Voormann

Genesis Publications, which never produces anything I can afford, has teamed with Klaus Voormann on a series of collages based on Voormann's cover for the Beatles' Revolver LP.

Each piece is different and hand-signed by Voormann. And there will be only 250. You can learn more here.

Mojo mag looks at Sgt. Pepper anniversary release - talks to Paul

The latest issue of Beatles-friendly Mojo magazine features a Sgt. Pepper cover and a look at the LP's 50th anniversary release. See a teaser, featuring interview comments from Paul McCartney, here.
Sgt. Pepper did actually get a terrible review in the New York Times,” recalls McCartney.
“The critic [Richard Goldstein] said he hated it, thought it was a terrible mess, and then he was on the streets all week and heard the talk, heard what people were saying, and he took it back [in a subsequent Village Voice piece], recanted after a week: ‘Er… maybe it’s not so bad.’ But we were used to that. She Loves You was ‘banal’. But if we liked it and thought it was cool, we would go for it.
“…I mean, George doing Within You Without You,” continues McCartney, “a completely Indian record – it was nothing anyone had heard before, at least in this context. It was a risk, and we were aware of that.”
Here's a description of the issue's Pepper contents.
COVER STORY: THE BEATLES SGT. PEPPER REBORN! Celebrating the album that invented the album, at 50, as it re-emerges in a massive box set with a new stereo mix and oodles of outtakes. Paul McCartney on how they “vibed” it; Jon Savage on the songs and the significance; Nigel Hartnup relives that sleeve shoot; Giles Martin defends his Pepper for the new millennium. Plus: Beatle peers Graham Nash, Justin Hayward, Phil May and more remember when, and how, Sgt. Pepper blew their minds.
The mag also includes a Children of Pepper CD featuring 15 examples modern-day psychedelia from Ty Segall, Apples In Stereo, Pond, Thee Oh Sees, the Moonlandingz and others.

Vintage pics: Beatles arrive in New York 1964

You can see Phil Spector deplaning with them in the second pic.

Monday, April 17, 2017

History: A strange Stu Sutcliffe reference

In the wake of the Beatles' top-charting success in 1963, the Daily Express did a series of features on "The Liverpool Sound," interviewing members of various Merseyside bands.

One of these was the Mojos, which featured Stu James (real name Stuart Slater) on lead vocals. Yet, in the Express story, the singer is identified as Stuart Sutcliffe.

Surely, this is due to some confusion on the reporter's part. Yet, it's spooky to see the name of the Beatles' late bassist mentioned this way in a story about the fame the group brought to their hometown.

You can see the Sutcliffe reference in the second clipping below.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sgt. Pepper anniversary edition previews

Lucky folks, not including me, got a chance to preview the upcoming Sgt. Pepper anniversary edition - outtakes and all - at Abbey Road yesterday. Those attending also got the chance to ask questions of Giles Martin, who created a new remix of the album as part of the package.

Rolling Stone pays special attention to the outtakes, noting 10 highlights, including John's raw vocal on the first take of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which is "a world away from the ethereal dreaminess of the final version" and the original hummed last chord of "A Day in the Life" ("They overdub the voices into a full choir humming the chord — but as Martin says, 'They realized it wasn't a very good ending.'")

Udiscovermusic, meanwhile, has high praise for the remix, which is stereo but takes the beloved-by-the-Beatles mono mix as its template:
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is beyond expansive – it’s immersive, up there in the firmament, where it belongs. Equally, George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ buzzes into life, its synthesis of Eastern instrumentation and Western strings making more sense than ever, the percussion pulsing beneath as though the song is giving birth to itself. At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’, brimful of colour: the aural equivalent of a big-top tent setting up inside your head and letting the entire circus tumble out.
And Super Deluxe Edition quotes Martin at length discussing the entire package, including why a couple of tracks recorded during the Pepper sessions weren't included:

Was Carnival of Light considered for the bonus material in the box?

Giles Martin: Yes, it was. As was It’s Only A Northern Song, as well, actually. But it wasn’t really part of Pepper. It wasn’t part of the Sgt. Pepper recording. It’s a very different thing. I hope we can do something interesting with that at some point…but it wasn’t really part of the Sgt. Pepper album.

History: Beatles Book Monthly March 1967

Catching up from last month ...

The March 1967 issue of the Beatles' official fan magazine catches fans up on the release of the "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" and reached readers during the height of the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions.

Some of the pictures in this issue feature fake facial hair penciled in on older pictures of George and Paul to reflect their current look when the issue was released.

In his column, Beatles' assistant Neil Aspinall provides inside information on the new single tracks.

As you can see from this fan letter, not everyone was crazy about the Beatles' whiskers.

The issue also includes a visit to Ringo's house in Weybridge.

In interview transcripts, John and Paul discuss writing the new single and plans for a Sgt. Pepper TV special, which was ultimately scrapped, though the band picked up the idea again for Magical Mystery Tour.

Monday, April 10, 2017

So long, Brian Matthew

Former BBC announcer Brian Matthew and foil to the Beatles during their early days died April 8 at age 88, four days after his former network mistakenly reported his passing.

Matthew can be heard joking with the Beatles during many of their BBC session recordings. He also interacted with numerous other musicians, such as the Who, the Kinks, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and more during his time on the air.

Matthew was the host of "Saturday Club" starting in 1957 and "Sounds of the Sixties" from 1990. The BBC dismissed him from the latter job earlier this year. During his time with the BBC, Matthew also hosted the network's 12-part "The Beatles Story" documentary produced in 1973 and was host of the "Thank Your Lucky Stars" TV program on ITV from 1961 to 1966.

Radio Times has a feature on Matthew's career here.

Japanese Sgt. Pepper anniversary edition coming in SHM sound with diorama packaging

In Japan only, the upcoming Sgt. Pepper anniversary box set will be come on SHM (Super High Material) CD - thought by some audiophiles to sound superior than convention CDs - and feature unique diorama packaging.

The 1- and 2-CD versions of the anniversary release also will be available in SHM.

The box set is available for $161.55 here.