Join 3,367 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Meet The Beatless
September 4, 2013 11:38 PM   Subscribe

This is what the last sixteen minutes of Abbey Road sounds like with only the vocal tracks audible.
posted by Atom Eyes (78 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Thanks for posting.
posted by kdar at 11:50 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh! Was just coming here to make the same post!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:02 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Such sublime singing on this. Really fantastic.

Don't know if ol' Galeazzo Frudua has gotten around to all of these in his Beatles harmony tutorial videos yet (I think not), but anyone interested in Fab Four vocals who missed this post might want to check it out. He's pretty amazing in breaking down some complicated harmonies.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:09 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and for those who might find most of this vocalizing just too *pretty*, or not *rock* enough, fine. Listen to this, then.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:15 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eerie, for some reason.
posted by Max Udargo at 12:44 AM on September 5, 2013


3:45-4:10 *actual crickets*
posted by pracowity at 12:59 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


People are still gonna be listening to this album in 300 years.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:32 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is my favorite stretch of Beatles and they really sound gorgeous. It made me think of some of the instrumentation differently - like I missed the bass bits especially on Mean Mr. Mustard and didn't realize I was even aware of the bass bits. Thank you for sharing!
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:42 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a lovely sound.

People are still gonna be listening to this album in 300 years.

Quite possibly. This and the White Album. An occasional subject for dinner conversation with friends is what songs of "today" will be still be listened to 100 years from now and pretty much everyone always mentions - and agrees on - the Beatles.

Both of these LPs are already over forty years old and you still hear tracks being played all the time.
posted by three blind mice at 1:49 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Amazing stuff goes out of fashion sometimes. (Like Mozart and to some extent Bach.). But, hopefully Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's, The White Album, and Abbey Road will persist.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:20 AM on September 5, 2013


Amazing how the mind fills in the gaps!
posted by timshel at 2:39 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. Just wow. I always thought that in the ongoing (at the time) Beatles/Beach Boys War of the Harmonies and Composition, the Beatles had the edge on the composition part and the Beach Boys the harmony.

I am disabused of that notion.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:43 AM on September 5, 2013


Any idea who the female singer on the "love you" bit (just before "and in the end..") is? Or is it Bizarro Paul?
posted by timshel at 2:44 AM on September 5, 2013


That was amazing! Thanks for posting.
posted by h00py at 3:05 AM on September 5, 2013


Bizarro Paul is alive!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:05 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any idea who the female singer on the "love you" bit

Rumored to be Linda McCartney.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:09 AM on September 5, 2013


Rumored to be Linda McCartney

That checks out.
posted by timshel at 3:17 AM on September 5, 2013


Sounds like ELO.
posted by colie at 3:22 AM on September 5, 2013


I think the female singer is actually a pitched up male vocal - a la The Chipmunks.
posted by fernbritton at 3:28 AM on September 5, 2013


Someone should record some ridiculously bad music to go with these vocals.
posted by orme at 4:30 AM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look on these works, ye auto-tuners, and despair.
posted by Decani at 4:36 AM on September 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the female singer is actually a pitched up male vocal - a la The Chipmunks.

That was my impression, as well. Not that Linda didn't sing on the album, but I don't think that was her.
posted by sutt at 4:47 AM on September 5, 2013


Sounds like ELO.

Heh.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent post, excellent title. Thanks.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:09 AM on September 5, 2013


What's the history on this mostly-vocal track?

Did someone take the studio recording tapes and do this? Who? When? By what license?

Was it done from those longer all-day studio practice session tapes? or the actual mixed-in vocals?

Or was this done with the magic of software? (That would be unbelievable, but you never know these days)
posted by surplus at 5:28 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the history on this mostly-vocal track?
My guess is that it was produced during the 2009 remastering of the Abbey Road album - that process involved cleaning everything up using the original 8 track tapes as a source. The whole process is described in this Sound on Sound interview.
posted by rongorongo at 5:55 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been listening to Paul McCartney's new single. Whenever he does something so explicitly Beatle-esque, the lack of harmonies gives it a very lonesome quality in my mind. He's not actually the last man standing, but that's what it feels like when I listen.

This, of course, puts that in stark relief.

