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#askNat – concerning The Beatles’ own preferences on their mono vs. stereo catalog

This week on #askNat I’m responding to Tyler from Holland Michigan who writes:

My concern is about Beatles’ mono/stereo album preferences, as there are conflicting pieces of information regarding this subject that truly makes me curious.

1) I have read many times online that The Beatles preferred their mono releases instead of stereo, up to (and including) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

2) I have also occasionally read that John Lennon preferred the entire Beatles catalog in mono over stereo.

Where are these statements being sourced from? Is this inner-circle Beatles information that only a select few people have heard about, or are they actual statements from The Beatles via obscure, un-sourced interviews?

I’m trying to listen to The Beatles’ catalog the same way they enjoyed listening to it, and it’s hard to do as a devoted Beatles audiophile.

Thanks a bunch, Nat!  Keep up the awesome work on this amazing site!

Fair enough! Thanks for writing in Tyler. In today’s world many people think of monophonic recordings as a big step down from those that are stereophonic. Especially living in an era with 5.1 or 7.1 stereo surround, DTS, Dolby Digital, and more, it’s hard to understand how something as simplified as mono could even compare. Mono conjures up images of little radios with static-laden sound or portable turntables with noisy motors and one built-in blaring speaker that delivers “lo-fidelity” and no clarity or detail in the sound. The fact is that whatever the number of channels a recording has (one for mono, two for stereo, four for quadrophonic, etc.) has no effect at all on the quality of the recording. There is good and bad quality in both mono and stereo. In fact, in the case of Beatles rockers, many prefer the mono mixes, claiming that with all of the same music coming out of the same speaker (or speakers), the overall sound is more complete or “in your face,” as opposed to different sounds being separated out and thus diluting the overall sound. Mono is often said to have more of a warmth and how good it sounds does not really depend on which speaker you happen to be standing closest to.

 

Three of The Beatles (L-R: John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney) at the mixing console, 1967. Up to this time, The Beatles were heavily involved in their own mono mixes, but not the stereo.

Three of The Beatles (L-R: John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney) at the mixing console, 1967. Up to this time, The Beatles were heavily involved in their own mono mixes, but not the stereo.

 

During the majority of the sixties, the mono mixes were the most important for The Beatles music because that is what most people were buying. Especially Beatles fans or fans of rock and roll music. Stereo was more appropriate for the more sophisticated types of music such as classical or jazz. Besides, many of the younger Beatles fans didn’t have an extra dollar or so to spend on The Beatles’ stereo LPs, not to mention the “higher end” equipment available at home to play stereo recordings. It was sort of like color television in the early sixties. A few people had them, but 99% did not. This is why, for most rock records in the early sixties, the ratio of mono to stereo LPs manufactured was about 80%/20% and all rock singles were in mono.

It is true that until 1968, The Beatles placed much more importance on the mono mixes of their recordings, not only because that’s what they were most used to and what sound they often preferred, but also because they knew that’s what most people were going to hear. In 1968, the first single by The Beatles on their new Apple label was “Hey Jude” b/w “Revolution.” Both songs were not issued in stereo until a couple years later in 1970 on the North American album Hey Jude. The U.K. did not get a stereo mix of either song until 1973 when the 2-LP compilation The Beatles 1967-1970 was released. Shortly after that, during a 1974 interview, John Lennon said that “Revolution” was a “heavy record, then they made it into a piece of ice cream” (referring to the stereo mix). Tyler mentions the obscurity of such sources, so I’ll reference that more of the interview is recalled in Richie Unterberger’s book The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film (2006).

In the bonus disc that comes packaged with the 5-disc Beatles Anthology DVD set, George Harrison, while at Abbey Road studio 2 says in a mid-nineties recollection of old times with The Beatles:

At the time there was a little board, the desk up there [points upward], the console, was just about this big [spreading hands apart] with four faders on it and there was one speaker right in the middle and for a mix it’d be funny because everybody would get on a fader each and have full bass and full treble and one speaker and that was it. When they invented stereo, I remember thinking why? What do you want two speakers for? Because it ruined the sound from our point of view. You know, we had everything coming out of one speaker. Now it had to come out of two speakers. It all sounded like…very naked.

