Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fool on the Hill

The interesting Beatles facts for "Fool on the Hill" are that, although this is a McCartney composition, Paul first played the song for John at his (Paul's) house at St. John's Wood while the two were collaborating on "With a Little Help from My Friends."

The track was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on September 25, 1967, with flutes added on October 20th of that year. Lennon told interviewers over the years that he believed the song to be one of McCartney's best lyrics, as it represented a completely formed idea.

The portion of Magical Mystery Tour devoted to this song features Paul in Nice, France. McCartney has attested in Anthology and other interviews that he crossed the English Channel to shoot the footage on a lark, forgetting his passport. His small crew also didn't bring the right camera lenses, causing them to request that the lenses be sent at a price of 4000 British pounds. The footage was shot on November 1 and 2, 1967. The scenes were regarded as some of the more successful of Magical Mystery Tour, which was thoroughly panned in Britain. The film segment was used in Anthology, and McCartney still uses this portion of the film in concert when performing "The Fool on the Hill." The iconic portion of the film segment shows McCartney, wearing a dark navy-blue peacoat, standing on a hilltop against a backdrop of clouds. He is also seen hopping and skipping around various locations in and near Nice.

McCartney sings vocal and plays piano, flute, and recorder; Harrison plays lead guitar, Lennon maracas and harmonica, Starr finger cymbals. Some sources attribute an additional harmonica to Harrison.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Day in the Life

Of the many Beatles facts associated with "A Day in the Life" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the most important is that the song is a mixture of a Lennon tune gleaned from articles in the newspaper and a partial song by McCartney, the latter representing the middle of the track that starts after the orchestral buildup and an alarm clock ringing. McCartney's contribution to the track, a snippet he couldn't fully develop, is about waking up and catching a bus.

In the song, Lennon wrote of a car crash in South Kensington that caused the death of Tara Browne, the twenty-one-year-old male heir to the Guinness family. Lennon also used other details he saw in the paper, such as the fact that four thousand potholes needed to be filled in Blackburn, Lancashire. The lyric "I saw a film today ... the English army had just won the war" is a reference to How I Won the War, a Richard Lester film in which Lennon appeared.

The song was recorded at Abbey Road Studios between January 19 and February 10, 1967, with overdubs added later. The original backing track featured Lennon playing an acoustic guitar and McCartney playing piano--nothing more. Lennon counts into the song by saying "Sugarplum fairy, sugarplum fairy," which can be heard on the Anthology version.

Lennon's unusual vocal quality was produced by use of a tape echo. The vocal was sent into the tape machine, where it was split into "record" and "replay," with the "replay" being fed into the machine again (as well as Lennon's headphones).

Roadie Mal Evans counted from one to twenty-four to measure each bar that would later be filled in by an orchestra building to a crescendo. Evans set the alarm clock for timing purposes and was left in because it fit the motif of McCartney's "Woke up, got out of bed ..." The orchestra was McCartney's idea, although George Martin originally believed a building crescendo was over the top.

It was George Martin's idea to have the last note of the song last as long as possible. The note was achieved by three of the Beatles hitting the note on three pianos, with sound engineers controlling the rate of fade-out. The note lasts for forty-five seconds and precedes what is known as "The Inner Groove," a few seconds of repeating gibberish heard if old stereo tone arms were left on the vinyl.

Composer Leonard Bernstein was especially impressed with this track.

Instrumental attributions for Harrison and Starr vary depending on the sources consulted. Lennon and McCartney sang lead vocals for their respective parts. Lennon played his acoustic Gibson J-160E, McCartney piano. The orchestra was a forty-one piece assembly of classical musicians. Most sources agree that Lennon, McCartney, and Starr played the last piano chord, with some sources also putting Starr on toms, drums, or both. Harrison's contribution is unclear, although some sources say he played bongos and one of the pianos at the end. Other sources also have McCartney playing bass guitar. Most sources agree that Martin scored the strings for parts of the song but that McCartney directed the orchestral crescendo.

The song is regarded by fans and musicians alike as one of the most innovative tracks ever written and performed by the band. Lennon thought it to be among his finest work.

Monday, April 13, 2009

All You Need Is Love

The Beatles facts for "All You Need Is Love" go beyond the mere recording of the song since it was performed for Our World TV on June 25, 1967, a global telecast using new satellite technology. The program was a six-hour telecast seen by 400,000,000 people in over twenty countries. Many other performers took part in the event, which was designed to unify the people of the world.

The song was recorded on June 14, 1967 at Olympia Studios, although overdubs were added at Abbey Road later. The song is a Lennon composition, although there is disagreement among George Martin and the remaining Beatles as to whether Lennon wrote the song specifically for the telecast. It was released in the UK on July 7, 1967 and in the U.S. on July 17, 1967.

The song has a very long fadeout that includes material from the Beatles (such as McCartney singing "She loves you, yeah yeah yeah") as well as scores from George Martin that include "Greensleeves," "In the Mood," and Bach.

