thoughts on music, design and literature

Saturday, October 27, 2007

John Kurlander Creates The First Ever Hidden Track

This past week I've been having a lot of conversations with John Kurlander, three-time Grammy-winning audio engineer (for his work on The Lord Of The Rings trilogy), former head classical engineer at EMI, and soon-to-be recording engineer on Calling All Dawns. :)
Since I'll be recording the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road in a month and a half, John was the ideal choice to do the recording. Not only was he head engineer at Abbey Road for a good part of his 40 year career, but he's also recorded the Royal Phil many, many times--in fact, one project that he helped produce, an embarassing 70s classical-meets-disco album called 'Hooked On Classics,' brought the RPO back from impending financial crisis by selling 11 million copies. That's right. 11 MILLION COPIES.
He's got some great stories, since he's worked with everyone imaginable...but his best story comes from the very beginning of his career, when he was second engineer on none other than the original Beatles album 'Abbey Road.' Beatlemaniacs out there already know that the last track on 'Abbey Road,' a little :30 second number called 'Her Majesty,' is the first ever example of a hidden track. Indeed, it comes 14 seconds after the end of the side two medley that starts with 'You Never Give Me Your Money' and ends with 'The End'.

Well, originally 'Her Majesty' was wedged right in the middle of the medley; between 'Mean Mr. Mustard' and 'Polythene Pam.' But one night Paul comes in and listens to a rough mix of the whole medley, and decides that he doesn't like 'Her Majesty.' He tells John to toss it out--but according to EMI policy, John is instructed to save instead of tossing it, he snips it out, and tapes 14 seconds of blank leader after the end of the medley, and sticks it on the end with a note saying that it's a rejected track, and to ignore it.

However, someone didn't get the memo, and the whole medley--blank leader with rejected song and all--got sent over to EMI. Everyone over there got so used to hearing this little :30 second tag at the end of the medley, that they just decided to keep it there--14 seconds of silence and everything. When the album got printed, the initial pressing neglected to include 'Her Majesty' on the back--and so, the first ever hidden track was born.

And if you listen closely to track, you'll notice that it starts and ends rather oddly....that's because the crude edit done by John (those days you literally spliced the tape with a razor) included the last chord of 'Mean Mr. Mustard' at the very beginning of the song, and the last chord was removed, as it fell underneath the first chord of 'Polythene Pam.'

Good story, right?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.

October 28, 2008 at 5:12 AM


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