The Beatles’ Long-Awaited ‘Sgt Pepper’ Remix Previewed At Abbey Road

April 10, 2017
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The long-awaited remix of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finally got its first airing on 10 April, when Giles Martin, son of the late Sir George, unveiled arguably his most important work yet in London’s Abbey Road Studios, the building where The Beatles recorded most of their music.

Sitting in Studio Two, where Sgt Pepper was largely created, Giles noted how much painstaking work he and his collaborator, Sam Okell, had put into making a brand new mix from the original four-track tapes. Admitting, “It’s unnerving when you’re being examined,” he continued, “We’ve been really careful. It’s taken a long time and we’ve been really diligent.” Having access to the tapes had, he said, allowed them to “peel back the layers and rebuild it”.

“Our intention was to make a stereo of the mono,” Giles said, noting that, as far as The Beatles were concerned, the original 1967 mono mix was “what Sgt Pepper is”. “I’ve worked with my dad since I was 15,” Giles continued. “So I know how he felt. And I know the band as well.”

Giles Martin At Abbey Road Discussing Sgt Pepper Remix

Giles Martin (left), at Abbey Road, discussing his remix of ‘Sgt Pepper’

Describing the work as “a voyage of discovery” on an album “that you can fall into”, Giles asserted, “I’m trying to get you to hear what I hear when I listen to the tapes – and that means clarity and punch.”

On the evidence of the playback, before an invite-only audience that included uDiscover, Giles has unequivocally succeeded in his mission. From the opening title track, the album rushes out of the speakers; Sgt Pepper has always been hailed for its innovative studio techniques, but what you also get from the new mix is the sense of a band playing together. And not only that, but tapping into their early Hamburg club days and jamming hard, too.

Beatles Sgt Pepper's Piano

“What strikes me about The Beatles is that they really dug in. They didn’t play quietly, ever,” Giles notes. “They made such a good noise.” And yet the likes of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ sounds newly considered, the string arrangement vibrant, the songwriting itself remarkably delicate and poised for a pair of songwriters as young as Lennon and McCartney were in ’67.

Elsewhere, ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is beyond expansive – it’s immersive, up there in the firmament, where it belongs. Equally, George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ buzzes into life, its synthesis of Eastern instrumentation and Western strings making more sense than ever, the percussion pulsing beneath as though the song is giving birth to itself. At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’, brimful of colour: the aural equivalent of a big-top tent setting up inside your head and letting the entire circus tumble out.

Beatles A Day In The Life Piano

The piano on which The Beatles recorded ‘A Day In The Life’’s final chord, in Abbey Road’s Studio Two

And then there’s ‘A Day In The Life’. Giles admits to struggling with the song: “I’d mixed it three times, actually. It’s got to be loud, but it comes out of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’. The difficulty was in getting the right feeling.” Not only have Giles and Sam Okell captured it perfectly – and made that final chord sound even more expansive than ever – they’ve brought even more clarity to the original recording. Often thought of as the archetypal John and Paul song, the new mix reveals Ringo working harder than ever beneath, hitting perfection with each drum fill.

Calling Sgt Pepper “the pinnacle of the collaboration between” his father and The Beatles, Giles describes the former as “a gigantic funnel: they threw things at him and it all managed to filter down into a disc”.

And he is quick to add that, as amazing as the new mix sounds, “We get credit for the stuff that they did 50 years ago because the tapes sound amazing. It’s that clarity. The Beatles shouldn’t sound old because the records don’t sound old.”

That’s partly why, as Giles noted himself, Sgt Pepper is “an album that echoes among every generation”. As such, his task, as he saw it, wasn’t “just about making things sound good – it’s about making you feel things”. “It’s all about love,” he said. “Love for the record. Love for the music.”

Which, for the defining masterpiece of the Summer Of Love, is a fitting place to start.

The Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band reissue is due for release on 26 May. Scroll down to read what’s in each version, along with the full tracklisting for the super deluxe box set, and order the reissue here.

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The various versions of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band reissue are:

Standard CD:
The new 2017 stereo mix, complete with the original UK album’s “edit for LP end” run-out groove.

Deluxe 2CD (and digital edition):
The new stereo album mix on Disc One, plus a second CD of 18 tracks, including previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album.

Disc Two also includes a new stereo mix and a previously unreleased instrumental take of ‘Penny Lane’, plus the 2015 stereo mix and two previously unreleased complete takes of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Deluxe 2LP:
The new stereo album mix on Disc One and previously unreleased complete takes of the album’s 13 songs, newly mixed in stereo and sequenced in the same order as the album, on Disc Two.

Super Deluxe 4CD+DVD+Blu-ray:
CD1 features the new 2017 stereo album mix.

CDs 2 and 3 include 33 additional recordings from the studio sessions, most of which are previously unreleased and have been mixed for the first time from the four-track session tapes, sequenced in chronological order of their recording dates, plus the new 2017 stereo mix of ‘Penny Lane’ and the 2015 stereo mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

CD4 features a direct transfer of the album’s original mono mix, plus the ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’ singles, along with the US promo mono mix of ‘Penny Lane’ and previously unreleased early mono mixes of ‘She’s Leaving Home’, ‘A Day If The Life’ and the once-thought-lost early mono mix of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’.

