By Rip Rense
As Beatles activity hits a fever pitch surrounding the release of The Beatles Anthology Volume One on November 21 (ICE #104), plans are already taking shape for Volume Two, due next February, and other related 1996 plans in Capitol/EMI's year-long Anthology campaign.
Among the most exciting news for fans is word that a stunning, never-bootlegged version of one of the most remarkable and pivotal of all Beatles songs, "Tomorrow Never Knows," will be included in the second installment of Anthology. Anticipation for the outtake is running high because of the description it is afforded by premier Beatles authority Mark Lewisohn in his respected book, The Beatles: Recording Sessions. In the book, Lewisohn--not prone to hyperbole--praises the early take of "Tomorrow Never Knows" more than any other unreleased Beatles performance:
"Take one was a sensational, apocalyptic version... which is very close to defying adequate description. [It] was a heavy metal recording of enormous proportion, with thundering echo and booming, quivering, ocean-bed vibrations. And peeking out from under the squall was John Lennon's voice, supremely eerie, as if it were being broadcast from your local market..."
Lewisohn points out that the song--recorded less than three years after "She Loves You"--was "a quantum jump, not merely into tomorrow, but sometime next week." The first work recorded for Revolver, "Tomorrow Never Knows" (titled after a Ringo Starr-ism) was placed last in the album's running order.
Recorded April 6, 1966 under the working title "Mark 1," the track was a source of mystery among Beatles fans for decades, until Lewisohn's book was published in 1988. The song had been listed in a 1966 Billboard magazine ad as being among the songs due on a forthcoming Beatles LP (along with "Granny Smith," which turned out to be a working title for George Harrison's "Love You To"--an early take of which is also reportedly planned for Volume Two).
An unimpeachable source close to the project tells ICE that the song will definitely be included on Volume Two, which is already finished and awaiting the approval of Harrison, Paul McCartney, and--on behalf of Lennon--Yoko Ono.
The Third "Reunion" Song
In other Anthology-related news, there is still no official word as to whether the three surviving group members will finish a third Lennon song for inclusion on the third installment of the series. Attention is centering around one particular song that was left incomplete in last February's "Real Love" sessions ("Real Love" will lead off Volume Two). There is a sign that it could happen, however: "It would be nice to get it finished," longtime Beatles recording engineer Geoff Emerick tells this reporter. "Paul's up for it."
Emerick, who engineered the reunion sessions (assisted by John Jacobs), reveals that the third tune, a home-recorded piano demo, is totally lacking in verses, but "the chorus is great... it would make a great record."
The song has not been formally titled, but will likely wind up as either "Now And Then" or "Miss You." This is according to Jeff Lynne, who produced the sessions that also yielded "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love." (Those sessions took place at McCartney's home studio during two-week periods in February of 1994 and '95.) The song was the second Lennon work attempted, Lynne reports, but was abandoned in favor of the lyrically complete "Real Love," chiefly due to time constraints. (An attempt was never made to complete a fourth song given the trio by Ono, "Grow Old With Me.")
"It was one day--one afternoon, really--messing with it," Lynne tells this reporter, regarding the mysterious third song. "We did the backing track... a rough go that we didn't really finish. It was sort of a bluesy sort of ballad, I suppose, in A minor. It was a very sweet song; I liked it a lot, and I wish we could have finished it."
No song of that description--or provisional title--was broadcast on the "Lost Lennon Tapes" radio programs, according to Lewisohn (who is also annotating a Lost Lennon Tapes set for eventual release). So, did it come from someone's private reserve? "I thought the entire archive was given over to the [LLT] radio series," Lewisohn tells ICE. "How many private reserves are there? I haven't heard a song like that."
The First Two Reunion Songs
"Free As A Bird" is only the third Beatles record to feature lone vocals by three different group members. The other two: a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shout!" (included on Volume One) and "Christmastime Is Here Again."
McCartney and Harrison, Lynne notes, worked "tremendously well" together.
