At Abbey Road Show Vol. 1 (Master Of Beatles Essentials MBE-011-07001/2/3)
DVD, “The Beatles At Abbey Road” (1983): Introduction, Land Of Hope And Glory / Sir Edward Elgar with London Symphony Orchestra, Walkin’ Back To Happiness / Helen Shapiro, Love Me Do (Take 18), How Do You Do It (Take 2), I Saw Her Standing There (Take 6/11/9&12), Twist And Shout (Take 1), One After 909 (Take 4), Don’t Bother Me (Take 11/12), A Hard Day’s Night (Take 2/3/9), Leave My Kitten Alone (Take 5), I’m A Loser (Take 8), She’s A Woman (Take 1), Ticket To Ride (Take 2), Help! (Take 5), Norwegian Wood (Take 1), I’m Looking Through You (Take 1), Paperback Writer (Take 2/rm2), Rain (Take 7/rs1), Penny Lane (Take 9/RS1), Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1/7/26), A Day In The Life (Barrett Remix), Hello Goodbye (Take 22/RS2), Lady Madonna (Take 4), Hey Jude (Take 9), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Take 1), Because (Barrett Remix), Ringo’s Message / #9 Dream
Stereo soundtracks from John Barrett original tapes: Love Me Do (Take 18), How Do You Do It (Take 2), I Saw Her Standing There (Take 6/11/9&12), Twist And Shout (Take 1), One After 909 (Take 4), Don’t Bother Me (Take 11/12), A Hard Day’s Night (Take 2/3/9), Leave My Kitten Alone (Take 5), I’m A Loser (Take 8), She’s A Woman (Take 1), Ticket To Ride (Take 2), Help! (Take 5), Norwegian Wood (Take 1), I’m Looking Through You (Take 1), Paperback Writer (Take 2/rm2), Rain (Take 7/RS1), Penny Lane (Take 9/RS1), Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 1/7/26), A Day In The Life (Barrett Remix), Hello Goodbye (Take 22/RS2), Lady Madonna (Take 4), Hey Jude (Take 9), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Take 1), Because (Barrett Remix), Ringo’s Message / #9 Dream
CD 1: Love Me Do – Take 18, 2-13 I Saw Her Standing There – Take 1/12, 14-15 Misery – Take 2/3, Twist And Shout – Take 1, One After 909 – Take 2/4-5, Please Mr Postman – Take 9, Instrumental Jam, It Won’t Be Long – Take Unknown/10, Can’t Buy Me Love – Take 1/4, A Hard Day’s Night – Take 1/6, I’m A Loser, Leave My Kitten Alone – Take 4 / 5, Christmas Message Session, If You’ve Got Troubles – Take 1, That Means A Lot – Take 1
CD 2: Help! – Takes 4 – 12, Day Tripper – Take 3, Norwegian Wood – Take 1, Girl – Take 2, I’m Looking Though You – Take 1, Think For Yourself – Vocal Overdub Session, For No One – Take 1-14, Here, There And Everywhere – Take 14
MBE’s At Abbey Road Show Vol. 1, and its companion At Abbey Road Show Vol. 2, taken together is a massive set containing one DVD and five separate compact discs containing the complete control-room monitor mixes and assorted other sessions associated with the video. The centerpiece of the collection is the seventy-five minute video “At Abbey Road.” This was produced in the early eighties and shown at Abbey Road Studio 2 while it was being refurbished from July 18th to September 11th, 1983. After a short tour of the facilities, tour goers were treated to this film. Three enterprising fans were able to sneak in a tape recorder and the audio was quickly released on the vinyl title Beatles Live At Abbey Road Studios (4000 Holes ARS 2-9083). This was the first time significant amount of alternate takes of studio material from the Abbey Road vaults were made available.
This was the idea of long time engineer Ken Townsend. John Barrett organized the outtake reels. Capital Radio’s Roger Scott narrates. The video quality is good to very good. It looks like someone placed a tripod in front of the movie screen to capture the video, but it is very watchable, enjoyable and informative. The video starts off with a short history of the studio and its founding in the 1930’s and how Sir Edward Elgar recorded there along with other famous musicians and composers. But mostly it is focuses on the work by The Beatles, the studio’s most famous occupants. The video quality is good to very good. The engineer for the early sessions Norman Smith is interviewed and he confesses he wasn’t impressed with the band except for their hairdos. Another point he makes is that Paul wasn’t happy with Ringo’s drumming in the initial sessions and wanted to re-record “Love Me Do” with session drummer Andy White.
