Current “Get Back” Book Shines New Light on The Beatles “Dark” January 1969 Sessions

When I first heard that there would be a new book to accompany Peter Jackson’s upcoming Beatles documentary “Get Back” I had  a “meh” reaction. 

Part of me thought it might be a nice upgrade to the original book that accompanied first UK box set pressings of The Beatles “Let it Be” album but since I own that book the other part of me said “yawn”.

After all there have been Beatles books before that have accompanied massive Beatles projects like the “Anthology” project from the mid ’90s but I’ve never really gone back to them much so why bother with this new “Get Back” book?

Well as happens frequently, I was wrong.

I managed to see a preview of this new “Get Back” book on YouTube (it’s all the current rage to post previews of all the new Beatles projects online) earlier this week and it really intrigued me. Not only did the book look well made with lots of really nice photographs from the January 1969 sessions that became the “Let it Be” album and film but the text consisted mainly of partial dialog from The Beatles themselves from the Twickenham as well as Apple studios filming and recording sessions.

Count me intrigued. Really intrigued. 

To top it off the Target chain of stores here in the U.S. added four exclusive lobby card reprints from the 1970 “Let it Be” film to the copies of the book that they were selling and for me that was all she wrote, I was in.

Having purchased the book a couple of days ago  I must say I’m very impressed. It’s a nice sized hardback book that does indeed contain hundreds of really terrific photos from throughout the January 1969 filming and recording sessions but the dialog transcripts are really the main draw here. They are fascinating and really shed new light on these sessions.

Of course the “Let it Be” film from 1970 helped to paint January 1969 as a very dark and gloomy time for The Beatles. The only moments of joy are near the end of the film when The Beatles take to the rooftop of their Apple headquarters to perform live for the last time in their career which is truly mesmerizing. The rest of the film is disjointed and jarring and The Beatles seem bored.

What’s amazing about reading the dialogue in this book is that The Beatles come across much more engaged and cooperative than  had previously been surmised. That’s not to say that by January 1969 the Beatles weren’t reaching their end as a group but there were a lot more lighter moments then had previously been seen in past documents of these sessions.

In fact having seen the new trailer for the “Get Back” documentary that comes out on Disney+ next month there were a lot of really light and interesting moments that were left on the cutting room floor. There are hours of footage that seems to show a much more well-rounded version of the events then has ever been seen before. This new trailer for the documentary makes me feel joyful and I can’t wait to see this new version.

That feeling of joy also permeates this new “Get Back” book as well. Yes there are darker moments for sure but reading these transcripts is a lot of fun and kind of washes away many of the darker aspects of this whole project that have permeated anything to do with the “Let it Be” film and album.

I’m guessing that it’s the time after the filming and recording of these January 1969 sessions when The Beatles really began to have business issues that colored everything in their minds for that period with a negative view. By the time The Beatles needed to go back and make these film and audio recordings into a unified album and film they had little interest in the project thus began the really dark association with what became “Let it Be”.

No disrespect to Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the director of the original “Let it Be” film, but I’m so glad that Peter Jackson was given the task of making something out of the fifty-something hours of used footage from the “Let it Be” film. This new “Get Back” documentary really does make the January 1969 sessions a pleasure to watch instead of the sour experience that the original film depicts.

Also after listening to the new “Let it Be” box set that comes out today I definitely have a more positive view of the whole time period and there is a lot to enjoy from these sessions that hasn’t seen the light of day until now.

By the way I also really enjoyed reading Peter Jackson’s forward in the book. I love how he describes not hearing The Beatles much in his youth and the story of his dad bringing home one of the only 45’s he ever bought, a cover of The Beatles “Something” by Shirley Bassey. 

It wasn’t until Jackson saw the 1973 Red and Blue Beatles greatest hits albums in a store window that he truly discovered the group’s music. That was my way into the group’s catalog as well so it was fun reading how Jackson became a Beatles fan.