Well-known Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has worked for The Beatles on liner notes and other projects as well as written several books chronicling very detailed accounts of their careers and recording sessions. In his excellent book, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (on page 108), there is an entry concerning April 7th, 1967, where Richard Lush, a sound engineer that worked on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band says:

The only real version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the mono version. The Beatles were there for all of the mono mixes. Then after the album was finished, George Martin, Geoff Emerick and I did the stereo in a few days, just the three of us, without a Beatle in sight. There are all sorts of things on the mono , little effects here and there, which the stereo doesn’t have.

Richard’s partner, Geoff Emerick, confirms what Richard says adding that on almost all of The Beatles recording sessions – including those for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – were monitored in the control room through just one mono speaker anyway, except for when stereo mixing was being done. He is quoted in Lewisohn’s book as saying:

We did have two speakers but everything was put through the right-hand one. We weren’t allowed to monitor on both because they were saved for stereo orchestral recordings.

So the bottom line is , even as late as 1967, mono was king and what The Beatles were interested in as far getting the mixes perfected. Stereo was an afterthought and accomplished without the help of The Beatles and only as a required protocol.

In Geoff Emerick’s own book, Here, There And Everywhere (2006, w/Howard Massey), Geoff recalls (page 170):

Back in 1967, most people’s record players were mono. Stereo was still largely the purview of high-end audiophiles. True Beatles fans would do well to avail themselves of the mono versions of Sgt. Pepper and Revolver because far more time and effort went into those mixes than into the stereo mixes. The stereo versions of those albums also have an unnecessary surfeit of panning and effects like ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) and flanging. Richard and I would sometimes get carried away with them because of their novelty value… especially if George Martin wasn’t there to rebuke us. Needless to say, it was John [Lennon] who especially loved that kind of overkill. We’d sometimes whack something on too severely just to see how it sounded, only to find him winking at us, saying “More!”

On page 188, Geoff reiterates this by saying more about the Sgt. Pepper album:

In contrast to the way they carefully oversaw the original mono mixes, the group had expressed no interest in even being present when we did the new ones; that’s how little thought we all gave stereo in those days.

Once we get to 1968, times were changing and mono was being phased out. By the time of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack (released in Jan. 1969), the mono mix became the “afterthought” instead and was created using the shortcut of reducing the stereo mix to mono in what’s called a “fold-down” mono mix. Following this, the Abbey Road album released later in the year, was the first to not receive a mono mix at all in the U.K. In the U.S., the first Beatles album to not receive a mono release was the White Album (released in Nov. 1968). Singles were timed similarly, with the first Beatles stereo single in the U.S. being “Get Back” (released in May 1969) and “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” in the U.K. (also released in May 1969).

While there are lots more references to be found for those that want to do a little bit of digging, I think this sufficiently get the point across and is enough of an overview from my own personal library on the subject. If I was to play teacher and give out an assignment for the day, I’d recommend doing a comparison yourself (preferably on clean vinyl) of the stereo and original mono mix of “Revolution,” and see if you agree with John Lennon’s assessment mentioned above. Another interesting improvement to the stereo mix can be found on the LOVE soundtrack, where it sounds a bit dirtier, though it is severely edited unless you’re listening to the audio-only DVD version that is packaged with some editions.

That’s going to do it for me, Tyler. Thanks for a great topic this week and, of course, to everyone else that have made it this far into the reading. If you’ve anything to add, please do so in the comments section below.


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a contact form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks).

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB page at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music and literature related to this post:

1) The Beatles in Mono Vinyl Box Set (Limited Edition) – 2014 remastered 14-LP vinyl box set containing the complete Beatles catalog in the original mono mixes.

2) The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) – 2009 remastered 13-CD box set containing the complete Beatles catalog in the original mono mixes.

3) Love – 2007-released special mixes used for LOVE show given by Cirque du Soleil. Includes a revamped (edited) stereo mix of “Revolution.”

