2002 to 2003
Abbey Road Studios (probably Studio Two/Penthouse Mixing Suite). Mixing/Editing (precise mixing details unknown) : 'Get Back'; 'Dig A Pony'; 'For You Blue'; 'The Long And Winding Road'; 'Two Of Us'; 'I've Got A Feeling'; 'One After 909'; 'Don't Let Me Down'; 'I Me Mine'; 'Across The Universe'; 'Let It Be'.
P: Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, Allan Rouse (original sessions produced by The Beatles and George Martin) E: Glyn Johns.
In 2002 work began on a 'remix' of the original January 1969 GET BACK/LET IT BE sessions, initially planned to accompany a restored DVD release of the film.
Engineers Allan Rouse, Paul Hicks and Guy Massey were commissioned by Apple to comb through the original 1969 reels of tape, which had been recorded through a pair of borrowed 4-track consoles onto a 3M 8-track machine, and assemble a new version of the album. Further tapes from 1968 (Across The Universe) and 1970 (I Me Mine) also had to pulled from the shelves. Upon listening to the tapes, they were transferred into Pro Tools 5.2 using a Prism Sound Dream ADA 8 A/D converter. A small amount of de-noising was done using an analog Behringer dynamic filter.
Allan Rouse: "The main mixing was done in August (2002). We were prepping it before that; actually we probably started properly the beginning of last year (2002). The first thing was that we knew we were making a new album. And therefore there was
no reference made to the old album, because there was no point. So the first thing that
Paul and Guy did was they went through all of the eight tracks and listened to every title
and take and version of each title again, to make sure that we had the best. It's about 30 reels of tape, half an hour of tape; so it's a few days of listening. We mainly listened to identify the takes they used. As it turns out, Glyn and Phil had done most of the legwork. We ended up using the vast majority of their takes. Now there's a lot of people that think that remixing is the wrong thing to do. But we're not
remixing to change it, we're remixing it to make it sound better. What's happened here is
that the difference between this and any other previous projects is that, whilst remixing it,
we're still trying to make everybody think they're still listening to the same thing but
they're just hearing it better. But we treated this as a new project. And there were no
Paul Hicks: "I thought it was exciting; as Allan pointed out it's a very intense process, because of the
historical value of absolutely everything you have to be so careful. Normally you're trying
to make improvements but you can't stray too far away because you have to be completely
stuck to a rigid set of boundaries to work to. Whereas with this, we had absolute freedom
to do whatever we wanted really, just to make it sound as good and as raw as possible. One of the things when you listen to the original Let It Be there is that element of the fly
on the wall thing, because you hear the tape starting up, you hear the comments. But our
thought was that compared to all the other albums it was a bit like an extension of the film
- but with this we wanted to make a really good album. As in these are the songs; we're
not going to have clapping at the end or whatever. It was just let's just make this a really
strong Beatles album to go with the others. And because of the nature of when it was recorded, there are certain things on the tracks
where if they're not playing, they're making noises and stuff. So one of the first things we
did was to go through it all track by track and just clean it up; clean up the little pops or
when they're moving around between the takes you can hear on the original. We basically
made every track completely clear."
Allan Rouse: "In my view there's two things about an album, there's two experiences you get; you get the
experience of the music and the songs, which you love, and you get the audio experience.
And this is the one thing, the major alteration, that's changed, the audio experience - to
make it sound good anyway but also to extend its life because we all listen to things totally
different from how we did 30 years ago. If you take the early Beatles recordings, a lot of
people think it's a great novelty to have a vocal coming out of the left speaker and the
drums coming out of the right. But kids today don't understand it. It's `why?' So all of
these aspects of remixing the album which we've used for other projects, the whole
purpose behind it in this instance was besides the fact that it's a completely unique album,
was to make all these improvements that Paul and Guy can do to make it sound like a
much more exciting audio experience. It is a new version of the album. It had to feel the same but it had to sound better. We
were given very little information as to what was expected with this album, but I think we
all knew what was wanted. And it could only really be achieved by taking a blank canvas
and starting again. That's basically the way it was. And that's why, at no point, did we
really reference to Glynn Johns' mix or Phil Spector's, because there was no need to. That
wasn't the purpose."
While the project was obviously approved by Ringo Starr, George Harrison (who unfortunately never got to hear the final mix) and Yoko Ono, it was Paul McCartney who seems to have championed the remixing the most. McCartney revelled in the opportunity to strip Phil Spector's strings and choirs from his song The Long And Winding Road, a source of major aggravation to him over the years.
Paul McCartney: "At least in the past if you were gonna put strings on it someone would run the arrangement past me. And I'd say great, or not great, or fix it. It was not being consulted, then putting out what I thought was.. crap."
