The Beatles Love Album

An album that re-imagines the Beatle canon

George and Giles Martin won a Grammy Award for the recording of the Beatles 'Love' album
Beatles producer Sir George Martin and producer Giles Martin with the Grammy Award for 'Love' in 2008. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage). Getty Images

Released in November, 2006, The Beatles Love CD is basically legendary Fab Four producer George Martin, ably assisted by his son Giles Martin, being set free to make the ultimate Beatle mix-tape - with the intention that it become the soundscape to a very special production from the creative team at Cirque du Soleil. Beatle music was, for the first time, dusted off and about to officially become the basis of a spectacular live theatrical circus production.

The genesis for the Love show dates back way before 2006 and a friendship between George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberté. Both were mad keen motor racing fans, had met frequently track-side, and had formed a friendship. That opened the door to discussions about direct access to the Beatles’ catalog, and eventually George and Giles Martin were brought in.

Three things the two Martin's had going for them were an intimate knowledge of everything that had ever been committed to tape by The Beatles. Secondly, they had exclusive access to all that material to play with and re-imagine at the Abbey Road studios, where so much of it had first been recorded. Thirdly, that all the music was so well recorded by the EMI engineers originally. “Had the music not been so familiar, the tapes sounded like they’d been recorded yesterday”, said Giles. “Tape after tape, I was expecting hiss and crackle and all I heard was the energy of a group of twenty year-olds at the top of their game.”

What they had access to included all the officially-released tracks, plus out-takes, demo versions of songs, and even studio chatter – much of which had never before been heard. And they proceeded to use it all very, very creatively. So creatively that some fans and critics thought they’d maybe gone too far in messing with the Beatle legacy, while others (including the remaining Beatles themselves) thought that what they were producing was brilliant, a refreshing new take on the canon.

“George and Giles did such a great job combining these tracks. It’s really powerful for me and I even heard things I’d forgotten we’d recorded”, said Ringo Starr at the time.

Songs were re-worked from the originals and many were teamed and blended in entirely new ways, kind of like a big Beatles mash-up. George Martin said, “The Beatles always looked for other ways of expressing themselves and this is another step forward for them.” As Giles Martin explained, “We took all the Beatles catalogue from tape, the original four tracks, eight tracks and two tracks and used this palette of sounds and music to create a sound bed. What people will be hearing on the album is a new experience, a way of re-living the whole Beatles musical lifespan in a very condensed period." 

While there are twenty-six tracks on the CD, there are literally hundreds of snippets of other songs and sounds included. “I thought perhaps we should have a contest to see who could spot everything we used", George Martin told Rolling Stone magazine. “No one would ever get them all”.

A good example is the show’s opening song, ‘Because’. The Love remix is just the isolated vocal track from the original Abbey Road recording.

Added to it are bird effects. Then comes the big piano chord from Sgt. Peppers' ‘A Day in the Life’, only this time it's played backwards and morphs into the famous opening guitar chord from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the drum solo from the medley of songs on Abbey Road, and fans screaming during the Shea Stadium concerts.

This all leads into ‘Get Back’ (from Let It Be), which features more sounds from Sgt Pepper plus the song ‘Hello Goodbye’ (amongst other things) mixed in. You get the picture. You can very easily play “Spot the Beatle Song” with this album. Giles Martin again: “We wanted to start with the Abbey Road drum solo because it’s bombastic and the Beatles are so often not thought of as a rock band. So we went and did a big rock opening. It was great to create a sort of live Beatles experience”.

Eleanor Rigby’ (from Revolver) has an extended string section introduction, a different chorus and verse structure, and is blended with the guitar from ‘Julia’ (The White Album), more Sgt Pepper sounds, the sound effects of a police or ambulance siren, followed by some sounds from ‘Revolution 9’ (The White Album again). 

George Martin says in the liner notes to the CD: “We started as we meant to continue by pushing the boundaries. It was a risky strategy considering the material we were experimenting with….”

The team agonised over whether to include the iconic track ‘Yesterday’. Had it been over played in the many years since it first appeared on record in 1965? Would it be seen as too much of a cliché? In the end it was decided the song should make an appearance and interestingly Martin teams it up with the guitar picking introduction to 'Blackbird’ from The White Album. Of course, ‘Yesterday’ features a wonderful string arrangement, composed by George Martin for the original recording.

George Martin was also asked to write a brand new string arrangement to accompany the version of George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ heard on Love. The vocal isn’t the one used on The White Album, it is a solo acoustic version, and in a different key to the original. Martin says he was petrified doing it, but George’s widow Olivia came to the recording session for the strings and loved it when she heard it played. “It’s pretty significant,” said Martin. “It’s the very last score ever to be written for a Beatles song.” His son Giles said, “That’s the only added music in the show, that new string arrangement by my Dad.”   

One of the very first items they experimented with actually made it into the Love show, and onto the CD. Giles Martin: “I thought I’d start by trying to combine a few tracks to see what the result would be. Feeling like I was painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa, I started work mixing the bass and drums of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (from Revolver) with George Harrison’s track ‘Within You Without You’ (Sgt. Peppers). The end result is what you hear on the album today, and it is the Beatles' open-mindedness and support combined with my Dad’s great musical insight that has made Love possible.”

Listening to the two songs it is amazing how well they fit together.

It took two years in all to bring the album together in its entirety. Love was released as a single CD; a special two-disc edition that included the stereo CD and an audio-only DVD containing a slightly extended version in 5.1 surround sound; a double vinyl LP; and as a digital download – which has  exclusive bonus material included ('Fool on the Hill' and 'Girl').

Love won two Grammy Awards at the 50th Annual Awards ceremony in 2008. One for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album, and the other for Best Surround Sound Album. 

The Beatles/Cirque du Soleil production of Love opened in Las Vegas in June, 2006 - and it is still going strong, still getting packed houses. Ten years in, the show is being freshened up with the inclusion of some new material. Director Dominic Champagne says that there’ve been advances in technology over time and so new projected images will be included, as well as choreography, acrobatic numbers, costumes, colors and sets.

And there will be five new songs, with Giles Martin in charge of the remixes solo now since the passing of his father. One new song to be included is ‘Twist and Shout’, which replaces ‘I Am the Walrus’.