Friday, 11 September 2009

The 1987 CD mixes

Giles Martin
Giles Martin and your's truly outside Abbey Road Studios, July 2009


In 1987, as the Beatles catalog was due for their first CD release, producer George Martin wanted to go back and remix the sixties version of stereo to something a bit more updated for the modern ear. Because of a rushed release schedule, he couldn't do this for the first four albums, Please Please Me, With The Beatles, Beatles For Sale and A Hard Day's Night, as they were due for release in February 1987. So, as a compromise, they were released in mono, which were mixes the producer was satisfied with. The next batch of releases were Help!, Rubber Soul and Revolver, due out in April 1987, and this time, Sir George had time to prepare updated mixes for these. He had a listen, and while he thought Help! and Rubber Soul needed remixing, he was satisfied with the sixties stereo mix of Revolver and all the albums that followed. So he remixed Help! and Rubber Soul, and when they were released on CD they had an "eighties" stereo soundscape. (Except for some Canadian pressings of these CD's where the original sixties stereo mixes had been used by mistake.)
Over the years, Beatles fans and music lovers have been rather critical to the 1987 mixes of those two albums, especially because they brought in an amount of echo and reverb which hadn't been present on the sixties stereo mixes. Then, when the remasters were announced, these fans were shocked that they were once again to use these inferior 1987 remixes for the general release of the remastered catalog (albums available individually and as part of the stereo remasters boxed set).
In a telephone interview that Detroit's Classic Rock station's (FM 94,7) Deminski and Doyle conducted with Giles Martin, son of Sir George, the producer unexpectedly was able to shed some light on why the eighties mix was re-used.
Deminski and Doyle had made several erraneous assumptions, first of all they thought that Giles was involved in the remasters project, secondly they assumed that the remasters were also remixed, not just remastered. As these assumtions were both untrue, the interview do provide an insight into the narrow world behind the walls of Abbey Road studios and the hap-hazard manner in which things happen. Giles Martin was in the studio, remixing the Beatles songs that were going to be used in the The Beatles:Rock Band game, singling out specific instruments from otherwise interlocked studio tapes, so he was able to talk a bit about that process. But he was also involved in the "Love" project, and he was an insider at Abbey Road, so he was also able to listen in to the remasters project that was going on at the same time as he was mixing for RockBand. Here's what he said (transcripted by me from the podcast of the interview) about those infamous 1987 remixes:
Giles Martin: Rubber Soul and Help! were remixed by my dad in 1988 or '87 for CD. And when we did "Love", we got to do Yesterday, and I couldn't understand why there were so much echo and reverb on the voice 'cause it was very non-Beatles. And it was only when I came back and I was listening to the remasters I asked "how come this is the case?" and they said "well we are remastering the eighties versions of [Rubber Soul and Help!]" and I said "why aren't we remastering the originals, we should remaster what came out then [in 1965]?"
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And they said "Well, your father wouldn't be very happy with us not remastering the versions he did in the eighties."
So I spoke to my dad and I asked "Do you mind if they remaster the sixties version?" and he went "I don't even remember doing them in the eighties!"


Allan Rouse in an interview with Record Collector: "The remasters were based on the master-tapes, with the exception of two albums: George Martin's 1987 mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul. People are questioning why we used those. George Martin is the fifth Beatle. He chose to do it. You can argue with him, but I'm not going to."

So there you have it! The stereo remasters are the 1987 remixes out of the involved remastering engineers' misguided respect for Sir George!

Now, the original 1965 stereo mixes are not lost to the world, because they are an added bonus on the mono remasters of those albums, but these are only part of the mono boxed set, and are not for sale to the general public as individual albums.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that the catalog wasn't remixed as far as possible (songs like «She Loves You» and «Tomorrow Never Knows» would be a challenge).

It's weird that «Yellow Submarine Songtrack» is the best sounding Beatles album available.

Apple should have done like Neil Young. Released regular remixed CD's and 5.1. mixes in a DVD and Blu-Ray version.

Anonymous said...

you see? these are the kind of things that encourage people to search over the internet and download music, i mean, in Mexico i'm going to buy the original stereo box set in a very high price because of the many taxes we have, therefore i'm not buying the mono mixes but i do want those early mixes you talked about

Anonymous said...

Either George Martin doesn't think much of his 1987 remixing effort, or his 83 year old mind is slipping.

Anonymous said...

Can you remember all the interviews in the eighties about The Beatles on CD? George Martin said on several ocassions that those CD's where remixed versions etc.

Wogew said...

Here's a good interview with Sir George from 1987, where he says things like: "When I started in 1962 with the Beatles, we only made mono records." and "We issued Please Please Me in February 1963, and certainly no stereo mixes were made. Not by me. Not by anybody I know."

Foxx said...

IMO Rubber Soul 87 is OK, it has no added reverb, just a slight repositioning of vocals and drums towards the center. Help! 87 I have always thought a mistake, and so is the 2009 remaster. Thankfully I also now have the Help! 1965 version, on my mono disc.

Andreas said...

I always thought that it was becuase the 1965 mixes used extreme panning with the vocals right and everything else left, so Martin fixed that up for the 1987 re-issues.