If you’re not a Beatles fan you can skip this article. I’ll not go on about how you’re in the minority and are missing out. After all, you can point the finger at me for not being a fan of Shakespeare or Mozart. I acknowledge them and occasionally dip into their stuff, but I’m not particularly a fan. But I am a fan of the Beatles so this is written unashamedly from that perspective.
You’ll have noticed the big push and excitement over the Beatles re-mastered CDs for both the boxed sets of their recorded canon and the interactive computer game Rock Band. The LPs were back in the upper reaches of the sales charts once again.
They’d have been a lot higher if the charts had included sales of the boxed sets, which they didn’t.
The CDs come in three styles. You can get them individually in nice new digipacks with extra sleevenotes and photos or bundled together in a big boxed set. But there was another choice, if you were quick – a limited edition, smaller white box called The Beatles in Mono.
I, of course, pre-ordered both boxes and although expensive, I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve got. It’s an interesting point that Beatle customers may have bought essentially the same thing multiple times. I have the albums and some singles on vinyl. I’ve got a set of the 1986/87 CD releases of the same LPs and now I have all those CDs again in nice new shiny covers in stereo and again in the mono boxed set. But I bet you’re not wearing the same clothes you wore in 1966, or driving the same car that you drove in 1987 either.
If you’ve read this far, you must have some interest in the music. If you’ve enjoyed a Beatles album before, put them away or give them away and get one of the re-mastered versions. The change is remarkable. What happened was that in 1986 we were effectively conned. The digitisation from the original master tapes which were beautifully recorded in 1962 to 1970 was done on fairly crummy and primitive equipment in the 1980s. I didn’t believe it until I’d heard it. The new versions not only sound brighter, cleaner and clearer but you can hear individual instruments that were just mushed together previously. It really does sound as if the band have been transported through time to today and have re-recorded the music with today’s technology. When you listen, you are in the room with them. You can hear the flem in Lennon’s voice. Guitar notes sound punchier and more visible, and we hear at last the genius of Ringo’s underestimated percussion. Whether you dip into any of the LPs or whop out a ton of cash on the mono editions you’ll hear a massive difference on every track from Love Me Do to Let it Be.
But it’s the mono versions that hold the most excitement and I describe why in the next article.