Son of Bea­tles’ pro­ducer dives into ‘White Al­bum’

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - EXPLORE - BY MARK KENNEDY As­so­ci­ated Press NEW YORK

Hard­core fans of the Bea­tles like to pore over every de­tail of the band and end­lessly dis­sect their songs. Then there’s Giles Martin, who man­ages to time travel to meet the Fab Four.

Martin is the son of leg­endary Bea­tles pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin, and he’s lately been re­turn­ing to the trea­sure trove of orig­i­nal record­ing ses­sions to remix key al­bums by John, Paul, Ge­orge and Ringo.

“It’s re­ally nerve-wrack­ing be­cause it’s a legacy of mu­sic which is re­ally im­por­tant,” the soft-spo­ken Martin said. “What I do is make sure I pro­vide the fans – and peo­ple who don’t even know the Bea­tles – with mu­sic that’s worth lis­ten­ing to and is in­ter­est­ing.”

Martin last year remixed “Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and this year resur­faces with a fas­ci­nat­ing and ex­haus­tive look at “The Bea­tles,” bet­ter known as the

“White Al­bum,” which con­tains such clas­sics as “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Black­bird” and “Ob-ladi, Ob-la-da.” It coincides with cel­e­bra­tions for the al­bum’s 50th birth­day.

Be­sides punchier, remixed ver­sions of the 30 songs on the orig­i­nal dou­ble al­bum, the an­niver­sary pack­age in­cludes 27 acous­tic demos of ma­te­rial the Bea­tles made at Har­ri­son’s house be­fore go­ing into the stu­dio and 50 stu­dio out­takes, in­clud­ing the un­re­leased “Not Guilty,” a stu­dio jam of “Blue Moon” and early ver­sions of “Let It Be,” “Lady Madonna” and “Across the Universe,” which would ap­pear on other al­bums.

Martin was tapped by the sur­viv­ing Bea­tles and the wives of Har­ri­son and Lennon to rum­mage around in Abbey Road Stu­dios in Lon­don and re-lis­ten to ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing aban­doned songs and re­hearsals.

That meant go­ing through 107 takes of “Sexy Sadie,” dozens of ver­sions of both “I’m So Tired” and “Long, Long, Long” and a 13-minute “Hel­ter Skel­ter.” It meant hear­ing the Bea­tles dis­cuss songs, joke and even or­der lunch. (You can hear Har­ri­son at one point from the stu­dio or­der a “cheese, let­tuce, Mar­mite sand­wich.”)

Among the gems in the box set is an un­recorded Lennon song called “Child of Na­ture” that will later morph into his solo hit “Jeal­ous Guy” and also a very cool “Good Night” stripped of the or­ches­tra­tions it got on the “White Al­bum.” You can hear “Hap­pi­ness Is a Warm Gun” start out life as quite gen­tle be­fore end­ing up on the “White Al­bum” like a tem­plate for Frank Zappa.

The Bea­tles worked through the sum­mer of 1968, of­ten in ex­haust­ing all-night ses­sions. Martin says the mul­ti­ple takes for many songs may be be­cause the band had largely stopped per­form­ing live.

“I think the most re­veal­ing thing for me work­ing on the ‘White Al­bum’ is just how cre­ative they were, all of the time,” Martin said. “It’s al­most like the stu­dio couldn’t han­dle the level of de­mand that they wanted to do and the amount of songs they wanted to record.”

Martin’s fa­ther was heav­ily in­volved in the Bea­tles’ prior al­bum, “Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and was even lauded as the ar­chi­tect of their sound. But the Fab Four had a dif­fer­ent goal in mind for the “White Al­bum” in the sum­mer of 1968.

“They didn’t want an ar­chi­tect. They wanted to build an al­bum from the bricks up and with­out any real idea about what it was go­ing to be,” Martin said. “They in­dulged them­selves be­cause they knew that each mem­ber of the band would make the song bet­ter.”

The ac­cepted wis­dom when it comes to the “White Al­bum” is that it was a rocky time for the band, which was dis­in­te­grat­ing. Starr quit and walked out for an 11-day pe­riod. Crit­ics have called the record a mess – a bril­liant mess, of course – with each mem­ber of­ten de­liv­er­ing solo songs.

But, like a po­lite Moses com­ing down from the moun­tain with the orig­i­nal tablets, Martin dis­agrees. He be­lieves some of those in­ter­pre­ta­tions to be ex­ag­ger­ated. He hears the Fab Four work­ing to­gether even on songs long con­sid­ered to be done by only one Bea­tle.

“The re­veal­ing thing for me is you go back and lis­ten to the tapes and what we have on the tapes is a co­he­sive unit play­ing to­gether and work­ing on songs to­gether,” said Martin, who was born a year af­ter the “White Al­bum” was re­leased.

“Lis­ten to the ses­sions – they were very warm. And that’s the sur­pris­ing thing. I think we thought the ‘White Al­bum’ was this dis­parate, an­gry record – and it has cer­tainly el­e­ments of that – but, in essence, the four of them made an al­bum to­gether they wanted to make.”


Giles Martin, left, lis­tens as his fa­ther, orig­i­nal Bea­tles pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin speaks af­ter a sneak pre­view of a new Bea­tles-themed Cirque du Soleil show, “Love,” in Las Ve­gas in 2006. Giles Martin has reached into the trea­sure trove of orig­i­nal record­ing ses­sions to remix key al­bums by John, Paul, Ge­orge and Ringo.

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