This weekend, for whatever reason, The Beatles worked. Starting at 2:30 Saturday afternoon they finished “Rain” in a marathon session that lasted until 1:30 AM.

“Rain” is almost dublike in its reliance on a sturdy drum-and-bass framework to make it hang together. (I’d love to hear a dub version if one exists.) The guitar mainly provides coloring on top. It’s no accident that the bass on this song, as well as on “Paperback Writer,” sounds so great. A lot of work went into that. According to Geoff Emerick, in Here, There and Everywhere,

Paul had long been complaining that the bass on Beatles records wasn’t as loud or as full as the bass on the American records he so loved. He and I would often get together in the mastering room to listen intently to the low end of some new import he had gotten from the States, most often a Motown track.

In the book, this is followed by a long and, to my nontechnical mind, largely incomprehensible anecdote about how Emerick wired up a loudspeaker as a microphone to get a fuller bass tone. But the results speak for themselves.

It sounded absolutely huge, so much so that I became concerned that it might actually make the needle jump out of the groove when it was finally cut to vinyl. But Paul loved the sound, and it was eventually left to my mate Tony Clark to cut the master lacquer…. [Tony] was able to use a brand-new piece of gear when mastering it — a huge monstrosity developed by our mastering department that had blinking lights everywhere. It was called “ATOC,” short for “Automatic Transient Overload Control,” and it allowed the record to be cut louder than any other single up to that time.

For this reason, according to Emerick, you really need to hear these songs on vinyl, which I never have. One of these days.

That wasn’t the only studio trickery going on. Emerick:

Rain also had an unusual sonic texture, deep and murky. This was accomplished by having the band play the backing track at a really fast tempo while I recorded them on a sped-up tape machine. When we slowed the tape back down to normal speed, the music played back at the desired tempo, but with a radically different tonal quality.

Finally, the other big technical advance on “Rain” was the backward vocals at the end. Playing things backward would come a huge role in Beatles lore, but this was the first time such an effect was used on a record. Apparently there is some dispute about how it actually came to be, with John Lennon and George Martin both claiming credit; read this page of The Beatles Bible for good coverage.

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