May 23, 2014

John Barrett Tapes Remastered Collection

The John Barrett Bootlegs have been remastered in February 2011 into a 5-CD set. The  audio has been cleaned up and speed corrected. Below is information how these tapes were created, and cover scans of the new discs.



"Turn Me On Dead Man: The John Barrett Tapes" is a revelatory experience for Beatles fans, comprising tracks taken directly from the late Abbey Road engineer's cassette dubs of material he found during the vaults searches in 1982. Included are previously unavailable tracks and mixes as well as items featuring significant upgrades in sound quality from earlier appearances on other collections. The package also includes a booklet with informative liner-notes and rare photos.

Prior to the early 1980's, it was pure hearsay amongst Beatles aficionados as to what was inside the EMI vaults pertaining to the group's residency at Abbey Road and other studios from 1962 until 1970. Also, very little was known about actual recording dates of their album and singles. Most of the information that was available to fans came from contemporary reports in UK music magazines such as "New Musical Express" or "Melody Maker", or fan mags like "Beatles Monthly". This info, some correct, some not, was then regurgitated in many of the earlier Beatles books, such as Roy Carr and Tony Tyler's "An Illustrated Record" or Harry Castleman and Wally Podrazik's "All Together Now".

All of this uncertainty was to change beginning in 1981. That year, an engineer at Abbey Road named John Barrett found he had cancer, and was looking for a way to occupy his time while undergoing treatment. Ken Townsend, the manager of the studios at the time, thought that finally going through the vaults and seeing exactly was and was not there with regards to the Beatles' many recording sessions would be an excellent task for the ailing engineer.

Barrett ripped into his task with gusto, spending weeks listening through every tape and making up a detailed "catalog" of sorts, with multi-colored tabs and dividers for easy access to the various sections, and color codings for the multitudes of mixes and takes which were included. The first fruits of this research was used on the insert for the box of EMI's "The Beatles Singles Collection" issued in December of 1982, which featured for the first time the recording dates for the tracks enclosed. Also, an informative article in "Record Collector" by Nick Piercey in october 1983 included EMI mouthpiece Mike Heatley using Barrett's guide when answering Piercey's queries about various Beatles recording issues.

Throughout 1982, Barrett was also compiling audio material for a Beatles multi-media show that would take place in the famed Abbey Road Studio 2 while it was being refurbished in the summer of 1983. While this cataloging and assemblage for "The Beatles At Abbey Road" (as the show was to be imaginatively titled) was occurring, Barrett was running cassette dubs of some of the more interesting material for his own use. Some of the material was mixed as he was running his tapes, while some tracks where the original mixes done at the time of the recording sessions. Barrett knew what he was doing; he dubbed off lengendary tracks such as "Leave My Kitten Alone", which had never been issued, as well as the more interesting alternate takes in the vaults like "Norwegian Wood" take one. Also, many of the tracks he dubbed where stereo mixes of titles that at the time hadn't seen the light of day in stereo, or had seen limited release, such as "This Boy".

Meanwhile, the late Roger Scott, a well-known UK disc jockey, was enlisted to do the narration for the "Abbey Road" show, and was given copies of these dubs as well. Scott actually used some of the tracks from these dubs in 1984 (the same year Barrett died, in February) for a 12-hour radio show on the Beatles entitled "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". This material subsequently appeared (taken directly from the radio show discs) on the NEMS release "Not For Sale" in early 1985. Copies of some of the tapes made it into other hands one the Continent, who subsequently issued various series such as "Ultra Rare Trax" on Swingin' Pig, and Yellow Dog's "Unsurpassed Masters", based on the Barrett dubs, mixed with other sources.

However, much of the material dubbed off by Barrett went unissued... until now. Taken from the original cassette dubs, here are a bunch o' Beatles tracks you've never heard in this forum. They are all either different mixes, or significant upgrades from previous appearances, or in some cases, completely unissued.

While John Barrett's name may not be as lengendary in the Beatles' world as other researchers such as Mark Lewisohn, his initial work was the cornerstone for all that is now finally known about the Beatles' recording sessions. In tribute, we hope you enjoy these tapes ... hopefully John Barrett would be happy to know that his efforts were not in vain !
Trevor Osmond Williams, June 1999

The remastered collection can be found here: