From M. Clay Adams to his son, Michael Adams
Dated January 10, 1966
Well, here I am back home from London and back at the old grind. I sent you a postcard from there which I hope you received.
I suppose you would like to hear all about the trip – so here goes:
The flight over the Atlantic via Pan American Airways was uneventful. Only about five and one half hours in the air and we landed right on the button at London Airport last Tuesday night with the wheels on the blocks within a minute or two of schedule at about 9:30. Taxied into town to the London Hilton Hotel in one of those quaint little British taxis that scared the life out of me going like 60 on the “wrong” (left) side of the expressway for the full half hour or so that it takes from the airport.
After a good night’s sleep on the 24th floor of the Hilton with a picture window in my room that overlooks the whole East side of London, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster, The House of Parliament, Big Ben, etc., got up early Wednesday morning, had breakfast and then got in touch with George Martin who was waiting for my call. George turned out to be a fine person – very thoughtful, cooperative, and very “giving” of himself. He has been recording The Beatles as their A&R man ever since the beginning. As a matter of fact, from what he told me, it was George who kicked out Peter Best when the boys were rehearsing for their first album (sic) [single]. He just didn’t think he was a good enough drummer. Apparently he didn’t know too much about Ringo at that time, even though Ringo was a friend of the boys. But George didn’t want to take a chance with an unknown quantity and had a drummer he knew well do the first album (sic) [single] with Paul, George and John. By the way, I could see very clearly later when we were working with the boys that they really look up to George Martin. Whenever they are recording, they do exactly what he tells them and they take his criticisms to the letter. Did you also know that George produces the records for many of the other top groups like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, David & Jonathan, etc.? He told me that in 1964, I think it was, he produced the Number 1 releases for 37 out of the 52 weeks that year. Some record!
Getting back to us --George [Martin] picked us up at the hotel in his Triumph Wednesday morning and after a nice get-together lunch, we went over to the EMI recording studios so I could play my tape of the Shea Stadium soundtrack for him. We all discussed these and made decisions on what we were going to do with each song in our over-dubbing session scheduled for Thursday morning. Later in the afternoon, we all went up to George’s office to telephone each of the boys and talk over the plans for the next day. Incidentally, George had a lot of English music magazines and papers around the office which he gave me to give to you as souvenirs. He also gave me Beatles for Sale and Rubber Soul on the English Parlophone albums for you. Apparently, they put more songs on the English albums than the American.
Recently, George [Martin] quit his job with EMI where he has worked ever since starting The Beatles down the road to fame, and has formed a new company with three other fellows, all of whom produce English records with various famous groups. Their office is on the top floor of a quaint old-fashioned English building where you get up there in one of those ancient open-cage type elevators. They all seemed very nice – Ron Richards, John Burges and Peter Sullivan. I don’t know whether you have heard of any of them but between the four of them, they do just about every big English group. Their new company is called “AIR (Associated Independent Recording) LONDON, LTD.” on Baker Street which is the same street Sherlock Holmes lived on. I imagine we’ll all be hearing a lot from these AIR London fellows.
Wednesday night Bob Fine (my recording engineer who I brought with me) and I went over to Cine Tele Studios which is the studio George Martin had engaged to do our new recordings. We worked there with the technicians getting things ready for the next day, until about 8:00 P.M. Bob and I were supposed to go to the theatre later to see a Bernard Shaw play with George [Martin] but at the last minute we decided we would rather do some sightseeing around London. We did just that and had a very interesting evening. We wound up at the “007 Club” which is on the 2nd floor of the Hilton. On display around the Club are souvenirs from “Thunderball” like the motorcycle that shoots rockets, some trick guns, secret radio transmitters, etc. Playing for dancing is a young new English group who call themselves The Untamed. I told George Martin about them the next day and he is going to look them up.
