More info on the Beatles album, a nice read:
IT WAS 1966 and the Beatles had just given up touring for good. Fans were heartbroken, but for producer George Martin, frustrated at never getting enough studio time with the band, it was the opportunity of his life. At home, John Lennon recorded a new song on a cheap tape recorder.
"No one had heard it," says Martin. "John came into the studios; I sat on the high stool I always sat on and he stood in front of me with his acoustic guitar, and sang."
Sitting this week in the same Abbey Road studio, Sir George Martin, now 80, sings "Living is easy with eyes closed …"It was a very gentle, wistful song," he says. "I was spellbound by it.
"I said, 'John, that's a fantastic song. How do you want to treat it?' And he looked at me and said, 'That's your job, isn't it?' "
That early Strawberry Fields Forever was never released, replaced by a more complex version. But after four decades in the Abbey Road vaults, it reappears on Love, a new Beatles record to be released on November 18.
The man who produced all but one of the Beatles' albums ( Let It Be) has resumed the job Lennon asked him to do in 1966.
A new Beatles album? What does that mean? Martin and his son Giles, also a producer, have taken 37 Beatles songs, mixed, diced and blended them, played some drum solos backwards, added wind sounds and birdsong, and created a 78-minute medley — what Martin calls an album "not of greatest hits but of greatest sounds".
Strawberry Fields Forever flows into the chanting end of Hello Goodbye. Within You, Without You takes drums and bass from Tomorrow Never Knows to give it a pacier feel. Glass Onion has been sliced up, Octopus' Garden totally redesigned. This may horrify traditionalists, yet many songs have been wisely left alone.
The narcotic weirdness of I Am The Walrus floats out of the past, essentially untouched.
Thirty of the 37 songs come from the time of Sergeant Pepper and beyond — the period in which, many believe, the Beatles did their greatest work.
The Martins insist it is a Beatles album because all the music comes from Abbey Road tapes, bar one string arrangement on While My Guitar Gently Weeps. George Martin wrote the arrangement and it is a fitting close to his career, since the first thing he wrote for the Beatles was a string arrangement on Yesterday.
Giles Martin, for his part, has worked with Elvis Costello, INXS and Kate Bush. But the 37-year-old has had to fight free of his father's shadow.
George says: "Many years ago, Giles in a moment of despair said, 'You know, it isn't easy being your son.' And I said, 'I'm aware of this and there is nothing I can do about it. But there is something you can do about it. You can be better than me.' And now he is."
"Please scrub that last line," says Giles, afraid his dad sounds corny.
But the father might be forgiven a moment's weakness. "This is the last album I will ever make," says Martin, now very hard of hearing but sharp, and as kindly and proper as he was always reputed to be. "In two months' time I shall be 81 — it's time to give up, don't you think? When you're into your 80s, things start dropping off you as you walk along the street … So this record is rather significant for me."
The project grows out of the late George Harrison's friendship with Guy Laliberte, founder of Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil. The Beatles allowed Laliberte to use their music in a Cirque du Soleil show, Love, which opened in Las Vegas in June. The album Love is the show's soundtrack.
It is an unlikely birth. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, plus widows Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, are famously fierce guardians of the band's music. That is why it is almost never heard in films, advertisements, or what Martin calls " Mamma Mia-type shows, where their music is just used and sung by other people".
EMI is no less proprietorial. When London DJ Danger Mouse mashed the Beatles' White Album with the Black Album by rap star Jay-Z to produce the Grey Album in 2004, the label served a "cease and desist" letter on Danger Mouse and ordered retailers and file-sharing websites to stop distribution.
Throw in the suit the Beatles launched against EMI last year for £30 million ($A74.6 million) in disputed royalties — the latest in 30 years of legal battles between band and label — and it didn't feel like the time for an experiment. But the Martins are no ordinary dabblers.
Giles began by reshaping Within You, Without You and rather nervously played it, in separate sessions, to the surviving Beatles, Ono and Harrison. They were delighted, he says.
"Paul and Ringo said, 'This sounds like us playing.' Having their endorsement gave us the confidence to do what we wanted," says Martin.
"We did some pretty wild things as a result. I told Giles we were going to be crucified for playing about with the Holy Grail, but most people who have heard it have given us a pretty good reception."
In an age of remixes, redubs, mash-ups and compilations, the album will be judged on whether its interpretation enhances the experience of the Beatles.
Bob Dylan has said that machines have made music soulless, that most studio music no longer reflects human frailty. The Martins seem to agree.
For many albums today, says Giles, seven different people make the mix, brass and rhythm are overdubbed later and the product is taken to artists and repertoire meetings for appraisal. "The thing about the Beatles is that the four of them together, playing live in the studio, made a great sound. No marketing meeting is going to create that."
The Martins say they tried to preserve that rawness on Love. The Beatles were great experimenters, says Giles. Back in the USSR has a long guitar chord that is out of tune; the Beatles heard it, liked it and left it, as did the Martins.
"It would never be allowed these days," says Giles. "In fact, I don't think many of the Beatles' experiments would be allowed."
What does he hope listeners take from it?
"I hope they just enjoy the band," he says. "I think the whole heritage and culture aspect of the Beatles takes away from the fact that they were simply great players."
His father hopes "it will turn a lot of teenagers on who have not really appreciated the Beatles before".
Making the album took him back in time. "I can still see John," George Martin says. "Standing in front of me. Singing to me."