DON’T PASS THIS BY
The Beatles’ White Album gets gussied up by George Martin’s son for its 50th anniversary
Producer Giles Martin wasn’t even born when his famous Beatles producing father George, aka The Fifth Beatle, wrestled with The Fab Four while making their 1968 eponymous double-disc otherwise known as The White Album.
But the 49-year-old couldn’t disagree more with John Lennon’s statement that the album, which got a 50th anniversary deluxe re-release yesterday, was the sound of The Beatles breaking up.
The White Album saw George Harrison emerge as an accomplished tunesmith and Ringo Starr pen his first ever song, Don’t Pass Me By — even though the drummer did quit for more than a week before returning to a studio filled with flowers — but the group would make three more records before their 1970 split.
“I don’t think John Lennon is right,” said Martin. “I always thought that. And my father (who passed away in 2016) would always make a terrible grimace whenever anyone said, ‘You know what my favourite Beatles album is? It’s The White Album.’
“I looked, out of morbid fascination, to see what I could find of them arguing on tape because I thought it was important. But if you listen to the conversations they’re having on the outtakes, it’s far from the truth that they are shouting at each other. They’re actually supporting each other.”
The 50th anniversary edition of The White Album is remixed in stereo and 5.1 surround audio and includes 27 early acoustic demos — the famous
Esher Demos made at Harrison’s bungalow Kinfauns in 1968 in Surrrey, England, (some were on Anthology 3)— and 50 session outtakes. We caught up with Martin recently down the line from Abbey Road Studios in London, where he worked on the project with mix engineer Sam Okell.
So how do you see this album now?
I think The White Album was the band rejecting the process that they’d been used to. And I think they certainly ostracized my dad during that process. And they certainly ostracized the team they were used to working with. I also know from, bizarrely, all these people who write books now about their time with The Beatles they’re the same people who didn’t want to work on Beatles sessions because they were pretty toxic for anyone being there who wasn’t a Beatle.
Do you think Lennon was just being provocative in his statements?
John, funnily enough, called up my father in 1980. My dad went to go and see him. And John did an interview. I think it was for Playboy or something where he did this vitriolic interview where he told everyone that my dad ruined The Beatles. And my dad goes, ‘Why did you say these things John?’ And he goes, ‘I’m sorry George. I was just high, you know.’
So will this re-release correct that misperception?
Listen, I wasn’t there. I wasn’t even born. I don’t believe in, and none of The Beatles, by the way, believe in sugar-coating stuff. As you can tell by Paul’s recent interviews the mood he’s in. He’s happy to
“I have seen and smelled so many feet. I have to tell you, I really love it ...” — Sarah Jessica Parker spends as much time as possible assisting customers in her New York boutique for her SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker footwear line.
say how it was. (He told GQ that he and Lennon and three other friends masturbated together as boys, among other things.)
Were you shocked by his recent revelations?
Listen, he probably said it with a smile on his face, knowing Paul. But he’s kind of naughty, Paul. He’s still naughty. He’s a really intelligent man. He’s a really bright guy, Paul. Never underestimate him in a conversation. Sometimes he’ll say things and you just think, ‘Oh, God.’
How involved were Paul and Ringo in this process?
The only people involved in listening to the mixes were the
Beatles and their wives. That’s it. I consider (Paul and Ringo) to be my bosses, which they are. (Paul) has a place near Abbey Road and also I see him. I was over in New York mixing his concert at Grand Central Station so I get involved in his things anyway and he’s always been incredibly kind to me, so there’s a trust there.
One of my jobs is head of sound for (electronic company) Sonos, which is based out of Santa Barbara so I will go and give (L.A.-based) Ringo a call and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got the mixes with me.’ And we’ll come and sit and listen to them. It’s their music and especially The White
Album because it was a band record, if that makes sense. If they’re not happy, they’re the people that really count.
Should fans be the most excited about the inclusion of all the Esher Demos?
I listened to them and said, ‘These are really super cool.’ Being as stupid and crass as I am, I initially said, ‘They sound like MTV Unplugged Beatles. This is amazing!’ For someone who does archive mixing, this is like a gift. So, yeah, that’s super exciting for me.
Is it true your dad went on vacation while making this album?
My dad loved efficiency. He was a very measured person. The only big argument me and my dad ever had was over me not measuring Pimm’s (cocktail) out properly when I made him a Pimm’s. He liked everything to be just so. But he was never a hangerouter. He liked to get things done and The White Album wasn’t that. So he brought Chris Thomas in, who was his assistant, and his first day he said, ‘I’m going on holiday. You sort it out.’
I looked, out of morbid fascination, to see what I could find of them arguing on tape ... But if you listen to the conversations they’re having on the outtakes ... They’re actually supporting each other.” Giles Martin contradicts the belief The White Album was The Beatles’ break-up album.
The White Album reissue adds previously unheard demos (the famous Esher Demos) to The Fab Four’s classic double-LP.