Imagine The Ultimate Collection Q&A – The Mixes

You asked them the questions on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are their answers…

yoko ono

Co-Producer (1971) and Producer & Creative Director (2016-2018)

David Liljemark
Which were the most fun moments/discoveries made while working on this grand package?

Yoko: It was very important to share it all with you. It was rather trying for me because it reminded me of when John and I used to do things together.

Apollop mikec @apollopercy
How difficult was to choose among all the outtakes and which was the feature each should have to be selected? did you hear all of them?

Yoko: Not really that difficult.

Philip Sean @TimelordV
At the end of the ‘Imagine’ video, was it planned that John would make a funny face at you to make you laugh?

Yoko: He always liked to make a funny face and make me laugh.

buddyluv’s mommie @gracefulheaven1
Hi! What is the hardest stage of recording?

Yoko: When we have to explain to the musicians what they have to do.

Jeff Pope
Why wasn’t “Oh Yoko” a single?

Yoko: Well, ask John about that! Haha.

Irma Gramàtica
Was “Imagine” (as an album) a conceptual response to your album “Fly”? A conceptual twin? .. or vice versa?? I <3 U!

Yoko: No it wasn’t.

Paul Madej @PaulMadej
Other than the Imagine sessions, what does Ascot remind you of ?

Yoko: Beautiful, beautiful home and it was just a bit too large for my liking.

Lori Hardin Holdread
Hi Yoko, You are the luckiest woman on the planet for having the love of such a fine man. I want to ask what you think John’s response would have been to Trump and the American political Hell that the country is in today? I know he would have been flabberghasted. Would he have taken to the streets! Thank you for holding his legacy for the world.

Yoko: I wish John was here now. I know what he would say and I’m sure you do too.

Paul Boyd @PaulDBoyd
Can we look forward to more of John’s solo albums getting such a comprensive box as Imagine? I really am beyond thrilled with the amount of content that is included in the forthcoming box set.

Yoko: Let’s see.

Ashley Whisnant
I’m looking forward to WarZone – the album and the book. I wish the album “Fly” would get an Ultimate Collection release. That would be fantastic! Peace and love.

Yoko: That would be fantastic. I’m working on John’s things and my new things so I just don’t have the time to think about what I can bring out now.



paul hicks

Mixed & Engineered – The Ultimate Mixes (5.1 & Stereo), The Ultimate Mixes Out-takes (Stereo), The Elements Mixes (5.1 & Stereo)

Greg Haag @Greg_Haag
Because Yoko and John recorded with great engineers was there much that needed to be done with the tapes or was it simply a matter of enhancing the tapes to bring out a full spectrum of sound? What was done?

Paul Hicks: The tape transfers sounded great, the original Quad mixes needed a little restoration but the multitrack tapes were all fine. It was simply a case of mixing.

Tyler @aficionaudio
Was a lot of compression used in the mastering process of the “Imagine” re-release, and can we expect a high dynamic range?

Paul Hicks: I don’t feel we over-used compression on this project. The dynamic range is wonderful, especially on the 24-96 mixes on the Blu-Ray discs in the Box Set.

Rob @ArchesukRob
The demo take of Imagine is beautiful. Were the vocal effects printed to tape on recording, or was this added out during the mixing stage of the box set? And more importantly, any chance of the POB album getting this treatment?

Paul Hicks: The Box Set comes from various sources, each approached differently. In the case of the Imagine demo, that was exactly how it was found (FX wise), the FX were already on the tape.

Winston Lennon
Hi Yoko! How did you and the team involved in this new remixed version of “Imagine” capture the feel and sound that John & Yoko and Phil Spector put on the original release? Remixing old albums can be a tricky job, because it may sound great now, but it’s maybe too clean, or the voice too upfront, and all that it’s far from the original intention that John had in mind when he mixed the album in 1971. Thanks for this wonderful ultimate release by the way Yoko! Peace and love to you from Chile ✌️🇨🇱

Paul Hicks: The aim of these new mixes was not to create a modern / new sounding mix – we basically wanted to enhance what was always there. Sometimes bringing up the vocals, sometimes the strings. There is such great playing on the album we felt it should be heard. We kept tape hiss, etc. – that’s very important in the ‘Imagine’ song for example. We started by recreating the original mixes, then Yoko and I went through and decided how each mix could be enhanced.