4) The Unreleased Beatles: Music & Film – 2006 paperback edition of Richie Unterberberger’s book referenced above.

5) The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970 – 2013 paperback edition of Mark Lewisohn’s invaluable reference covering all of The Bealtes EMI recording sessions.

6) Beatles/Beatles-related Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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52 Comments

  • Gustavo Sarmento says:

    Well… Even after all the 09-09-09 mono rereleases, with all these stories spread to the gret public, I still can’t buy those allegations. See, there are glaring mixing ERRORS, specially between Sgt. Pepper and White Album (the segue problem on the Reprise, the “incompleteness” of Blue Jay Way, the weird guitar solo bits on Honey Pie and Savoy Truffle. The list can go on). Dunno about you guys, but I’ll stick to stereo, thanks. :)

    • Happy Nat says:

      Some songs do have better stereo mixes than mono, but to say that about all of them is kind of like saying all blondes are better than all brunettes.

      • Gustavo Sarmento says:

        Sure, you’re right. What I meant was that I can’t understand how the “extra caring” with the mono mixes allowed such things to happen.

        But after all, maybe I’m more into brunettes, that is. :)

    • mythme says:

      If there are three cases for mono mixes its Paperback Writer, Lucy In the Sky and Baby You’re a Rich Man. The echo and phasing in the mono mixes of these make them soooo much better.

      • Yames says:

        Absolutely, without question the mono versions of these songs are of higher quality. Especially Paperback Writer with its judicious use of tape echo on the choruses. You just can’t hear it on the stereo mix.

    • Yames says:

      Thanks for the comments. But, I will stick to the mono mixes.

  • WS64 says:

    There is an unedited version of Revolution on a Love audio-DVD that sounds dirtier than the official release? I hope this is the next BROW… (although I don’t like that song!)

    • Happy Nat says:

      It’s a great tune but BROW’s are always rarities (by definition). Many are officially unreleased. Some have been released but are not part of the current catalog.

      • WS64 says:

        Ah, my mistake… I completeley forgot that his song indeed was a normal song (not mixed together with other songs) on Love and that the CD version is just 2’14 compared to the 3’23 of the DVD/iTunes version…
        No BROW indeed, I was hoping there was something else!

  • Rock Singer says:

    Once again Nat you have covered the subject like no other. Me, I prefer the stereo mix of Revolver and on, to me what would Pepper be without all the bells and whistles included, I don’t know maybe it was what everyone was smoking back in 67 when Pepper came out but it opened up a whole new world of listening pleasure to me. Going back earlier you would have to go with the mono mixes, I always hated the band on one speakers ( due to recording limitations of that era ) and the vocal coming out of the other. When it came to double tracking is when it became interesting to me because we hear / perceive music binaurally with two ears and if I wanted to listen to mono I would puncher one of my ear drums ( Just kidding ) and sell one of my speakers. The statue of limitations are up for mono. I can’t wait to hear all the Beatles LP’s mixed as they did for Yellow Submarine soundtrack a few years back but that won’t happen until the passing of Sir George Martin most likely.

    • Bern says:

      Part of your preference for the stereo mix of Revolver may lie in that is what you are most familiar with. Out of all the LP’s…I found the mono mix of Revolver too be the most drastic in comparison to the stereo version. (I like the stereo mix better as well). While Pepper and the White album may have various effects here and there that differ…Revolver overall just SOUNDS different musically. Or at least that is my perception.

      A good (not great) read is Ken Scott’s book from Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust. He talks about the monitoring aspect at EMI and how he would use stuff he was familiar with THERE to (try) and reconfigure the monitoring at other studios when he was engineering and mixing. Often ticking off others in the process.

    • Bern says:

      Sort of off-topic…but I once had an Apt-Holman pre-amp that had a “fold-back” type of control that allowed you to take the stereo image and adjust it as you saw fit. I would often use this on the Beatles early stuff to reduce the hard panning of the original two track and give it a more 10 oclock and 2 oclock feeling while listening to it. (I used headphones a lot.)

