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Long Read of the Week: “Sgt. Pepper Wasn’t Broken. So They Fixed It.” by ROBBY BERMAN

For the Sgt. Pepper 50th anniversary remix, good intentions and modern technology revitalize a classic album.

McCartney addressed the bandmembers’ identity crisis by suggesting they think of themselves as not The Beatles, but as a fictional group, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They didn’t have to do teenage-targeted Beatle songs; they could do songs the imaginary band might do. Maybe because not everyone totally bought into the conceit, the idea fell away somewhat as work progressed. Even so, along with producer George Martin, they were a finely tuned recording machine in the habit of topping themselves with each album. Sgt. Pepper was the last time they’d work together so cohesively for an entire album.

The Beatles’ productions had been growing ever-more complex over the course of their previous two albums, Rubber Soul and Revolver, and by the time they started work on Sgt. Pepper, they had to bounce and bounce and bounce to have enough tracks to realize their creative ambitions. As spectacular as the final product was, from a sound-quality standpoint, the earlier tracks — the drums and other basic instruments — had been copied between four-track machines over and over, and sounded like it: thin and small and lo-fi.

People may not have noticed within the context of the revolutionary overall sound, but it made the album seem more and more slight, and dated, as time went by.

Why the Sgt Pepper Remix Makes Sense

Unbouncing

With modern equipment, it’s possible to synchronize the original, pre-bounce recordings — in all their pristine glory — so the new remixes basically undo all that bouncing. And boy, does everything sound better: bigger, richer, deeper. Ringo’s drums slam, the vocals are airier, and the resulting clarity is often eye-opening….

It must be said: A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

RTWT at: Sgt. Pepper Wasn’t Broken. So They Fixed It. | Big Think

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  • ghostsniper June 28, 2017, 4:22 AM

    SPLHCB, much more there than meets the ear.
    Saw an hour long thing on PBS a couple weeks ago about the Beatles music making and was knocked all the way out. A highly technical thing slammed with detail, much of which I couldn’t comprehend. I’m a player but not a tech so the level of complexity in each song was beyond my grasp, but was there none the less. Almost everyone in the music field today benefits in some way from what the Beatles strived for and accomplished.

  • bgarrett June 28, 2017, 7:01 AM

    we are getting old. The Beatles were 53 years ago

  • ahem June 28, 2017, 7:40 AM

    Stones.

  • BillH June 28, 2017, 8:08 AM

    No dog in this fight. Color me Miller-Dorseys-Goodman-Herman, with a little Spike Jones thrown in. Always was, always will be.

  • Casey Klahn June 28, 2017, 11:06 AM

    The thing @ the fab Four is that they are always having fun with their performances and songs. It’s infectious.

  • waltj June 28, 2017, 12:38 PM

    I’ll also be the Stones dissenter. Nothing against the Beatles, but the Stones always had a more visceral, instinctive appeal for me.

  • Rob De Witt June 28, 2017, 10:56 PM

    BillH,

    Me too. I’ve been into more different styles of music than anybody I know, but rocknroll lost me almost immediately and was out of my life altogether by ’57. And I was only 12 at the time.

    The best things about the ’60s are two:

    1. I was younger, and
    2. They’re over.

  • sTevo June 29, 2017, 4:06 AM

    Stones