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#askNat – concerning the stereo mix of “Long Tall Sally”

Welcome to the first #askNat for 2013! I hope everyone had a fab New Year’s celebration and now I’m going to march ahead with this week’s question. It comes from Jose Rivera in Houston, TX who has this to say:

Nat, this has been buggin’ me – As per Mark Lewisohn, “Long Tall Sally” was recorded in one live take, so, if both John Lennon’s and George Harrison’s guitar solos appear together on one track, panned stereo left, then who’s playing the rhythm guitar with George Martin’s piano (assuming that’s Sir George) on the other track, panned stereo right?

Wow! Great question Jose! First off for those of you who care but don’t already know – Mark Lewisohn has worked for EMI, MPL Communications and Apple, and has written many reference books and liner notes about The Beatles. He has been credited as the world’s leading authority on the group, renowned for his meticulous research and integrity and even credited with discovering such facts as the precise date when John Lennon first met Paul McCartney. I’m not sure if Jose is referring to Mark’s 1992 book The Complete Beatles Chronicle or his earlier work, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years, but whichever book, they are not in disagreement with each other and therefore it only matters to say that Jose is correct in his recount of Mark’s findings.

At the start of “Long Tall Sally,” John is in the left channel with his rhythm guitar and George is playing rhythm too, heard in the right channel. John does the first guitar solo while still in the left channel with George continuing to play rhythm in the right. After John’s solo, his guitar swaps places with George’s so that when George’s (second) guitar solo commences he too is in the left channel with John’s rhythm now in the right. Also Jose is correct that it was done in one take and with producer George Martin playing those keys. George Martin made a great call in mixing the stereo track this way which shows he cared about stereo mixes at this point even though The Beatles may not have yet.

Again great question Jose! It’s even made me decide to go break out my copy of the stereo mix and give it a spin right now! Have something to add. Feel free to stick it in a comment below.

Long Tall Sally Canadian LP, released in May 1964

Long Tall Sally Canadian LP, released in May 1964

Extra info: “Long Tall Sally” was recorded during the sessions for A Hard Day’s Night and was even considered as a song to be used in the film. Also recorded that day were the songs “I Call Your Name” and “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.”


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:

1) Past Masters 2009 remaster of original 1988 compilation of non-album Beatles tracks including stereo mix of “Long Tall Sally.”

2) Beatles Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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28 Comments

  • Pescador says:

    Great question Jose, and thanks Nat for the answer, too. However, I am still a bit confused: as you pointed out this is a live (in the studio) take and therefore it is simply not possible that George Martin played keys and do the stereo panning at the mixing desk at the same time. I think we have to give credits to “Normal” Smith for doing that little trick. Or did they record that song on a 4-track machine? That would be the only other explanation – both George and George would have had an individual channel and Martin could have panned Harrison’s guitar afterwards.

  • Mark Boersma says:

    I knew Lennon played the lead in You Can’t Do That (from watching live video) and have heard that all 3 guitarists swap leads on Abbey Road. Is there any definitive reference that would point out John and/or Paul lead guitar on Beatles tracks?

    • Happy Nat says:

      Mark, a good set of books for this kind of stuff is the two John C. Winn books: (1) Way Beyond Compare, The Beatles Recorded Legacy, Vol. 1 1957-1965 and That Magic Feeling, The Beatles Recorded Legacy, Vol. 2 1966-1970. Another might be Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Chronicle.

  • Really GREAT question! I remember waaaaaaaay back in 1964 when I first heard Paul sing “Long Tall Sally” LIVE! The energy was off the hook!!!
    I can still feel it when I hear the record.
    The first take is like a Live Performance… no do-overs. The magic is surely intact.

  • Ed Turner says:

    As a longtime music columnist and Beatle person, it’s so refreshing to go to a site that gets it right! What’s interesting to me about Lennon’s solo is that it’s straight from Chuck Berry and seems to be Lennon’s “go-to” riff during that early part of their career. You can even hear John play snippets of it during “Too Much Monkey Business” on the BBC sessions. Thanks again for all of the great work that you do!

    • Happy Nat says:

      Thank you Ed! I really appreciate you reading and your encouraging input. This song is hard to beat in terms of energy and excitement and John’s opening solo is a big part of that.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    So much has been written about them only using two tracks on their first recordings and that Sgt. Pepper was a 4-track recording I think people assume they didn’t have 4 tracks until Sgt. Pepper. The 4 tracks is why Martin actually wanted the 1987 CDs to have only the first TWO CDs in mono with the rest in stereo as they were all recorded nicely and utilized stereo nicely for its time. But we know they mixed that up (but stuck to it) in keeping the first 4 CDs in mono instead of just the first 2 CDs.

    While I brought up my own topic here, lol, did they use the proper mono masters in 1987 or did they just fold down the stereo masters for CD release? (Thus making new mono masters).

    BTW- That was a great question to lead off the year. This website is going to become the go to information resource for Beatles fans (if it hasn’t already) in the coming years.

    • Happy Nat says:

      Leo, the mono tracks on the first four 87-pressed CDs are the original mono mixes remastered (not fold downs).