It also reminds me of the "party line" that once John was dead, it was impossible for the Beatles to reform in any meaningful way. That really feels true when you listen to this.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:55 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously (self-link)
posted by schmod at 6:02 AM on September 5, 2013


I'm the hugest Beatles fan but this medley has never done anything for me. 'Come Together' is Lennon going back to his rock roots, fine, but 'I Want You' is just preposterous. For me, the music was dead after 'I am the Walrus'.

The medley is a Paul solo album with some leftovers thrown in by the others. The magic has never been so painfully gone as when Paul puts on his Elvis voice for the lines about bags in the limousine etc, and although he has been rehabilitated massively in recent years, it only takes 'the medley' to remind me why so many of us grew up thinking he was the uncool one.
posted by colie at 6:07 AM on September 5, 2013


I think the female singer is actually a pitched up male vocal - a la The Chipmunks.

That's my take. Listen to the timbre as it gets higher and higher ... it's buried, but it doesn't sound natural to me.

And maybe it's because I didn't grow up with the Beatles--my parents were more Elvis than Beatles--but I've always had a soft spot for the Medley. When the huge gang vocals on Carry That Weight hit, it's always seemed like, here is your last chance to hear the Beatles sound like they give a shit, to me.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:13 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adding to my note above about where the tracks came from: as per the interview I linked to above it seems like the 2009 process did not go back to the original multi-tracks - only to the master tapes. To quote:
“Even then, the very idea of issuing the earliest Beatles albums in stereo blurs the boundary between remix and remaster. These were recorded on two-track, but mono dominated the market at the time. “The stereos are theoretically multitracks, because it was the predecessor of the four-tracks,” explains Paul. “You’ve got the band on the left and the vocals on the other side. The purpose of them being done like that was so they could then balance the mono in more detail.”
So the fact that we can get isolated vocals from the master is an artifact of the way that it had to be able to able to be used to create either mono or stereo records.
posted by rongorongo at 6:19 AM on September 5, 2013


Those "female" voices, upon relistening, could be a combination of Linda with the lower parts and Yoko with the higher. But apparently they're not listed as personnel on the album (according to a YouTube comment, so take that with a grain of salt), so perhaps it is a just sped-up Beatle.
posted by sutt at 6:29 AM on September 5, 2013


Was it done from those longer all-day studio practice session tapes?

These aren't outtakes or alternate tracks, if that's what you mean. These are definitely the finished vocal tracks that appear on the record, nothing more, nothing less.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:31 AM on September 5, 2013


YouTube comments, low grade pornography, PrisonPlanet, Jr. High acquaintances on Facebook sharing image macros about Obama - most of the time I think this whole internet thing is a fiasco and we should burn it down.

But! the ready availability of isolated Beatles tracks makes me rethink that. This is awesome. Ok, internet, you get a reprieve for today.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:31 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those "female" voices, upon relistening, could be a combination of Linda with the lower parts and Yoko with the higher.

Actually, there is little to no evidence that either Linda Eastman or Yoko Ono could hold pitch as well as we're hearing on those harmony tracks. That is some tight singing: strong, and in tune as hell.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Her majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say.
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:52 AM on September 5, 2013


Like most isolated tracks on the webs it probably comes from the Rock Band games, using software designed for forensics.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:08 AM on September 5, 2013


'I Want You' is just preposterous.

'I Want You' is one of the coolest fucking Beatles tracks ever. In my humble.

I mean, the unison guitar/vocal bit is one of the most *soulful* (with a capital S) ideas Lennon ever had. The way the voice and guitar bend together on the "yoooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooou"... how can you not love that? And the rhythm track is just so chill. Plus Lennon sings his ass off on that, no two ways about it. And the way the tune toggles back and forth between the slinky feel of the I Want You part to the brutal, count-of-three smackdown of the She's So Heavy part, that's superb.

And then.... THEN! That extended instrumental outro, that just loops and loops and loops, like it's never gonna stop, with what sounds like a steadily nearing jet engine emerging slowly from the mix... that shit was ahead of its time, man. As was the heart-stopping STOP of cut tape on the end. So perfect!

