red lights


Producer Sir George Martin still
spreading The Beatles' message of love

The Beatles Love Media Launch
at Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Studios
London, England
Nov.17, 2006
George and Giles Martin
George and Giles Martin
Abbey Road's  Studio 2
Abbey Road's Studio 2

Story and photos by Tony Bonyata

Thirty-seven years after The Beatles recorded their last note together in Studio 2 of London's famed Abbey Road Studios, the music of The Fab Four joyously rang throughout the large cavernous studio once again last Friday as part of a special pre-release media launch for their forthcoming full-length album Love, produced by longtime Beatles producer Sir George Martin and his son Giles. While tensions may have run high nearly four decades earlier in this very room - with internal frictions caused by bad business and deteriorating relationships between the band and their significant others - there was nothing but love radiating from these same four walls last week when the media converged for both the official pre-release playback of Love and to also hear George and Giles Martin speak firsthand about the project.

While Love was conceived and produced as the soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil production of The Beatles Love, the theatrical production based on Beatles compositions that opened at The Mirage in Las Vegas last summer, what was heard in Studio 2 was, indeed, much more than merely an incidental soundtrack. Abbey Road's  Studio 2George and Giles, who were both present for the launch, offered insight into the making of this extraordinary new Beatles album for the couple of hundred media people in attendance.

As George explained, the father and son team were given full access to all The Beatles' master tapes, where the two spent three years working on this project. The most important parameter they had to work within was that all of the new remixes and mash-ups from various compositions had to consist solely of original Beatles recordings. Much of the material they used for the final product is well known, while a good amount has never been officially released before. Whether you're familiar with the previously released material or not, the final mix that the Martins are presenting to the world is undoubtedly different than anything released before it.

After presenting the remaining Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr), along with John Lennon and George Harrison's widows (Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, respectively) with their first finished song from the project - the beautifully surreal pairing of "Within You Without You" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" - the Martins were given the thumbs up from the band and their wives to proceed.Abbey Road As Giles explained, "I was really quite scared about offending all who were involved and at one stage we weren't even going to play it to anyone. The fact that it was accepted showed how open-minded everyone was in the approach to the music we were creating."

Love features twenty-six new takes on Beatles classics (the majority from their post-Revolver era), with snatches and samples of various other numbers snaking in and out of the mix. For "Strawberry Fields" Yoko had delivered a wonderfully naked, early acoustic demo of John singing, which the Martins expertly blended with the original 1967 recorded version with pronounced orchestration. "Hey Jude" ends with a delicious reggae-flavored bass-line that Paul originally recorded in 1968 (George Martin jokingly commented that the entire song was originally given a heavier reggae treatment, which Paul politely said he didn't care for after hearing it), while "I Want To Hold Your Hand" finds the producers once again perfectly marrying two different versions of the same song - the band's 1964 Hollywood Bowl performance along with the original studio recording, which gave the number more exuberance and spark than any version before it.

Abbey Road The actual 10:30 am media playback of Love in Studio 2 (the primary studio in the building where The Beatles recorded the vast majority of their work, sans the Phil Spector produced Let It Be album) was nothing short of breathtaking, and I'd dare even a casual Beatles fan not to get weak in the knees upon entering this venerable recording shrine. Amid a brightly decorated stage set based on the Love album design, where the Martins later made their media appearance and offered a Q&A, editors and journalists from around the world were treated to an orgasmic aural experience. Love is packaged as both a standard stereo CD and DVD/Audio 5.1 Surround Sound disc, but as good as the latter could possibly sound on the most sophisticated of consumer sound systems it would still surely pale in comparison with the loud, crystal clarity from the massive state-of-the-art sound system that filled every pour in the white-washed brick walls of Studio 2.

The opening track "Because" featured nothing but The Beatles delivering a beautiful, heart-stopping a cappella version of the number, with every catch of their breath lending an even warmer, more human quality to the track. Later on, and in complete contrast, the slashing, distorted guitar-lines of "Revolution" ripped out of the large speakers, giving many in the room, or myself at least, a flashing chill down the spine. As "Eleanor Rigby" transitioned into a dreamlike acoustic version of "Julia" the sereneness soon turned into madcap genius as it spiraled into Lennon's "I Am The Walrus," while a rousing medley of "Drive My Car," The Word" and "What You're Doing" perfectly embodied a time in the mid-'60s when London was just about to swing.Abbey Road Other highlights included, "Gnik Nus," a song utilizing backwards vocals from the original 1969 Abbey Road track "Sun King," which Giles rather proudly admitted, "Dad said it was exactly the sort of thing that John would have gone for." For Lennon's 1967 Sgt. Pepper's track "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite," the song was given a much darker, more surreal treatment for the Cirque scene it was created for with the foreboding inclusion of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." Capping off the seventy-eight minute Love playback was the closing number from the album, "All You Need Is Love," which echoed the positive, loving vibe of The Beatles in the very room where they effectively altered the course of both music and history.

Immediately following the playback, George and Giles were brought onstage for a media appearance with BBC radio and television presenter Paul Gambaccini, who hosted both the interview and Q&A sessions. Abbey RoadDespite George Martin's apparent loss of hearing (Giles, who was seated next to him, had to repeat Gambaccini's questions a number of times) the 80 year-old music legend, nonetheless, looked remarkably healthy during the interview, where he detailed revealing and often humorous accounts of both the original recording sessions with The Beatles in the '60s, as well as his recent and rewarding work with his son on this project. While not denying that he wouldn't work on future Beatles-related projects, he also alluded that Love might very well be his final swan song with the band.

Tying in nicely with the new album's central theme of love and positiveness, George adamantly stated that despite personal frictions between John and Paul over the years, he knew that they both always truly loved one another; a statement which seemed to make everything in Studio 2 glow just a bit brighter that moment.

Whether Love will go down in history as a forgettable mash-up of Beatles songs for a theatrical soundtrack or will, instead, join the ranks of their historically important canon has yet to be seen, but after personally witnessing this exhilarating, exuberant and refreshing new take on these classic tracks in the studio were they were originally conceived and recorded - all creatively helmed by the man who played an integral role in shaping the sound of nearly all of The Beatles' entire recording output - I'll have a go at the latter.

George and Giles Martin
(L to R) Tony Wadsworth (EMI CEO),
George Martin, Giles Martin and
Paul Gambaccini (BBC radio and TV presenter)
Abbey Road
Abbey Road's Studio 2
Abbey Road
Abbey Road
George and Giles Martin
George and Giles Martin

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