The information contained in Sir George Martin’s handwritten notes from the first recording session for the Beatles’ song “Help!” now on display at Liverpool’s The Beatles Story museum showed The Beatles were exploring possibilities of the recording studio that eventually would lead to the landmark “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, Beatles historian and author David Bedford (“Liddypool, Birthplace of the Beatles,” “The Fab One Hundred and Four”) told Beatles Examiner Feb. 19.
The notes from that session from Feb. 15, 1965 at Studio Two at EMI Studios at Abbey Road went on display last week, according to the museum. They said the notes, which had been left in a locked cupboard covered in dust for 50 years, reveal the structure of the sessions and were a departure from their usual recording methods.
“It was very exciting to be able to handle George Martin’s original notes,” Bedford said. “They were very revealing, as for each song he had title, length, and then he has listed each of the four tracks and who is playing what instrument.
“This is important for a couple of reasons. First, they had previously only had two tracks to work with in the studio – think of recording ‘Please Please Me’ in a one-night session. With the new technology, they now had four tracks to play with, which shows George Martin at his best. They could record the rhythm tracks on on track, add guitars on a second, and then ‘bounce’ those two tracks onto Track 3, then overwrite those first two tracks and use them again. This meant they could add more instruments, percussion and vocals by multiplying, bouncing and reusing these tracks creatively.
“Second, by detailing every instrument used, we can see that Ringo, as well as drums, played maracas, cowbell, tambourine (echoes of ‘Love Me Do’ and Andy White!), guiro and the claves. We can also see that John, Paul and George played various percussive instruments including cowbells and snare drum, as well as an assortment of acoustic and electric guitars, each named by make, so we know when John played his Rickenbacker, Gibson and even a Fender, a guitar for which he wasn’t known,” he added.
“I believe that this process opened up the creative minds of The Beatles as to what could be done in a recording studio, paving the way for Sgt. Pepper just two years later,” Bedford said.
“It was an absolute thrill and privilege to be invited to see George Martin’s handwritten notes,” said Beatles Examiner Liverpool correspondent, Donna Jackson, also Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Chester. “Although many lay claim to the title of the Fifth Beatle, George Martin’s role in helping the Beatles craft their music was crucial.
“In my role as Senior Lecturer in Modern History, I teach several sessions on Beatles’ heritage and these sources are invaluable both to historians and as part of the Beatles legacy and heritage. It’s fabulous that the Beatles Story has decided to share these sources with the thousands of Beatles fans who visit Liverpool every year, and it’s a perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Help!’”
The Beatles Story recently announced it now has a joint affiliation with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The two will pair up for future projects.