Paul Hicks: "Really the thing is that most of the tracks are the same takes as what people have
known before; the absolute obvious change is The Long And Winding Road - it was a
very different version that Phil Spector over-dubbed on and when going through it all we
discovered that the version that's on the film, the one that they did on the last day, that we
felt had a really good sort of sentiment and the emotion was just fantastic. Just the playing
of the drums and Paul's vocal on that are great and it really suits it. That's the stand-out
Allan Rouse: "One of the biggest problems we had was
that the lyrics changed. It was only a small, subtle change. Once we realized that the lyric had changed we then had this quandary as to whether
or not this was acceptable now, because this was something really, really obvious. It's one
thing having a different take, but you expect the lyrics to be the same because otherwise
God knows what people might assume. The conclusion we came to in this instance was
that, because it was the very last take that he probably ever did, therefore it was probably
more correct. So that's how we resolved our problem, we figured that Paul had tuned his
lyrics and that was probably what he really wanted. But then Phil or Glyn use the take that
was done beforehand and, of course, that's how those lyrics became set.
The instrumentation which starts
all at the beginning doesn't necessarily start at the beginning in our version. In other words
we've done little subtle things to build a song. Guy did the same thing in Across The
Universe. If we felt it needed a build we wouldn't
necessarily have everything in from the beginning. Across The Universe is probably the
best example. Guy did Across The Universe and he had a bit of a problem there, because
he had two tracks. And that was all. On track one was guitar and vocal, John singing, and
the only other thing that was played live was tambora. And that was it. Yoko's heard it
and thinks it's beautiful, so that's fine, but the point was that all that was running from
beginning to end was John playing guitar, singing, and tambora. Guy has done various things to the tambora and changed the overall sound of the tambora throughout the structure of the song, to build it, to change the concept of it - because
otherwise you're missing so much from that song with just those two things going on.
There were loads of overdubs on top of that. And that was it, all the
way through. I was just thinking about the irony of that, we spend a year and a half getting rid of the
sound of Phil Spector and then we go and put a tape delay and then a reverb right on the
end of it. It's just a little present to Phil Spector, so he doesn't feel completely left out."
Yoko Ono: "It is a very major song, but never had a home, so to speak, until now.”"
If the champion of this particular project was Paul, it's title - LET IT BE... NAKED - was apparently Ringo's. Both Beatles went to Abbey Road to the inspect the engineer's work.
Guy Massey: "Well, there wasn't a lot that we could do with it, really. We stereoized the tambora as
it was building, we had it in mono first and then for the first chorus we opened it out so it
was stereo. We did the same with the vocals, widened it out a little. And then Alan
suggested why doesn't it all fade into beautiful reverb at the end; so we all laughed, did it,
and it sounded great. Originally we thought that was going to be the end track on the
album, just a lovely thing to go out on, just disappear on it. But then when we did the
running order it didn't flow quite as well, so we put Let It Be last, which seemed to fit as well. Again, we just wanted it to build, so we started it as it does start, pretty quietly and then
we just introduced bits and arranged it a bit more than it had been previously
Paul McCartney: "Whereas Winston Churchill's papers get
older and browner and crinklier, with modern technology the Beatles' music gets less hissier, gets shinier, gets more audible. And you've got these four guys - five with Billy Preston, at times - in this room with you know, sort of 5.1 [Dolby Surround Sound] and it's quite uncanny, quite the opposite of how history normally goes. It's getting better all the time. I Love it, because it shows you what The Beatles were like underneath it all. We were a great little band. I remember sitting in a rather bare white room in the Sixties listening to [the original master] and being almost scared by it because it was so naked and thinking, this is certainly unadorned and to put this out would be quite a break."
Paul Hicks: "When we sifted through the tracks we basically took anything that was an overdub. It's
what they were playing. I Me Mine is an exception."
Allan Rouse: "I think it's important to recognize that it is the take with overdubs because some
people might start saying `I thought this was meant to be without overdubs, but it's got
loads of overdubs on it'. But you have to understand that we couldn't pare down what was
there; it didn't have a vocal anyway, the backing track if you like. Because even the vocal was really a guide vocal and he overdubbed that on I Me
Guy Massey: "I think there was only two of them playing on the original take, I think it was just drums
Paul Hicks: "Let It Be; we used the original guitar solo that George did
because he overdubbed the solo.It's the same one that's in the film and he just looks like
he's enjoying it."
Paul Hicks: "Get Back, that's basically as it's been heard before. But it's a studio take and what they
did on the original album was they added the audience and an ending to make it sound
live. But Get Back's essentially always been a studio performance. And, again to just keep
the album feel of it and because it is what was on the original, we haven't got the ending,
the reprise, that you'd heard before. It turns out that the coda had been recorded as an edit piece four or five reels later. Since it wasn't on the original session recording for the song, it wouldn't have represented what actually took place in the studio during that take, so it was decided to leave it off. Now it's compact. It's two and a half minutes and just
punchy and sounding exciting. And that was done by remixing and just cleaning it up,
removing noise and hiss and the limitations of the speakers in those days. In cleaning up
the tracks it meant cleaning up wind noise and some hum and also you have to remember
that there were film crews around, they didn't know if that would be the take so there
were people making noises. In stripping it back we have had to do a few little edits, to
avoid actually changing things. Dig A Pony; that's from the rooftop,
as was the original."