Anyway, the new “Get Back” book is good, really good. If you’re a fan of The Beatles and the “Let it Be” album and film then you need to grab a copy of this book, it’s a very interesting read.

As usual see photos of my copy of this new book above and below.

I really think that the Target exclusive “Let it Be” lobby cards are a terrific bonus so if that kind of thing floats your boat then make sure you grab a copy of this book from a Target store or from http://www.target.com. There are other places offering bonus photos as well but to me the lobby cards are more interesting.

If you have no desire for any bonus goodies then buying the book online or at your nearest bookstore would be your best option.

Well that’s all for now.

Until next time be well and see you soon.

The Beatles Deluxe “Let it Be” 5 LP Set is A True Gem and Won’t Let You Down (At Least for the Majority of Beatles Fans)

I think I’m going to call this my “Get Back” week. 

First there was the release this past Tuesday of The Beatles “Get Back” book (more about that coming soon to this blog) then the release yesterday of the official trailer for the upcoming new six-hour “Get Back” documentary by Peter Jackson on Disney+ next month and now the release tomorrow of the newly remixed and remastered “Let it Be” album.

Ahhh that’s my kind of week!

Well as fate would have it I have managed to get ahold of one of the many new “Let it Be” configurations coming out tomorrow – the 5 LP “Let it Be” which includes an impressive 100-page hardback book as well as four full LPs and one 4 song (45 r.p.m.) LP-sized EP.

There are other formats of this new “Let it Be” album as well including a single CD, a 2 CD set, a 6 CD/Blu-Ray set as well as a single LP but this review will take a look at this most impressive new 5 Lp box set.

As usual this new “Let it Be” box set, like many of the Beatles box sets that have been released in the past few years, is a thing of beauty and is full of previously unreleased outtakes along with the main album newly remixed afresh by Giles Martin (son of legendary original Beatles producer George Martin).

The first thing that struck me when I held this set in my hands was not only the hefty weight of the set but the lovely die-cut front cover which looks just amazing in person. It struck me at first glance as sort of a window into the famed “Get Back” sessions from 1969 and after listening to the set I think that’s an apt description.

I must say first off though that this set is by no means a complete chronicle of the almost mythical sessions from January 1969 which consisted of several hours of off the cuff as well as studio performances. 

I read that Giles Martin chose sparingly the outtakes for this set and wanted to make a collection that was easy to digest and listen to repeatedly without the tediousness of listening to every single note and breath that was recorded on the hundreds of hours of audio tape that exist in The Beatles vaults.

I know some Beatles fans will be upset that there isn’t a lot more of the Twickenham Studio audio that’s been bootlegged to death over the years but after having perused this new set I must say I think Giles Martin chose well and this set is indeed a nice window into these sessions and very entertaining. Your mileage may vary but for me this set hit my sweet spot for the “Get Back” sessions and I find it a nice overview.

Anyway, here’s a quick look at the 5 LP set.

The first LP, the 2021 “Let it Be” remix:

I have to say I was really surprised to find that this new 2021 remix sounded very true to the original 1970 Phil Spector mix. Yes there are several nice new moments with more up front vocals and some instruments peaking out here and there but overall this new remix sounds very close to the original LP.

This is probably my favorite of all of Giles Martin’s Beatles remixes. I’m sure other people may think he should have gone farther but to me this just is a much clearer and cleaner sounding version of the original mix. You definitely don’t feel as if Martin is making this sound anything other than the original “Let it Be” album we all know and love but enhanced.

At least on vinyl this album doesn’t sound dramatically different to me and in my opinion that’s a good thing. I’m always afraid of some overly compressed mess that drowns the album of its original charm but that’s not the case here.

(Note: Also I have to say that all the records in my set were pressed very well (no warps) and are very quiet and sound great! Nothing sounded overly compressed or muddy to my ears. One of the better Beatles box sets sound wise in my opinion.)

