Creating the mashups

Giles Martin opted to use Pro Tools to digitally edit and rework the 1960s recordings, despite his father initially wondering if the project could be accomplished using historical methods.

He finds it amazing what can be done. At first he said ‘Why don’t we use tape?’ I said ‘Well Dad, you know I’m enthusiastic about that world, but we couldn’t do this on tape.’ The way that we worked was I would do the chopping and changing and play it to him and he sort of produced me doing it. One day he watched me grab something and turn it around and he said ‘My God, sound is like putty nowadays, you can just mould it into any shape you want.’

I realised that none of the Beatles’ tapes had been backed up properly at Abbey Road, so I thought that might be a good idea! It also gave me a chance – and my dad, to be honest – to listen to all the stuff again. So we went through everything, and we did it by album. It’s catalogued as albums, singles, b-sides, miscellaneous. We listened to absolutely everything and backed it up. Everything that’s been released we loaded up. We wanted to use the best takes possible, trusting that my dad had chosen the best takes before, and also to use as many elements of the songs as possible. The way the Beatles worked is they’d lay something down and if they weren’t happy with the take, then they’d lay nothing more on top.

We were trying to keep a clean signal path, so we just went straight from a tape machine into Pro Tools. The whole idea was to copy the tapes as exactly as possible. I had a Pro Control desk as a way of having faders for my dad. We kept on running out of RAM after a while. The funny thing is, even if I’m compiling songs, I’m not really going above 16 or 20 tracks. So I didn’t really need as much as perhaps someone making a modern record.

Giles Martin
Sound On Sound

The Martins self-imposed two rules during the creation of Love. One was to never pitch-change the Beatles’ vocals. They mostly stuck to these, although the vocals were manipulated on ‘Within You Without You’/‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’/‘Helter Skelter’, and there were loops in ‘Drive My Car’ and the end of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

One problem was that The Beatles extensively used vari-speed techniques when recording their songs, particularly between 1966 and 1969. This necessitated some speed correction during the making of Love.

A lot of the recordings I did with the Beatles we used to record at different speeds. Not necessarily at half-tone intervals, but just a wee bit off. You know, maybe instead of being 60 cycles, we’d be 59 cycles, or 61. We didn’t care too much about tuning, about making the things work together and run into each other. So when we came to merge these tracks, sometimes they were out of tune with one of the other ones. So one of my jobs was to physically tune them, bring them into pitch, just slightly up or down to make them work within the limits of the even-tempered scale.

The Martins’ other rule was to never loop Ringo Starr’s drum parts.

We mucked about with rhythms, but we never sampled anything, we thought that was wrong. We wanted to keep the performances, particularly in the rhythm sections, so that if you hear Ringo playing, it’s Ringo playing. It’s not a sample of one bar and then repeating it. The only thing that was anywhere near was ‘Octopus’s Garden’, because we had to chop it up into pieces so it fitted a slow orchestral section at the beginning, which it wasn’t designed for. But it worked very well.
George Martin
Sound On Sound

Despite using modern Pro Tools technology, George and Giles mostly reverted to older types of compression, EQ and reverb.

We’d use mostly all old gear, just because it sounds good. The only digital thing we used a lot of was Waves’ Z-Noise. It’s really good at taking hiss off tracks. On ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, we used that on the vocal and guitar and it gave us more of a dimension without affecting the sound. We used the old plates in Studio Two, we used the old compressors, the Neves, the Fairchilds. We used a lot of the EMI EQs in the desks and there’s a company called Chandler who make copies of the EMI limiters and compressors and we used a couple of their things as well. We just tried to keep it as analogue as possible. We used the original delays. Occasionally we’d rig up a tape delay or we’d just use the Pro Tools digital delay. All we were looking for was something really simple. Sometimes we’d ADT things using a tape machine, the same way that it was done 40 years ago.
Giles Martin
Sound On Sound

In addition to creating mixes for release, the Martins had to create elaborate surround sound mixes for the Love show, which opened on 30 June 2006 at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The auditorium boasted 360-degree sound through 8,000 speakers.

Cirque du Soleil rehearsed the show in Montreal before moving the show to Las Vegas. In both locations their workspace at Abbey Road was recreated in painstaking detail.

The funny thing is I’m fairly slapdash. I’m very perfectionist when it comes to sound, but studios are just a space to work in. They’d measured everything and put my piano in the same place, even my old Yamaha beatbox that I use to tap tempos. It was like walking into the Giles and George Martin museum. Then they had the same thing in the Mirage in Vegas. I had hand-recognition systems to go into my room because of the security around the Beatles’ drives.

We’d mix at night off laptops and then we’d bounce our mixes onto a 16-track Gigasampler, all the effects and everything. It means that we can have things flying around your head. For ‘A Day In The Life’, we have left and right in the headrests and a centre speaker in the seat in front of you, so I stuck John’s voice right in your head and the band 50 feet away, up in the rafters. It’s the same principles as 5.1, but a lot more outputs.

Giles Martin
Sound On Sound