Smith continues by describing the process of recording on a two-track machine followed by two takes of “I Saw Her Standing There.” A significant milestone, according to Smith, is when Studio 2 went to four track in October, 1963. Now instead of having to play live they could erase particular mistakes and redo individual tracks. This discussion is followed by “A Hard Day’s Night” with several false starts. Scott’s narration speaks about the legend of unreleased tracks but names only four: “How Do You Do It,” “If You Got Troubles,” “That Means A Lot,” and “Leave My Kitten Alone” (recorded August 4th, 1964) as the latter plays. Early takes of “She’s A Woman” and “Ticket To Ride” before the first half closes with an instrumental take of “Help!”
The second half (after a black screen) begins with the first take of “Norwegian Wood” with the sitar pushed deep down in the mix under the acoustic guitar, followed by the first take of “I’m Looking Through You” with handclaps at the beginning. After the videos for “Paperback Writer,” “Rain,” and “Penny Lane” the narration gets into the story of the composition of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” They play take one and take seven and explains how they were combined into the finished version. The Barrett mix of the stereo “A Day In The Life Follows” which has Lennon’s count-in at the beginning instead of the cross fade found on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “Lady Madonna” is a stereo mix by Barrett which lacks the saxophone overdubs of the final version and is accompanied by the promo film showing the band recording “Hey, Bulldog” (which Scott does point out in the voice over).
“Hey Jude” is take 9 taken from the National Music Council of Great Britain’s documentary Music! This clip was mixed into stereo by John Barrett for this film. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is the first take on acoustic guitar, accompanied by a montage of still photos of George from the era. The film ends with Barrett’s mix of “Because” in which the first half is a capella, and the studio version of Lennon’s “#9 Dream.” The DVD contains two other items. “Stereo Soundtracks From John Barrett Original Tapes” contains complete versions of the tracks from the “At Abbey Road Show” accompanied by still photographs, serving as a video jukebox. And the “Secret Extra” contains footage of the band rehearsing “Hey Jude” from the Experiment In Television broadcast.
The CDs in this and in volume two are the definitive collection of control room monitor mixes made available. Most of them sufraced several years ago on Control Room Monitor Mixes (Yellow Dog Records YD032) in 1993, Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes Vol. 1 (Yellow Dog Records YD 083 / YD 084) and Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes Vol. 2 (Yellow Dog Records YD 085/YD 086) in 2002, and Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes(Scorpio) 3CD box set. There is nothing new new contained on these discs, but it is the most comprehensive collection of monitor mixes available. The first track is nineteen seconds of “Love Me Do” take 18, the take recorded on September 11th, 1962 with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine. This is followed by several takes of “I Saw Her Standing There.” On Please Please Me the commercial version of this track is an edit between takes nine and twelve. These tracks are various playbacks of takes 1, 6, 8, 11, and 12. Some of the takes isolate the hand-claps, others, like take 6, are “too fast” for McCartney.
“Misery” was recorded on February 11th & 20th, 1963 and mixed on February 25th. Please Please Me included the sixteenth take, but this features fragments of the second and third. Take three is mostly studio chatter with Lennon saying “a bit modern, it has the sound of an old city thing” at the very beginning. “Twist And Shout take 1” is only the final twenty four seconds and not very interesting. This is followed by various playbacks of takes two through five of “One After 909.” The second take is the longest of the batch and contains the entire song. These recordings date from the same March 5th, 1963 session that produced “From Me To You.” Take 3 begins with Lennon asking “what are you doing?” Takes three, four and five are fragmentary, but the the two edit takes are close to being finished takes. Quite why it wasn’t deemed satisfactory for release at this time is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t sound any better or worse than all the other rubbish released in the early sixties.
