With the upcoming release of The Beatles’ On Air: Live at the BBC Volume Two, there’s Beatlemania in the air once again. And the Varese Sarabande label’s Varese Vintage imprint is at the ready with two recent reissues bearing ties to the Fab Four: George Martin’s Beatles to Bond and Bach (1974) and The Campbeltown Pipe Band’s Mull of Kintyre (1978). Both of these are rather unexpected titles and all the more welcome for it!
Beatles to Bond and Bach, originally issued on the Polydor label, offered exactly what the title promised. Legendary producer-arranger Martin and his orchestra tackled the songs of Lennon and McCartney alongside a James Bond suite inspired by Martin’s then-recent work on the film Live and Let Die, and two compositions from one of his earliest influences: Johann Sebastian Bach. The LP, produced by his AIR Studios co-founder John Burgess, was the culmination of a decade-spanning series of instrumental releases from The George Martin Orchestra designed for the light classical/so-called “easy listening” market. Many of these naturally drew on his work with The Beatles, either in whole or in part: 1964’s Off the Beatle Path and By Popular Demand: A Hard Day’s Night, 1965’s Help!, 1966’s And I Love Her and George Martin Instrumentally Salutes the Beatle Girls, 1968’s London By George, and so on. Martin’s Guildhall-trained musicianship and impeccable ear kept these albums from becoming mere retreads of familiar songs.
For Beatles to Bond and Bach, Martin – recording at London’s AIR with none other than Beatle vet Geoff Emerick engineering – built the album around three extended suites. “The Bond Suite” kicks off the album with Monty Norman’s original theme, before segueing into two of Martin’s cues from 1973’s Live and Let Die and of course, Paul and Linda McCartney’s thrilling title song. Later on the album, Martin arranges “The Beatle Suite” of later Beatle tunes (“Sgt. Pepper’s,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life”) and a “Yellow Submarine Suite” containing four of his distinctive themes and the Lennon/McCartney title song from the 1968 animated feature. In between, shorter pieces came from Bach’s pen (“Air on the G String” and “Prelude for Strings”) and Martin’s own. Trivia: “Air” was the very first of Bach’s compositions to be recorded, back in 1902 – not bad for a piece written between 1717 and 1723! Martin’s “Theme One,” written for BBC Radio 1 in 1967 ,and 1961's “Elizabeth and Essex” (previously recorded by Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra) rounded out the diverse collection. Fans of Paul McCartney’s Thrillington will likely find much to enjoy here, as will aficionados of Martin’s film score assignments.
After the jump, we’ll check out an even more surprising treat from Varese! Plus: track listings and order links!
Wings’ “Mull of Kintyre,” co-written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine, became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the United Kingdom – setting the stage for the 1978 release of The Campbeltown Pipe Band’s album of the same name. The affectionate “Mull,” named for the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland where McCartney has owned a farm since his Beatle days, struck an immediate chord with British listeners and record-buyers, becoming the prestigious Christmas No. 1 record in 1977. To this day, it remains the biggest-selling non-charity single ever in the United Kingdom – though its fortunes weren’t repeated in the United States, where it only managed a No. 45 placement on the Easy Listening chart! And much of its U.K. success was due to the sound of the Campbeltown Pipe Band.
Upon writing the ode to his adopted Scottish land, McCartney called on Tony Wilson, leader of the local amateur bagpipe band in small Campbeltown. In Jerry McCulley’s new liner notes for the Varese reissue, Iain McKerral of the 22-member band, recalls laying down the track in just one take. The band’s profile was suddenly high. A Top of the Pops appearance followed, as did the Mull of Kintyre album.
Like Beatles to Bond and Bach, Mull of Kintyre was recorded at AIR Studios, with Geoff Emerick serving as both producer and engineer this time. Pipe Major Wilson and the band created a diverse set, primarily consisting of lengthy medleys with many original compositions by Wilson contained in them. But a few shorter pieces were included, too, such as “Mull of Kintyre” (naturally!), Maurice Jarre’s “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago, “Legion’s Last Patrol” and “Drummer’s Call.” A number of songs were dance-oriented (“Floral Dance/Kilberry Ball,” “Heikens Polka”); many have evocative titles such as “The Wee Highland Laddie, “”The Braes of Tullymet Munlochy Bridge” and “The Connaught Man’s Rambles.” Emerick guided Wilson and the group to create a confident and winning release brimming with local color and flavor.
Jerry McCulley has provided two pages of liner notes for both releases; both have been remastered by Steve Massie and nicely designed by Bill Pitzonka. Adventurous Beatlefans, take note: Beatles to Bond and Bach and Mull of Kintyre are available now, and can be ordered below!
- The Bond Suite (James Bond Theme/Whisper Who Dares/Bond Meets Solitaire/Live and Let Die)
- Air on the G String
- The Beatle Suite (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds/A Day in the Life)
- Theme One
- Elizabeth and Essex
- Yellow Submarine Suite (Pepperland/March of the Meanies/Desolation/Voyage Through the Seas of Time, Holes and Monsters/Yellow Submarine)
- Prelude for Strings
- Mull of Kintyre
- Lara’s Theme (From Dr. Zhivago)
- Legion’s Last Patrol
- Drummer’s Call
- Medley: My Land/The Battle’s O’er/The Green Hills of Tyrol
- Medley: Liberton Pipe Band/Floral Cance/Kilberry Ball/Floral Dance
- Medley: Highland Mary/The Wee Highland Laddie/Soldier’s Return Malcolm Lang
- Medley: Kyle Sku/Flowers of Scotland/Heikens Polka
- Medley: Murray’s Welcome/Men of Argyll/The Haughs of Cromdale/The Rhodesian Regiment
- Medley: Colin’s Cattle/The Sheiling/The Braes of Tullymet/Bogallan/The Raven’s Rock/Banks of the Avon/The Connaught Man’s Rambles