on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2019 29 Sep

A heavy dose of Medicinal Nostalgia

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 8 Comments


In the midst of escalating chaos in my homeland, I have officially retreated into the world of nostalgia. But not just your garden variety nostalgia, as in for instance, listening to the old worn out vinyl of say, the Small Faces Ogden’s Nutgone Flake or the Incredible String Band’s 5000 Spirits, both good elixirs in our humorless, decidedly un-whimsical age. No, today getting away from the constant onslaught of dark forces trying to undermine all that is good in a 24/7 news cycle takes decidedly stronger medicine.

Besides being the 50th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road, 2019 is also the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, an event I wasn’t able to attend due to extenuating circumstances – a story for another day. I was still in high school – a 16 year old who went from being president of his class in 1967 to a complete hippie and unpopular anti-war activist over the course of one year. I didn’t complete this transformation gracefully; by 1968 I was outspoken to the point where I had alienated most of my classmates in my small New Jersey town, many of whom had brothers serving in Vietnam. And there I was, my picture on the front page of the Bergen Evening Record, holding a peace sign, shouting Hell No We Won’t Go with my fellow protestors. It didn’t win friends and influence people at home. After that I was targeted and had it not been for the fact I was one of the fastest runners in the school, I would’ve had my ass handed to me many times during those years. And weirdly enough, those were what I refer to as gentler times. What kept me sane then as now, was music.

In the past couple of years, there have been multiple remixes and deluxe packages of some of the music that kept me sane when I was a teenager. On a certain level, I suppose this can be looked upon as blatant money grab by the powers that be to try to squeeze a little more bread out of the baby boomers, who like me, had bought these chestnuts already in vinyl, then as CDs, then as remastered CDs and now in “deluxe” form. A case in point are the 3 deluxe reissues/remixes of Beatles albums. I was a sucker and bought all of them. I realize part of that was an attempt to relive that moment when a new Beatles album came out- it was monumental, a ritual where I sat down in our living room, fired up my dad’s Scott receiver and listened to Sgt Peppers for the first time over those KLH speakers.

Unboxing the new Abbey Road remix deluxe package was sort of a similar experience. It’s a beautiful package, a nice book with many photos I had never seen before-thick paper too. Of course I immediately started with the Blu-ray 5.1 mix. (There’s also a Dolby Atmos mix but I don’t own that tech yet.) The remix was done by both Giles Martin and Sam Okell. I became familiar with Sam Okell’s work on the first official remixed Beatles album, the excellent Yellow Submarine Songtrack. Most people don’t know about this project and up until the release of these deluxe packages, it was the best sounding Beatles album in my collection. The 5.1 mix is beautiful, immersive and totally satisfying on every level. While discrete enough to satisfy surround junkies such as myself, it’s such an organic, perfectly balanced mix that one is never shaken from the experience by mere aural gimmickry. (Although Her Majesty does slowly make its way around the speakers before ending on that famous cut off guitar string- and it’s cool.)

Of course, Abbey Road was already the best sounding Beatles album. With George Martin back at the helm and at least judging from the 2 CDs of session material, the boys in better spirits than most accounts give, it’s an overall optimistic project. Listening to Here Comes the Sun in surround, I was able to let go of my general anxiety about my country’s descent towards the dissolution of democracy, the dying oceans, the loss of 1/3 of our birds, melting glaciers and the looming mass extinction event we are witnessing, and just relax into George’s eternally optimistic paen to the sun and his timeless, gentle reminder that “its alright.”

The sessions are fun too. It’s a crackup to hear John and Paul play The Ballad of John and Yoko as a duet, Paul on drums and John on guitar. After a take, John gently chides Paul for speeding up a bit, calling him Ringo. Paul comes back with a gentle jibe, calling John “George.” I didn’t know there were only two Beatles on that entire track.

The session CDs are full of bright moments such as these: Paul’s stripped down version of If You Want it, Come and Get It, which was exclusively covered by Badfinger and as predicted by Paul who insisted on their copying his arrangement to the letter, would become a huge hit. Or Paul doing a basic version of his bittersweet “Goodbye,” which was covered by Mary Hopkin on an album he produced for the Apple label. Another high point from the sessions is the trial edit of The Long One, the medley from Side 2, in which the songs were placed in a different order from the final version. There is a startling moment when Her Majesty shows up in the middle of the medley and ends with a power chord going into the next tune. It’s also really nice to hear George Martin’s wonderful string arrangement for Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight all by itself. Lovely stuff.

What’s apparent from the sessions is that despite the fact that the band was falling apart, everyone seemed to be in a good mood, and the band was working hard on getting these tunes down to the finest details. According to the liner notes, fittingly, The End was the last thing the boys recorded together.

Now I think I’ll balance out all this lovely deluxe nostalgia and watch another episode of the amazing “Years and Years” on HBO. Hey, you gotta balance out the nostalgia with a dose of speculative hyper-reality. I will probably write something about that show after I’m through with it. It’s a trip.

This entry was posted on Sonntag, 29. September 2019 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Outstanding writing. Thank you for doing my job, I would have failed im comparison. Of course I also got this one and was putting in the 5:1 first. Magic.

    And: The new stereo remaster on the BLU RAY AUDIO with hi res is gorgeous, too.I listened to it on headphones … with fresh excitement, and, newly awakened curiosity.

    I listened to that one after two runnings through the whole album in surround. Highly addictive in any of these formats. And the out-takes are still waiting for me.

  2. Brian Whistler:

    I just listened to the hidef stereo remix and it is lovely. George and Sam are the perfect team for this material. It is about as perfect a remix as one could hope for. They are obviously so very respectful of the source material. You will enjoy the out takes as well, I’m sure.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I’m not alone with this, but, well, my kind advice for newcomers to the album or conoisseurs for playing this new Abbey Road Remixes:

    1 Make sure you are sitting in the sweet spot of your home theater set up!

    2 Dim the lights!



  4. Rosato:

    5 and stop playback after I WANT YOU (SHE’S SO HEAVY) for at least one minute

  5. Michael Engelbrecht:

    A good point, Mr. Klinger – that‘s the watershed between end of side 1 and opening of side 2. Interesting, I didn‘t think about this while listening, and said to myself when the harshness of that one song was immediately followed by the loveliness of the other: – „shocking, well-done“.

  6. Michael:

    And, yes, Brian, a band seeing the end is near, and still playing with devotion, respect, love, or, with their own words in „The End“:

    „And in the end
    The love you take
    Is equal to the love you make“

    This is really a kind of medicine in a world going more and more insane. Not a cure, bur a relief.

    On their forthcoming album, Ode to Joy, Wilco handle the madness of our times in a very impressive way, no escapism, staying alert, chasing away sub-depressive moods…

  7. Brian Whistler:

    Yeah at least a relief from the viral madness that is sweeping not only my country, but much of the world. I will look out for the forthcoming Wilco album. Really liked the last one a lot.

  8. Timothy:

    Ah, Abbey Road, not so much an album, at this point, as a feature of the cultural landscape, and the joy of this remix/remaster is how, by literally adding a new dimension to the recording, it not only opens up new spaces between the instruments but also pries the work loose from history, making it once again approachable on its own terms.

    And what did I get out of this rediscovery? What stood out for me was the medley, enhanced detail contrasted with the differently sequenced and much less convincing demo version, finally showing the skill required to meld these fragments together (yes, it was possible to get it wrong!). Maybe this was, at last, a valid answer to the challenge of Revolution 9; and perhaps, with that, Paul’s work within the band was really done …

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