Sound + Vision: Some recording "imperfections" have been fixed. Can you give any specific examples?
Massey: I've got a little demonstration CD here if you'd like to have a listen . . .
Sound + Vision: Oh, sure.
The "Rain" Trust, and so much more, in Studio 2 at Abbey Road (from left):
Guy Massey, Simon Gibson, Sean Magee, Sam Okell, Steve Rooke, Paul Hicks, and Allan Rouse.
Massey: First, dropouts. There weren't many across the whole catalog - maybe four or five. [Massey plays the A/B disc to demonstrate dropouts fixed in the guitar solo at 0:59 in "Kansas City" and also during the line "tried to please her" at 1:50 in "Day Tripper."] Next, microphone pops in the vocals. [Demos a pop removed from the second "p" in the line "not what I appear to be" at 0:10 in "I'm a Loser."] This second one is a noise that's quite subtle, like a rumble, as if John touched the mike stand. [Plays the very first word, "She's," from "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."] Now we move on to click removal. [Cuesup "Eleanor Rigby" at 0:14.] Finally, de-noising. [Plays guitar intro to "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" to demonstrate hiss removed.] The de-noising was subtle, subtle. We were very aware of not going overboard with that. And fewer than 5 minutes of the catalog were treated this way. Overall, if there were extraneous things that interfered with the listening experience, we took them out. A few things we left because we believed they were acoustical noises. We tried to take out only the things that were electrical in nature.
Rouse: So the squeaky chair at the end of "A Day in the Life": It's still there.
Massey: And Ringo's often squeaky drum pedal: It's still there.
Sound + Vision: Mastering engineer Bob Ludwig has said: "I often say how grateful I am that, when the Beatles were doing their recordings, digital limiters didn't exist, because if those recordings had been squashed to death like so many contemporary records are, they would never have the longevity that they have had." In light of that, it's admirable that you have used limiting on the stereo versions only - and only, as the press release says, "moderately."
Massey: We were obviously aware of the Loudness Wars - squashing, brickwalling, all that sort of stuff - and we didn't want to do that. We wanted to retain the original dynamics. So for the loudest part of the loudest songs, there may be limiting of 3 to 4 dB, but for most of the songs, most of the time, there isn't any limiting.
Sound + Vision: And so this was an effort to help make the primitive-stereo mixes come across more powerfully to the new generation?
Rouse: And I would take issue a tiny little bit with what Bob Ludwig said. If you would quote again the last part of what he said.
Sound + Vision: ". . . because if those recordings had been squashed to death like so many contemporary records are, they would never have the longevity that they have had."
That statement doesn't give much credit to the songs. Because the Beatles aren't just about sound; they're about the fact that they were particularly good songwriters and musicians. The very thought that people wouldn't have continued buying Beatles records because of the sound - sorry, I can't agree with that.
Sound + Vision: Were there any forest-for-the-trees instances where, after working on individual tracks for a while, something new became apparent when you relistened to the album as a whole?
Massey: I do remember that, once we'd done Revolver for the first time, Allan did come up with quite a few suggestions. Overall, he thought we might have been a little too reverent.
Sound + Vision: It's such a great hard-rock record. The guitars are-
Massey: Blistering. With "She Said She Said," for example, the vocal is very bright and cutting, and we did want to try to bring that through - while still retaining all those guitars. I'm really pleased with the way it came out. But Revolver was challenging. We did have to revisit it a couple of times.
Step outside the back of Abbey Road and meet the Beatles in 1963 (from left - as if you needed to know that): George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul Mccartney, and John Lennon.
Sound + Vision: Has that album's original engineer, Geoff Emerick, heard any of the remasters?
Rouse: No. Neither has Ken Scott, Glyn Johns, or Phil Macdonald. Or George Martin. And neither did Norman Smith; he's no longer around, sadly. [Smith died in March 2008 at the age of 85.] The thing is, I started on the Beatles' projects when Neil Aspinall resurfaced for Apple's first major job in a long time, Live at the BBC. Immediately after that, it was the Anthology CDs; I spent a year in my room at Abbey Road listening with George Martin, feeding material upstairs to Paul Hicks, who was working with Geoff Emerick. And then Guy first came in as the assistant engineer on the 5.1 mix for the Yellow Submarine DVD.
The point I'm trying to make is this: Guy, Paul, and I were building a team, which has remained more or less the same through the Help! DVD, the Let It Be . . . Naked CD, and the Love CD+DVD-Audio, right up to now. We started the current reissue series - we may have been lucky, but we did start it - which immediately led to the next job, which immediately led to the next job. So there was never really any consideration that the previous engineers would be involved in these remasters. I also wonder: If you've engineered something yourself, you're gonna be very close to it. We're more neutral.
Sound + Vision: Were Paul Mccartney and Ringo Starr sent the remasters for listening?
Rouse: Oh, yes. That's the case every time we do a job. The first time that the Beatles were actually brought back into the studio was for the DVD of Yellow Submarine, because it was the first time that the music was being remixed for 5.1.
They didn't have 5.1 systems at home. So Paul and Ringo came in together, sat down, and listened to it with a broad grin throughout the whole sequence of songs. George Harrison came in; same response. Ever since, if we couldn't bring the Beatles in to listen to a project, we'd send them a disc. And then we'd just sit and wait for the phone to ring and for them to say, "It's approved."
Sound + Vision: Any comments from Paul or Ringo on the CD remasters?
Rouse: There have never been any specific comments from them on any of the jobs we've ever done. So I'd like to read into that that they quite like what we've been doing. It has been stated that the lack of bonus tracks is due to the desire to maintain "the authenticity and integrity of the original albums." If that's the case, why do the official stereo releases of Help! and Rubber Soul have George Martin's 1987 remixes and not the original 1965 mixes?
I'll ask you a question: Is your name George Martin? [Laughs.] The point is, George in 1987 decided to remix them. None of us is going to ring him up and say, "We actually don't think we should be putting out your new mixes just because you decided they're better." So it was a very simple decision. George wanted it. That's the way it stays. But, knowing full well that people would still want to have the 1965 stereo versions, you get those, too, as extras in the mono boxed set.
Sound + Vision: Guy, you did some of the best Beatles surround mixes to date for the DVD of Help! How about a 5.1 mix of the entire catalog? Isn't that something you'd love to do?
Massey: What do you think? [Laughs.] Yeah, of course, I would love to be given that opportunity.
Sound + Vision: There are no plans?
Rouse: We have to wait for the phone to ring. But it would be fantastic.
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