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Inside the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' Vault

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Inside the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' Vault

The Beatles have been notoriously cautious about digging through their vaults — 1995's Anthology documentary project took more than 25 years for the group to approve and release, while films like Let It Be remain under wraps, even though they would be guaranteed moneymakers. Which is why it's so surprising that, 50 years after the release of the band's most famous album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles are issuing a new box set featuring 34 never-heard tracks from the sessions — the first time they have released unheard studio material since Anthology. The new box set will be available May 26th.

Today, Giles Martin, the producer and son of the late George Martin, sits at the control board at Abbey Road's Studio Two in London, playing back some of the lost treasures. The studio looks the same as it did when the Beatles made the album here in 1967 — even the same baffles hang on the wall. "Abbey Road is a bit like a salad bowl or a teapot," says Martin. "The walls absorb music." While there are no entirely new songs — not even the mythical lost 1967 psychedelic jam "Carnival of Light" ("It's not really part of Pepper," says Martin) — there are revelatory outtakes of every song: a rocked-up "Fixing a Hole", full of R&B harpsichord; a version of "Within You Without You" in which George Harrison gives his instructions to the Indian musicians ("OK, the main thing is the timing"). Says Martin, "My dad said recording George was like watching someone make a carpet thread by thread, thinking about each bit."

Martin says that talk of the project began after he remixed the Beatles' hits collection 1 in 2015. Encouraged by those mixes (which didn't include any Sgt. Pepper songs), Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr agreed it was time to give the same treatment to their psychedelic masterpiece. Fans have always complained about the diffuse stereo mix of the 39-minute original album; the mono version was the one George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick and the band spent weeks mixing, while the stereo version was a rushed afterthought, without the group's involvement. The remix is full of nuances any fan will notice, especially the bottom end — Starr's kick drum reveals new dimensions. "There's nothing new — this is the album they made," Martin says. "All we do is peel back the layers of compression that were necessary to release music in 1967. It's their album now. It's just boys in a room, making noise."

The project is a tribute to the band and George Martin, who passed away in early 2016 while the work was underway. "It was emotional, hearing the old man's voice in the playbacks," Martin says. "I've been working for my dad since I was 15. As his hearing started to fade, I became his ears." Asked if this box will heat up the demand for similar treatments of other LPs, such as Abbey Road­, Martin winces: "Can I have two weeks off first?"

Even Apple Corps insiders seem surprised the release came together so fast. Martin started working on it in late 2015, and McCartney, Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono had to approve it, right down to the colour scheme of the packaging.

Martin says going back to Pepper was a discovery for the band as well. He recalls playing McCartney various outtakes of "Within You Without You". "I don't know how long it had been since he'd heard that song — probably a long time," he says. "Paul closed his eyes, listened and said, ‘Hey, George was really good!'"

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The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Reissue Track Lists

CD
(Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix)
1. " Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
2. " With A Little Help From My Friends"
3. " Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
4. " Getting Better"
5. " Fixing A Hole"
6. " She's Leaving Home"
7. " Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!"
8. " Within You Without You"
9. " When I'm Sixty-Four"
10. "Lovely Rita"
11. "Good Morning Good Morning"
12. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
13. "A Day In The Life"

Deluxe [2CD, digital]
CD 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix 

CD 2
1. " Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" [Take 9]
2. " With A Little Help From My Friends" [Take 1 - False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3. " Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Take 1]
4. " Getting Better" [Take 1 - Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5. " Fixing A Hole" [Speech And Take 3]
6. " She's Leaving Home" [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7. " Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" [Take 4]
8. " Within You Without You" [Take 1 - Indian Instruments]
9. " When I'm Sixty-Four" [Take 2]
10. "Lovely Rita" [Speech And Take 9]
11. "Good Morning Good Morning" [Take 8]
12. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" [Take 8]
13. "A Day In The Life" [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]
14. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 7]
15. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 26]
16. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Stereo Mix - 2015]
17. "Penny Lane" [Take 6 - Instrumental]
18. "Penny Lane" [Stereo Mix - 2017]