All in all, a brilliant and rather unprecedented Beatles track. Almost as revolutionary as Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows" had been, 3 years earlier.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:10 AM on September 5, 2013 [23 favorites]


You make a good case for I Want You, but I still hear too much of the self-indulgence of 'rock' in there - and the best Beatles is never rock because at the core of rock, idiocy is always lurking. The ending in particular strikes me as the kind of gimmick that Lennon would not have required in order to wake the listener up pre-1967.

By Abbey Road, Lennon is miserable because he knows he is simply no longer able to access the strange parts of his imagination that he used to be able to summon up either consciously or not, and now he just assists Paul in the fabrication of excellent-quality rock music. No surprise that his ego could not cope with that role, or that it was Paul's post-Epstein ambition to subjugate him into it.

But I'm going to have a good listen to I Want You and see if it sounds better to me now. :-)
posted by colie at 7:22 AM on September 5, 2013


at the core of rock, idiocy is always lurking.

Hmm... "idiocy"? I thought it was sex.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:37 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dumb idiot sex is good.

Makes, however, more dumb idiots.
posted by Wolof at 7:42 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex is the core of R and B. Blues has death. For rock, idiocy. And not always in a bad way.
posted by colie at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Blues has death.

My knee jerk reaction was to respond to this with something like "but blues lyrics are not really all that often about death, and there's a huge range of emotions and moods in the blues, etc etc." which is of course true, but then I thought, well, colie's talking more about an essence, about what's at the heart of the genre, and I thought, yeah, then, there's probably some truth to that. I think that's part of the reason, for example the very intuitive (and blues knowledgable) Jon Fahey used the name "Blind Joe Death" as a kind of blues alter ego. At any rate, a hallmark of the blues is surely that it expresses conditions of the human experience that are very real, and generally unburdened with romantic or flowery or fantastical notions, and is, indeed, of all American music genres, the one in which death would be looked at most squarely in the face, and not denied, and not prettified. The one that would be most aware that, yes, death is there, always there, and coming, sooner or later.

But, getting back to the Fab Four... howsabout this? Beatles 78s!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:08 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, this is beautiful.

In high school, my friends and I used to get together and play records and sing (we were choir dorks) and try our own arrangements of popular songs. I know that we'd drop the needle at the right spot on this album and turn it down a little and try to sing along with the harmonies. We were fairly....not very good, but it was wicked fun, and we learned a lot. Thanks for this post.
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's weird that the author wants to demonstrate his bona fides as an obsessive fan by making reference to the endless hours he spent looking at the (non-existent) gatefold cover of Abbey Road.
posted by Trace McJoy at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Random thoughts: It's not really the lyrics, I think there is something structural about the tumbling strain and the circular format of the blues that suggests death and inevitability, as opposed to many other genres that offer a temporary relief from the awareness of time passing. It's only in the late 50s that singers routinely begin to break up individual words and add grunts etc to explicitly suggest sexual excitement, so that's where the sex comes in.

Vulgar rock eschews structure altogether and celebrates the intensity of performance, and the romantic-artist poet character of the singer/band above all else. You have to commit to the journey upfront and you either 'get it' or you don't. That's why 'I Want You' is rock.
posted by colie at 8:38 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought that in the ongoing (at the time) Beatles/Beach Boys War of the Harmonies and Composition, the Beatles had the edge on the composition part and the Beach Boys the harmony. I am disabused of that notion.

Yep, that's up there with "Paul wrote all the sweet songs and John all the angry songs" in the pantheon of Beatles-related myths.
posted by aught at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


::listens, eyes widen, jaw drops... and smile!::

I love this.

Too bad I wasn't around back then. I would've gladly supplied that high-pitched part of the harmony at the end. I listened to it again just to sing along.
posted by droplet at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2013


Sex is the core of R and B. Blues has death. For rock, idiocy. And not always in a bad way.

