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Giles Martin: Door Open To 50th Anniversary Edition Abbey Road

Giles Martin reveiled that there is a good chance for more re-issues like the 50th anniversary editions of last year’s Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band and this year's White Album. The son of Beatles producer George Martin talked about remixing the 50th anniversary edition of the White Album during a live stream on YouTube yesterday. And on the question if the door was open for a 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road his answer was ‘yes’. Giles Martin:

"Like I would’ve know! The way this is working, I’ve got to be honest with you… The same with Sgt. Pepper, I started to do Sgt. Pepper and I wasn’t in  the idea of remixing an album. I said, listen, I’ll do five songs and we’ll see what it sounds like. And actually, I thought this is okay, so I phoned up the Beatles, and that’s how… And with the White Album, I thought the White Album was much easier to mix and it was quite tough to mix, to be honest. Tough to get the right feel, the right grunch… a lot of technical challenges going on. And then the Esher demos came along and all these outtakes and that made a valid thing cause you tell the story of the making the White Album. The next one is Abbey Road or Let It Be. And it’ll be the same process. You know, we’d go in, but I’m now right under having a film until April, honestly, you can track me. But you go in and you go…okay… like the second half of Abbey Road. That’s interesting to me. Like the strings on Golden Slumbers, they are mono, surprisingly. So what could I do with that? Could I make it, as a preserver make it, it’s an eight track, what could we do with that? But it’s a beautiful sounding record anyway, so… That’s the thing, it’s not like, ‘oh, let’s stick a label and we got to sell the album’. It’s really a process of hard emotion ‘can we get it right’. And then thankfully for my bosses, they let us do that." 

Matt Everitt, interviewer BBC 6 Music: "But is the door open for such a process?"

Giles Martin: "It’s a very long answer, but the answer is yes."

Giles Martin talked for more than half an hour about remixing the White Album. About the differences between the White Album and its predecessor Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he said he felt that the Beatles almost rebelled against themselves. Which gave his father a hard time producing the 1968 album:

“It was a very different record and I think that, you know, the Beatles stopped touring before Sgt. Pepper, and they went to go to make an album that never will be played live. And my father was the architect of the Beatles sound on that stage. And I think in his mind, he thought, that the Beatles would go on to make more concept albums. You know, Sgt. Pepper’s is full of dilrubas and tamburas and symphony orchestra’s and tubular bells, all those sounds, they were painting pictures with sounds, a kaleidoscope of colors. And then the Beatles made the White Album. And I think he found that a little bit surprising. They almost rebelled against themselves. The White Album is the band’s ‘band album’ if you like.” 

“When I started to work with my dad and we used to do press tours, especially American people would go ‘We love the White Album’ and he would go ‘Oh god’ and making a face. And I would go ‘Why dad?’ And he said ‘It was just not a happy experience’. And I think, that because he likes things to be a certain way. I love my father and we were so close, but our biggest falling out was the fact that he caught me making Pimm’s without measuring. That’s something to drink. He came into the kitchen, I was like pouring Pimm’s, then lemonade those. He went: ‘You’re not measuring it!’ And I said, ‘well no…’ And he ‘why not?’ It was like that. The White Album was the Beatles not measuring Pimm’s. It was like ‘You don’t have prepared the song’. (…) Sgt. Pepper was made on a four track machine, the White album started on an eight track machine but they didn’t need it because a lot of it was live. So for him it was a different experience.” 

“They started to work in a different way. If you think about it, The Beatles were the biggest live band in the world and they stopped touring. They toured constantly and suddenly they had no outlet for playing live. And I think, they chose the White Album to start playing live in the studio. You know, in the first days of the Beatles, they walk in to Abbey Road and they wouldn’t be allowed to go in through the front door and they took the back door. Then play a song, only had advice from the control room, quite fast, you know, even Paperback Writer had one and a half take, that’s all there is of Paperback Writer. Sexy Sadie from the White Album has about 107 takes.  And that’s just because I think they indulged themselves. But also, they didn’t have that band period before you’re going into the studio. So that means for us and for people at home, that we now get to be able to delve into this huge catalogue of outtakes that have been unheard of on previous albums.”

About the Esher tapes Martin told that he isn’t sure if all the demos were recorded at Georges house and that they may have record at different houses as well. He also reveiled that he didn’t know about the Esher tapes although he had already had listened to them before without knowing the importance of the demos: 

"I’m so honesty useless… I didn’t really know what the Esher tapes were! And I was only half way through mixing this album and I said what are these Esher demos? They said, we give you a bootleg and someone gave me a cd of the Esher demos and they sounded terrible. And I said, ‘I know these! They are at George Harrison’s house, I’ve heard them on tape!’ 
I’ve worked on a Martin Scorsese film, Living In A Material World, and I went through all of George’s tapes, Beatles one to eight, I think they are, they are there! These are the Esher tapes. And only because I got send them by Olivia Harrison, we have the template of the White Album. It’s extraordinary, it’s like the Beatles unplugged, I mean, it’s a completely different world."

"So what we have, on these Esher demos, are home recordings by the Beatles. But they are good demos. They had two-track and four-track tape machines for a while. And the way they worked, they recorded on one track one Beatle playing to the other Beatles and then, on the other track,  they double tracked themselves. So what you have, you have you know, I mean the Beatles started doubletrack vocals very early on, to emboss the sound and they started to produce their own demos. To me, for my generation, it’s like Beatles Unplugged. That’s what it is. The Esher demos are almost an album on their own write." 

The 50th anniversary edition of the White Album will be released tomorrow, Friday November 9. 
Click here to watch the complete interview (start after 4 minutes)

Related posts:

White Album 50th Anniversary: Review Overview
It’s Official: White Album Re-Issue In November
The White Album 50th Anniversary Edition: What To Expect?

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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