The next morning, Thursday, after an early breakfast, Bob Fine and I went out to the recording studio with George and got things set up before the boys arrived. We wanted to do all the over-dubbing to the film which I brought with me. Paul was the first one to get there, right on the dot of 9:30. He came in with a short black fur coat and needing a shave. But he was full of fun and ready to get down to work right away. Actually what the boys and George Martin really felt was wrong with the Shea soundtrack was only that it was lacking in the “low end” and drums in some places. The bass guitar was not as loud as on their records. So while we were waiting for the other boys to arrive, we over-dubbed “I’m Down”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and “Baby’s in Black” with Paul only.
Paul was quite a lot of fun. The boys have a fellow by the name of Malcolm who takes care of their instruments and sets them up, etc. Mal had set up Paul’s bass amplifier but while Paul was tuning up and playing around he couldn’t get the volume high enough. He started to kid Mal in his “way out” way by saying, “Where are the sounds, Mal – can’t hear the sounds.” Eventually Mal brought out another amplifier and Paul was happy playing bass notes so loud they felt like they were loosening the fillings in your teeth. We then got going with the recordings and in the next hour knocked off all of the songs that we only needed Paul for. Meanwhile nobody seemed to know where the rest of the boys were. Every time I’d ask what has happened to John, George and Ringo – George Martin would say he hadn’t the slightest idea except that Paul was living in the city nearby while the other boys had to come from out of town.
Finally at about 10:30 in bounced the other three, all laughing and quite unaware that they had been keeping us in suspense. You should have gotten a load of Ringo. He had on brown suede pants, brown suede jacket and the same in a Civil War type hat. He was wearing glasses like the ones you bought in New York and is now sporting a mustache and full beard including “Mutton Chops” all the way down the sides of his face. When the introductions were over, I said we’d better get going because we only had the studio until 2:30 P.M. and asked the boys to get out their guitars. All of a sudden it developed that someone had forgotten the guitars. John was quite unconcerned over the turn of events and went off of a kick saying, “Maybe it’s good we didn’t bring them – maybe they might have got smashed!” When I reminded them that we couldn’t do our session without them, John persisted with his kidding, “Well at least they didn’t get here all smashed. They wouldn’t be any good to us if they arrived smashed, would they now?”
Anyway, Malcolm and their driver, Alf Bicknell had already left to retrieve the guitars and soon arrived with them. From then on things went great. All four of the boys were really great. They worked hard, did anything we asked them to and cooperated in every way. Also, they are such great “pros” and know their own arrangements so well that the recording session went much easier and faster than I ever anticipated. John was quite anxious to do “Ticket to Ride” better so we did that completely over and our track of “Help!” had a big drop-out in it which we had tried to fix up in New York – so we did that one all over. The rest were merely fixed here and there to fortify the Shea track. Paul loved my word “fortify” and whenever there was a lull he would say to me, “How are we doing Clay – did we fortify that one okay?” It was fun between recording sessions. Almost invariably Paul and John would immediately start tinkering around with some new musical ideas for new songs on their guitars. As soon as one would play a few notes, the other would pick up an accompaniment no matter how complex the arrangement. Meanwhile, George Harrison – who I called a frustrated drummer – would be trying to teach Ringo some new trick beat that he had thought up. They are all constantly fooling around with the other’s instruments. Ringo fooling with a guitar or the piano. George on the drums, etc. I thought Paul was the most musical though. When we had finished the over-dubbing I sat with him at the piano while he improvised. He has a great sense of harmony and phrasing. You should have heard his improvised chords fooling around with that song that’s my favorite from “Oliver” – I can’t think of the title.
Well, to bring this long letter to a close. I’m overdue downtown right now. There was nothing much after the recording session that was eventful. We went back to his office with George Martin and spent the rest of the day with him discussing some ideas that we might work on together. He plans to come to New York next month and we’ll talk about them further then. Bob Fine and I saw a movie in London that night and then right after breakfast Friday morning got the 11:00 A.M. flight back to New York. The only thing interesting on the flight is the “In Flight” movies they show. You have an earphone that tunes into 10 different channels of music of different types and one is on the movie they show on TV monitors placed in different positions in the plane.
That’s it for now. I trust you are hard at work preparing for your mid-term exams which I am confident you will successfully hurdle with flying colors. Write to me soon – being sure to include some insight on your school activities as well as R & R news.
My best love to you, boy.