“Please Mister Postman” is a cover of The Marvelette’s 1961 hit recorded by The Beatles for the second album With The Beatles. This track included in this collection is simply an ambient recording of the official release of the mono version with the end cut off. The following instrumental jam comes from the same July 30th, 1963 session that produced “Please Mister Postman” and features Ringo and McCartney dueting on drums and piano. It’s a cute ditty but not terribly important. This is followed by two takes of “It Won’t Be Long,” again from July 30th, 1963. With The Beatles used an edit of takes seventeen and twenty one. The first version is almost two minutes and has the ending cut off. The second track is the complete take ten.
The set of “Can’t Buy Me Love” mixes contains variations of four takes. The rhythm section of the track was recorded on January 29th, 1964 at Pathe Marconi in Paris. The vocals and guitars were worked out a month later on February 25th and this session is preserved in this collection. Take 1 is a run-through of the entire song but sung in a higher key and ends with Lennon saying “I have the wrong note.” Take 2 is played in the same key as take one and McCartney forgets the lyrics in the middle. Take 3 is played in a lower key and breaks down after thirty seconds when Paul forgets the lyrics. Take 4 is the same take used for the commercial version of the song, but only several seconds exist in this collection. These four takes are played back several times in the control room.
“A Hard Day’s Night” was recorded on April 16th, 1964 and this set contains takes 1, 2, 3, 4,and 6 from that single session. Since take 9 was used for the LP, none of these were used in the final version. Take 1 is at a slower tempo, has a different guitar solo in the middle, and no cowbell. In take three the beginning breaks down and Ringo laughs that he missed the beat. Take four features a lazy guitar solo by Harrison in the middle. Finally take six is only a fragment under a minute long. “I’m A Loser” was recorded on August 14th, 1964 and take eight was used on Beatles For Sale. This title contains fragments of the first two takes that are not terribly interesting. From the same day comes “Leave My Kitten Alone.” This contains takes four and five of the song.
The Christmas message is only twenty five seconds long and dates from October 24, 1964. The disc ends with two versions of “That Means A Lot.” This was recorded on February 20, 1965 and during the first track Barrett can be heard saying, “turn the bass down.” The sound quality on this song is noticeably worse than the others with significant amounts of distortion. It is interesting the disc ends with these two songs, which are mentioned together in the video as being two of only four unreleased Beatle tracks in the archives. Both of these were subsequently released on the Anthology ten years after “The Abbey Road Show.”
The second disc in volume one starts off with “Help!” takes four through twelve. This song was recorded on April 13th, 1965 and mixed on April 18th and June 18th with take twelve being used for the official version. The first three tracks are playbacks for the fourth take, which is complete instrumental and begins with Lennon saying, “Oh, come on!” Take five through seven are instrumental attempts at the track before they break down. Take nine through twelve include vocals, but they are all too fragmented to be of interest. “Day Tripper” was recorded on October 16th, 1965 and the same take three in this collection was used for the single. This track contains a few seconds of studio chat at the very beginning, but is otherwise identical to the commercial version. “Norwegian Wood” dates from sessions on October 12th and 21st, 1965 and the same take four used on Rubber Soul is present on this disc.
“Girl” was recorded on November 11th, 1965 with the second take being used on the LP. This is a monitor mix of the instrumental track used for the commercial version with about twenty seconds cut off. This is followed by the first take of “I’m Looking Through You” recorded on October 24th, 1965. This take is much more mellow than take four, the one that appears on Rubber Soul. This is followed by perhaps the most interesting track in the collection. “Think For Yourself” was recorded on November 8th, 1965 with take one being used on Rubber Soul. Mixing was done the following day and this collection contains a twenty minute tape of the band recording the vocal overdubs.
It sounds as if the tape recorder was sitting in the studio. The chatter by the band is clear and George Martin occasionally speaks over the speaker from the control booth. “I get something in me head you know all the roads in Rome couldn’t stop me…and I stink too” Lennon says at one point. Over the course of the tape there is obvious tensions with Lennon in particular saying that he feels useless in these sessions. “Don’t ride me, get off my back” Harrison snaps at Martin by the end of the session. This tape is true fly-on-the-wall stuff and it is fascinating to hear the group dynamics at work. The disc ends with sessions for “For No One” and “Here, There, And Everywhere.” This is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with detailed liner notes contained on an insert in the middle. Many will complain that this is boring and some of it is, but it is the most comprehensive collection of the control room mixes available placed in proper chronological order and is worth having. (GS)If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)