Here are a couple of mixes that sounded slightly different to me:

Across the Universe – This is the first of the remixes that really stood out to me as sounding a bit different. The vocal is more prominent, a little clearer with a little bit more echo. The orchestration is much more noticeable and you can hear it much better as the various instruments stand out more. Lovely remix and you actually hear more of Specter’s touch with this one. Actually all the songs that contain Spector’s orchestrations stand out a bit more in this new remix.

One After 909 – While not dramatically different sounding this mix is a bit cleaner and sounds a little bit rockier than the original mix. There’s a nice punch to this mix without being overly compressed. I love how live the vocals sound. I may prefer this mix to the original actually, very nice.

The Long and Winding Road – Much like “Across the Universe” this new remix highlights the sound of the orchestration. If anyone was hoping for a de-Spectorized take this is definitely not it. Paul’s vocal also sounds a bit more up front but the orchestration really sounds lovely. It does sound as if they took down the heavenly choir vocals a bit but the orchestration is a little bit cleaner and clearer which was kind of surprising but sounds good.

The rest of the album has its moments of a bit cleaner vocals and better separation of instruments but overall it actually sounds very very faithful to the original 1970 mix. All of the rockier songs tend to have a bit more punch and a little bit cleaner presentation than the original mix which makes them sound improved in my mind but they’re not dramatically different from their original mixes.

Get Back – Apple Sessions, Rehearsals and Apple Jams:

While I haven’t listened to both LPs in full yet what I’ve sampled so far has been a lot of fun. Again not dramatically different versions of these songs but this is a nice sounding collection of outtakes from the sessions.

I’m actually glad that Martin focused on the studio takes rather than put too much of the Twickenham songs in this collection. It’s fun to hear The Beatles in the studio in nice clean and punchy sounding works in progress. The mono Nagra sound pretty good but for repeated listening I prefer the studio takes.

Some highlights so far:

Let it Be/Please Please Me/Let it Be (Take 10) – A very soulful early take of “Let it Be” that I really enjoyed. I must have missed the “Please Please Me” bit because I didn’t hear it but a lovely early take that’s great to hear.

Dig a Pony (Take 14) – Another fun take that while not perfect sounds great. I especially love how Lennon at the end sings that this take wasn’t as good as a previous take and let’s do “Get Back”. Fun stuff and sounds very nice.

One After 909 (Take 3) – A really nice take with much more prominent boogie woogie piano. Again not dramatically different but different enough to be interesting. For some reason this take reminds me of The Rolling Stones, a bit more bluesy.

Don’t Let Me Down (First Rooftop Performance) – Despite the slight lyric goof this is a superb take and nice to have the complete unaltered live take. I enjoy the version of this from “Let it Be … Naked”album which made a composite mix of both live takes but it’s great to have the full unaltered first take sounding as good as this does. More rooftop takes please, thank you.

The Long and Winding Road (Take 19) – A truly wonderful take that sounds so great without any orchestration. I actually may prefer this version over all the others it’s so haunting and subdued and great to have in my collection.

All Things Must Pass (Rehearsals) – The mono Twickenham songs actually sound pretty darn good but I do prefer the studio takes to these mono recordings. It’s just so sad that the Beatles never finished a complete take of this song as these rehearsals are true gems. This would have been one of the highlights of these sessions if they completed a full studio take.

On a side note I love how the inner sleeve uses the same photos and layout as the US “Let it Be” LP but in black and white. Looks very classy and very White Album, I love it.

The unreleased Glyn Johns mix of The Get Back lp:

It’s nice to finally have a great sounding version of this rejected Glyn John’s mix of what became the “Let it Be” album. I’ve always enjoyed this album and it’s nice to finally see it part of a Beatles official package. I’m not sure if this is all the 1970 Glyn Johns mix or if this is actually a mixture of his 1969 and 1970 mixes but whatever it sounds really good and it’s nice to have it.

I must say that this mix is a bit more harsh sounding than all of the other mixes found in this collection. Don’t get me wrong it’s  really interesting and fun album to have it just sounds a little bit brighter than the other outtakes that Giles Martin mixed for this set.