I think you're trying way too hard to categorize these things, honestly. Popular music categories, thankfully, are messy and changeable. Makes it harder to theorize about music, but more fun to listen to it.
posted by aught at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


spending the afternoon lying on the floor and peering at the photos inside the album cover’s gatefold

nthing Trace McJoy. . . .The Abbey Road cover was not the one to use to roll a joint on. Now, the White Album. . .that one had tiny traces of pot in the fold. . .
posted by Danf at 9:03 AM on September 5, 2013


These "Beatles" you speak of, are you trying to tell me they didn't use autotune, didn't employ backup dancers? How did they possibly hold an audience's attention, then?
posted by kgasmart at 9:13 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Beatles didn't use Auto-Tune, but they did help to invent Automatic Double Tracking (ADT) at Abbey Road because they wanted a thicker sound to the vocals and then used it on pretty much every single track.
posted by colie at 9:20 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As much ash shifting that has been done with the Beatles' work, it (for me) still turns up with revelations.

I love hearing their breathing, finger snapping, and some extraneous noises in this.

I was in college. Much time was spent, among my friends, discussing the whole drama around the Beatles' late period and breakup, including the "Paul is dead" meme that was getting way more attention than it deserved.

"Get Back" was a mess. . .there were some bootlegs out from those sessions. Then they go into the studio and pull "Abbey Road" out of their asses. Whatever the real story behind this medley, it has never failed to give me chills to listen to it from front to back.
posted by Danf at 9:23 AM on September 5, 2013


Fun Fact! This is how old The Beatles were when they recorded Abbey Road:

John Lennon - 28
Paul McCartney - 27
George Harrison - 26
Ringo Starr - 28

Bonus: George Martin - 43
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


As a 40 year old working with a bunch of people in their mid and late 20s... Fucking hell George, how'd you do it?
posted by DigDoug at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If anyone's got a link to similar isolated vocals for 'Because', my world would be complete.
posted by yoga at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2013


If anyone's got a link to similar isolated vocals for 'Because'

The tracks used on the video game 'Beatles Rock Band' were separated out into (nearly) isolated tracks, including Because.

I don't have a link because of legal etc, but you can get the songs as .mogg files without much trouble, then put them into a music app like Audacity and mess around with the different tracks. I'm no expert but I've heard you can do quite a lot with them.
posted by colie at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2013


In my quest for Because I did find this one, for Oh! Darling.
posted by yoga at 10:22 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The good news about the Because vocal track is that it was officially released as part of the Beatles Anthology albums.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:43 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought that in the ongoing (at the time) Beatles/Beach Boys War of the Harmonies and Composition, the Beatles had the edge on the composition part and the Beach Boys the harmony.

I won't argue with you, but I will present this. You know, for fairnesses sake. (The magic starts around 1 min in and comes to full blossom around 1:16). Also: this. (If you're not smiling by 0:25, you can't be my friend. Ever.)

That said, I love this side of Abbey Road, and my favorite memory is playing it on my 30th birthday, after I had to rescue one of my friends who accidentally locked herself in the bathroom during a particularly raucous party and I had to climb in through the window and break the lock.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:07 AM on September 5, 2013


The pure vocal of:

I never give you my number
I only give you my situation
and in the middle of investigation
I break down

would make an excellent ringtone.
posted by spock at 11:12 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]



I think the female singer is actually a pitched up male vocal - a la The Chipmunks.

That's my take. Listen to the timbre as it gets higher and higher ... it's buried, but it doesn't sound natural to me.

Actually, there is little to no evidence that either Linda Eastman or Yoko Ono could hold pitch as well as we're hearing on those harmony tracks.


I would bet money it's Yoko. It sounds like her, particularly the almost unearthly wail near the end. Yoko has training in opera and lied singing, so there's no reason why it couldn't be her. The reason she doesn't normally sing in any conventional style is because she is an artist who doesn't really do anything conventionally (she did vocals with John Cage in the early sixties).
posted by oneirodynia at 1:12 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha, totally left out the link for "conventionally".
posted by oneirodynia at 1:19 PM on September 5, 2013


I think these isolated tracks come from the Beatles RockBand game. I downloaded the .ogg files of the songs, threw them into Audacity, and now I can listen to whatever bits of the songs I desire. Drums only, bass & acoustic guitars only, a capella "Helter Skelter", etc. It's pretty fun. I can make my own mixes of Beatlesongs. "Here Comes The Sun" with only lead vocal, acoustic guitar, & strings is my favorite so far.
posted by frodisaur at 1:40 PM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I was in middle school the first time I really listened to Abbey Road — if I recall correctly, it was while I was helping a friend clean out the basement of his at-the-time recently deceased grandfather. When we got to "Carry That Weight" I remember thinking how the lyrics and singing reflected a really profound Depth of Experience, with capital letters like that, something that you could only acquire by Getting Older (also with capital letters), a Depth of Experience that little young me would have to wait a good long while to get.

