4th September, 1962 was a busy day for Western pop culture. As day broke and my mother recovered from giving birth to her third child, the Beatles were preparing to fly down from Liverpool to record ‘Love Me Do,’ at Abbey Road studios, that afternoon. It was to be their first single release.
In the interests of precision, this wasn’t the first time they’d recorded this song at Abbey Road, and it wasn’t to be the last: they’d had a go at it in June of that year, with Pete Best on drums. By September, Best was gone and Ringo Starr was in: but George Martin was dissatisfied with Ringo’s efforts and, a week later, the band reconvened to have another shot with session drummer, Andy White, with Ringo relegated to tambourine. However, the version recorded on my birthday was the one that became the single – at least for the first pressings of it: the story gets complicated after that.
Anyhoo, the point being, things have come a long way for all of us in the last 55+ years. For me, personally, obviously. For the music business and recording methods, almost as much. The Beatles’ first album (which, for completists, featured the Andy White version of ‘Love Me Do’) was recorded, aside from the first two singles and their B sides, in a single day – 11th February 1963.
Capitalising on the success of ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me,’ their second single, the Fab Four went into Abbey Road at 10.00 a.m. and came out at 10.45 p.m., having essentially recorded their live Cavern Club set in the intervening dozen or so hours. As anyone’s who’s tried to record anything in a studio knows, ten tracks in a day is pretty special: as Beatles writer Mark Lewisohn later wrote: “There can scarcely have been 585 more productive minutes in the history of recorded music.”
The point being, with digital editing software now available, any idiot can record music, and any idiot can can take their time. Indeed, you don’t even have to play a single note yourself to do it any more, with the advent of MIDI. I know one very talented musician who does just that.
I don’t use MIDI, and I do try to record all the instruments onto a track in a single take, even if it’s the third or fourth: I kind of feel it keeps me honest. The drums, of course, are digital. And I have to admit the kantele (pictured) on this is stitched together from a couple of goes. (You can read the story of how I built this Finnish folk instrument here).
But, overall, this has taken months and months to record. I’ve put it to one side, come back to it, decided on another instrument, tweaked it, added something else, then decided what to take away – the crucial bit. I hope you like the result.
The lyrics? I guess they’re about the knowledge and wisdom I’m supposed to have acquired since September 1962, and the difference between the two. Or something like that. I don’t know. I just write the stuff.
Advertising has also come a long way since the days of the real Mad Men in the 1960s. There may be examples below here.