The DVD and Blu-ray discs both include new 5.1 surround sound audio mixes of the album and ‘Penny Lane’ by Giles Martin and Sam Okell, plus their 2015 5.1 surround sound mix of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, along with high-resolution audio mixes of the album, ‘Penny Lane’ and the 2015 stereo mix of ‘Strawberry Field Forever’.

Additionally, these discs will include 4K restored promo clips for ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘A Day In The Life’, plus The Making Of Sgt Pepper, a restored, previously unreleased documentary film originally broadcast in 1992.

The full tracklist for the super deluxe edition box set is:

CD1: St Pepper’s 2017 stereo mix
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
‘With A Little Help From My Friends’
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’
‘Getting Better’
‘Fixing A Hole’
‘She’s Leaving Home’
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’
‘Within You Without You’
‘When I’m Sixty-Four’
‘Lovely Rita’
‘Good Morning Good Morning’
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’
‘A Day In The Life’

CD2: Outtakes
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 1]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 4]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 7]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Take 26]
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [2015 stereo mix]
‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ [Take 2]
‘Penny Lane’ [Take 6: instrumental]
‘Penny Lane’ [Vocal overdubs and speech]
‘Penny Lane’ [2017 stereo mix]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Take 1]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Take 2]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Orchestra overdub]
‘A Day In The Life (Hummed Last Chord)’ [Takes 8, 9, 10 and 11]
‘A Day In The Life (The Last Chord)’
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ [Take 1: instrumental]
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ [Take 9 and speech]
‘Good Morning Good Morning’ [Take 1: instrumental, breakdown]
‘Good Morning Good Morning’ [Take 8]

CD3: Outtakes
‘Fixing A Hole’ [Take 1]
‘Fixing A Hole’ [Speech and Take 3]
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ [Speech from before Take 1; Take 4 and speech at end]
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ [Take 7]
‘Lovely Rita’ [Speech and Take 9]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Take 1 and speech at the end]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Speech, false start and Take 5]
‘Getting Better’ [Take 1: instrumental and speech at the end]
‘Getting Better’ [Take 12]
‘Within You Without You’ [Take 1: Indian Instruments Only]
‘Within You Without You’ [George coaching the musicians]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Take 1: instrumental]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Take 6: ynstrumental]
‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ [Take 1: false start; Take 2: instrumental]
‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’ [Speech and Take 8]

CD4: Sgt Pepper’s and bonus tracks in mono
Tracks 1-13: 2017 direct transfer of Sgt Pepper’s original mono mix)
‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ [Original mono mix]
‘Penny Lane’ [Original mono mix]
‘A Day In The Life’ [Unreleased first mono mix]
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ [Unreleased mono mix: No.11]
‘She’s Leaving Home’ [Unreleased first mono mix]
‘Penny Lane’ [Capitol Records US promo single: mono mix]

DVD and Blu-ray:
Audio Features (both discs):
New 5.1 surround sound audio mixes of Sgt Pepper’s and ‘Penny Lane’, plus 2015 5.1 surround sound 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’s 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]

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10 comments

  1. dave robertson

    Good article, except:

    “And yet the likes of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ sounds newly considered, the string arrangement vibrant, the band playing with remarkable delicacy for a group of musicians as young as The Beatles were in ’67.”

    ummmm, you make it sound like The Beatles themselves played the string arrangement….you know they didn’t….right?

  2. Tom Degan

    In 1995, the night the video “Free As a Bird” premiered on national television (the first “new” Beatles song in over a quarter of a century), I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again – Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away – was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, “Oh, Tom! What’s the big deal”? I told her that no one who didn’t live through that turbulent era, could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation.

    Why Sgt. Pepper Still Matters

    https://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-beatles-still-matter.html

    Written of the 40th anniversary.

    Tom Degan

  3. Tom Degan

    In 1995, the night the video “Free As a Bird” premiered on national television (the first “new” Beatles song in over a quarter of a century), I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again – Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away – was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, “Oh, Tom! What’s the big deal”? I told her that no one who didn’t live through that turbulent era, could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation.

  4. Dave Jones

    “ummmm, you make it sound like The Beatles themselves played the string arrangement….you know they didn’t….right?”

    No, ‘you’ make it sound like they played it themselves by completely misquoting the article. If you’re going to quote someone get it right, don’t mangle it up to imply they said something they never actually said.

  5. James Ewing

    Really disappointed that “Only a Northern Song” wasn’t included in any of the remastering process. Kind of a let down, but an awesome set nonetheless.

  6. Peter

    It’s a shame that you have to shell out for all of the deluxe outtake discs to get hold of the 5.1 version DVD, but the new stereo mix is a treat to look forward to.

  7. David Bolter

    Missing ‘Carnival of Lights’, like most folks. Since McCartney supposedly pushed for it’s inclusion on Anthology, he would have say as to what would go on these releases.. Wondering (without George’s veto any longer) it wasn’t included.

  8. CT Hankster

    This article says that they made a “brand new mix from the original four-track tapes.” But my understanding is that what they did was make a mix from the unbounced stemd of the four-track tapes.

    In other words, they took tracks off of tapes BEFORE they were bounced down, put them into Pro Tools or some other DAW, synched them up in time and mixed those. In which case, they wouldn’t be constrained by the decisions that had to be made in bouncing to four-track. For example, they could distribute the sounds more deliberately across the stereo field.

    Is my understanding incorrect?

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