Jason J. Molnar
How did the team determine how best to recreate (uncover?) the sounds that John wanted the world to hear? In other words, how did they deal with maintaining the purity of the artist’s goals?

Paul Hicks: Yoko and I started by recreating the original mixes as close as possible, matching the new mix to the original 1971 mix. From there we went through and decided what elements we thought could be enhanced and improved, with either level, compression, EQ, FX or all.

Kevin Wimmer
Hello IMAGINE team – will the collection include the 2000 remix or a brand new remix?

Paul Hicks: These are completely new 5.1 Surround Sound and Stereo Remixes. The 1971 mixes and the 2000 remixes are not included.

2DogsBarking(Rick2) @YesAnotherName
What do you recommend for amateur home use when Pro Tools is not an option ?

Paul Hicks: There are many different options but I also use Logic.

David Liljemark
Which were the most fun moments/discoveries made while working on this grand package?

Paul Hicks: For something like this, there are so many great and fun discoveries. I think the ‘Imagine’ demo and early take are both fascinating, as is the early take of ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier’. I also love hearing the string overdubs on their own in the Elements Mixes.



rob stevens

Mixed The Raw Studio Mixes (5.1 & Stereo) & Raw Studio Out-takes (5.1 & Stereo)

Peter Mills
What are the Raw Studio Mixes and what is the best way to listen to them?

Rob Stevens: The Raw Studio Mixes are the basic track performances of the musicians playing together in the same rather cramped room, mixed in both 5.1 and stereo. There are no effects placed on the instruments or vocal, e.g. chamber reverb and tape slap for example. Just a bit of EQ and compression when the nature of a particular track warranted it.

John was notorious for wanting his voice bathed in both, and mixed as part of, rather than above the track, so at times you had to really focus your ears and mind to hear his nuances and lyrics clearly.

In the Raw Studio Mixes, there is none of that. John is front and center – clear, unadulterated, live and raw.

The best way to listen to the Raw Studio Mixes is simply the way you listen to the rest of your music collection, and hopefully that’s in 5.1 or stereo. In 5.1 it’s as if you don’t just have a ringside seat; you have a seat in the very center of the ring, with John directly in front of you and the musicians surrounding you.

In stereo, the same vocal clarity is there and the instruments have been placed in a slightly unconventional manner, so as to have their own unique panning positions (the placement between the left and right speakers), with John and John alone occupying the center of the stereo spectrum.

That said, If you’re fortunate enough to have a 5.1 surround sound system set up in a fairly large room, you can, in addition to listening while perched in the sweet spot, have a fine time walking around the room honing in on what each musician is playing.

Garry Roberts
Ever thought of releasing Imagine like Double Fantasy ‘Stripped Down’? Imagine would sound great without Spectors gloss.

Rob Stevens: That’s what the Raw Studio Mixes are… and then some. Whereas Double Fantasy Stripped Down does have some production enhancements and overdubs, The Imagine Raw Studio Mixes are completely raw and unadorned – they capture the sessions before the gloss was added. The unique challenge in mixing the songs with Yoko was to balance the instruments in a way that fused them into a whole while keeping each individual performance clear, but without the benefit of reverb and effects to do so.

William Concannon
Rob Stevens, I’ve admired your work with Ono & Lennon CD projects since mid- to late-90s releases of the Yoko CD reissues and Live Peace In Toronto. How has the process changed in the last 20+ years with the IMAGINE Ultimate Collection?

Rob Stevens: Hi William and thank you for the kind words. When we started working together, Yoko was in the room with me from the start of the mixing process through until the end. After many projects together, whether physically there or not, Yoko is always in the room with me. Her voice is in my head in the most positive of ways, so I often have a sense of what works for her, and yes, sometimes I’m completely wrong.

She would come in when I thought I had gotten to the stage of having something to show. She would modify and enhance what she first heard to much greater heights, and, admittedly, sometimes find what I presented entirely counter to how she heard the material, in which case I gladly returned to the drawing board, as her critiques, for me, have been nothing but enlightening.

