The Beatles, who have been reluctant through the years to remember anniversaries in their career, are going all out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in a way they haven’t done before. On May 26, they’ll re-release the album newly remixed by Giles Martin, son of the Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Fans who open their wallets for the Super Deluxe Edition of the reissue get one very Fab package with several discs of outtakes in primal quality along with video and other goodies. The June 1st 50th anniversary day will become a full-blown media event with a special “Sgt. Pepper” photo op. flag raising at 9 a.m. PST on June 1 at the Capitol Records tower in Los Angeles. There hasn’t been any announcement stating that Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr will be attending, a Universal Music spokesman told AXS.com
With this re-release, Martin and Sam Okell have made a new stereo mix based on what his father, Sir George Martin, did with the original mono mix, which is the one the Beatles preferred. One of the very noticeable changes is in “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” where the vocals and psychedelic effects are much more upfront than in the mono.
Something else to look for, as producer Martin Okell told us in an interview, “I really like what we did with ‘Getting Better,’ actually. I think it sounds super cool. I said to (Sam Okell) we have to push things as much as we can. So, when there’s a drop down section with the tambouras, the track really opens up super wide. It’s almost like you look to the speakers left and right of you. It’s kind of cool.”
In general, the sound of the album doesn’t change, but it’s much cleaner, the effects are more up front, and as Martin and Okell did with the 2015 “1” and “1+,” Ringo’s drums are brought to the fore. Several reviewers have said the album now sounds like it was recorded yesterday. That might be overstating the case, but the sound quality is stronger, especially through headphones.
Those who buy the big Super Deluxe Edition six-disc set get the remix, the mono mix and several bonus tracks and two discs of outtakes. Unreleased tracks are nothing new to bootleg collectors, but the outtakes on the deluxe set have some breathtaking moments even they haven’t heard before. One of the highlights of the set is the instrumental version of “She’s Leaving Home” with violins alone in gorgeous stereo. The set also includes DVD and Blu-ray versions of the vintage TV special “The Making of Sgt. Pepper,” one of the earliest projects that included Beatles outtakes.
“Looking back on ‘Pepper,’ you can see it was quite an icon,” the late Sir George Martin said in an interview. It was the record of that that, and it probably did change the face of recording, but we didn’t do it consciously.”
In an interview with AXS.com, Beatles author and scholar Kenneth Womack, author of a new book on Sir George Martin to be released in September, affirmed that the album is worth the celebration it’s getting. “It did complete the elevation that they had begun with the record album as artistic statement with ‘Rubber Soul’ or ‘Revolver.’ It was completing that maneuver. They were really completing the thought with ‘Sgt. Pepper.’”
Womack says one thing that remains true about the album for original listeners and those listening to the new mixes. “It is a great example of musical color. It’s a vivid visual experience.” He also says listening to the new mixes does something else. “It has the impact of experiencing (the album) again for the first time.”
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