Saturday, August 28, 2010

It Doesn't Really Matter What Chords I Play

The first new song on the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack LP/CD after the title track is an original George Harrison composition entitled "Only A Northern Song" which was originally intended to be included on the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" LP but was eventually scrapped in favour of another Harrisong: "Within You Without You". Some of the books I own in my collection tell the tale of "Only A Northern Song" being written in one hour while the London Symphone Orchestra were awaiting to leave the studio to go home. This is all bullshit. The song was written for "Pepper" and the basic tracks for the song were recorded by the Beatles (with no orchestra) in 1967. The song is a comment on how George Harrison was a contracted songwriter for the Dick James/John Lennon/Paul McCartney/Brian Epstein music publishing company "Northern Songs" at the time as he recieved only a small percentage of any profits from his songs. George Harrision would later form his own company; "Harrisongs".

At any rate, the basic tracks for this song were started on February 13 1967 at EMI studio two whereby Organ, drums and percussion were used to complete nine takes (only four were complete). The best of these (take 3) were kept.

The next day on February 14 1967 once again at EMI studio two, three tape reductions were attempted and completed taking the song to take 12. Upon this take, George Harrision overdubbed his lead vocals. Three mono mixes of the song at this stage were completed for demo purposes.

The song was left dormant at this point, as George Harrison had come up with his other song "Within You Without You" and this was recorded and released on "Pepper" in place of "Only A Northern Song".

Fast forward to April 1967. On April 19 1967, the film producers for "Yellow Submarine" were due to visit the studio the next day so it was decided to retrieve "Only A Northern Song" and a fourth mono demo mix was conducted from the control room of EMI studio two to prepare for the next recording session.

The next day on April 20 1967, at EMI studio two: The Beatles added overdubs to take three of "Only A Northern Song" by first erasing the vocal tracks and bass track and adding a new bass track and glockenspeil and trumpet (played by Paul). This filled up the four track of take three but instead of a tape reduction, the engineers simply pulled out another reduction tape of the song with the basic track also intact and vocals, timpani, piano, mellotron were added to this take . They now had two four track machines: one with the bass and trumpet (take 3) and the other with the vocals and timpani (take 11) with the same basic organ, drum track originally recorded in February 1967.

The idea now was to sync up the two four track machines which thickened the organ and drums and included all of the vocals, bass, timpani, trumpet, mellotron and every else. Once this was completed on April 21 1967 at EMI studio two, eleven attempts at a mono mix were completed. Attempt number 6 was deemed as the best mono mix.

This mono mix was copied on tape for the film producers on November 15 1967 from the control room of EMI studio two.

Finally, the so-called stereo mix of the song was not true stereo: On October 29 1968, the mono mix of the song was used and the treble from one side of the stereo spectrum was raised and on the other side of the stereo spectrum the bass was raised using equalization methods performed in the control room of EMI studio three. No true stereo mix of "Only A Northern Song" existed during the 60s, 70s and 80s due to the fact that the technology did not allow it at the time. The commercial release of the song uses the above "duophonic" mis on the stereo LP/CD of "Yellow Submarine" while the UK mono LP simply uses a "fold down" of the duophonic mix.

"Only A Nothern Song" was finally issued in true stereo on the 1999 "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" LP/CD which isolated parts of take 3 and added the vocals and piano/timpani from take 11.

"Only A Northern Song" was also issued as a creation on the Apple/EMI 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 2" whereby the mix used various elements from take 3 (pre-overdub) and vocals from take 12. This mix also appears in stereo.

Finally, a true mono mix of "Only A Northern Song" can be found on the 2009 Apple/EMI 2-CD "Mono Masters" as mix 06 from the above attempts.

Something a little strange: "Only A Northern Song" runs a little slow in the movie compared to the commercial version - in fact almost a semitone lower.

"Only A Northern Song" can be found on the Apple LP/CD "Yellow Submarine".

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