George Martin, the Beatles’ record producer, is quoted many times in the magnificent and massive volume called The Beatles Anthology. (“Here for the first time in print, is the history of The Beatles – by The Beatles.”)
Here’s one, from page 210.
George Martin said: “John Lennon never liked his voice. I don’t know why, because he had the greatest of voices. He was always wanting to distort his vocal, asking me to do things to it: double-track it, or artificially double-track it, or whatever. He always wanted something different.”
According to the Glossary in the back of Mark Lewisohn’s book, The Beatles: Recording Sessions, “double-tracking” is: “The act of recording the same thing again on a separate track thus re-inforcing the sound when the two are added together. Relies on the fact that two performances are slightly different.”
Here’s a song from the 1964 album, Beatles For Sale. John Lennon is the lead singer. His vocal has been double-tracked.
In later years, John Lennon experimented often in the recording studio. He would try having the recording engineers speed up (or slow down) the tape recorder during a vocal recording and then see how his voice sounded when the tape was played back at the normal speed. One time John actually tried singing while lying on the studio floor and having the microphone suspended above him.
Here’s a song from the 1966 album, Revolver. John is the lead singer. His vocal and several of the instrumental parts were subject to being recorded and played back at different speeds.
I don’t know if John Lennon ever learned to like his voice or not. I do hope so.
As I listened again to John’s performances on those timeless and indescribably gorgeous recordings, my recurring thought was: “What’s not to like?”
But on this day, October 9, 2013, on what would have been John’s 73rd birthday, I will turn again to the words of George Martin to express my feelings for the singing of John Lennon.
George Martin said: “I love John’s voice anyway, and it was a great privilege listening to it.”
It still is.