Jeff Pope
What does “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier” sound like without all the echo?

Rob Stevens: The words “totally different” are inadequate to describe the difference. John is smooth and angry at the same time, Jim Keltner and Klaus Voorman sound like musical Olympic athletes, and George and Nicky are playing what they’re feeling at the moment to interact with each other while acknowledging the steamrolling groove that the bass and drums create.
And John’s guitar… the rhythmic scratching along with the chord changes makes it both a melodic and percussive instrument at the same time. It’s a holy **** experience, whether in 5.1 or stereo.

David Liljemark
Which were the most fun moments/discoveries made while working on this grand package?

Rob Stevens: John taking a breath before the master take of ‘Imagine”. The sound of the single vocal on ‘Oh My Love’. The vibe of the room full of people when ‘Crippled Inside’ was recorded. The revelation as described above with ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier’. The out-take of ‘How Do You Sleep (Takes 5 & 6)’ and the knowledge that everything on that take, including John’s thrilling vocal and George and Nicky’s stunning solos, were live, still blow my mind. And many, many more fun as well as melancholy moments for both Yoko and myself. As heavy as they were, those moments meant a mere fraction to me than they meant for Yoko, who had to listen as objectively as she could to her soulmate, gone for now but hopefully not forever.



sam gannon

Edited, mixed & engineered The Evolution Documentary Mixes (mono, 100 mins)

Mike Harrison
Can you describe what the Evolution Documentary is, and what we can expect to hear?

Sam Gannon: The Evolution Documentary is an exploration of the Imagine sessions using multi-tracks, interview, film crew audio and sometimes early demos – a mixture of story telling and sound collage. The main goal is to give an insight into how John & Yoko, Phil Spector, and the Plastic Ono Band worked in the studio to develop a song. We tried very much to capture the sense of people being relaxed and having fun making music which really comes across listening to the tapes. You can expect to hear excerpts of early takes, sometimes demos, isolated instruments, bits of between-take studio chat, bits of interviews, jamming… There’s all sorts in there!

David Sessions
How did you approach editing the Evolution Documentary and what are your favourite parts to listen out for?

Sam Gannon: It began as a sound collage that put you in the room with the Plastic Ono Band, eavesdropping on the sessions and ‘evolved’ (heh heh) from there…

We started by laying out all the tapes relevant to a particular song in order and whittling them down to the most interesting parts of the playing and chat between takes. Then they’d get added to with interview or relevant bits of film crew audio as we discovered them – there was a LOT of audio to go through! The narrative of each song’s development began to come to the front, so it started to focus on that. I hope that after listening to the Evolution Mixes you can go back to Paul’s Ultimate Mixes with a deeper understanding of how the songs were created – and maybe even hear things you hadn’t heard before.

There’s a part in ‘How Do You Sleep?’ when Phil Spector stops a take because John is intuitively making a ‘tsch’ noise to accent a beat, this became the long ‘tscccchhhhh’ that you hear drenched in echo on the final mixes. It shows how spontaneous some of the ideas are that become great features of a song and I find moments like that really interesting. Hearing the band working out the final ending of Imagine is great. As far as playing goes, I really love how the strings and bass on ‘Jealous Guy’ weave around each other. The pianos on ‘Crippled Inside’ & ‘Oh Yoko!’ are just fantastic, enough said. The cassette from the King Curtis overdub session is another highlight.

Robert G Narraway
Who plays the opening guitar intro to ‘Its So Hard’? Is it John? Is there any specific things we can listen for that were played by John? Thanks

Sam Gannon: That is John, yes. He plays all the guitars and piano on ‘It’s So Hard’.

There’s a great snippet of John playing ‘How?’ on acoustic guitar. Listen out for an early prototype of ‘Mind Games’ (the song). John’s short little acoustic jam of ‘What Am I Living For?’ is very beautiful. What stands out for me is his singing, even his guide vocals are full of passion and energy.

David Liljemark
Which were the most fun moments/discoveries made while working on this grand package?

