Yesou might think you know Yellow Submarine, that wacky, surreal Beatles number that Ringo Starr sings and the kids love. But an extraordinary and poignant first version of the song, which will soon be revealed alongside a freshly mixed edition of Revolvertells a whole different story.
It’s part of a series of shockers awaiting next month when the band’s landmark 1966 album is re-released. It comes with fresh takes and salvaged studio recordings, and offers a powerful antidote to Come backthe acclaimed 2021 Peter Jackson film that chronicled the beginning of the end of the Fab Four.
Giles Martin, son of the late George, inspirational producer and arranger, and one of the band’s oldest friends, Klaus Voormann, designer of the album’s striking cover.
Ahead of the release, the pair paint a picture that will once again alter public understanding of the Beatles. Because, for them, the months that preceded Revolver saw the last true convergence of great individual creative talents, always working together.
“They were already drifting apart, but collaborating,” Martin said. “It’s amazing that all these songs are on the same album. When Paul [McCartney] sat down with me to listen to it again, because he doesn’t do that often, he said, “That’s it. This is the record where we were each the most ourselves. You can hear us make our own contributions. ”
Contrary to the resentment evident later, the band’s disagreements were quickly settled and largely over the music. “It’s not that long before the period covered by Come back, but the tone is so different. You think, ‘Oh, that’s how they were!’ Martine said. “The lifespan of The Beatles was really like a mayfly. It just accelerated so much.
For Voormann, the influential German whom the group met in a Hamburg bar in 1960, the album remains a touchstone: “It’s a very important thing in my life and they were particularly proud of it. They had started to break up when they stopped playing shows that summer,” he said over the weekend. “So it’s fantastic that they stuck together for as long as they did, because they barely met outside of the studio. That’s the truth.”
And the truth about Yellow Submarine is that John Lennon dreamed up a painful, ironic ballad rooted in his own childhood. “In the town where I was born, nobody cared, nobody cared,” he moans in an early demo. It sounds, as Martin notes, more like a “maudlin, Woody Guthrie” chant than the band’s final oompah version.
Also revealed are a tense debate over the opening of Got to Get You Into My Life, in which an organ replaces the horns, and discussions of the vibrato of the violins in Eleanor Rigby. “People have said classical musicians aren’t keen on coming to these sessions, but you can hear violinists enjoying talking to Paul, who has a slightly classy voice,” Martin said.
His father is also caught admitting that a squeal of the strings recalls his own days of learning the violin as a child. “It almost killed me,” admits the great producer. And his son now reveals: “He was a nice enough pianist, but he actually failed his Guildhall instrument exam on oboe. He said his hands were so sweaty and nervous that the instrument was like an eel in his hands.
Fans can also hear Lennon say that an early, relatively lackluster take of his song And Your Bird Can Sing was pretty good. “The next morning they would often come in, hear one track, then do another take,” Martin said.
So how do you improve on an album that many consider one of the best, if not the best, produced by any band? The answer, according to Giles Martin, is no. Instead, you clear, not clean, or make it sterile. “I don’t do all this work alone. Paul and Ringo want me to do it and they sit down, ”said Martin, explaining that he is surrounded by recordings of all the different takes and instrument tracks, so he can check as he goes. . “They don’t want me to do anything. It is useless. And I was trained by my father, and he liked to take risks.
The fears of those who love their original scratched vinyl are voiced by Voormann: “I’m always skeptical about switching tracks. After all, we took tremendous care when we made these things.
It turns out that without the movie Come backon which Martin worked with Jackson, this new and improved edition of Revolver wouldn’t have happened. The technology Jackson developed and deployed to select individual instruments and vocals was crucial to working on such a basic master tape, deliberately compressed to fit early vinyl. “It was kind of mono and they had to tone down the base sound so the needle wouldn’t jump,” said Martin, who likened the impact of Jackson’s sound technology to unbaking a cake without adulterate the ingredients. “In my opinion, when you listen to music, it doesn’t age. We change our attitudes and grow old, but the songs stay the same and should sound that way.
One thing Martin and Voormann agree on is the central importance of Starr, the “glue” of the band. “He’s actually the first one I’ve met in Hamburg. Although I heard John, Paul and George playing from outside the bar, when I walked in Ringo was on stage with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. “said Voormann.
“He made everyone laugh and was always the center of things. He would have kept them together until today. It helped them stay a band and they started sounding like the Beatles once he played, with that swing. He was a happy man and he still is.
“He’s the ultimate feeling-based drummer,” Martin said. “Sometimes he doesn’t even know what a signing time is. He always talks about the ‘feel’ of a song all the time.
Martin, who is set to work with Sam Taylor-Johnson on his Amy Winehouse biopic, said that although he has been immersed in Beatles music since childhood, he finds the finalists obsessed with the listening to each take of a song, difficult to understand. He does, however, think listening to early key releases is illuminating: “People may think a song is materializing, but with these snippets you can hear a song emerging. It’s good.”