Giles Martin revisits “The Beatles” with over-five-hour Super Deluxe edition
A remixed expansion of "The White Album” shows the impeccable beauty of a band falling apart
Album: “The Beatles” (Super Deluxe edition)
Artist: The Beatles
Release date: Nov. 9
The question of what’s next for the Beatles arose after 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The Beatles etched their name into history books with an album that both expanded upon and raised the bar for innovation in the studio. “Sgt. Pepper” set a marker in the bands career, seemingly one difficult to top. The Beatles reconvened in 1968, resorting to the studio as a remedy to ailments of any kind.
John, Paul, George and Ringo were creatures of the enclosed environment behind a wall of glass.
And the only way forward was to keep recording.
Amidst the fighting, disagreements and genuine pain of a band growing apart, The Beatles spent grueling months on what would become “The Beatles,” more commonly known as “The White Album.” The result was hours of re-recording and do-overs, as the ever-savvy songwriting of the Lennon-McCartney duo tirelessly toiled with the prospect of exploring ideas down to details that would be forgotten with each passing track.
“The Beatles” has a way of acting as a pedestal that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” could never be. “The White Album,” for all its length and essential strangeness, has permeated through speakers for 50 years as the impeccable beauty of a band falling apart.
Giles Martin and company have put out a remixed and expanded edition of “The Beatles,” with over five hours of outtakes, demos and anecdotes from Martin regarding the recording process and uncovering of some hidden moments on the album. It’s a grandiose and downright enormous to sift through. The moments of pure beauty on the “Esher Demos” – specifically “Julia” and “Dear Prudence” – make the work worth the reward.
John and Paul bounce off of one another throughout “The Beatles,” often acting as the catalyst for one another’s songs for a moment and reacting vehemently the next. It’s a divide most accurately depicted by Paul’s soft, melodic “Mother Nature’s Son” and John’s blues-driven “Yer Blues.”
Stripping down “Helter Skelter” on “The Beatles” gives way to a completely different track. At 12 minutes on the latest expanded edition, Martin uncovers a version of the iconic track with slowed-down orchestration, heavy drums and a jam-session feel. McCartney wails in small doses, showcasing where the track should go on its final version.
The demo showcases the Beatles feeling out “Helter Skelter” all at once, playing off ideas in a bluesy laden recording session stemming from changes in chord progression while McCartney and Starr stay strong in the rhythm section. McCartney sparingly spreads the lines “Do you, don’t you want me to love you” in between long breaks of guitar riffs and the bassline.
But Giles Martin has found a commonality beneath the mass of available material. From the esher demo of “Revolution” to the soon-to-be “Abbey Road” tracks “Polythene Pam” and “Mean Mr. Mustard,” Martin projects a band on the brink of creativity that only found limits in personal difference.
And the recording of “The Beatles” proved arduous for the Fab Four.
Yoko Ono became a regular presence throughout recording sessions, expanding on rifts existent within the Beatles’ dynamic. Ono proved to be the breaking point for McCartney, Harrison and Starr, and it created an uncomfortable standard for recording sessions that would carry over into the “Let It Be” sessions.
One of the brightest spots on “The Beatles” lacks drum work from Starr. Following a disagreement over McCartney overdubbing many of Starr’s drum parts, Starr left the band indefinitely. McCartney fills in on “Dear Prudence,” adding a middle-section crescendo behind the kit that perhaps best encapsulates the album as a whole; making sense of a complete mess.
Starr found a way to contribute to the track, later adding an echoey, omniscient backing vocal that compliments Lennon’s lead vocals. It’s a detail that’s easy to miss, yet one that makes clear the subliminal effect of each member’s contributions.
No matter how small, John, Paul, George and Ringo discovered early they were stronger at the sum of their parts.
Brian Evans is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrianEvansSpec