Having completed my study of documented hours spend in the recording studio on each Beatles album, I can now compile my findings to produce a visual illustration: a bar graph comparing total documented studio time per Beatles album.
Using this example, it is very clear indeed that The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) took the longest time to record by far (about twice as much time as it took the band to record Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, or Abbey Road). This isn't surprising as The White Album is the only Beatles double album, so it makes sense that it would take about twice as long to record.
Lastly, notice that both Let it Be and Yellow Submarine have asterisks next to their number. This is because documentation for those two albums is incomplete. No doubt both albums took more time than shown (probably about twice those figures), but the number listed is what is documented. Any attempt to estimate precise numbers above those shown would be futile.
Let it Be, much like Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine, is a bit tricky to catalog because the original concept was to create a live album rather than a studio album. Do I thus count the hours spent rehearsing in the studio as studio time? Furthermore, documentation for these studio rehearsals is incomplete. Using A/B Road timings is perhaps the most precise record of timings, but that is not complete, plus several hours of those recordings are of talking only (not musical rehearsals). To make things even more challenging, Mark Lewisohn's seminal reference book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, which has served as the basis for my catalogs studio hours required for previous albums, doesn't include sessions at Twickenham Studios, which account for nearly half of the studio time behind Let it Be despite the fact that none of those tapes were actually used in the album. And the recording times in the Lewisohn for all of January 1969 are all listed as "unknown". And what about the rooftop concert? Does that count as studio time? It was recorded, but it wasn't in a studio. (Technically it was on top of a studio.) And then don't forget about Glyn Johns' two productions of Get Back? Do those count? And if so, is there any documentation of how long it took him to produce the two? (No, there isn't.) Lastly, Lewisohn does document studio times for overdubs, but the sessions often featured work on more than one song, while the timings do not distinguish between what times were spent on which track, making it impossible to discern exactly how much time when into which particular track.
With all of those considerations in mind, this catalog of studio hours behind Let it Be will be based on the A/B Road recordings. Admittedly, they are incomplete as mentioned above, but it's the best available. Post-production timings will be based on the Lewisohn and are admittedly higher than real for the reasons described above. My total calculation of hours, then, will be a combination of the two sources and will give the total known (but obviously not definitive) number of studio hours it took to create Let it Be.
1969.01.02 2.65 hours
1969.01.03 5.22 hours
1969.01.06 6.07 hours
1969.01.07 5.17 hours
1969.01.08 5.05 hours
1969.01.09 5.37 hours
1969.01.10 4.62 hours
1969.01.13 3.48 hours
1969.01.14 3.05 hours
1969.01.21 3.48 hours
1969.01.22 5.08 hours
1969.01.23 4.88 hours
1969.01.24 4.92 hours
1969.01.25 7.15 hours
1969.01.26 6.50 hours
1969.01.27 7.08 hours
1969.01.28 7.05 hours
1969.01.29 4.52 hours
1969.01.30 1.80 hours
1969.01.31 4.60 hours
1969.04.30 7:15pm-2:00am = 6.75 hours
1970.01.03 2:30pm-12:15am = 9.75 hours
1970.01.04 2:30pm-4:00am = 13.5 hours
Total documented studio hours: 127.74
Lewisohn, Mark. The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970. Harmony Books, a division of Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 1988.
Where Part 1 of this series was very clean (no discrepancies between A/B and Sulpy, Part 2 had a few chronological errors and conflict over which dates certain tracks were recorded. Part 3 is even more sloppy.
A/B #6.19 corresponds in part to Sulpy #s 3.99 and 6.67 (it appears to be the same recording from January 6, not two different recordings from Jan 3 and Jan 6 as Sulpy lists). But Sulpy also describes bits of dialogue in his 6.67 that are not in A/B 6.19. Where that dialogue came from is beyond me...
Sulpy #s 6.16 through 6.20 is out of chronological order.
Sulpy #s 6.52, 6.66, and 6.72 do not correspond with any A/B tracks - at least not as far as I have been able to find.
Whereas the catalog numbers between A/B Road and Sulpy in Part 1 of this series happened to correspond, beginning with Part 2 that is no longer true (which, of course, is why an analysis like mine is needed - to match the A/B Road tracks with Sulpy's discussions and analysis of those tracks).
Notice that while the majority of tracks from both sources correspond chronologically, some do not and are out of order. For example, Sulpy #3.95 corresponds to A/B #3.138, while Sulpy #3.94 and 3.96 correspond respectively to A/B #3.131 and 3.133. Why are they out of order? I have no idea...
But where at least that error in chronology still puts the takes as being from the same day, other instances commit yet greater chronological errors by citing the same track on different days. A/B #3.81 is listed as Sulpy #8.30. So was this track recorded on January 3 or January 8? Similarly, Sulpy #s 3.99-3.101 correspond to A/B #s 6.19, 6.28 - 6.30. So were these tracks recorded on January 3 or 6? I am inclined to believe A/B in such situations as A/B appears to be the more thorough and more current of the two catalogs.
I've also noticed on a couple of Sulpy's descriptions that they appear to be multiple A/B tracks which were combined into a single Sulpy track. For example, A/B #3.98 corresponds to Sulpy #s 3.72 and 3.73. I'm not entirely sure why or how that happened, or what that means.
Also, Sulpy #3.79 appears to be missing from A/B. Why? I am uncertain. Perhaps as I wade through the rest of A/B I'll discover it on some other day's recording.
This comparative effort is cumulative, meaning that each successive part of this series will include the results of the previous post in the series. Thus, here is a PDF of both parts 1 and 2:
Given the Beatles' popularity, it is no surprise that the world of Beatles bootlegs (unofficially released recordings) has spawned a massive underground following and culture. I have just recently discovered the bootleg series known as A/B Road (thank you, Rob!), which is the largest and most thorough available audio documentation of the January 1969 recording sessions that ultimately produced the album we now know as Let it Be. Despite the official release of the album and film of the same title, this period is ironically both the most misunderstood and most well-documented month of the entire Beatles saga. In an effort to help explain and understand this critical and volatile moment in Beatles history, authors Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt teamed up to write a definitive reference text on these recording sessions, systematically and painstakingly sorting, analyzing, and cataloging every extent snippet of audio (musical and otherwise) available from that month. Their results were published first in 1994 under the title Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image: The Unauthorized Story of the Beatles' Get Back sessions, and then again in 1997 under the title Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of the Beatles' Let It Be Disaster. It is this latter version of the book that I am concerned with.
Despite their thoroughness, Sulpy and Sweighardt's text is incomplete compared to A/B Road . I assume, then, that A/B Road was released after Get Back, and that's why the book does not include all the audio that is found in A/B. In any case, the book and the recordings do match, but only to a certain extent. I have been unable to locate a comparison of the two (i.e. detailing what corresponds to what between the text and the audio) so this blog will be the first in a 20-part series (one blog for each of the twenty days the Beatles spent recording Let it Be) comparing the tracks of A/B Road with the analysis and commentary of Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt's book Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of the Beatles' Let It Be Disaster. I hope that other Beatles fans and scholars will find this useful. (I'd hate to think of anybody bothering to do all this work again!)
Due to formatting concerns, I am including my findings only in PDF format (as opposed to plain text format, such as these very words). So here is part 1 of 20, 1969.01.02, with the A/B tracks listed on the left, and the corresponding Sulpy catalog on the right (which just so happens to be identical for this first day - but certainly won't be identical in the future).
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.