Specific inspiration for the song remains unknown. Although it is obviously a paen to domesticity recorded at the height of Lennon's "house-husband" period of contentment (1977), author Mark Hertsgaard writes in his book, A Day In The Life, that it was reportedly written in celebration of Lennon winning his four-year legal fight against deportation from the U.S. (July 27, 1976). Lewisohn, who annotated the song for Anthology, knows of no evidence corraborating Hertsgaard's claim.
"Real Love," which Lynne calls a "simpler" song than "Free As A Bird," contains "really nice fills" from Harrison, with McCartney playing an acoustic stand-up bass once owned by Bill Black (a member of Elvis Presley's first back-up group). There is also a dramatic Harrison guitar solo, one that "kind of soars up. . .sort of in harmony." Lynne confirms that the version of "Real Love" used by the three was different from the one released on the Imagine: John Lennon soundtrack LP.
The Challenge Facing Lynne
Recording the new Beatles songs required some production trickery, including matching McCartney's piano sound with the echoey, mono home piano of Lennon (done through EQ); removing ambient noise from the original tapes; editing the vocal to fit the proper rhythm of the song (Lennon's original, much to the trio's amusement, wasn't quite steady enough); and generally "working backwards," meaning adding tracks around a voice, rather than marrying a voice to finished backing tracks. Lynne's experience in building a musical framework around a solo vocal recording by Roy Orbison (on the British hit "It Drove All Night") helped prepare him for the process, which he described as similar to "a jigsaw puzzle."
A self-described consummate Beatles fan, Lynne--whose Electric Light Orchestra was heavily influenced by Beatles arrangements--was brought into the project by Harrison. The two had previously worked together on Harrison's Cloud Nine and both Traveling Wilburys albums. (Producer George Martin opted out of the reunion recordings, in order to concentrate on Anthology.) Producing the sessions, Lynne says, was "something beyond a dream." The three Beatles and Lynne "lived with" the tapes for a while before settling on "Free As A Bird." Once the backing instruments and harmonies were added, the producer says, "It was like... like the Beatles! As far as I remember, they were actually quite amazed at it."
Here is engineer Emerick's account of the early moments of that first reunion session: "That was the first time in 25 years, I think, that we'd all been in the same room together. It was a little odd, because after like an hour--after all the chat and stuff--we really sort of set down to work.
To my mind, it was as though... a couple of years had passed, rather than the big span of 25. It just picked up from where it left off."
The Anthology tracks were mixed [by Emerick and George Martin], the engineer reports, using "the first transistorized EMI mixing console, which came out in 1969." Emerick explains that using a solid-state logic desk would have contributed a modern sound to the tracks, so "to retain the old sound--which really is a good sound--we acquired the old console." A specimen wasn't easily found. "By chance, one of the engineers from Abbey Road had bought one at an auction, and he had it in his house in good condition."
The Anthology Singles
In other Anthology developments, Capitol/EMI postponed the November 2 release of its five-song radio promotional CD, containing "One After 909," "Leave My Kitten Alone," "And I Love Her," "Three Cool Cats," and "I Wanna Be Your Man" (all from Volume One). Steve Chamberlain, senior executive advisor to Capitol/EMI for the Beatles project, explains: "We didn't need to release it. Interest in this thing is so huge, it just wasn't necessary." The promo CD was eventually released to radio much closer to the November 21 release of Volume One.
Meanwhile, the commercial CD single for "Free As A Bird" is still due in stores December 5, featuring the following bonus tracks which makes it a must for collectors: a four-minute edit of "Christmastime Is Here Again" from the group's 1967 Christmas message; take nine of "I Saw Her Standing There" (the countdown from this take was the one grafted on to the beginning of the well-known version); and a studio outtake of "This Boy" that Apple Press Officer Derek Taylor tells ICE is "quite interesting."
Track List Updates
Only three tracks on the Anthology Volume One have been previously released to the public in this form: "My Bonnie," "Ain't She Sweet" and "Cry For A Shadow," all part of the Tony Sheridan sessions from June of 1961. These three have been released in numerous configurations and on myriad labels over the years, starting the moment the group became famous. Beatle scholars have also noted that Volume One features 17 1/2 tracks that have never been circulated on tape by collectors, or bootlegged. These consist of: Disc One: tracks 3 (only half of it), 4, 22, 24, and 28. Disc Two: tracks 4, 10, 11, 15, 17-21, and 23-26.
The recently discovered version of "Love Me Do" on Volume One is particularly historic, not only because it is from the Beatles' first Parlophone recording session, on June 6, 1962 (under George Martin), but because this was the performance by drummer Pete Best that prompted Martin to decide that Best had to be replaced. Complaining that Best wasn't steady enough for studio work, Martin told Beatles manager Brian Epstein he would only record the group with a proper session drummer, unaware that the decision had already been made by the group to fire Best. (The moment is symbolically implied on Anthology Volume One's cover, where a group photo that included Best shows the drummer's image covered over by the face of his successor, Ringo Starr.) Four songs were done at this first session, but only two survive: "Besame Mucho," which surfaced on a privately owned reel in 1980, and "Love Me Do," which was found on an acetate in Martin's closet when his wife Judy was cleaning it out last year, according to Beatles fanzine Good Day Sunshine.
Demos for "One And One Is Two," "I'm In Love," "Bad To Me" and others were considered for Volume One but rejected, according to Emerick. He also quashes hopes that two tracks once set for inclusion on Volume One--a live performance of Billy Riley's "Red Hot" from Hamburg 1962, and a demo of McCartney's "Love Of The Loved"--will surface as B-sides to singles. "I think they're looking for more stuff for B-sides," says Emerick, adding, "I don't think they're anywhere to be seen now." (Perhaps they will turn up, along with other promised extras, as bonuses in the Anthology boxed set due next fall.)
Which Volume Will Be Best?
It's a guessing game preoccupying Beatles fans as they await next year's installments: which of the three Anthology volumes will hold the most surprises? A recent Associated Press article suggests that "the more intriguing and valuable recordings" will come from the second and third volumes.
"Of course, if you're telling the story chronologically," Mark Lewisohn tells ICE from London, "the first CD begins in 1958, and the Beatles don't really enter the studio and start doing serious work until 1962. In those intervening years, the only means of telling their story is by using lesser-quality material: auditions, live performances, rehearsals and so on. I think all that stuff is great, but when you get to the [later] EMI material, the vast majority of it has never been bootlegged. For fans, I think, the second disc of Volume One and all of volumes Two and Three are where the real interest will be. But you have to look at it another way. It's only been 15 years since we first heard the Decca auditions [by bootleg]. It's not the fault of the people working on this project that this material leaked out."
Advance reports on the contents of Volume Two are certainly tantalizing. Beatlefan reports that a preliminary track listing made up last summer featured Sgt. Pepper outtakes including "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite," "Sgt. Pepper Reprise," "Within You Without You," and "A Day In The Life," plus an array of alternate versions from the Rubber Soul and Revolver period including "Norwegian Wood," "Twelve-Bar Original" (an instrumental) and "Taxman." Also due is a new mix of "Yellow Submarine," with a charming, 30-second spoken-word introduction by all four Beatles, over the sound of marching feet. Lewisohn's description in Recording Sessions:
"It consisted of at least four separate superimpositions, dominated by Ringo's speaking voice but aided and abetted by George, Paul, and John all doing likewise, mixed into one melange. The theme of the lesson was the walk from Land's End to John O'Groats (the southernmost tip of England to the northernmost tip of Scotland). `And we will march to free the day to see them gathered there, from Land O'Groats to John O'Green, from Stepney to Utrecht, to see a yellow submarine. . .'"
