A few questions we NEVER thought we would have the occasion to ask: I have a blog, perhaps you would like to read it? And I have the NEW Beatles album, perhaps you would like to hear it? But without a doubt, NEVER EVER in a million years did we ever think we would have the occasion to say: Would you like to hear the NEW Beatles album on my blog? This just fell into our lap somehow but we seem to have the worldwide Internets exclusive on this, at least for, oh, another five minutes or so. Maybe longer. We could not be more proud or horny! Anyway, dig the four songs that Capitol gave us the green light to stream. More details on this later, including a brief Q&A with Sir George Martin his bad self! In the mean time, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream, etc.
By Jonathan Valania For The Inquirer Two years ago, Jay-Z — for all intents and purposes, hip-hop’s Sinatra — put the vocal tracks from his Black Album on the Internet and invited friends and foes alike to make something new out of them. As a result, adventurous listeners got to hear something remarkable when DJ Dangermouse dipped Jay-Z’s chocolate in the Beatles’ White Album peanut butter and produced the Internet-only phenomenon known as the The Grey Album.
Apple, the company started by the Fab Four and the corporate entity responsible for administering their legacy, was not amused — but not so much over the flagrant copyright violation, something Apple is known to guard against jealously and litigiously.
No, it turns out that at roughly the same time that Dangermouse was turning the world on its ear with his arresting mash-up, Apple had lured legendary Beatles producer-patriarch George Martin out of retirement to remix the Beatles for modern ears.
“Apple had been in talks for some time with Cirque du Soleil about doing a Beatles show, and the Cirque people mentioned that they were thinking about adding dance beats to Beatles songs to, you know, ‘modernize’ them,” says Giles Martin, the son of George Martin, whose production credits include Elvis Costello and Kate Bush. “And Apple said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. How about you let us make you a soundtrack?’ ”
Such was the impetus behind Love, the bold and fairly radical score to Cirque du Soleil’s tribute to the artistry of John, Paul, George and Ringo. The show opened in Las Vegas in the summer. The album, which comes out Tuesday, is arguably the first complete album of “new” Beatles material in 36 years.
The “new” is in quotation marks because you’ve heard these Beatles songs before, but never quite like this. Love is essentially a Beatles greatest-hits album seemingly sequenced for the broadest possible appeal, from the very young and the very old. The Martins took 26 of the band’s most beloved classics into the digital chop shop at Abbey Road Studios and proceeded to slice, dice and reassemble each song, often with spare parts salvaged from other Beatles songs.
On “Octopus’s Garden,” Ringo’s vocal is paired with the strings from “Goodnight,” the syrupy nostalgia piece that closes out the White Album. The song ends with a few telltale bars of McCartney’s bass from the second side of Abbey Road.
Kicking around “Lady Madonna” like a shimmery poltergeist is Billy Preston’s organ from “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” Eric Clapton’s solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Ringo’s drums from “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”
According to Giles Martin, there were three rules: Only Beatles tracks could be used, no distortion could be added, and no additional tracks would be recorded, save a string arrangement the elder Martin arranged for George Harrison’s elegiac “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring an alternative third-verse lyric).
“All the ideas on Love were nicked from hip-hop producers like Timbaland who are the ones that are pushing the boundaries of music these days,” says Giles Martin, adding that he actually bumped into Dangermouse (now half of the duo Gnarls Barkley) at a Suzanne Vega concert in London around the time that The Grey Album was blowing up on the Internet. Martin says he told the DJ what he and his father were up to, and the two talked shop.
For purists and other naysayers who are less than pleased by the audio equivalent of a CGI Fab Four, Love will pay different dividends.
“The idea was not to show off the technology but to show off the band, and on these new versions you can really hear four guys playing in a room,” Martin says. “You have to remember that those classic mixes were done in mono and intended to be listened to on a [lousy] set of speakers. So we basically remixed the tracks for modern ears and modern sound systems, such as the iPod.”
It was the 37-year-old Giles, born a year before the Beatles split, who suggested the strategy. After he mashed up “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Within You Without You,” he got the green light from the surviving Beatles and their spouses.
He also served as a proxy set of ears for his now-hard-of-hearing father. “He is quite deaf, to be honest, from 50-some years of listening to loud music,” Giles says. “It’s the high frequencies that he loses, so talking on the phone is quite maddening for him. But oddly enough, he can still hear music pretty well, and he wrote and arranged the string section for ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ so even at 80 his mind is pretty sharp.”
When asked whether Love would have turned out differently if all four Beatles were still alive, Giles says he’s fairly confident they would have agreed to the creative choices he and his father made.
“There were some mash-ups that my father would listen to and say, ‘John and Paul would have gone for that,’ and then there were other times, such as when I combined ‘The Word’ with ‘Golden Slumbers,’ where my father would listen and turn to me and say very seriously, ‘I don’t think John and Paul would have gone for that.’ And that would be the end of that.”