While the rest of the polit-blogging world has its eyes fixed on the
disaster waiting to happen US mid-term elections, I thought it would make more fun to venture into the world of music. The thing is that recently I made some extra money from writing an article and decided to spend some of it on something entertaining. And, given the 70th birthday of John Lennon, what could be a better choice than something Lennon- or Beatles-related.
I suspect that my relationship with The Beatles is like that of a lot of people: The Beatles have been part of the environment since time immemorial and over the years I have bought a selection of various Beatles records but there was always some serious parts (and albums) missing. So why not go for one of the remastered boxes released on 09-09-09.
Most people would probably head immediately for the stereo box which after all give the more modern sound and the full set of Beatles albums. The mono set is not only more expensive but also lacks three albums: “Yellow Submarine“, “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be“. For the extra price, you get one channel and three albums less. On the other hand, the set has careful reconstructions of the original LP covers with rice-paper sleeves included. The nostalgia factor is incredibly high, especially when you remember the LPs of the 1970s.
But wait, the audiophiles say, there is more. The thing is, that in the 1960s pop and rock records were mainly distributed and played in mono even when multi-track masters and stereo mixes existed, so artists and producers put their main effort in the mono mixes while stereo mixes were added as an afterthought – and, it should be added, often in a terrible quality with a huge gap between the two channels. This also meant that much of the Beatles I knew had a strange ethereal character and lacked the – for lack of a better word – body we came to know from the 1970s onward.
And this is where the mono mixes of The Beatles’ albums and singles is a revelation – even when you listen to the music through headphones on an iPod: In mono, the songs have a lot more physical presence and, especially on up-tempo songs, the band emerges as one of the hardest rocking acts in rock and pop music. Add the well-known vocal harmonies and the song-writing and even in 2010 it is obvious why The Beatles would make such a massive impact on audiences back in 1963.
So, my advice is that if you want to go for the full experience, get a copy of the mono box-set and add “Past Masters”, “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be”. (The “Yellow Submarine” album isn’t really essential) I should note though, the one song in the mono set which is not given full justice is “A Day in the Life“: The massive build-up of noise at the end of the song really works best in stereo and as the song is a classic you might want to add at least “Sgt. Pepper” if you don’t own the “1967-1970” compilation.
If I should make some comments about the individual albums, my favourites are “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver” and “Abbey Road” – and I find it very hard to choose between the three – but as there are plenty of great songs in the rest of The Beatles’ production, they should be completed with the “Red” and “Blue” compilations as the very least.