While Glyn Johns’ mix has a more loose feel to it and a more warts and all approach it’s still a good listen and well worth adding to any collection. Actually I would have preferred some of the outtakes Martin chose added to Johns album but it’s still an essential listen.

Plus the album cover recreation of what would have been the “Get Back” lp is just superb and well worth having in full LP size. This alone is worth getting the vinyl set for this album as it’s a legendary version that almost came out instead of “Let it Be”.

The EP:

Across the Universe – An interesting unreleased Glyn Johns mix of one of my favorite Lennon songs. It contains the offbeat background vocals from the first released version of the song mixed lower but still there nonetheless. Not my favorite mix of this song but not bad. It’s basically a better remix of the Wildlife charity album mix.

I Me Mine – A nice mix if this song. Not overly different but minus the Phil Spector orchestrations and much shorter as well.

Don’t Let Me Down – This new Giles Martin mix of the single version of the song is superb. I love the extra added speaking at the beginning. A very powerful and clean sounding mix of this song. May be my favorite of the new remixes.

Let it Be – Another Giles Martin 2021 mix of the single version of this song. Much cleaner than the original mix. It would have been nice to have these two remixes snuck on the earlier album but it’s still great to have them and this is a nice remix as well.

The Book:

The hundred-page hardback book in this set is superb much like the books from Sgt. Pepper and The White Album sets. This is the type of book I was hoping for in the “All things Must Pass” CD set but at least it’s a part of this set.

This book is loaded with great pictures and nice text especially by Kevin Howlett. I love the LP size of this book as it’s the perfect size for the pictures and makes the text easier to read as well and easy to handle.

It’s very well done and really makes this set worth the price I paid for it. The hardback book really makes this set sparkle as it is very high quality as are the covers and labels on the LPs in this set.

Grade: A

Overall I have to say that this new “Let it Be” set is a real winner. It’s packaged well (see the photos above and below), it sounds great and it’s a nice overview of The Beatles “Get Back” sessions. 

(Note 2: The “Let it Be” poster in the photos above is being handed out for free at independent record stores for those who purchase any configuration of this new reissue.)

If you’re a Beatles fan what’s not to love? (Err, I’m sure online there will be plenty of bitching about this and that but to me this set is done just right).

So there you have it. If you’ve been looking forward to this set odds are you’ll find it very enjoyable like I did. The price isn’t too bad (I got mine for around $130) and the content is great.

Well, that’s all for now but more Beatles soon!

Until then be safe and well and I hope you get a chance to hear this new remix of “Let it Be”.

See you soon!

A John Lennon 81st Birthday Salute – Lennon Tape Formats from the Past

October 9, 1941 – a day long ago but somehow not so far away.

You see all these eight-one years later Lennon is still remembered fondly and his music is still revered so at least his presence is still fan being by music fans all around the world.

I’m actually not one for posting and noting every Beatle birthday but it just so happens that I stumbled upon an old box of cassettes and 8-tracks just recently so I thought it might be fun to post a few of my surviving John Lennon albums that I still own on those formats.

Ahhh 8-tracks and cassettes tapes.

Both of those formats scream the 1970s to me as it was in the late 1970s that I went through an 8-track and cassette phase which at the time I thought was great. Looking back neither format could really match the sound one got from vinyl but the portability issue won me over as this was the dark ages, pre-Internet and streaming.

In fact for both the “Imagine” and “Mind Games” albums the cassette and 8-track versions were the first versions of these albums that I ever owned. I distinctly remember finding a ton of solo Beatles 8-tracks, mostly from the UK and France, in a huge discount bin for $.99 cents apiece at Musicland (remember that store?) around 1978 or so.

I bought quite a few solo albums by all four Beatles from Musicland and the “Mind Games” UK 8-track is the only John Lennon one that remains in my collection all these years later. I remember playing the 8-tracks in my dad’s car at the time which I thought was so cool – music wherever I wanted it!