The development of the Anthology art work and 48-page, 8500-word booklet could be an entire article in itself. A number of artists were asked to do the cover, according to Rick Ward, supervising designer/art director of the project. These included David Hockney, Peter Blake (who did the original Sgt. Pepper cover), Revolver cover-artist/longtime Beatles friend/bassist Klaus Voorman, Humphrey Ocean, and Brian Grimwood. Two declined because of prior commitments, and the rest submitted ideas to Apple's director, Neil Aspinall, who--with the remaining Beatles--settled on Voorman.
The covers of the three Anthology volumes will form a triptych--meaning a three-panel work that fully reveals itself when all three releases are placed together. Voorman's concept was a wall from which scores of posters had been variously plastered over one another through the years, some of them partly peeled away. In effect, the posters chronicle the development of the Beatles in photo-realist style (paintings that look photographically realistic). Ward, of the London-based design group "The Team," reports that Voorman had to work on such short notice (due primarily to the last-minute track selection for the CDs) that he hired a friend, Alfons Kiefer, to help him paint. "All of the decisions and approvals have taken place in the last four or five weeks," says Ward, adding that "there were many sleepless nights."
ICE caught up with Klaus Voorman in Holz Kirchen, Germany. "We actually thought of doing it... with a little boy running past [the wall], doing graffiti on it," Voorman says. "But with a little CD, it would only confuse the issue. We've finished the first two parts, and they look great. Apple is happy."
Has the sometime-bass player, who placed his own photo above his signature on the cover of Revolver, similarly personalized the Anthology cover? "Yeah," he laughs, "I put my head on this one, too, because I put part of the Revolver cover on it."
The artist's task was complicated by the need to represent all four Beatles equally on each of the three panels. This task was further complicated by having to meet the same requirement on eight panels for use on the covers of the home video release, due next April. (The binders of the videos, lined up together, reportedly combine to form an image of the Beatles in Help!)
Selling It To The Public
Marketing of both the video and CD versions of Anthology will tally between $20 and $30 million, according to Capitol/EMI executive Bruce Kirkland (who also figures in such things as the value of ABC's own on-air promotion campaign). Some of the more colorful marketing plans include: giant Beatles projections on Manhattan skyscrapers, shrink-wrapped buses turned into Yellow Submarines by '60s pop artist Peter Max, the cast of Home Improvement singing "Hey Jude" in commercials, ABC renaming itself "A Beatles C" in honor of the TV special, six hundred 15-second Beatle spots running on the Sony Jumbotron in New York's Times Square, and ABC's "Monday Night Football" airing Howard Cosell's interview with John Lennon on November 20. Capitol/EMI's main slogan for the campaign is "You Haven't Heard Everything Yet," and its slogan for the so-called Generation X market is "Find Out What Messed Up Your Parents: New Music From The Beatles."
Advance orders for Volume One were over 3.5 million at press time (at two discs per set, that's over seven million CDs--"probably a record," says one Capitol/EMI executive). Revenue from the initial CD orders is expected to be in the $60-$70 million range, and could average $100 million for each of the three volumes--and that's just in the United States. Advertising rates for the TV version of Anthology are said to be upwards of $300,000 per 30-second spot (by comparison, Seinfeld fetches $490,000).
All in all, to borrow a line from Harrison, it's all too much.
"The collective feeling at Apple," Derek Taylor tells ICE, "is that we're very tired at the end of the day, but we're finding great satisfaction. There's a general feeling here that what's happening is really rather wonderful, and we're lucky to be involved. This will not happen again at this level, and I think we're extremely gratified that this thing has become so valid. If you like, there's the Brit Pop coincidence of Oasis and Blur and whatever. There's quite a drift in fashion as well. There are very few detractors around Britain, and a lot of young supporters.
"The whole feeling has been that this thing has come off. It has worked as a creative enterprise, and generated sufficient income to justify in-house financing. No outside money was put into it. And although I never thought it was a risky gamble, the thing will do very well. The single will be number one, and the [TV] ratings will be excellent. It's been a hard day's night, really, but... a lot of fun."
Click here to see our Annotated Track list for Volume One