Tape Box Tales

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Normally, there isn''t much to say about just looking at tape box, but when it''s an original multitrack master tape from a Beatles session, we''re dealing with pure audio archaeology.

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Original 4-track master tape from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. Click on image for a large detailed view.

Years ago, while on a jaunt in the U.K., I was fortunate enough to get way, way close to this holy relic and somehow had the foresight to snap a picture of the tape in question to share with you now.

What you see here is a 4-track master on 1-inch tape from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions. Using two 4-track machines to create tunes with eight or more tracks using tape editing, track bouncing and manual sync methods, The Beatles, George Martin and crew went through a LOT of tape in the course of producing the album.

Recorded at 15 inches per second (the maximum speed on a stock Studer J37 deck) at Studio Two in EMI Record''s Studios on London''s Abbey Road on January 20, 1967, this 10.5-inch reel tape contains tracks from "A Day in the Life," with rhythm on track one, vocals on track two, bass/drums (and apparently tambourine) on track three and orchestra on track four. The notation beneath the track listing notes that a better phrasing of the words "blew his mind out in a car" is on another 4-track tape recorded with a different take.

Recorded on February 2, 1967, the other 4-track tune on this tape is "Sgt. Pepper's," with rhythm on track one, effects on track two, horns on track three, and vocals (with printed echo) on track four.

The "GE" initials on the box indicate the engineer was Geoff Emerick, with PMc (Phil McDonald) assisting on the first session and "RL" (Richard Lush) on the second date.

The tape itself was EMI's house brand.

Who says that archaeology is all about ancient history?

George Petersen is the executive editor of Mix magazine and runs a small record label at www.jenpet.com.