Deluxe Vinyl 
LP 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix

LP 2 (Complete early takes from the sessions in the same sequence as the album)
Side A
1. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" [Take 9 And Speech]
2. "With A Little Help From My Friends" [Take 1 - False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Take 1]
4. "Getting Better" [Take 1 - Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5. "Fixing A Hole" [Speech And Take 3]
6. "She's Leaving Home" [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7. "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" [Take 4]

Side B
1. "Within You Without You" [Take 1 - Indian Instruments]
2. "When I'm Sixty-Four" [Take 2]
3. "Lovely Rita" [Speech And Take 9]
4. "Good Morning Good Morning" [Take 8]
5. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Reprise) [Take 8]
6. "A Day In The Life" [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]

Super Deluxe [4CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set]
CD 1
Sgt. Pepper 2017 Stereo Mix

CD 2 (Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates)
1. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 1]
2. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 4]
3. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 7]
4. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Take 26]
5. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Stereo Mix - 2015]
6. "When I'm Sixty-Four" [Take 2]
7. "Penny Lane" [Take 6 – Instrumental]
8. "Penny Lane" [Vocal Overdubs And Speech]
9. "Penny Lane" [Stereo Mix - 2017]
10. "A Day In The Life" [Take 1]
11. "A Day In The Life" [Take 2]
12. "A Day In The Life" [Orchestra Overdub]
13. "A Day In The Life" (Hummed Last Chord) [Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11]
14. "A Day In The Life" (The Last Chord)
15. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" [Take 1 – Instrumental]
16. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" [Take 9 And Speech]
17. "Good Morning Good Morning" [Take 1 - Instrumental, Breakdown]
18. "Good Morning Good Morning" [Take 8]

CD 3 (Complete early takes from the sessions, sequenced in chronological order of their first recording dates)
1. "Fixing A Hole" [Take 1]
2. "Fixing A Hole" [Speech And Take 3]
3. "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" [Speech From Before Take 1; Take 4 And Speech At End]
4. "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" [Take 7]
5. "Lovely Rita" [Speech And Take 9]
6. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Take 1 And Speech At The End]
7. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Speech, False Start And Take 5]
8. "Getting Better" [Take 1 - Instrumental And Speech At The End]
9. "Getting Better" [Take 12]
10. "Within You Without You" [Take 1 - Indian Instruments Only]
11. "Within You Without You" [George Coaching The Musicians]
12. "She's Leaving Home" [Take 1 – Instrumental]
13. "She's Leaving Home" [Take 6 – Instrumental]
14. "With A Little Help From My Friends" [Take 1 - False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
15. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" [Speech And Take 8]

CD 4 (Sgt. Pepper and bonus tracks in Mono)
1-13: 2017 Direct Transfer of Sgt. Pepper Original Mono Mix
14. "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Original Mono Mix]
15. "Penny Lane" [Original Mono Mix]
16. "A Day In The Life" [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
17. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Unreleased Mono Mix - No. 11]
18. "She's Leaving Home" [Unreleased First Mono Mix]
19. "Penny Lane" [Capitol Records U.S. Promo Single - Mono Mix]

DISCS 5 & 6 (Blu-ray & DVD)
Audio Features (both discs):
- New 5.1 Surround Audio mixes of 'Sgt. Pepper’ album and “Penny Lane,” plus 2015 5.1 Surround mix of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Blu-ray: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby True HD 5.1 / DVD: DTS Dolby Digital 5.1)
- High Resolution Audio versions of 2017 'Sgt. Pepper’ stereo mix and 2017 “Penny Lane” stereo mix, plus 2015 “Strawberry Fields Forever” hi res stereo mix (Blu-ray: LPCM Stereo 96KHz/24bit / DVD: LPCM Stereo)
Video Features (both discs):
- The Making of Sgt. Pepper [restored 1992 documentary film, previously unreleased]
- Promotional Films: "A Day In The Life;" "Strawberry Fields Forever;" "Penny Lane" [4K restored]

From issue #787 (June 2017), available now.

 

Topics: The Beatles   Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

 
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