How exactly did the new Beatles remix album come together? Chris Willman talks with legendary Fab Four producer Sir George Martin and his partner-son Giles about mining the classic '60s recordings for Cirque du Soleil
The phrase ”new Beatles album” is loaded with all sorts of potentially blasphemous connotations for the millions of diehard fans who might be considered the Fab Faithful. But initial reactions to LOVE suggest that there won’t be any burnings at the stake for the father and son producing team of Sir George and Giles Martin — 80 and 37, respectively — who spent three years on the project.
Sort of a soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name in Las Vegas and sort of its own thing, LOVE really does feel fresh in a way that other latter-day Beatles products like Let It Be… Naked and even the Anthology collections haven’t, quite. Freed from the need to adhere to chronology or chart success like the 10-million-selling 1’s collection of a few years back, this instantly replaces that uninspired hits set as the album you’d give a kid who needs to discover the Beatles for the first time. It also manages to be the album you’d give the jaded boomer who’s hearing these songs for the ten thousandth time.
EW.com sat down with the intergenerational tag team behind the album in the basement studios of Capitol Records in Hollywood recently. As the Martins played tracks from the new collection, we Sgt. Pepper-ed them with questions about the philosophy that went into gingerly but boldly remixing the classics.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you think of this primarily as a soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil show, or as something that should exist completely independent of that?
SIR GEORGE MARTIN: The Beatles themselves wanted it to represent the show, and to think of it as a soundtrack. But while a lot of people have seen the show, a hell of a lot more will have the record.
GILES MARTIN: The show was led by the music. If it didn’t work musically, it wasn’t in the show. And in a way, we were doing the album as we did the show. We didn’t want to make this a ”show album,” we wanted to make it a Beatles record. And we thought it would be great to do the live Beatles show that never was, since they stopped touring before most of this material was recorded.
There are ambient bird sounds in the background of the opening track, ”Because,” that sound like they were recorded out on the street. Was that a sound effect you recorded?
SIR GEORGE: No, the birds are from ”Across the Universe.” Well, actually, we did add a wood pigeon — to make it more British.
So even though you wanted to stick with elements of the original recordings, you cheated for the sake of adding a wood pigeon!
SIR GEORGE: That was one of the two things we recorded especially for this, the other being the new orchestration for ”While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
On ”I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was the crowd noise lifted off the Hollywood Bowl live album?
SIR GEORGE: Actually, the front speakers [in the 5.1 mix] have the studio recording, and the rear speakers have the band performing at the Hollywood Bowl. They’re in tune with each other, and we found a way to match them. We wanted to put across Beatlemania at some point. The crowd is like white noise… like something frying.
”I Am the Walrus” doesn’t sound like it was tampered with, for most of its length.
SIR GEORGE: We didn’t do anything on this one until the last chorus. It was already what George [Harrison] would have called ”avant garde.” George had a favorite saying: ”Avant garde? Avant got a clue!”
NEXT PAGE: How the Martins got ”Come Together” and ”Something” to sound so new