      On another off- topic note….you can create your own odd mixes as well with some Beatles stuff…..by inverting one channel and then summing it up with the opposite channel on a stereo mix. Audacity allows this feature. You basically end up nulling out everything that is common to both channels…usually vocals and bass…but it depends on the mix. Lots of Beatle tunes work well. That’s how the Oopsology cd’s were created….

      • Yames says:

        I remember, as a young kid of 6 years, first hearing a borrowed copy of Sgt. Pepper, not realizing it was the mono LP played on our stereo. I then bought the LP (with the yellow band reading STEREO across the top) and being immediately disappointed. I didn’t realize it then, but a couple of years later I understood that my first listening (and loving) of the LP was because it was the mono mix. They just didn’t “do” stereo that well back then. There are incidences of the band being on one side and the vocal on the other, panned hard. That is no way to listen to stereo, in my opinion. Plus, its impossible to listen to in headphones!

      • Yames says:

        Bern, if this were a different website, I would give your comment a +1 or a “thumbs up.” That is creative use of a stereo system. I’m glad you had that capability. I, too was somewhat capable of editing the stereo image on my Dad’s home-made stereo systems though not to the degree you had for panning the stereo image.

  • Steve Bruun says:

    A very informative article! Another point regarding the predominance of mono – especially on singles – in the early ’60s: At the time, AM radio stations did not yet have the capability to broadcast in stereo. (Even in the early 1980s, many promotional 45s had a mono mix on one side to accommodate mono broadcasts.)

    It’s true that the mono mixes took priority, and were devoted more time, but to be fair, once the basic mixing decisions had been made for mono, the stereo mixes wouldn’t have taken as long to prepare because they weren’t starting from scratch – they’d have the mono mix to use as a template.

    Good point about the “Love” mix of “Revolution.” Separating the two guitars makes for a more immersive experience; the original stereo mix sounds like John and George are in the next room. “Revolution” and “Back in the USSR” are both truncated on the “Love” CD, but full-length on the DVD and on iTunes. I also really like the “Love” remix of “I Am The Walrus,” which, unlike the original stereo mix, is in true stereo from start to finish.

  • debjorgo says:

    So the mono mixes that were the main focus of the Beatles and George Martin are better than the stereo mixes that they didn’t car anything about? Huh, go figure.

    I did a little a/b listening to create my Beatles’ playlist in iTunes. Even with the lower quality digital files, you difference are profound. And most often the mono mixes win over the EMI stereo. The only problem is they are MONO mixes. Ugh!

    But the big surprise is the Capitol Years’ mixes often take the prize. They have the big stereo sound without the odd separations on the British stereo tracks.

    I said this a few posts back, we need new stereo mixes that make the songs sound the best they can.

  • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

    I don’t buy the “no care was put into the stereo mixes” crap. I know they said it, but I am telling you as someone who has done video editing for years. It is much faster re-editing the same program to improve quality or to edit something made in one format (edited on a tape-to-tape cuts only system) to editing something on a non-linear editing system like Final Cut Pro. I already have the template to follow and I’ll make corrects, additions and deletions of small details as I see fit. So once they had a “template” of what they wanted it became much easier to mix a stereo version after doing the mono. The experimentation was over. The only different things to me that stand out are added guitar tracks or fades that happened sooner or later than another version. Some of the guitar tracks were recorded directly onto the mono so there was no way to get it to the stereo.

    But I like BOTH mixes so I won’t argue one is superior. I just find some different than others. Oh and mono even sounds good in the car!! lol

  • steve crosby says:

    Real nice review Nat. I’m firmly in the stereo camp. When I was a teenager in the 60’s my parents had a Silvertone stereo where the top cover came off and became the left speaker, and the speaker under the turntable became the right speaker. There was also a small switch for stereo or mono. So most of my records, and all of the Beatles were stereo or the Capitol fake stereo. Then after listening to the 1st issue cd’s from the early 80’s for 30+ years, Capitol released the first two sets of the American versions. The echo was now really annoying: stereo or not!
    One thing I’m confused about is the 45 rpm Hey Jude/Revolution release. I could swear that it was not only the 1st Apple release, but was also the 1st 45 rpm released in stereo. Unfortunately, my copy was lost long ago.
    Look forward to your weeklies.
    Steve

    • Steve Bruun says:

      “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” were not mixed for stereo until December 1969, for inclusion on the “Hey Jude” album.