Guy Massey: "Basically we just cleaned it up; there was lots of popping on the vocals. Phil Spector did
some edits that we re-did, they made sense."
Starr's drums were typically recorded onto a single track, precluding mixing them into stereo. Small amounts of de-essing and rumble filtering were also performed on Two Of Us.
Paul Hicks: "Two Of Us, we've used the same take and not a lot of editing done on that, just a
I've Got A Feeling is an interesting track; I've Got A Feeling is the
rooftop performance - the rooftop tracks, by the way, are I've Got A Feeling, Dig A Pony,
The One After 909 and Don't Let Me Down. I've Got A Feeling is actually quite different
than has been heard before; that's the one on which we did a lot of work to get the most
exciting bits out of the two takes that were on the rooftop. I've Got A Feeling is a mixture of the two rooftop performances; it's a completely new
edit. We basically got the best out of both of the two takes that they did. That'll be a field
day for people to try and work out what it is. It is embracing today's technology. It was just block multi-track edits, just `that verse is better than that one'. On one of the takes the guitar was really distorted and very exciting, I love the excitement of I've
Got A Feeling; with Paul just screaming away on it it's a really good moment on the
Paul Hicks: "Next, One After 909 - again, taken from the rooftop which was also used on the
original album but now one of the main improvements is the drum clarity. No edits there,
it's pretty naked. We did research to see if there was another version, but it was just much slower, and it had a completely different feel. There was no contest, really. It's one of the more up-tempo numbers, so we went with the live one. We found so many details we wanted to bring out, which we tried our best to do. Everything is a lot more focused.”
Paul Hicks: "For Your Blue; that's just a matter of getting more clarity, really. It was a really good
recording on that one, actually; really clear and crisp and we took advantage of that and,
like Get Back, just tried to make it as punchy as possible. PH: There's really not much that can be said about that track; it's hopefully a bit clearer.
We noticed that Paul's doing like a weird piano sound that he got by putting paper in it.
You know that weird little percussive sound in it, that's basically Paul playing the piano
that's been muted, so it's got that percussive sound. Again, all we've tried to do is to get it
so that you can hear all those elements You can hear on the session tape Paul's fiddling around, trying to get the right sound. We took out his (George's) live vocal, which was basically a guide vocal. It wasn't a complete take, really, and I don't think it was ever intended to be used.”
Not everybody in the Beatles camp was happy at first. Yoko ono refers to one early mix of a Lennon track as a "sorry sight" that had to be fixed. By the time the project was finished, her official opinion was that the album was "really beautiful". But what John have thought of the project as a whole?
Billy Preston: "I liked the original but I'm looking forward to this one. I'm excited about hearing it and I'm glad they're putting it out again. It was great for me, to be invited to play. And they treated me as a member of the band, which was fantastic."
Yoko Ono: "I think because he had an experimental nature, he would have liked the idea of bringing
out something different. The original is there, it didn’t disappear. This is not
an improvement, it’s a different version. Paul did not get to do this version the first time around, and it is karmically good for all of us that we are bringing this one out now.”
Allan Rouse: "We actually spent a long time, the three of us, to get the right running order. It's
completely different and I think it makes you want to listen to the album more. For
instance, One After 909 now starts within split seconds of the track before it. If you think
about Beatles albums or any album recorded in the Sixties with the exception of albums
like ABBEY ROAD, there was always three seconds between each track. It didn't matter how
it felt, you just measured three seconds of white leader and stuck it in. But we didn't do
that because people don't do that anymore, people use feel for when the next track should
come in. All of this is slightly different to the usual Beatles album. The album length has hardly changed, despite the fact that we took Dig Itand Maggie
Mae out and all the dialogue, because Don't Let Me Down wasn't on the original album
and that has made up the difference. This is the same length as The Beatles first four
albums, practically. We were worried about that. When CD first came out and people
realized they could put 80 minutes of music on a disc, I think some thought they had to
put on 80 minutes, or at least 75."
McCartney has also been cagy about whether he will revisit any more Beatle albums in this way.
Allan Rouse: "One of the things that is very comforting for us in all of this, by the way, is that Ringo
appeared to be really knocked out after he first heard the new album, he became very
vocal about it. And then we heard that Paul was really knocked out too, so that made it all matter."
Paul McCartney: "I dunno. I started thinking about MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, don't know why. But like I say, we've done with it. I love the idea that when you get a project like this then John is suddenly right there on that 5.1 and it's exciting for me. Close your eyes and it's exactly like being in Abbey Road making those records. Only, there's no hiss. And you can't argue with that cause there was no hiss in the room where we made it, so it's taking it back to the reality in many ways. I haven't particularly thought of revisiting anything else but an idea might come up. To anyone who's worried - well then, get the original record. Be a collector, get the vinyl copy. Cause it's all still out there, it hasn't gone away."
Sources include: Washington Post Sunday 24 November 2002; Word Music And More December 2003; Mix : The Naked Truth About The Beatles; Rolling Stone 29 January 2003 - New Beatles "Let It Be" Due; Plugged : Sir Paul and Ringo Discuss Let It Be...Naked
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