For the tracks that were combined from the sessions at the two studios, McCartney plays upright and electric bass, Lennon harpsichord, Harrison guitar and violin, Starr drums, George Martin piano. Session musicians played trumpets, trombones, saxophones, violins, cellos, and an accordion. The chorus for the live TV performance included Jane Asher, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Patti Harrison, Graham Nash, Marianne Faithful, and others.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Within You Without You

This George Harrison composition from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has many interesting Beatles facts. It was recorded on March 15, 1967 at Abbey Road Studios, with overdubs added on March 22 and April 3. Harrison wrote the melody for the song on a harmonium (not his sitar) while visiting the home of Klaus Voorman. The lyrics essentially describe what he and Voorman had been talking about that evening, and hence the first line of the song.

Harrison stated in many interviews that he didn't believe the other three band members were very interested in the track, although John Lennon said in his 1980 Playboy interview that he believed it was one George's best songs because of its clarity of purpose and a solid performance by Harrison.

A carpet was put on the floor of the studios, with flowers and incense added, to create the ambiance necessary for the Indian studio musicians. George Martin scored violins and cellos to mesh with the Indian instruments: dilruba (an Indian violin); tabla (Indian percussion); and swordmandel (similar to a zither).

Harrison said that he was especially fond of the 5/4 time of the interlude and the other distinctive cadences he borrowed from Indian music for the track.

The laughter at the end of the track was Harrison's idea because he believed the song was "too heavy" and wanted to lighten the atmosphere in order to segue into the next song. There was some disagreement on adding the laughter from the other Beatles.

Harrison sang lead vocal. Harrison and Neil Aspinall played the tamboura. Session musicians played all other instruments. No other Beatle aided in the recording of the song.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Beatles Anthology

There are dozens of Beatles facts about The Beatles Anthology. This title alludes to the three-part documentary series aired by ABC in 1995 (November 19, 22, 23), which was the first time the three surviving band members told their history in their own words. The series, which also featured interviews with Neil Aspinall and George Martin, covered the history of the group from its early inception in Liverpool to the breakup of the band in 1970.

The series was accompanied by the release of three double CDs with alternate versions of Beatles tracks from studio sessions, as well as live performances and songs never included in the original Beatles catalog, although many of the alternate versions and live perfomances had circulated as bootlegs for many years. The TV series, which required five years of production time in order to secure interviews and collect film footage, was produced by Apple manager Neil Aspinall.

Finally, a book, The Beatles Anthology, was released in 2000, with photos and interviews from the original TV series as well as new material. The large hardcover volume quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

Both the TV series and the CDs debuted two new Beatles songs, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," on which McCartney, Harrison, and Starr overdubbed new vocals and instrumentation to augment John Lennon's voice and guitar on two Lennon demo tapes provided by Yoko Ono. It was the closest thing the Beatles could do to effect a "reunion."

The first CD, Anthology 1, was released on November 17, 1995 and fetured material from the early days of the Quarrymen to the albums Please Please Me and With the Beatles.

Anthology 2 was released on on March 17, 1996, with material from Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour.

Anthology 3 was released on October 28, 1996 and contained material from The White Album, Let It Be, and Abbey Road.

The covers for all three CD cases consisted of collages of peeling Beatles posters and were designed by musician and Beatles associate Klaus Voorman, who had designed the iconic cover for Revolver.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Beatles One

The Beatles facts for Beatles 1 are that is a compilation album featuring all number one British and American hit singles by the group and was released on November 13, 2000, the year representing the thirtieth anniversary of the band's break-up. It was released on the Apple label (with songs also registered to Parlophone and Capital). Production credits are attributed to George Martin and Phil Spector, although it was George Martin, together with Harrison, McCartney, and Starr, who compiled and produced the songs.

The twenty-seven songs were previously available on Past Masters, Volume One and Past Masters, Volume Two, as well as The Beatles 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970.

The songs were digitally remastered under the supervision of Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios. Many fans have complained that the dynamic sound of the original analog masters was lost in the remastering. On the other hand, most fans believe that the songs sound clearer and more vibrant, with some original recording mistakes (and extraneous noises) now eliminated.

The package has become iconic, with the yellow numeral "1" set against a solid red background. The cover was designed by Rick Ward. The collection was released in CD, vinyl, and cassette formats. Beatles 1 reached Number One on charts in thirty-five countries. Apple claims that more than twenty-seven million copies have been sold to date.

Tracks include:

Love Me Do
From Me to You
She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand
Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night
I Feel Fine
Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride
Day Tripper
We Can Work It Out
Paperback Writer
Yellow Submarine
Eleanor Rigby
Penny Lane
All You Need Is Love
Hello, Goodbye
Lady Madonna
Hey Jude
Get Back
The Ballad of John and Yoko
Come Together
Let It Be
The Long and Winding Road

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Penny Lane

Of all Beatles facts associated with "Penny Lane" is that George Martin thought that the song, along with "Strawberry Fields Forever," should have been included on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band because it had the same feel as the other songs at the beginning of the Beatles' studio years. "Penny Lane" was the B-Side for "Strawberry Fields Forever" and is considered to be a McCartney response to the A-Side, much as "Paperback Writer" was a response to "Day Tripper." Penny Lane is a "bus roundabout" in Liverpool that still exists today. Both songs were about places the Beatles had encountered years earlier, and at one point, before the concept for Sgt. Pepper's emerged, the group considered using these two songs on an album about their childhood.