    • Yames says:

      Steve, I was curious if you were listening to both the left and right channels through the two speakers placed right next to each other or if you listened while the speakers were placed on their respective sides. If placed right next to each other, it likely would have sounded more like a mono mix (still being the stereo mix, but with very little separation). Just curious. I can’t stand hearing a dry vocal on one side and a vocal treated with ADT or reverberation panned hard on the other. This can be done with much more finesse in this day and age, but back in the stone age of stereo, I don’t think it was done very well.

      • Yames says:

        Sorry. 2 Steves here. I was replying to Steve Crosby…

      • steve crosby says:

        Yames,
        Very close together; +/- 3′. The seperation was there, but not as dramatic as say 12′. Though on some songs, like Harrisons “Long, long, long”, the ending sounds like figure 8’s no matter the speaker distance…………..way different on the mono version.

      • Steve Bruun says:

        It was possible, even at the time, to pan vocals more to the center. I think that the extreme separation was a deliberate choice, to emphasize the stereo effect, rather than an inherent technical limitation. Interestingly, “Eminence Front” by the Who has Pete Townshend’s lead vocal panned hard to one side – and that was in 1982. (The vocal is more centered on Jon Astley’s 1990s remix.) For further adventures in stereo panning, listen to “The Yes Album” (1971) on headphones, particularly the instrumental passages in “Yours Is No Disgrace” and the last few minutes of “Starship Trooper.”

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      You can NOT compare stereo mixes from back then to today whatsoever! That seems to be the prevalent thought process, but that’s not true. It depends. Stereo classical music is terrific. Stereo sound effects are great! Stereo pop music like Sinatra and Nat King Cole still sound awesome. So then what was the problem with the Beatles in stereo? Mostly, it had to do with limitations of 4-track recording. You can’t pan a vocal once it’s been mashed into a mix down onto channel 1 which allowed for more recording to be done. THAT is why Yellow Submarine Songtrack & LOVE Soundtrack sound so good. They went back to stem recordings. Stem recordings were BEFORE they mixed down to a single track. But that is how they can fix it today, why did they still have issues back then? They didn’t! But we perceive things today differently. Here’s why…

      Back then stereo was a console with woofers built into them at about 2.5-3 feet apart. tweeters set one atop the other dead center of the console!! So to create the illusion of stereo back in 1966 you needed some things panned hard left or right or you might as well been sticking with mono. Now take those same recordings everyone refuses to ask for remixes of today, and put those into your surround systems made for watching movies, not for listening to music and what you have is too much separation of the channels left & right. If you place your speakers that you listen to music on closer together, you will find a much more pleasant effect without the harsh separation.

      The average separation of today’s listening experience is now 6 feet apart for their speakers. That’s twice as far as the speakers were in consoles which the average person listened to music with back in the 1960s. Not until components became popular in the 1970s did music mixing change yet again. Billy Joel used to specifically mix his music using car stereo speakers simulating what he felt was where most people were listening to music in the late 70s and early 80s. So that’s why Billy Joel sounds great in your car!! lol

      My point is you can go around in circles explaining things but you can’t say stereo back in the 60s was the stone age. It wasn’t. But remember, Martin was a classical guy first, and classical music is “IMPORTANT MUSIC” whereas pop music is not. That’s their attitude not mine. So when you hear stereo Elvis recordings or stereo Sinatra or stereo anybody from America, Beach Boys et al, they aren’t stone age, they sound terrific! The Beatles didn’t have a proper studio to record in until 1968 for the type of music they were making. Even then, they outgrew that studio by Abbey Road!! lol EMI just didn’t outfit the studio properly. Now we need remixes to give a natural sound going forward into the eons.

      • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

        Oh and I forgot a detail. Since the tweeters were right on top one another those off-centered vocals appeared to come from the center back then. No perceptible problems for anyone.

        Oh and check out stereo Christmas music from back then. Even that sounds terrific still today!! It wasn’t stone age issues other than EMI not springing for better equipment for their best income makers. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • Bern says:

          @YKMY

          Definitely agree with EMI being slow and dragging their feet in regards to upgrades….Beatles have to go out of house to record to 8 track while EMI’s 8 track sits to be evaluated by the tech staff. After reading Ken Scott’s book….sort of amazed the Beatles stuff sounds as good as it does…they must have been doing something right I guess.

          • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

            What they did right was used good tape stock as well as a large format tape. Using good 4 track equipment over bad 8 track is always preferable. Just like using good 2 track is better than bad 4 track. Today though Giles was able to make multi-track tapes from the two tracks, that’s how crisp the recordings are!

      • spinetingler says:

        “tweeters set one atop the other dead center of the console!!”

        I’ve owned a couple of 60’s stereo consoles and none of them had the tweeters in the middle. All of then essentially had separate two or three-way speakers set on either side of the console, often with downward-firing woofers.

        I’ve never seen one with a configuration like the one you describe – that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but what would be the point of a “stereo” that acoustically sums to mono?

        • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

          “what would be the point of a “stereo” that acoustically sums to mono?”

          I agree!! And considering most stereos systems were still going to play mono records and AM radio, stereo wasn’t such a big deal. But that was something that had to be accounted for. I had this discussion a few years back and I recalled them being separate, which most or many I guess were, but then I saw some photos on the web that showed some with tweeters dead center! I thought, I’ll be damned! lol No wonder hard panning was only evident in headphones!

          Anyway, the point is the speakers were only 2-3 feet apart at best. Most computer speakers are separately further than that. lol AND computer speakers (many of them) have a center channel/subwoofer which provides a smooth bass response.

      • Yames says:

        I agree completely with your assessment, however my comment “back in the stone age” was simply a figure of speech referring to the Beatles’ stereo mixes. I didn’t mean to imply that ALL stereo mixes from that era were bad. Just the dodgy one’s by the band that came out of EMI studios.

    • Michael Whelan says:

      Steve Crosby,

      In addition to the info Nat gave you If you’re interested I believe the first 45 rpm in stereo was the Animals “White Houses” in 1968.

      Also, thanks to several of you for noting the best mono vs. stereo songs and for pointing out that there are different versions of LOVE CD tracks on the DVD and iTunes.

      Michael

  • Hey Nat:

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. It is surely a topic of epic proportions and one that address the important part of The Beatles, their music. Straight away, I am a fan of the Mono recordings and have been since day one. In my opinion, the real Beatles recordings were the ones done from 1962-1970. Any thing after that is just studio remixing and remastering. That said, you always have to go back to the original source tapes and keeping in mind the equipment used to record them on, not to mention the replay equipment of the times. Beatles recordings weren’t made for high-resolution Surround sound, and listening to them made that way is for me, not an improvement but rather a fake offering that I am supposed to spend more money for. Another way to explain it is, when they digitally colorize a classic film. At first it is interesting to see but soon the novelty wears off and you have to revert to its original state to fully enjoy it.

    The Beatles recordings were recorded and mono was the format of the day, with a ratio of 80-20, the lions share of sales were the mono records. So this presents another point of view which would make these recordings more important. Reviewing studio documentations that prove that The Beatles were present for the mixing sessions of the Mono recordings and not for the Stereo recordings surely says a lot.

    Knowing how the tapes were populated with vocals, instruments, sound effects, etc, all onto four tracks (in the earlier days, 8 tracks later on). As the tracks filled and more space was needed, they would compress 4 tracks to one track or two tracks, to free up track space for additional recordings. With compressed tracks holding a variety of sounds, can a pure, true stereo master be made? No, not really. If they had recorded everything back in those days onto a separate track, then and only then, can a truly pure stereo mastering be done. Like it was when studios had added 72 track recording decks.