    • Pescador says:

      Hi YKMN, this is an interesting addition to this discussion, and now that you pointed it out: yes, the fact that in 1987 those 4 CDs were only in mono also fooled me and led me to believe they recorded on 2 tracks only, that’s why I was confused in the first place. You seem to know more about my brainworks than I do ;)

      • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

        Nat,

        I didn’t trust which version they were given they folded down the American Rubber Soul for the US Capitol box sets. lol I was pretty sure the CD singles sets (3″ UK, US & 5″ UK CD singles) were certainly original mixed mono since there were differences in a few tracks that I detected long before reading up on such things.

        Pescador,

        I was so bent they released the first four CDs in mono only (in 1987) that I started reading up as to why and found out they were four tracks which stumped me even more so. I got over it quickly enough as they still sounded excellent and well, were the Beatles in their digital glory! I of course own the stereo and mono sets though admittedly I don’t listen to the mono sets nearly as much. But they both sound great in the car!

        Here’s something to try. Turn up the volume really loud with mono and stereo and compare. Once you reach a certain volume it’s all sorta blended together anyway. lol

        • Happy Nat says:

          Yes, that whole “folded down mono” mistake with Rubber Soul and Beatles VI was such a fiasco! An embarrassment for EMI. I have a sealed copy of the erred box sets and one corrected copy sent to me by EMI with the “apology” letter.

          • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

            I decided to copy the fold downs (no real reason) and send them back for replacement. I also sent back my second sealed copy of the set for a new corrected version. I figure most people won’t know what they bought and won’t notice the difference anyway. I know my local FYE (which closed last year) was still selling the fold down copies until the day they closed (you can tell be the serial number for those reading who don’t know). So I figured I have a much more rare copy of the corrected versions sealed. lol I didn’t see what value there was in keeping that particular screw up. I still have the apology letter though.

  • Robert Bone says:

    Just Getting Back to Long Tall Sally.The Track Layout (presumably) would have been Drums,Bass and Guitar on Track 1,Second Guitar on Tack 2(or 3).Vocal on Track 3(or 2) and Piano on track 4.The REDD mixing desk used at the time only alowed Tracks 1 & 3 to pan left and Tracks 2 & 4 to Pan Right.If that was how it was recorded (and it’s how most of the known 4 tracks were layed out) swapping the guitars would have sent the Drums and Bass to the right channel with that second solo.The Piano stays in the right the whole song the vocal stays center and the drums and bass don’t move in the mix.Unless the guitars were (as someone suggested in another forum) unplugged and swapped at the imput to the mixing desk during the recording.Otherwise the two solo’s are being played by the same person.

    • Happy Nat says:

      lol…The solos are played by John (first), then George. I’ve explained this once and for all.

      • Prefabfan says:

        Happy Nat, you may be finished but your explanation does not hold water. How were the channel swapped? Your explanation would require BOTH guitars having their own channels, no other way to do it. So 2 channels left for vocals piano, 3rd rhythm guitar, bass and drums??? Not possible. So unless there was another recorder, possibly a synced 2 tack, for 6 tracks, o a witch box that rerouted each guitar to the opposite channel mid tune(??) your final pronouncement leaves mean questions.

        • Happy Nat says:

          Prefab, I, thankfully, don’t pretend to be a sound engineer but I do have this much in addition that I can share. A close listen to either of the two stereo mixes reveals that the track inputs for each guitar were actually swapped live during the take. The song begins with drums, bass and John’s guitar in the left channel and George’s guitar in the right (occupying it’s own track). After John’s solo his guitar moves to the right and George’s joins the bass drum track. If you need further details a book I would recommend is John C. Winn’s Way Beyond Compare.

  • Prefabfan says:

    Thank you for your response, I will listen and see if I can hear it. If anyone can see if they can hear something ;-) Your solution sounds very plausible. I used a similar technique remixing WALHFMF. There were only two tracks of vocals but I wanted a BEAUTIFUL stereo span of background vocals, singing, i.e, “Do you NEED anybody?” There is one John and one Paul on each of the two tracks, but unfortunately one shares a track with the lead vocal. By clever editing of the bg vocals ( if I say so myself) I made a (1) LEAD VOCAL in the center, (2) background vocals right to left across the stereo picture, that is FAR more glorious, similar to the 1994 Nowhere Man.

  • Prefabfan says:

    I listened intently to Long Tall Sally, and although I couldn’t tell one way or the other, as to to guitars changing channels, I could tell, IT WAS GOOD!! Mucho good music there.

  • Pescador says:

    @ prefabfan: cool mix on WALHFMF, thx for sharing.

    @ Nat and all readers: Is there a site or a newsgroup or something that is for Beatles fans doing their own remixes similar to prefabfan? I am always interested in stuff like that and occasionally I do some remixing myself, just for my own pleasure. I know that posting it on the internet can cause a lot of trouble, at least here in Germany, so I didn’t share anything yet. But if it is not a public site there should be a way of sharing and connecting to each other, or? If so, I would really love to join in.

  • Robert Bone says:

    I was only commenting as this topic ( Long Tall Sally Guitars) went on for ages on another forum.My Reasoning is true,as the Technology of the time didn’t allow for the senario (of just swapping those Guitars without unplugging them).After listning to the various mixes that i have,i now think that Georges Guitar was recorded to Track 3 and it was panned left after John’s solo after being centered for the first part.The Right side of the Stereo mix seems to just have Vocal,Piano and Spill From the room after the second solo.

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