The thing that sorta bakes my noodle is that I STILL think of it that way, even though now I'm older than each and every one of the Beatles were when they recorded it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


'I Want You' is one of the coolest fucking Beatles tracks ever.

OK so I went back, having called it preposterous, and then looked at the score and sure enough it does contain at least one of Lennon's hallmark musical trademarks: an obsession with distorting the normal conventions of rhythm and meter in order to convey intensity.

The verse sounds completely natural and appropriate to speech when you hear it, as if the singer is just sharing an immediate urgent thought with you. But it is completely irregular, and consists of 10 and a half measures, followed by a second verse of 8 and half measures. Which is bizarre, and probably Lennon's most varied hypermetric grouping since 'I'll be back'. Then the meter changes to 6/8 ('She's so heavy' etc) and goes through a cycle of 5 measures, repeated, and then there's a 1 measure anacrusis before returning to the insanely lop-sided verses.

This metrical and rhythmic inventiveness is at the core of the Lennon style, and a big part of why some crap by Oasis will always sound so boring in comparison - they do not have the imagination (or the drive) to find new ways to combine speech patterns with varied hypermeter like this.
posted by colie at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Many thanks, uncleozzy.
posted by yoga at 3:51 PM on September 5, 2013


If I'm paying attention, I can tell when I Want You is going to end by the patterns in the static and then snap right as it cuts off.
posted by danb at 5:58 PM on September 5, 2013


I love hearing their breathing, finger snapping, and some extraneous noises in this.

I love this sort of thing, too - like Paul singing along with the guitar in the middle of 'You Never Give Me Your Money'.

And holy shit! I never knew what John said at the end of 'Mean Mr Mustard', just before 'Polythene Pam': "Oh listen to that now."

After all these years, still learning new things.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:42 AM on September 6, 2013


Wow. Just wow. I always thought that in the ongoing (at the time) Beatles/Beach Boys War of the Harmonies and Composition, the Beatles had the edge on the composition part and the Beach Boys the harmony.

I am disabused of that notion.


You need to become more familiar with the Beach Boys, then.

I love, love the Beatles. And they do harmonies well, and inventively, and compellingly. But the Beach Boys are in a league of their own in this regard.

I mean really.

I mean really.

I mean really.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:01 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never knew what John said at the end of 'Mean Mr Mustard', just before 'Polythene Pam': "Oh listen to that now."

Duh. At the end of 'Polythene Pam', not 'Mean Mr Mustard'.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:50 AM on September 6, 2013


I still have my monotone albums. I remember always controlling the left and right speakers so I could listed to music only, then voices only.
posted by stormpooper at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2013


at the core of rock, idiocy is always lurking.

Hmm... "idiocy"? I thought it was sex.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:37 PM on September 5


Same thing.
posted by Decani at 9:55 AM on September 10, 2013


Sgt. Pepper's reprise a cappella
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:07 AM on September 16, 2013


Oh, and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (Isolated Vocals)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 AM on September 16, 2013


Sgt. Pepper's reprise a cappella yt
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:37 PM on September 16 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]

Oh, and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (Isolated Vocals) yt
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:40 PM on September 16 [+] [!]


Just wonderful.

Sometimes I worry that I'm going to die before all this stuff eventually comes to light. It drives me bonkers sometimes, thinking about all the unreleased Beatles and Beach Boys session material languishing in archives somewhere. Just release it already! It's of historical importance!
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:48 PM on September 16, 2013


Songwritey MeFites may enjoy this blog:

http://beatlessongwriting.blogspot.co.uk/

Dude is blogging his way through all the songs and has plenty of interesting insights about songwriting.
posted by colie at 10:09 AM on September 18, 2013


A couple more nice isolations I've discovered in the past week or two:

Lovely Rita [without vocals]

Carry That Weight [without vocals]
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:23 PM on September 30, 2013


« Older In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a spor...  |  The guardian of the nation’s e... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments