Giles Martin on Making Paul & Ringo Happy With 'Sgt. Pepper' 50th-Anniversary Remix And Bringing The Album 'To a New Generation'

The Beatles posed with the record jacket of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'
Sunday People/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The Beatles posed with the record jacket of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' 

The May 26 release includes a six-disc set with four CDs, a DVD and Blu-ray with the remix, outtakes, mono album mix, video content, posters & a book.

Beatles fans, who can be very critical about releases by the legendary group, are ecstatic over the new Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th-anniversary releases, with a 2017 remix of the album. It's being released in several configurations May 26, highlighted by a six-disc set with four CDs, a DVD and Blu-ray with the remix, outtakes, mono album mix, video content, posters and a book.

The massive project first started coming together early in 2016, producer Giles Martin tells Billboard in a phone interview. “I started thinking about it in April of last year, then we went in to do the mix in December,” he says. “The first part of the album took two weeks. It remixed pretty quickly, mixed old-style. And then the [rest of the work] that we did took about six weeks. So I don't know. We worked on and off. I guess, [altogether it took] about three to four months.”

Joining him was Sam Okell, who has worked on several previous Beatles projects. “We're like partners in crime. We've worked together on Magical Mystery TourA Hard Day's Night, the 1's, Eight Days a Week.”

Martin says their work was built around the original mono mix of the album, which his father, the late Sir George Martin, produced. “The [monaural mix] is the one the band was present at, so we tried to adhere what they were trying with mono, the tape speeds and with effects, the ADT [artificial double tracking] on drums. 'She's Leaving Home' is a good example of that. And then, things like fades, like 'Good Morning' with the animals being more present on the mono and the laughter at the end of 'Within You Without You.' There are things that Beatles fans cry out for that they experience in the mono.

“And on top of that, by using the techniques we used, by using the other generations of tapes, we get a chance to mix from tapes that haven't been mixed from. And the intention was, I suppose, to make the mono into a stereo as far as the band's ethic and what they want to achieve from their mixes goes. And also to bring Sgt. Pepper to a new generation.”

Martin says there were things he noticed between the stereo and mono mixes. “A good example of the stereo would be my intention to put the bass in the center as much as we could. And then 'With a Little Help From My Friends,' which you could have put the bass in the center if you have that, we had enough tracks to do it. I found that there was a loneliness to Ringo [Starr]'s voice when the bassist on the right panned right that I was missing when I put it in the center. And Sam actually put it on the right and I went, 'Why didn't you put it in the center?' And he goes, 'I'm not sure about it.' And then I did it and it was like Ringo's voice didn't sound as good. So that would be a stereo thing, because the mono has no panning.”

Martin says hearing the music again brought back memories for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. “They were kind of intrigued with what we were doing and gave me some advice. And what's fun for me is you sit with them and it takes them back to that day they recorded it, because it's them. The sound of the record on the whole is the noise they made, to be so basic about it. And that's what's so cool.”

He also says Paul and Ringo were both very satisfied with what was done. “If they weren't happy, [this] wouldn't be out. I kind of work for them. I always find that question interesting because, of course, they have to be happy with everything. And they were.”

Though “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” both recorded during the sessions, were included in the project, two other songs were also a part of the sessions: “Only a Northern Song,” which didn't make the cut and later was heard in the Yellow Submarine film, and “Carnival of Light.” “Carnival of Light” is a song Beatles fans have been demanding to hear for years. Lasting 13 minutes and 48 seconds, it was recorded in 1967 during a five-hour session and played once at “The Carnival of Light Rave” at the Roundhouse Theater Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, 1967. (You can read more of its history here.)

“'Carnival of Light' was never meant to be on Sgt. Pepper. 'Carnival of Light' was never meant to be a record, in fact,” Martin says. “It's one of those things that fans talk about. It's kind of like 'Revolution #9,' which is that kind of record. But it was meant for the Roundhouse. And I think we should do something cool with 'Carnival of Light,' but it wouldn't even be with Sgt. Pepper.”

“Only a Northern Song” also came from the Pepper recording sessions. “The song was on Yellow Submarine. And we thought about it, we discussed it, we talked about it. The thing is, it's much cleaner for people coming across this album to have the album as it is with 'Strawberry Fields' and 'Penny Lane,' which no one can argue with as part of the story. And actually, that's why we chose to omit those two songs.”

Is there a possibility of other albums getting similar attention to what was done with Sgt. Pepper? “I don't know,” Martin says. “I mean, let's do this one and get it out the door and then think about it, is my answer to that. I think it depends on how it's received. I'm really happy with the work we've done. I'm really happy with the reaction we've had. But I think we should all take a breath and then think about the next thing. But it's certainly been an honor working on [Pepper].”