(Note: Truth be told at the time I was only “meh” on the “Mind Games” album but as time has passed it’s now one of my favorite Lennon solo albums.)

Around that same time frame I also got a small portable cassette player for my birthday and also decided to get a few solo albums on the cassette format as well. I actually didn’t buy that many prerecorded cassettes as they were not discounted like the 8-tracks so they weren’t as tempting to try and buy an album I didn’t own.

Plus I mainly wanted the cassette player to tape things but a few store-bought cassettes did cross my path from time to time. No surprise to anyone whose read this blog before I’m sure.

I did manage to get the “The John Lennon Collection” cassette on Geffen Records because as memory serves (or not lol, it’s been a long time) there were either more or different songs on the cassette version. I could be wrong but I think that’s why I bought that particular cassette. I think the Lp had 15 tracks and the cassette had 17 if I’m not mistaken.

I also remember buying the “Menlove Ave.” album on cassette because I had also bought that album on CD when it first came out but the CD version skipped in the same spot on my then Maganvox CD player. After buying two different CD copies I went with the cassette as it obviously didn’t skip.

(Note 2: All these years later I found another Made in Japan copy of the “Menlove Ave.” CD and it plays just fine. I’m sure it was my old Magnavox CD player, my first player from 1986. It had a ton of playing issues and was replaced ASAP when I could afford a new and better player)

As for the sealed “Live Peace at Toronto 1969” 8-track, I found that one last year in Florida right before Covid reared its ugly head and travel ground to a halt. I thought it was so fun to find one still sealed after all these years so it makes it a fun artifact to have in the collection. I’m a sucker for sealed older formats.

Anyway, just a few reminisces about the past on what would have been John Lennon’s 81st birthday – Happy Birthday John!

You can take a gander at my cassettes and 8-tracks above as per usual.

That’s all for now.

Happy Saturday and I hope you’re enjoying your Fall no matter where you are out there!

 

 

 

“The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story” by Andrew Sandoval Is An Invaluable Book About The Monkees Career and Well Worth Its (Considerable) Weight in Gold

Good things come to those who wait – or so they say. And in the case of the book I’m taking a look at today, “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story” by Andrew Sandoval, that is most definitely true.

A strictly limited edition available to purchase exclusively online at https://beatlandbooks.com/, “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story” is a book Monkees fans have been waiting for several years to come to fruition.

Originally released in June of 2005 under the title “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation” this wonderful book was first published by Thunder Bay Press and contained an amazingly comprehensive look at The Monkees not only as a TV show but as a musical group and pop phenomena.

“The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation” detailed every Monkees recording session, filming date and public appearance between 1965 and 1970 in an easy to read diary format. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve paged through this first edition over the years as this book was the only behind the scenes look at how the group worked.

(Note: I was especially interested in how The Monkees recorded their music which was the main draw for me with “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation”. I’ve loved their music since I was a toddler in the late 1960’s and this was the first book that dug deeply into how and what the group recorded and why they had so many unreleased tracks from the 1960s)

Modeled after author Mark Lewisohn’s books on The Beatles, “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” and “The Complete Beatles Chronicle”, “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation” had placed Sandoval as The Monkees unofficial yet definitive chronicler of the group’s story and legacy.

Not that Sandoval’s isn’t in a great position for that task as he has not only written about the group but he has been their tour manager for over ten years as well as overseeing their stellar music reissues (on CD and vinyl) throughout the last thirty years or so through Rhino Records. Sandoval also produced a couple of bonus tracks from The Monkees triumphant 2016 “Good Times!” album sessions which makes him not just a chronicler of their story but also a participant as well.

No one else in The Monkees universe is as knowledgeable or as passionate about the group’s music than Sandoval so his involvement in The Monkees story has been a most welcome thing to many of the groups hardcore fans.

