The Beatles and the Kissing Disease

The Beatles in MonoOne of the benefits of my older brother (and I’m sure he’d be pleased to know that I use the plural form) is that as Beatles albums came out in the ’60s, he went to Kresge or wherever and bought them. And then on it would go to the hifi in the living room for hours and hours and hours. It was probably a good thing that our dad worked the afternoon shift, because otherwise I suspect that the longevity of the records would have been truncated rather rapidly. So we listened. Oh we listened. And as time went on, the Beatles records were joined by the Stones and the Who and. . .pretty much the entire British Invasion. We didn’t know. We didn’t care. We just listened.

I find it curious that Beatlemania has reemerged. I find it down right puzzling that when I check The Official Beatles Shop I discover that in the event that I wanted to buy discs—not those black vinyl things that were on the RCA unit, but those shiny coaster-like things that would have been considered something to have been delivered by a UFO back in the ’60s—that contained monaural versions of some of the early music, I would have to wait more than a month. The demand has been that great. For mono.

And so I am puzzled.

Yes, I understand there are collectors who might want to hear what it sounded like. But beyond that, what is the point? I am confident that when the music was originally recorded, the objective was to make it sound as good as it possibly could, given the available technology. And as the technology improved, it was used. It was good.

I am particularly puzzled by the availability of Help! and Rubber Soul in the mono collection as they include “the original 1965 stereo mix.” Maybe I’m missing the point.

Back when mono was giving way to stereo, I remember getting mono. No, not another hifi. Mononucleosis. The kissing disease. It was rampant in junior high. And it was the kind of thing that you wanted to hide from mom, but alas, when you had to go to the doctor and got that diagnosis, there was no way to cover it up.

I don’t think I’d care much for that version of mono, anymore, either. What’s more, Peggy probably isn’t what she once was, either.

The Beatles: Amazon, Insound, wiki.

4 thoughts on “The Beatles and the Kissing Disease”

  1. Mac, I am one of the people very interested in the mono mixes. Granted: not interested enough to actually purchase them, but definitely interested enough to talk Phil into purchasing them.

    The big issue with the mono mixes is that — up until around 1968 — these are the versions that the Beatles themselves listened to and wanted the world to hear.

    The stereo mixes, especially on the first two albums (Please Please Me and With the Beatles) which were recorded on two-track tape, were clearly a gimmicky afterthought: vocals in your right speaker, instruments in the left. Terrible-sounding reverb in the middle to make it sound “better.” The problem is that it doesn’t sound better. Stereo, in these cases, is not an improvement. I’m not just being a Luddite — the mono sounds better on those first two albums.

    The second two albums, Hard Days Night and For Sale, were recorded on multi-track tape, and the stereo mixes are nicer. Regardless, back in 1986 when 3/4 Beatles were still alive and George Martin could still hear, they decided that the stereo mixes were inferior and released the mono mixes of the first four on the original CDs.

    In 1986 George Martin decided it was necessary to remix the stereo versions of Help! and Rubber Soul rather than releasing the original 1965 mixes. Those remixes have been the “official” mixes for 22 years now…and counting, since the 2009 stereo remasters use the 1987 remixes. In order to give fans/purists/audiophiles/dorks the original stereo mixes, they tacked them onto the corresponding discs in the Mono Box. It’s weird, but at least now we get a chance to hear those original mixes.

    So yeah, the whole point is so that people “can hear what it sounded like.” Not just collectors, but fans. And rock and roll historians, such as those of us who spend time on websites like this.

    Personally, I hate it when bands/labels try to rewrite history and “clean up” or otherwise make changes to a band’s recorded legacy. There’s a reason we still call it a “record.” It’s a document. Of a point in time.

    It’s not that mono in general is better than stereo. But some of the mono Beatles stuff definitely sounds better than the stereo mixes. And sometimes, the mono mix will use an entirely different track (e.g., there’s a fiddle part on the mono “Don’t Pass Me By” that’s not on the stereo mix). As a Beatle fan, I want to hear it all.

    As for the month-long wait, I think EMI way underestimated the demand to hear these things. That, or they consciously decided to limit the supply to increase demand, hype, and “collectibility.” If you ordered a mono box believing their initial claims of a limited edition of 10,000 copies, you might be pissed that they’re making a shitload more now. So now, they’re apparently “limited” to the number of people who want them.

  2. Well, Well, A new sucker. Just got the mono box in the mail.

    Can’t open cause the trouble and strife is around, waiting till I get alone with my groovy stereo, etc.

    I read a few reviews I like this website the best. I guess I had spare cash and yes want to relive those days when the Beatles were new and my sister dreamed about marrying Ringo or George or wa sit , Paul, probably not John though

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