Monday, August 3, 2009

Bio of Beatles' Sgt. Pepper in the Works

On a recent reconnaissance mission for Book Patrol I met Brian Kehew, co-author of Recording the Beatles: The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums, a massive eleven pounds of Beatlemania that takes us behind the scenes of the making of the Fab Four’s records. At the end of our interview, he dropped a joy bomb in my lap.

Years of research and extensive interviews with the group’s former engineers and technicians shed new light on those classic sessions that provided the music that influenced and defined a generation and continues to impact pop music today.

Kehew co-produced Fiona Apple's album Extraordinary Machine. He also worked in studio with artists such as Eels, Eleni Mandell, Aimee Mann, Matthew Sweet, Michael Penn, Prick, Beck, and Jon Brion. Mixing work includes Aretha Franklin, Talking Heads, Little Feat, Fleetwood Mac, Ramones, Pretenders, Morrissey, Alice Cooper, The Faces, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Stooges, MC5, Yes, Elvis Costello, Judee Sill, Crazy Horse, Tiny Tim, Gene Clark, and Stone Temple Pilots. He knows his stuff.

BP: Tell our readers something unknown about The Beatles and their recordings. Something in RTB not found anyplace else and an eye-opener?

George Martin was gone for a significant part of The Beatles ("the White Album"). He had left England to find a location for his own independent studio. Meanwhile, the Beatles were essentially producing themselves, and engineer Ken Scott and Martin's guest Chris Thomas were acting-producers when needed. We include a postcard replica with the book - sent back to Abbey Road studios from George Martin while away on an island; it's addressed to "Ken Scott and the Beatle Band."

BP: What motivated you to undertake this massive project?

Both Kevin [Ryan] and I work in studios all the time, producing and engineering. The Beatles are a constant reference in most pop sessions, but people didn't really know how they did things. It took us a long, long time (longer than it took the Beatles to make those records), but we eventually found what we needed and wrote it out.

BP: How long did it take from idea to published book?

I remember starting the idea in 1991/92 and we finished in 2006, so about 15 years total. Not every day, but so many endless months and years went into it.We keep saying we might not have started if we'd know how long it would take! I guess that's a blessing in disguise - you don't really know, so you begin, then you're too deep to stop!

BP: How many copies in first printing?

First printing was 3000, with the first 1000 of those being signed and numbered limited edition versions. Those sold out pretty fast and we did a second run within half a year I recall. It's done three full runs now.

BP: Who designed the book? It's really quite extraordinary; the slipcase looks like a studio recording tape box.

Actually, my co-author Kevin Ryan designed and laid out the whole book. And I think it's as good (maybe better) than any book I own. Seriously, he's truly a genius at these things. We're lucky we found each other as we have very complementary skills; they overlap in the middle but each of us is clearly good at things the other is not. We work well together.

BP: Anything you can think of that might be of interest to book lovers?

We produced and published the book ourselves. We found that publishers wanted to water it down - make it about half as big (lose half of which information!?) have few photos (we put in tons of unseen Beatles pics we found), and print it cheaply (we made it a nice as we could). It's out lifetime we spent on this, and they hope to make a quick buck and get out of it - we like books that last and last; they don't look trendy or dated, they are easy for people on any level to read/understand, and they have that solid appeal that comes from nice packaging and design. Books are truly a great treat when done well.
Our second book is a set of nearly unseen photos, hundreds taken one night in the studio. It's the closest we'll even get to a film of the making Sgt. Pepper! The third book is coming soon, and it's a secret...

A never before seen behind the scenes view of the making of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, the defining album of a generation and one considered by all as one of the most influential albums of all time? That should be one of the most highly awaited books in years.

The first printing of Recording The Beatles is now selling for $175-$475; there are no
copies of the signed and numbered limited edition currently being offered by anyone, anywhere in the world. They are both highly collectable. Without this volume, no collection of Beatles
books and memorabilia is complete.
But this book is for all lovers of music, sound engineering, and recording; the studio techniques used in the recordings were pioneering and in the vanguard of audio reproduction. The influence of the Beatles on sound recording history cannot be underestimated.


Recording the Beatles by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan (Curvebender Publishing, 2006). Hardcover, 11" x 11", 540 pages, lavishly produced with over 500 photos and illustrations, color and black and white, includes slipcase and bonus items.

"Magnificently produced...everything you could possibly want to know about how the group made its recordings" (New York Times).

"Five stars...impossible to put down...a major publication" (MOJO).

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