The Beatles’ Abbey Road at Fifty
IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles crossing Abbey Road during the iconic photoshoot for their 1969 album/PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Macmillan
Cuttings from the Studio Archives: The Beauty of the Anniversary Releases
WHILST this feature is mostly looking ahead...
IMAGE CREDIT: The Beatles/Apple
to the special releases of The Beatles’ Abbey Road on 27th September, it is a chance to look at albums and those classics where we get to uncover and discover some rare gems, outtakes and demos. I think I have written about this before…but I do wonder why more artists are holding material back. Whether you bought the anniversary editions of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles or not, one cannot deny the thrill of getting all this fresh material. Not only were these releases a treasure trove for Beatles fans but it showed how an album can sound different when we have these new offerings. By that, you listen to the Esher Demos from The Beatles and we get to witness these classic songs in their early stages. It is wonderful hearing the bare bones and sketches taking shape. Not only do we get to see the evolution and growth of songs but, on some recordings, you can hear intimate conversations between the band members and the spontaneity of the recording process. Before carrying on, here is what’s planned to mark Abbey Road’s fiftieth anniversary:
“The Beatles Abbey Road gets the expected 50th anniversary treatment on September 27th UMe announced today, which coincidentally is the 50th anniversary of the famous walk across the street photo shoot that became the iconic album cover.
There will be new stereo, 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos mixes presented on multiple formats including a "Super Deluxe" 4-disc box set, 3LP box set and 1LP picture disc. 17 tracks have been newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell, accompanied by 23 session recordings and demos, most of them previously unreleased. These are presented on the Super Deluxe and Deluxe vinyl box sets in chronological order of their first recording dates. The three-track ‘Something’ EP, featuring the 2019 Stereo Mix, the Studio Demo and Take 39 – Instrumental – Strings Only, can be streamed here now.
From the press release: "The Super Deluxe box set of Abbey Road contains 40 tracks —including “’The Long One’ Trial Edit & Mix for the epic medley on side two — on three CDs (stereo) and one Blu-ray disc (Dolby Atmos, 96kHz/24 bit high resolution stereo, and 96 kHz/24 bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1). The four discs are housed in a slip-sleeved 12” x 12” 100-page hardbound book. Elements include McCartney’s foreword, Martin’s introduction and in-depth insights by Beatles historian, author and radio producer Kevin Howlett.
"These cover the months preceding The Beatles’ Abbey Road sessions, track-by-track details and session notes, the cover art and photo shoot, and the album’s reception upon its release. The hardbound book also has an essay by music journalist and author David Hepworth, examining the album’s influence over 50 years. The volume is illustrated with rare and previously unpublished photographs, including many by Linda McCartney; never before published images of handwritten lyrics, sketches, and a score by George Martin; Beatles correspondence, recording sheets, and tape boxes; and reproduced original print ads. The Super Deluxe digital audio collection presents all 40 tracks for download purchase and streaming in standard and MFiT formats, and in high resolution audio (96kHz/24 bit) for download.
"The limited edition Deluxe vinyl box set features all 40 tracks from the Super Deluxe collection on three 180-gram vinyl LPs. The new stereo mix LP is packaged in a faithfully-replicated sleeve, with the two Sessions LPs paired in their own jacket, presented with a four-page insert in a lift-top box. The Deluxe 2CD set pairs the new stereo mix with versions from the session takes and demo recordings of its 17 songs. These are sequenced to match the album’s running order. "These two discs are presented in a digipak with a 40-page booklet, abridged from the Super Deluxe book…
The new stereo mix of Abbey Road is also available in 1CD and 180-gram 1LP vinyl packages, for digital download in standard and MFiT audio, and on a limited edition picture disc vinyl LP illustrated by the album’s front and back cover art images. "Martin and Ozell worked on the new Abbey Road mixes with Abbey Road’s expert team of engineers and audio restoration specialists. All of the editions feature the new stereo album mix, sourced from the original eight-track session tapes. Giles Martin used the original stereo mix by his father George Martin as his guide. "Says Giles Martin in his written introduction: “The magic comes from the hands playing the instruments, the blend of The Beatles’ voices, the beauty of the arrangements. Our quest is simply to ensure everything sounds as fresh and hits you as hard as it would have on the day it was recorded”.
I do wonder whether Giles Martin (the son of The Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin) has plans to remaster and release new editions of albums like Rubber Soul and Please Please Me. I know there is a remastered version of Rubber Soul but not one that has extensive extras and alternate studio versions of songs. I am excited to see what we will get from the Abbey Road releases and how the various takes will sound. There are a few versions of Something online but there is so much more coming. There will be a different vinyl and C.D. release but the C.D. version provides an extensive book/booklets with unseen photos and information.
Thinking about The Beatles’ albums getting special releases makes me wonder whether other albums will get the same treatment. Jeff Buckley’s Grace turns twenty-five in a few weeks and this is the sort of album where fans would love to hear some of the early takes and see some unpublished photos. In fact, most of us will have a top-ten of iconic albums where anniversary releases would be the cherry on top. There are a lot of Kate Bush albums where I would welcome some expanded editions and I would also love to hear albums such as Rumours (Fleetwood Mac) and Bringing It All Back Home (Bob Dylan) get new releases where the archives are mined and we get to hear all this new stuff.
Some might say this is a bit excessive and exploitative but I do think, as I said, these great albums can be seen in a new light if we are treated to demos and alternate takes. Given the fact huge albums from Oasis (Definitely Maybe, twenty-five on 29th August) and The Clash (London Calling, forty on 14th December) have anniversaries approaching, I do wonder if there are plans for expanded anniversary editions. Not only would it gives fans a chance to see their favourite albums in a new light but I also think it would draw others in – maybe some who feel the final studio versions lack a certain magic. Some feel the extra money needed to buy these albums is a bit steep given the fact that the originals have already been bought – and is it worth shelling out so much for a little bit extra?! I have Abbey Road on vinyl and C.D. but I will be buying the new C.D. release and, even though it is almost ninety-pounds, I cannot wait to hear the various different takes and extras. When one considers the excitement around these classic albums’ anniversary releases, it makes me curious whether new artists will offer similar releases for their fans. I know we are in a digital age and many artists are unwilling to give too much away for nothing but I think, for vinyl releases and C.D. editions, it would be really interesting hearing embryonic versions of tracks. Maybe there are compelling arguments as to why this would be impractical and unpopular but I am a big fan of the anniversary releases. I cannot wait for Abbey Road’s new C.D. and vinyl releases because, not only is it a great way to mark fifty years of a truly iconic album but fans and new generations get to hear new material – such a joy and rare treat for music fans! Whilst I am many others have our wishlists of albums we’d like to see get new, expanded editions (you just know Kate Bush has a lot in the vaults!) go and pre-order The Beatles’ Abbey Road anniversary editions because they are truly…
IN THIS PHOTO: The Beatles in 1969/PHOTO CREDIT: Everett Collection