The song is primarily a McCartney composition, with Lennon having helped with a very few lyrics. It was recorded on December 29, 1966 at Abbey Road, with overdubs added over the following three weeks. The single was released in the UK on February 17, 1967, and in the U.S. on February 13, 1967. Neither "Penny Lane" nor "Strawberry Fields Forever" were issued on Parlophone's Magical Mystery Tour, but Capital included both songs on its release of the LP in the United States.

McCartney sang lead vocal, with Lennon providing harmony. McCartney played bass and flute; Lennon played piano, Harrison conga drum, Starr drums, George Martin piano, David Mason piccolo trumpet, and Philip Jones trumpet. Martin claims that McCartney's idea to use very high trumpet notes came from listening to Bach's Brandenburg concerti. George Martin transcribed McCartney's ideas into correct music notation for Mason and Jones.

McCartney admits to sneaking two obscenities into the lyrics that only the British might notice: "fish and finger pie" and "he keeps his fire engine clean."

As with "Strawberry Fields Forever," a promotional film was made for "Penny Lane." The two promos were shown in the U.S. for the first time on American Bandstand. The teens in the audience had mixed reactions to both the films and the songs, many feeling that they couldn't relate to the altered look and songs of the group, which represented sharp deviations from the standard rock and roll that had made the Beatles famous.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ticket to Ride

One of the most interesting Beatles facts for "Ticket to Ride" is that John Lennon, the sole composer, believed that it was the first heavy metal song. If one stretches the imagination, it's possible to listen to the heavy lead and rhythm guitars and understand what Lennon was saying. It's as if the song was more of a precursor than the actual first heavy metal song. A better case for "the first" can be made for "Helter Skelter" from the White Album.

The song was recorded on February 15, 1965 at Abbey Road Studios and featured on both Parlophone and Capital LP releases of Help. It was released as a single in in the UK on April 9, 1965 and in the U.S. on April 14, 1965. Like the single "Help," the label on the 45 rpm of "Ticket to Ride" also said, "From the United Artists screenplay Eight Arms to Hold You, which was the working title for the film.

Lennon sang lead vocal, with McCartney adding harmony. McCartney played bass and the distinctive lead guitar line. Lennon played rhythm guitar and Starr drums. Harrison played electric guitar, although sources disagree as to his studio contribution. Harrison did play lead during live performances, such as the performance of "Ticket to Ride" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, a version which was played ridiculously fast and, like the other songs on their 1965 appearance on the Sullivan show, indicate performances not nearly as clean as their 1964 appearances (with the exception of McCartney's "Yesterday"). Lennon even fumbled the lyrics for both "Help" and "I Feel Fine," although he recovered quickly.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Imagine: The Album

There are many Beatles facts for John Lennon's Imagine, but the most important is that it is his most popular solo project owing to the title track (and also because it was recorded for its potential commercial value as opposed to Lennon's more avant-garde material before and after). It was recorded from June to July of 1971 and released on the Apple label on September 9, 1971 and October 8, 1971 in the U.S. and UK respectively. Production credits are assigned to John Lennon, Phil Spector, and Yoko Ono. The album is listed as number seventy-six on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Many of the basic tracks for Imagine were laid down at Lennon's home studio at Tittenhurst Park, with overdubs added at New York City's The Record Plant. Footage of several of the album's sessions was released on the documentary Gimme Some Truth.

One of the more popular tracks on the LP is "Jealous Guy," which was composed during the Beatles visit with the Maharishi in India in 1968. "Oh Yoko" has also remained one of Lennon's more popular songs, an upbeat homage to his wife. "How Do You Sleep?" is generally considered to be addressed to Paul McCartney. Its sarcastic tone was considered to be in bad taste by Ringo Starr, although George Harrison played on this track (and a few others on the album). The song "How?" is a reflection of Lennon's Primal Scream Therapy. The most popular ballad on the album is the very gentle "Oh My Love."

Session musicians for Imagine included Alan White (drums), Klaus Voorman (bass), George Harrison (electric and slide guitars and dobro), The Flux Fiddlers (strings), King Curtis (sax), Andy Davis, (acoustic guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), and Mike Pinder (of the Moody Blues--tambourine). Some sources also add Joey Molland, Rod Linton, Ted Turner, and Tom Evans on acoustic guitars.

Lennon provided vocals and played piano, acoustic and electric guitars, and harmonica.

Under the supervision of Yoko One, the album was remixed and remastered for a 2003 reissue.

The tracks include:

Crippled Inside
Jealous Guy
It's So Hard
I Don't Want to Be a Soldier
Gimme Some Truth
Oh My Love
How Do You Sleep?
Oh Yoko.