    Here’s an example: One track of a Beatles recording may have: Drums, piano, guitar, and another could have background vocals, percussion’s, bass, with a third having more vocals, lead guitar, and organ, you can see that there are 3 tracks with nine elements and that, in this example, the drums will be forever married to the piano and guitar. No matter how you may want to separate it, those three instruments can never separate.

    I know I am a purist, my original vinyl monophonic records are the only way I really appreciate the sound of The Beatles. The only post 1970 studio recordings I can appreciate on CD are the 3 volumes of The Beatles Anthology. My reason being, Paul, George, and Ringo were there and approved these recordings.

    Now, with all of the re-issues done in the last 40 years, what else can they remix and remaster to make it really worth buying? It seems to have come full circle with the release of the mono catalog on vinyl. Personally, I think all of these reissues have reached a point of being ridiculous. I would really appreciate a direct transfer of the Mono and Stereo Master Tapes onto CD, without and mastering whatsoever, that would be a pure collection. But, really folks, it’s all overkill at this point. Just give us, Let It Be as a blu-ray and call it finished! The greatness of The Beatles will forever live on. Their music was recorded in the 1960’s and the sound they made was intended for that time. I don’t think John Lennon ever gave a thought that his double-tracked vocal should be moved from dead center to left center in 1999 and moved to right center in 2015!

    • steve crosby says:

      Gives us Let It Be and Hollywood Bowl!

    • Bern says:

      Frank says “But, really folks, it’s all overkill at this point. Just give us, Let It Be as a blu-ray and call it finished! ”

      But wouldn’t a purist want this on 8mm film? You want BLU-RAY! (Just kidding with you btw).

      Any and all Beatle stuff that comes out is OK with me. I loved the 5.1 mixes on YS and Help!…and I don’t even have a 5.1 system. To hear the isolated channels is my only way of peeking inside the actual session.

      And I believe that in SOME cases a proper remix could be done… session tapes exist before the mixdown to a single track. But I see your overall point.

      I remember reading an article in Stereo Review back in the early 80’s about all the inherent distortions that exist with vinyl…..that DID NOT exist with the cd format. Inner grove distortion…rumble….wow and flutter. (that one might)….very poor channel separation. But the gist of the article was that those “distortions” were sounds we were used to hearing and did not exist in the changeover to cd….

    • YouKnowMyNameLookUpThe# says:

      If you want the stereo catalog remastered straight to CD, buy the 1987 CDs except for Rubber Soul & Help! as they were remixed for CD release by George Martin. But they didn’t do anything to them except transfer them.

      If you want the mono transferred to CD then get the box as there was no de-noise processing etc to those transfers AND you get the stereo Rubber Soul & Help! from the 1965 stereo masters as well.

      Paul and Ringo approved the 1999 remastered catalog on CD, so what’s your beef with those? They oversaw that process.

      They approved the LOVE Soundtrack as that was George Harrison’s baby.

      Paul approved Let It Be Naked since 1970! lol He finally got what he wanted, sort of, but it’s what he wanted and it’s on CD.

      They oversaw the remastering of Yellow Submarine Songtrack as well as the Beatles RockBand mixes as they were involved in that process.

      The bottom line is all of these exist in the same universe as the US mixes on CD except a couple albums in their entirety. Take your pick and preference. I like all of them! I can enjoy the Beatles in so many ways that original fans couldn’t do and I love them all!

      MOST remixes done in the 70s were to create superior mixes fixing issues made in the 60s the first time around. George Martin was the guy who mixed and fixed them so you can’t say they were meant to be heard as the inferior products they were in the 60s. In fact, Martin said after hearing them again in the 80s, he stopped the tape too soon on A Day In The Life because the equipment they had couldn’t reproduce the piano fade out to its conclusion. But on CD he could tell it was cut off and he had to fade it out smoothly.

