Beatles' White Album Repackaged for 50th Anniversary|
by Alex Cosper
On November 9, 2018 the Beatles released the band's 50th anniversary of The Beatles, a double set of songs commonly known as "The White Album." In this 90-minute video discussion, Giles Martin (son of producer George) explains how he remixed the songs for the anniversary set. During the 1968 recording sessions the band made several takes for each of the 30 tracks. The new album is the result of experimenting with wealth of unused recorded material.
The discussion is led by Giles Martin and a panel of music industry professionals including Georgie Rogers from BBC 6 Music, Dan Stubbs from NME and musicians Felix White, Miles Kane and Andy Bell. The interview was streamed on the Beatles' YouTube channel on Wednesday evening, November 7, 2018. The panel gives their views on the significance of the songs and how the music broke conventional rules of the music industry.
The live discussion included questions from the audience, such as whether or not a 20-minute version of "Helter Skelter" will ever be released. Giles said it's a matter of give and take since a CD can only be so long. "I have George - both Georges: Harrison and Martin - in the back of my mind saying, 'you know, are we scraping the bottom of the barrel here, why are we doing this?'" Giles says the Beatles painted pictures with sound.
One of the ways in which the album stands up to modern times is that many current albums include tracks in which multiple takes are available. The concept of unfinished music or music that can be recycled has become embedded in current music. The repackage also signals the fact that a song or an album can have multiple versions for multiple reasons. In the dance world, for example, it's been common since the rise of the disco era in the mid-seventies to issue extended versions. The White Album, though, was all about minimalism and diversity.
"They played what they heard in their heads," Giles says of the band not knowing musical vocabulary or theory. He attributes their experimental sound partly to the fact that John Lennon did not understand time signatures, which measure musical phrases with beats. Sometimes his songs contained mixed time signatures, which was common for the era, but not so much in current music.
Giles Martin was asked about the differences in sonic technology between now and then. He confirms that music of the original ablum was recorded on 4-track 1-inch tape machines. He says the reason the drums sound better on the original Sgt. Pepper than the original White Album is that the engineers spent more time miking the drums. "The White Album is slightly more trashy," Giles says, but that "there's not a difference in sound between 4-track and 8-track."
Ever since Giles helped his dad George produce the Love album, a 2006 set of Beatles remixes, the band has entrusted him to be in charge of remixing their music. Giles says although his next project is a film, the door is open to do other Beatles remixing projects in the future.
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