The Beatles In MONO   Book Shocker!

While the 108 page book included in the The Beatles in MONO box set can't compare with the more sumptuous 252 page one included with the stereo box set, it is a fun read and more a fun look. It's filled with great pictures and especially advertisements, press reviews and tape box and internal notes images.

Particularly interesting are Harry T. Moss's cutting notes for some releases. I wish they'd have shown them all but that's probably something only geeks would wish to see (in other words count us all in).

Writer Kevin Howlett does an especially good job pointing out in great detail the major and minor mix differences between the stereo and mono versions including some startling ones that had escaped me, in part because I didn't go back and listen to the stereo mixes to compare. For instance a few tracks were sped up on the mono mix but in stereo not, probably because the mixers forgot to do it. I won't spoil the party and tell you which if you don't already know.

Howlett explains why The Beatles were more interested in the mono mixes and how at the time stereo was more of a novelty aimed at adults but he does a less good job explaining why, even had The Beatles wanted good stereo mixes they were impossible to make given all of the pre-mixing to mono needed because of the lack of track space and the complexity of many of the arrangements. That's why vocals ended up on the left or the right with vocal overdubs on the other channel or in the middle for no apparent reason.

We learn that someone at Abbey Road was in charge of playing pressings on a variety of actual turntables that were in use in the UK by youngsters at the time and if the record jumped (they were called "kangaroo records"), the lacquer was destroyed and the record was re-cut with less bass.

Better, we learn that in producing these remasters, no such limiting was done because all involved felt buyers would own more sophisticated turntables better able to track however much energy was engraved in the grooves. Thank G-d they didn't buy a bunch of groove chewers (you know the name) and use their tracking abilities as a benchmark for how to cut these records!

But near the book's end we learned the most shocking bit of news: the entire LP box set had originally been cut and readied for final production using the mono CD masters. Holy crap! When an EMI spokesperson called to invite me to Abbey Road to see how they were producing the records all-analog he told me that my stereo box reviews had pushed them towards that decision. Frankly I thought they were just blowing smoke up my butt and maybe they were but reading that made me think maybe he wasn't.

recordhead's picture

and tell him i need a raise!

recordhead's picture

Because your words are all powerful. Like Oz.

mraudioguru's picture your ego needed any more stroking. :-)

elliotdrum's picture

I thought YOU could hear the difference between
Analog and Digital?

Bix's picture

He's saying the digital-sourced mono LP process got far enough that lacquers were cut, but that's it.

thomoz's picture

A Capitol rep in Dec 2012 told me he had heard mono test pressings, this was 6 months before the White Album cutting session that Michael attended.

I was surprised to hear that the mono vinyl would be AAA when I had heard otherwise 18 months before.

azmoon's picture

..and that they listened to your reviews and many user complaints about digital and the poor pressings in the stereo box. If only corporations and politicians would also listen...stop - this is about the music isn't it.

Vinyltarian's picture

If indeed you did help influence them to make these AAA, then Beatles fans will owe you a debt of gratitude for a long time. My set arrived today and everything is top notch. 14 pieces of absolutely beautiful vinyl!

bill lettang's picture

I really hope reader's will not go into a negative diatribe over the contribution Michael made in getting EMI to get this mono lp set right. It's not about ego, it's about contribution. I know how he feels. When Hammer restored their classic 58 film Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula in USA), I submitted an extremely rare photo of Chrisopher Lee as the Count from that film. They ended up using it as a title card for one of the documentary's and gave me screen credit at the end. One of my favorite films, that made me feel real good, as I'm sure Michael's acknowledgement from EMI did for him. What's wrong with letting us in on the joy? Good for you Mike!

sharris55's picture

Hey Mikey! Got a big heavy cardboard box in my foyer. No one here cares about this thing except me. Why don't you come on over and help me open it? Not as much fun with no one to share it with. You can bring your camera! Like some of the others commenting, I was going to cherry pick the individual albums like I did on the stereo vinyl (based on your reviews). But your reviews for this set convinced me and now the whole box is there waiting to be investigated. I'll wait until you get here!

myheroiscoltrane's picture

... Awesome!!!

thirtycenturyman's picture

According to FedEx, my set is due to arrive tomorrow, the same time I am to meet a girl for a second date. Well, I guess there's one thing AAA vinyl still can't beat!

As a 30 something, this will be my first time hearing these in mono so I'm really excited. After reading your reviews, the "risk" of plunking down $300+ on something I've never heard seemed much less risky.

I have quite a few different stereo copies of most of these so the comparison will be fun. I fully expect the mono Sgt Pepper to kick the living shit out of my Mofi copy. Although, back when I was rocking some two ways, that Mofi sounded damn near perfect.

It was great to read your experiences surrounding these fantastic albums. The Beatles, more than anything I can think of in popular culture, really do transcend generations. My four year old nephew's favorite song is Good day sunshine. At least until he gets a little older and discovers Tomorrow never knows!

Not really a true Beatles story as it only encompasses one member; however, one of the coolest things I've witnessed was when Sir Paul played Wrigley Field here in Chicago. No I didn't have a ticket, but the great thing about Wrigley concerts is that you can stand outside and experience the show for free. Anyway, while playing Hey Jude, basically everyone within earshot of the show was singing along at the top of their lungs. People inside the stadium. People outside the stadium. People randomly walking down the street. How cool is that! Hearing na-na-na-na echo through the neighborhood was something I'll never forget.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

Although Mikey must have had some influence on the decision to go analogue I think Steve Hoffman forum needs to take some credit. Sean Magee posted in the discussion there and was made quite aware of the dissatisfaction with sound and pressing quality. He also said he was cutting the Mono lacquers at the time - probably the aborted digitally sourced ones.