      Be happy we are living in an age where we can have so many ways to enjoy our favorite band’s music! I know I am. ;-)

    • Yames says:

      You have to try the best that you can to understand how reduction mixes were made back then. They only had 4 tracks! George Martin would fill up two or three tracks with the drums, guitars and bass (especially in the beginning, before Paul got his own respective Bass guitar track, once Geoff Emerick came onboard) and a recording of those 3 elements would be mixed down to one track, losing fidelity to put it on a single track, combining all elements of those 3 instruments onto 1 channel. After that, they could record 2 more tracks, unless they had an additional 4-Track recorder in the studio, which offered them another 3 tracks to record and mix down onto one other track. Then they could record 3 or 4 more passes of tracks and mix them down to one other channel of the 4 track recording, combining the elements of those recordings. The fidelity of the tracks were lost on each mix down, or “pass” as it was called. Once they ran out of tracks, they only had 2 tracks to mix down to. George Martin really shined through this process, as he would have to record 4 or more tracks down to one single track, keeping the balance of all of the instruments at a decent level so that they could all be heard. It was a major undertaking, and Sir George is to be commended for keeping all of these numerous mixdowns clear and audible, with their respective effects and compression. If this piques your interest, and if you are at all interested about how these mixes were performed, I highly recommend that you read Mark Lewisohn’s book, The Beatles: The Complete Abbey Road Recordings. It is now available in paperback, and it will give you ALL of the information you’ve ever wondered about and a detailed account of what went down at EVERY Beatle-booked recording for every song at EMI studio. This is invaluable information for ALL Beatle fans across the world. It will answer all of your questions!

  • Bill C says:

    The Hey Jude single was their biggest single and changed my life ( a professional musician to this day ). Yet I tell younger friends they haven’t actually heard that amazing single since all any of us heard back then -the mono version to me sounds also much better than the stereo version wwe all hear ever since.

  • Happy Nat says:

    All good points folks – Let It Be & Hollywood Bowl too! I go back and forth on the mono vs. stereo preference but really it depends on which song we’re talking about.

  • Elias says:

    Hi, I’m rather new to Beatles universe (1987 cds) so mono was not an option for me back then (early 1990s) My question is for the 09.09.09 releases and particularly for the songs Baby your’e a rich man, Walrus, All you need is love which I heard had fake stereo on some releases and were only released as true stereo only afterwards. Those songs that appear on MMT and YS are the same on 09.09.09? Or was the fake stereo maintained? If so which is which? Thanks, this site rocks.

    • Steve Bruun says:

      The only “fake stereo” used on the 09/09/09 remasters is the second half of “I Am The Walrus.” The radio broadcast of “King Lear” audible in the song was added, live, during the preparation of the mono mix. So the 1967 stereo mix is full stereo until just before “…sitting in an English garden,” and fake stereo after that. (Modern remixes on “Love,” the “Rock Band” game and on DVD releases of “Anthology” and “Magical Mystery Tour” are in true stereo.) “Only a Northern Song” was in fake stereo on the 1987 CD of “Yellow Submarine,” but it’s in mono on the 2009 remaster. (The “Yellow Submarine Songtrack” features a new stereo mix.)

  • Jay says:

    Hey Nat, what about The White Album? Did the Beatles participate in only the stereo mixing on that one, or both? It seems like the album with the most notable differences in mixing, and the first that falls after the 1967 date when the band themselves were more into mono.

    • Happy Nat says:

      @Jay – Looking over my account of the sessions, The Beatles were more involved in the stereo mixing of The White Album joining in with Ken Scott, John Smith and George Martin. Mono and stereo mixes were often prepared during the same session for a song. During the final mixing Ringo trusted the others and left early for a vacation to Sardinia. George also left early for the U.S. and John, Paul and George Martin took care of the final touches and sequencing of the tracks.

  • andrew silvestri says:

    I’m 1trying find out if I have rare record beatles whitecalbum capitol record emi stereo uk album b 405269

  • Elias says:

    Hello again, this is sort of an off topic question but one that’s been bothering for some time: were the albums Family Way, Wonderwall, Electronic Sounds, Two Virgins, Lions and Wedding Album released in mono? I love some of them (you know which) and was curious about it. Thanks

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