Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Inner Groove

According to Barry Miles, author and authority on all things counterculture, particularly in London, the recording of the Sgt. Pepper inner groove was the result of 9 hours of the Beatles messing around in an LSD haze: "On 21 April everyone in the studio recorded the run-on spiral for the album, about two seconds’ worth of sound. It was a triple session – three three-hour sessions – which ended around 4am. The Beatles stood around two microphones muttering, singing snatches of songs and yelling for what seemed like hours, with the rest of us standing round them, joining in. Mal [a reference to the Beatles' personal assistant Mal Evans] carried in cases of Coke and bottles of Scotch. Ringo was out of it. ‘I’m so stoned,’ he said, ‘I think I’m going to fall over!’ As he slowly toppled, Mal caught him and popped him neatly in a chair without a murmur. In the control room no one seemed to notice. A loop was made from the tape of the muttering and was mixed, but not without some altercation between John and the tape operator."

The inner groove (which, once again, there is no such thing – how many grooves on an LP? Just one!)  was a reflection of the Beatles' late 60s fascination with experimental tape music and musique concrète (a virtually undefinable term that essential means an eclectic mix of music and bullshit of any caliber, i.e. the spoken word, cars crashing, train crossings). Paul McCartney attended a concert in 1966 by the Italian avant-garde composer, Luciano Berio, which inspired him to try his own hand at experimental tape music, including the unreleased composition Carnival of Light.  Another experimental tape piece that Paul McCartney made by manipulating a reel-to-reel tape recorder was later incorporated into the background effects for Tomorrow Never Knows (and most Beatle fans insist that John was the experimental one).  Of course the experimental artist who most influenced the Beatles was Karlheinz Stockhausen (Lennon’s choice, along with Hitler and Jesus), a German avant-garde electronic composer who was also featured on the front cover of Sgt. Pepper right next to W.C. Fields.

The Sgt. Pepper original CD liner notes state: “The very end of the album typifies the advanced studio trickery applied throughout Sgt. Pepper. After the last droplets of the crashing piano chord of 'A Day in The Life' have evaporated, come a few seconds of 15 kilocycle tone, put there - especially to annoy your dog - at the request of John Lennon. Then, as the coup the grace, there is a few seconds of nonsense Beatle chatter, taped, cut into several pieces and stuck back together at random so that, as George Martin says, purchasers of the vinyl album who did not have an auto return on their record player would say "What the hell's that?"