Martin's picture

on influencing the course of events.
Assuming true, that your reviews and comments influenced or effectivly decided that this set would be done all analogue is something very special.
This box set is one of the most significant reissues of the last several years. The fact that all the Beatles mono albums have been reissued, sounding as good as or better than the originals is a monumental achievement.
If you were the deciding factor, you should advertise it to the world.

My set arrived yesterday. All flat, well pressed, very well done.

Jack Gilvey's picture

Please, pretty please, get them to do an AAA Abbey Road!

criswood1's picture

I second that!

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

How about the original Stereo mixes of Help and Rubber Soul AAA next year as 50th Anniversary editions.

larson manor's picture

I wanted to thank you for all the hard work you did on the Beatles Mono Box Set reviews. All of us, Beatles fans, audiophiles, and vinyl addicts appreciate your passion, writing, and wonderful humor. I truly enjoyed every review, anticipating day to day, what was next. I'm waiting patiently for my box set to arrive Thursday, can't wait, I feel like a kid at Christmas. Again, many thanks Mike. Cheers, Craig

bwright's picture

If your reviews tipped the balance - and given the kindness and respect they extended to you, I believe that is the case - you are due a massive thank you. That may be the last time those tapes see the light of day, before they are too old for use and consigned to a museum. Thanks to your efforts, they finally did it right, and that's all one can ask for.

norske's picture

Thank you for your candor in your stereo box set review that undoubtably contributed to the AAA sourced box set that I purchased based you analog planet reviews. I've never been much of a fan of pre Rubber Soul Beatles and was waiting for proper releases of these albums before buying them. For me, it's not "like listening for the first time." It is actually the first time. Ironically, I heard The Night Before by Boris The Sprinkler and You're Going To Lose That Girl by The Cute Lepers prior to the Beatles versions!

Also worth noting from the mono book: On page 100, work on Sex Pistols recordings were cited, in part, to give Sean Magee credibility for working on Beatles recordings!

rl1856's picture

I'll be blunt- had this mono set come from digital masters, $300 would have stayed in my pocket, just as it did when the Stereo vinyl box was announced. Whether the suits were flattering you or not, I applaud their decision to proceed fully AAA. Just as I applaud your role as our vinyl gadfly buzzing around the industry spreading the vinyl gospel.

detroitvinylrob's picture

Wow, we just missed the silver (digital) bullet... Thanx again Mikey.

+1 if the MONOs had been digital transfers, I'd have left my money just where it was like with the non-purchase of the STEREO box. Record industry muckety-mucks, heed the warning!!!

Mazzy's picture

I thought it was common knowledge that the mono box was going to originally be from digital. Back when I attended a listening party in San Francisco for the stereo box, the Capitol guy told me they had just received the first mono test pressings. This was November 2012 and they were from the digital sources.

Obviously your comments about the stereo LPs and the pressing issues of the stereo set made them rethink and start all over again.

rakalm's picture

Fantastic. The stereo one was made in Italy. Can't find a listing anywhere in the book, just curious. I am guessing CZ did this along with the box?

marcel_kyrie's picture

I wonder if some one would be kind enough to explain why everyone is exited about these mono releases. I grew up in the US, and all I ever heard were stereo releases. The set I own now, which I got in the early eighties, is a Japanese-pressed set of the British releases, in stereo. It's my understanding that all Beatle recordings were multi-track recordings to begin with, so it's not like they ever had to be gussied up with fake stereo, although I'm aware that that has happened. I have also heard that the Beatles only concerned themselves personally with the mono mixes. But are these mixes truly superior, or are people just looking to re-experience the sounds of their youth? Also, does it make sense to play mono records on stereo equipment? Don't you really need a different cart and preamp, at least?

gettingintovinyl's picture

I just got the set Friday and have only had time to listen to PLEASE PLEASE ME and WITH THE BEATLES. I'm in my early 40s. Though I grew up listening to my uncle's "Red and Blue" albums, my first exposure to these albums was the cds which were mono for the first 4 albums. I later found mono cd (Dr. Ebbets I believe) versions of RUBBER SOUL - SGT. PEPPERS. For any album up to SGT. PEPPER'S I find the mono to be more authentic. From REVOLVER on through THE BEATLES, I like both mono and stereo. For MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR on through the rest, I prefer the stereo. I think they got better at mixing and better technology. Mono sounds like I'm listening to the band while stereo sounds a little gimmicky. My most authentic Beatles album is a UK mono first pressing of RUBBER SOUL. Even though it has some pops and noise, I swear I am in the room with the band. This AAA vinyl pressing probably won't match that, but it will come very close without costing me $100 per album. I am considering getting a mono cartridge, but it sounds fine on my stereo cartridge. I have tube pre-amps and a solid state amp.

bongo-hifi's picture

Another note from the book worth highlighting is that the master for Please Please Me couldn't be used for the cut due to glue and oxide accumulating on the playback head causing loss of HF information. The cutting is a continual process so the tape could not be stopped to clean the head, therefore a copy of the master was made to cut PPM. So PPM is actually cut from a second generation master but they did a good job and it still sounds great.