Preview: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Reissue

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The 6-disc Super Deluxe Edition

So, where were we? Several weeks after the official April 5 announcement from The Beatles of the upcoming “lavishly presented” 50th Anniversary editions of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, project producer Giles Martin met with a small press gathering on April 28 at a plush studio in Manhattan to discuss the project and play the new stereo mix.

“Not a bad-sounding album and it did pretty well,” joked Martin, son of the Fab Four’s longtime producer George Martin. So why tinker with them at all? “The [original] stereo was almost an afterthought. There’s a sense of vibrancy and immediacy that we can now get from these tapes,” said Martin. He then proceeded to play a portion of “She’s Leaving Home” and the difference was palpable, eliciting gasps from many in the audience.

The original Sgt. Pepper album was released on June 1, 1967. Four new editions arrive on May 26 from Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.

To tackle the enormous undertaking, Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell listened to all of the outtakes and “extras” of the album. A “Super Deluxe” 4-CD/DVD/Blu-ray box set will include 33 additional recordings from the studio sessions. “We want to show people that Sgt. Pepper isn’t created from some kind of cloud,” said Martin. “It was made by four guys, my dad and [engineer] Geoff Emerick.”

He played a take of “Fixing a Hole” that includes studio banter. “Even geniuses like the Beatles have bad ideas. But the key is to use the good ones.” So which outtakes were used? “We’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel,” said Martin, indicating that the choices of which ones to use were “harder for me than [doing] the LP mix,” while acknowledging that “collectors would like everything out.”

Jeff Jones of Apple Corps Ltd. and producer Giles Martin discuss the ambitious Sgt. Pepper 50th Anniversary reissues in New York on April 28, 2017 (Photo: Greg Brodsky)

Martin then presented the entire album’s stunning new stereo mix. It’s an album that all classic rock fans have heard literally hundreds of times. But not like this.

Afterwards, he was joined by Jeff Jones, who heads Apple Corps Ltd. Someone asked how the original Sgt. Pepper tapes are organized. “They’re in a mansion on a hill, overseen by a guy with a white beard,” Jones joked and we almost believe him. “They’re in great shape. We don’t have to bake them to dry them out.”

Martin added, “They sound like [The Beatles] are in the room. The songs are brilliant but would be a bit lonely without [being together].”

They were asked about “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which were among the first songs recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, which began in November 1966. The two songs were released separately as a 45 rpm single in February 1967. Jones acknowledged that they had discussions about including them in the 50th Anniversary edition. “Where would we sequence them?” he asked. Martin added, “It was the right decision.” Instead, various takes are included in the Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions.

“It’s a humbling process,” said Martin. Last fall, he told Best Classic Bands, “I never, ever planned or thought that I’d work on Beatles material. My father never planned or thought I’d work on Beatles material.”

Related: Our interview with Giles Martin on his Beatles projects and his father, George

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

As a reminder, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition releases include:

Super Deluxe (Pre-order here): The comprehensive 6-disc box set;

Deluxe Vinyl (Pre-order here): Expanded 180-gram 2-LP vinyl package;

Deluxe (Pre-order here): Expanded 2-CD and digital package features the new stereo album mix on the first CD and adds a second CD of 18 tracks;

CD featuring the new Sgt. Pepper stereo mix. (Pre-order here.).

Related: Hear an alternate take of the title track

The Super Deluxe set, in particular, has seen huge advance sales, which made it, for a while, the #1 selling album at Amazon even with its hefty price tag. Expect those orders to pick up again as the street date approaches.

Complete details of the 50th Anniversary releases are here.


Greg Brodsky

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  1. Tori
    #1 Tori 30 April, 2017, 11:56

    George Martin is a genius. So sad that he is no longer with us. Love reading his words about the Beatles and the music he made such an impression on. Great article!

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