Over the years Sandoval has been asked if he would ever update “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation” book as there has been so much added to the group’s story since 1970 that fans have been requesting a newer edition practically since the day the book was published in 2005.

Fast forward to 2020.

Sandoval found that he had a lot of time on his hands with the Covid Pandemic basically grounding him for a year or so so he decided the time was right to finally update his book. While fans may have been expecting a reasonably expanded edition of the book that included not only the comeback years of 1980’s but the recently much heralded musical resurgence of 2016’s “Good Times!” that was not the case.

As fate would have it Sandoval found thousands of pages of newly discovered legal documents pertaining to the 1967 firing of Don Kirshner, the man who ran Screen Gems music in the late 1960s and was the group’s musical supervisor, at beginning of 2020.

Plus with the addition of hundreds of photos and over four decades of research, Andrew Sandoval decided to compile a massive new edition of his book that while hundreds of pages bigger than the first edition still only focused on The Monkees most critical years of 1965-1970.

Coming in at a hefty 11 pounds (for the basic flexibound edition, more for the two hardback editions) and at an amazing 740 pages, “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story” is a dream come true for the diehard Monkees fans and is filled the the brim with loads of unseen color and black and white photos as well as reproductions of unpublished stills and call sheets.

I must say now that the book is finally in my hands I can testify that this wonderfully fine-crafted book is a thing of beauty – and massively heavy! Having only spent a couple of hours so far reading through certain sections of the book I can now report that this new update of Sandoval’s book is by far the most detailed and amazing book I’ve ever read about The Monkees (or practically any music book for that matter including most books on The Beatles).

Just reading the pages on the 1967 “Headquarters” sessions and the ousting of Don Kirshner has brought so many more details out that I never knew. It’s especially great to read both Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith’s perspectives from 1967 that come from the court documents that Sandoval found.

All four group members were deposed for the 1967 court case involving Don Kirshner so reading their accounts from just a few months after the fact is much more revealing than what they had to say, or remembered, from say twenty or thirty years later.

Reading through the chapter about 1967 I now have a much clearer view of all sides of dealing with Don Kirshner and the friction that caused all parties involved as well as the new insights into Nesmith’s hatred of Jeff Barry and Jones’ distrust of both Monkees TV producer Bert Schneider and Screen Gems head Jackie Cooper.

Both Nesmith and Jones newly added interviews from the 1967 court case especially illuminate the toxic brew that surrounded the carefree Monkees image in a way that really casts this well told story in a new and more three dimensional light. I now get a much clearer take on both Nesmith and Jones personalities which makes their friction in later years much easier to understand.

I have to say that the addition of the hundreds of new photos also adds an unexpected insight into the narrative of the group’s story and the times in which they recorded their music and filmed their show. Fantastic stuff and I’m sure that fans of pop culture who aren’t necessarily fans of The Monkees would find a lot to love in this book.

This book was obviously designed and marketed to the 2000 or so die-hard fans out there who have followed the group for decades (yes, my hand is up – way up) and that’s a great treat for all of us who never dreamed that such a superbly put together and lovingly assembled book would be THE last word on The Monkees story in the 1960s (for me anyway).

I honestly can’t see how any other book would even remotely come close to the quality presentation that Andrew Sandoval has provided Monkees fans with “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story”.

For those of you out there who may not have heard of how to order this book, as of this writing there are still a few copies available for a short time of the three editions Sandoval has made available through Beatland Books (https://beatlandbooks.com/).

Yes they are expensive (prices range from $100 plus shipping for the flexibound version to $250 plus shipping for the Super Deluxe hardback version) and yes they are extremely heavy but if you are a fan of The Monkees you owe it to yourself to see if you can grab one of the remaining copies before they are gone. Sandoval says they will not be made available digitally and not be made available again in book form as well.

Well that’s all for now. I’m going to get back to lifting weights as I take this book out for some more perusing as long as I don’t injure myself picking it up!

As usual check out the photos of my flexibound copy of “The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story” above and below.

Until next time be well and safe and see you soon!