10 Replies to “Musicians!”

  1. I’ve only seen the first hour of the first episode, so I’m not qualified to make a substantial comment. I thought it interesting when George made a comment, I think it had to do with getting a proper console. He complains that whenever Benjamin Britten decides to record at a remote location, EMI moves heaven and earth to get proper equipment there. He had a point. The Beatles of course made far more money for EMI than Britten, whose releases probably lost money. But Britten was the foremost British classical composer of the time (therefore the world’s greatest to the Brits), so the hidebound thinking at EMI gave him preference.

    It’s been joked that EMI stands for Every Mistake Imaginable. In the 50’s, they were slow getting into long-playing records. Later, convinced that sterero was a fad, they hung on to mono until the bitter end. Trying to learn from those mistakes, in the 70’s they went all in on quadraphonic sound, a huge face-plant. Then the Sex Pistols fiasco. They held out against digital recording and CDs. Disastrous sale to private equity in the aughties. Does EMI even exist anymore? I know that much of their back catalog was gobbled up by Warner, Sony, and Universal.

    1. Holy shit, this record label business is complicated. Wikipedia says …

      EMI Records Ltd. is a British record label owned by Universal Music Group. The original EMI Records was founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide. It has a branch in India called “EMI Records India”, run by director Mohit Suri. In 2014, Universal Music Japan revived the label in Japan after splitting of EMI Records Japan as EMI Records. In June 2020, Universal revived the label as the successor to Virgin EMI, with Virgin Records now operating as an imprint of EMI Records.

      But of course, EMI goes back even further …

      An EMI Records Ltd. legal entity was created in 1956 as the record manufacturing and distribution arm of EMI in the UK. It oversaw EMI’s various labels, including The Gramophone Co. Ltd., Columbia Graphophone Company, and Parlophone Co. Ltd.

      Hadn’t heard the joke about EMI’s name, that’s hilarious.

      I’ve read elsewhere that Lennon and Yoko were dabbling in heroin during the filming of the documentary, which explains why he’s practically drooling in some shots and doesn’t bother to change his clothes for a couple of days.

      Another revelation is that original director Michael Lindsay-Hogg is rumored to be the love child of actress Geraldine Fitzgerald and Orson Welles! Even if that isn’t true, he sure looks like him.

  2. Never heard that about Lindsey-Hogg, that’s wild. You’re right, he does look like OW.

    I read somewhere that Lennon’s heroin use during this time was why most of the tension was between Paul and George, John being too zoned-out to care.

    Roots of EMI go earlier than the 50’s in the old HMV (His Master’s Voice) label.

    So, EMI is just a branch of the US/Dutch Universal group now. So goes the empire.

  3. Fantastic article in The Atlantic!

    Watching the whole thing, should you choose to do so, will be a tune-up for your negative capability—John Keats’s term for tolerating “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” The Beatles are on the Twickenham soundstage (miserable), then they’re in the Apple studio (less miserable), then they’re on the roof (amazing): That’s the narrative arc.

  4. I hadn’t heard that about EMI, but it’s awesome. George Martin wanted to make the White Album a single album (as some bastards have advocated) but didn’t realize that the double album got them out of their EMI contract faster.

    I got through all of it, with my trusty Anthology tome at-the-ready. I found it surprisingly illuminating, which was comical: you wouldn’t think a seven-hour documentary needs a written supplement. (It’s probably my personal problem).

    Anyway, I liked Peter Jackson’s description of how he initially cut everything down to eighteen hours, and then had to convince the Beatles that the final project had to be six hours instead of two. Also Ringo’s frustration with Orson Lindsay-Hogg’s version.

    Random thoughts:

    – I thought I was about to hear the best cover of New Orleans ever conceived, but it cut out after about ten seconds. Can’t remember if that was edited or the Beatles just riffed into something else. Want moar!

    – felt like I was spying on them the whole time. I guess that’s the sign of a good documentary. I can’t think of another of my favorite bands where I would want to watch the sausage getting made, but I couldn’t get enough of this.

    – if you asked me to pick out the one snorting heroin, I’m not sure who I would have chosen without knowing.

    – the most recent Curb episode had a storyline about an overweight roofer and a constant fear of roof collapse, so I kept wondering if the next cop on the roof would be the one that sent it all crashing down.

    – they look 15-20 years older than their Ed Sullivan selves in this film, even though it had only been five years.

    – would have liked a little epilogue on putting the album together for release. Everyone said Allen Klein was weird, but everyone REALLY said Phil Spector was weird.

  5. And…EMI was late to get an eight track console at Abbey Road (not until Abbey Road). You’d think that after the studio wizardry of Revolver, management might have wanted to get them the best. You wouldn’t even have to like the Beatles (I’m sure the EMI poobahs didn’t) to see that. But no. Parlophone was their trash label, and they weren’t going to let it wag the dog, although financially it WAS the dog.

    I guess EMI deserves some credit for releasing the Beatles at all. They also released many great classical recordings, although most of those were from a producer they eventually alienated. Of course they managed to alienate the Beatles as well. Nice work.

  6. It took me until early Feb. to finish this movie. I watched it in segments with my son. We each have the attention span of a gerbil, and our combined attention span is our individual one divided in half.

    So many things to comment on, but this part really made me laugh:

    Yoko screaming in “Freak-Out Jam.”
    John: We’re putting that on the album.
    Paul: You’re both nuts.

  7. I learned from the anthology that Yoko hanging out in the studio started with the White Album. So it wasn’t particularly new to them or as jarring as it seems to me during Let It Be. And of course nothing like the bed delivery during Abbey Road.

  8. This movie increased my respect for Paul. I’d always bought into the line of Paul contributing to the Beatles’ demise by being an overbearing taskmaster. While there’s some truth to that, he also seems to be the only adult in the room besides Ringo. Someone had to take charge; only he or John could really do that, and Paul stepped up. The last two albums would not have been made without his doing that. They simply wouldn’t exist as finished products.

    To me George comes off as a sullen brat at first. But when he comes around, he shows himself as a more important contributor and better guitarist than I used to think.

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