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In June 1967, The Beatles released ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and nothing in music was quite the same again. At their creative peak the band created a counter-culture revolution across the globe, influencing everyone from Pink Floyd to Dr Dre to Frank Ocean. Fifty years on, the album’s been remixed for modern ears by Giles Martin – Sound Experience Leader at Sonos and son of George Martin, who produced the original recordings.

 

For Giles, the project has been a labor of love – returning to the studio archives and staying true to the original Abbey Road feel. Unlike previous versions, his mix uses the first generation of recording tapes, rather than subsequent, over-dubbed copies. The result, a crisper, more detailed sound that’s akin to contemporary recordings and holds its own in today’s listening landscape.

 

 

“The problem was, 50 years ago, speakers were just a bit… crappy, you know? So things were fairly compressed and limited – because if a record was mixed too loudly, the needle might jump out of the groove!

Now that technology’s so much better, we can throw open the doors and be brave, bold and dynamic. That’s the key – we’re not adapting, just embracing what’s already there.”

In doing so, Giles has created something that’ll appeal to old and new fans alike. For long-time Beatles-lovers, there’s a pleasingly back-to-basics feel – a shedding of layers that lets the music shine through. And for those discovering the album for the first time, there are contemporary influences, as well as the rich audio and room-filling sound we’ve all come to expect from today’s releases.

“If I sit and listen to the new Kendrick Lamar album, the production’s really pretty good. You don’t want kids to put on Sgt. Pepper’s and think that it doesn’t hold up.” Giles explains. “Friends of mine like Kanye West’s recording engineer Noah Goldstein or mix engineers like Manny Marroquin can do extraordinary things with bass in tracks. So I want to push boundaries but at the same I don’t want to forsake the feel of the songs. It’s not about hifi – it’s about emotional reaction”.

For those who’ve experienced Sgt. Pepper before, Giles feels aware that the world’s a very different place for the listener: “I think there’s a lot happening in the space right now when it comes to streaming. People are more open but are used to CD quality. It’s my job to make sure there’s no excuse to not listen to streaming. We’re working hard with Apple and Spotify to make that a reality”.

“The beauty of recording an album is that you’re freezing time. If we can bring that youth and energy through the speakers, you’ll find that music doesn’t really get old.”

With bridging the gap between generations a key aim for his new mix of the album, Giles has a uniquely personal perspective when it comes to how children, parents and grandparents can connect through listening out loud “I want you to be able to play the album and have your kids dance around the table but then lean in for a deeper listen in your living room.  My own daughters love to listen with us on Sonos but it’s not until my Dad passed away that they’ve become more aware of him as the guy who produced the Beatles. I think the great thing about music is discovery. And the thing about The Beatles is they had… great songs! It’s great to see it happen again with kids. They hear The Beatles’ music and they react to it.”

Whilst high on the opportunities presented by streaming platforms, Giles remains ambivalent on the playlisting landscape compared to a more linear listening experience “It wasn’t until we did a playback that I realised it’s great to still celebrate the album in full. Even though we live in a global jukebox it’s great to hear a body of work. It’s a bit like a menu where you don’t really think what’s coming next’s going to be very nice but it’s a brilliant chef and you go “God, that’s amazing”.  I love the idea of the album reaching people in unexpected ways but I don’t think you get that from playlists – especially automated ones”.

So what makes a record timeless? Giles is quick to answer: “The record might have been recorded 50 years ago, but the band were the same age as One Direction when they made Sgt. Pepper’s. The beauty of recording an album is that you’re freezing time. If we can bring that youth and energy through the speakers, you’ll find that music doesn’t really get old.”

Now it’s time to fill your home with this Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.