Sam Gannon: There’s an interview with John and Elliot Mintz which has John describing how he and Yoko made the covers for Imagine and Fly using a polaroid camera which is a really great behind-the-scenesy bit of info. These aren’t specifically Evolution related but… Photographing various items of John’s, particularly his 1971 glasses, for the Imagine Ultimate Collection Box Set booklet was a very special moment. Coming across the early version of ‘Oh Yoko!’ in the footage from John & Yoko’s film Bed Peace was quite a thrill as I was looking for something entirely unrelated at the time and it just jumped out at me!



elliot mintz

Interviewer, Imagine John & Yoko – The Elliot Mintz Interviews

Jason Gardiner
When and how did you first meet John and Yoko and what were your first impressions?

Elliot Mintz: Hi Jason. We first met on the radio. I was doing a ‘talk show’ in L.A. interviewing actors, musicians and cultural icons of the time. I first interviewed Yoko (by phone) ‘on the air’. It was September 12th 1971 and we talked for more than an hour about her life and times.

I interviewed John on October 10th 1971, one night after he turned 31. Those two conversations began a ‘telephone friendship’ with the two of them which continued each day and night for months.

A short time later, they drove across America and phoned me from a small town near Santa Barbara, CA. called Ojai. They asked me to meet them near a house they had rented.

My first impressions of them ‘in person’ were the same as our phone chats. they were ‘genuine’, non-censorial, friendly, accessible, opinionated, committed and original. There was no pretense or protocol. I felt immediately welcomed and comfortable in their presence. It felt as if we had already known each other for a very long time.

Scott Davies
What are some of the more profound insights about life that you have shared with John and Yoko?

Elliot Mintz: Hi Scott. The profundities came from them. We talked about everything. Primarily current events, history, literature, religion, philosophy and magic. The thoughts they expressed were original (to me) and frequently quite profound. Yoko inspired us. Her cross-references and optimism were always inspiring. She was never cynical or negative. She showed us (and many others the power of the dream. Imagining was an active participatory experience. They took an interest in my day-to-day life and never hesitated to offer their opinions. We also laughed a lot.

Paul Campbell
What is one of your favourite John and/or Yoko ‘moments’?

Elliot Mintz: Hi Paul. There were so many. But the one that comes to mind first, took place on a snowy New York New Year’s Eve at the Dakota. They had an adjoining apartment at the Dakota, which was empty at the time. Sir Elton John gave John a gorgeous 1950’s Wurlitzer jukebox as a Christmas present.

That afternoon, John and I went shopping in vintage stores for old 78 rpm records for the box and some decorations for a room in the apartment. Later, that evening, we dressed in semi ‘formal wear’ and invited Yoko to the new ‘Club Dakota’. She arrived looking as if she had just stepped out of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, looking exquisite.

The two of them danced to some of the 1940’s and 50’s records filling the high mahogany framed room with the sounds of the Wurlitzer. Candles were lit and the snow slid off the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. I snapped polaroids of the two of them as the clock turned midnight. It was an unforgettable romantic moment.

David Liljemark
Which were the most fun moments/discoveries made while working on this grand package?

Elliot Mintz: Hi David. That’s an easy one for me to answer. For the record (or Box Set!) I played a very small role. I am neither a musician nor recording genius such as Paul Hicks, Rob Stevens or Sam Gannon. These gentleman (along with an astounding number) of audio/video masters did the ‘heavy lifting’ under Yoko’s detailed supervision.

I was simply asked to go through my archives (along with Tekay, who worked with me digitizing all the interviews I recorded with John and Yoko throughout the years). Our assignment was to find audio excerpts where John expressed thoughts that were related in some way to the themes he sung about on the album. I then went to a small studio and recorded some recollections and sent them off to Abbey Road.

So, the ‘big moment of discovery’ for me came just a few weeks ago when I attended a listening session at Capitol Records in Hollywood and Paul Hicks played the demo version of ‘Imagine’ and alternative takes of other songs on the album. We were listening to these for two hours in a room that reproduces sound in a manner I have never experienced. The brilliance, warmth, power and intimacy of these recordings are unlike anything I ever experienced.

It was an honor to be part of this project and I delight in the fact that so many others will be able to experience John’s masterpiece as if for the first time…..



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