Abbey Road (2019 Mix)
“Abbey Road as a whole, as an album, is a very good gateway to the rest of the Beatles universe,” producer Giles Martin tells Apple Music. “Because it's the most contemporary-sounding album. It doesn't sound like it was recorded in the '60s.” What the album does sound like—and how it got to sound that way—is of particular interest to Martin, whose late father George was the Fab Four's original producer. And as he did with the 50th anniversary reissues of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 2017 and the White Album in 2018, Martin has painstakingly rebuilt The Beatles' 11th and penultimate album piece by piece, and also unearthed a trove of demos and alternate tracks. (A highlight of the latter includes the band bantering about noise complaints from Abbey Road neighbours while recording “I Want You [She's So Heavy]”.)
The goal of the project is not just to appeal to Beatles obsessives, but also to recontextualise what the album means for a contemporary audience and to upgrade the sonic fidelity to match what they are used to hearing. “One of the things we strive for in doing these mixes is so that when people listen to, say, Apple Music, you can have a playlist or a radio station with The Beatles next to Ed Sheeran. I'm interested in seeing if you can switch someone from hearing to listening; audiophiles listen to mixes and people listen to songs. I would love younger generations, or new listeners, or people who weren't aware, to go back and listen to The Beatles. They are the bedrock of popular music for so many people.” To help wade through the embarrassment of riches, Martin highlights a handful of tracks that best show The Beatles in this last unified moment before fracturing, and that are most revelatory in newly remixed form.
Come Together “One of the toughest songs to mix. The reason why is because it's so simple—there's not much on it. It's the band playing live, and it's one of their greatest performances. It's the one track that Ringo and Paul said to me, 'We were really good on this day.' It shows a sophistication as far as playing goes, how far The Beatles have come—they're basically taking what was originally a blues song and completely standing it on its head. The first thing we normally do when we remix Beatles stuff is we put the drums in the centre. With 'Come Together', we did that, and then it just didn't sound as good. So we actually took each individual drum hit and we panned the drums. They move from right to left, or right to centre. On the original, they just stand in place.”
Here Comes the Sun “The biggest streaming Beatles song, the one that's the most listened to. It has a slightly more contemporary feel; it's acoustic. The one thing that the new mix of Abbey Road shows off is how good their backing vocals were.”
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) [Trident Recording Session & Reduction Mix] “There's so much written about how these records are created and what microphones they used and what my father's role was and what trousers people were wearing, et cetera. What excites me is when you hear someone talking and just being a guy in a studio making a piece of music that will last 50 years and beyond. What makes it great is the empathy that they have for the outside world: 'Okay, we'll do one more loud one and then we'll do one more'—and that was John Lennon, the angriest Beatle. That's why I do love the beauty of this: Great records are made by humans. They're not made by machine. The thing I look for in the demos is humanity—the creation and the sparks you hear that made the records you love.”
Something (Studio Demo) “Some demos are kind of strange. The thing about George is that there was a fragility to what he did. My dad would say that he never gave George enough time. He deserved more attention, and there is no doubt that George thought he deserved more attention as well. But George was considered a tapestry maker. He'd be in the corner with a needle and thread, working away on his music, and be very precise about things. And you get that from some demos.”
The End “The original is in mono—what we do is play the orchestra back in the studio and create a stereo sound piece. The guitar solos at the end are obviously Paul, John and George, all playing on one track. We now separate them so you have them left-centre-right, and that's probably how they were standing when they recorded them in the studio. Again, that's what I get back to: What we're trying to do is get closer to the performance. When anyone listens to Abbey Road, they should realise that they did play it live. They loved each other, and people can hear that now.”