Tag Archives: Rolling Stones

In The Lap of the Gods-Amazing Super Groups That Almost Happened: HELP, XYZ, WWB and Beyond

The Super Group: a collection of well known stars that band together to make up a highly touted record selling juggernaut, attract all of the attention, get the plum gigs, and of course, get all the girls. Most have failed, few rise above the hype and the lucky ones (usually ones not noted initially as super groups) grab the brass ring of success.

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Early super groups were defined by the band Blind Faith. Even the name suggests what the audience should have going into the project. Members of Cream (kind of a super group already)  and Traffic (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech) combined ideas and personnel to make one middling album (known more for its topless twelve year old girl on the album cover than any music inside), a 1969 tour that pulled in the dollars but showed the band to be more or less a blues jam band with few real songs, and relied on their former bands for in concert faves. Playing the same Cream songs to increasing hordes of rabid fans who were out of their minds wasted was exactly why Clapton had broken Cream up, so the writing was on the wall. They pulled the plug and quickly faded from memory, thus providing the model for many super groups to follow. (see GTR)

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But this article isn’t about the dinosaur era of failed super groups, it is about groups that nearly formed, or formed and then disbanded without any output. You know, the big “what if’s?” of rock history. One of the first of note did not have a name, but was going to be a collision between the most histrionic rock guitarist going, and the most over the top keyboardist of all time: Jimi Hendrix and Keith Emerson. It was to be called either HELP or HELM depending on the final line up. With the end of the Nice, Emerson was looking to retool a band. He had already pooched Greg Lake from King Crimson, and was fishing around for some pieces of the puzzle to round out the band. Supposedly he contacted Hendrix to jam together, and (depending on who you listen to) Jimi came by to sit in on  some of the early sessions that yielded Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  This is where the story gets a little murky. The one thing that has been documented is that Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell showed up to a rehearsal at Emerson’s studio with a large entourage. Discussions of Mitchell coming on board to round out the trio led to the wild idea of including Hendrix. It is uncertain whether Carl Palmer was in the loop of discussion as of yet as a drum choice. It is likely that, had the project gone a bit further, Hendrix would have had the final say in drummers, and gone with his favorite in Mitchell over the unknown Palmer. British tabloids at the time hinted at the HELP moniker, but a close look at the facts indicate that the HELM lineup would have been the final outcome. Witnesses to the first meetings said that the huge drugged out entourage Hendrix brought with him did not lend to the ‘friendly jam’ atmosphere that nascent bands crave in the formative stage, and that Lake and Emerson “freaked out”, and had second thoughts. Still, for any fans of Hendrix and ELP, the thought of two of the most talented point men in rock being able to duel on stage and trade riffs and solos of unimaginable depth is pretty appealing. (Hendrix’s untimely death in 1970 put an end to the proposal). But the jazzier leanings Hendrix was dabbling in at the time make it even more of a tantalizing proposition. Which leads to….

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Hendrix, McCartney, Miles Davis and Tony Williams. This lineup is documented by an October telegram sent to Apple Records and Paul McCartney trying to get the bass player to show up in New York for the album sessions. Hendrix and McCartney are already a fairly enticing proposition, but throw in jazz legend Miles Davis and phenom jazz drummer Tony Williams? Good god the mind boggles at the thought of what that quartet could have accomplished. Whether Macca would have been one of many bassists on the album or a solid member of the quartet is unknown. But the tantalizing scrap of paper in the Hard Rock Cafe bears witness to something that rock fans can only dream about- a super group that could have rewritten musical boundaries forever. The Hendrix album Nine to the Universe released in 1980 had jazz leanings, and a little known album session with John McLaughlin of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame showed the direction Hendrix was heading. (McLaughlin nixed the release of his jams with Jimi, alluding to crappy playing on his part. I have a bootleg of  the session, and McLaughlin gets truly smoked at every turn and is out of sorts with Hendrix, not something a flash guitarist wants on his resume). In the long run, McCartney was on holiday and it is unknown whether he was apprised of the telegram. (Apple was notoriously inefficient in 1969).  But this would have been something special, no doubt. A group that would have defined and redefined “jazz rock”.

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Led Zeppelin Mk 0, Proto-Zep 1966

This is a band line up  that has fueled much speculation and disagreement over the years: Led Zeppelin almost happened in 1966. There is only one enticingly small piece of evidence that documents this incarnation of the proto-band. A barely noticed B-side to a Jeff Beck single (Hi Ho Silver Lining) called Beck’s Bolero had been recorded in May 1966, and quietly slipped out in 1967. A truly earth shaking super group this was too: Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on guitar, Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, John Paul Jones on bass and Keith Moon on drums. Page and Beck had a short run together in the Yardbirds (Train Kept a Rollin’ in the film Blow Up was their only documented duet), but this single had the earmarks of a real band. The Who were on the verge of a break up once again (Daltrey had been fired briefly in 1966) and Moon and Entwistle had discussed a project involving Jimmy Page. Whether the original name Lead Zeppelin originated with Moon, Entwistle or future Zep manager Peter Grant is unclear (Page has tapped Moon as the origin)–Entwistle was adamant that Grant was present at his and Moon’s initial discussions and stole the idea, including that he had even thought the project out to include the Hindenburg in flames on their first album cover (which Grant also nicked). Soon the Who and Moon had kissed and made up, and this idea was put on the backburner to simmer for a couple of years.

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Beatles, Stones, Dylan form a single band

Before passing out of the sixties, another proposed band has recently come to light. In the realms of the word super group, this one would  have been a doozy: a nine piece band comprising Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Yep–Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones, all in one band. Producer Glyn Johns let this one out in his recent book. According to Johns, the impetus for this project came solely from Bob Dylan. He wanted to make an album with the most influential song writers of the 1960’s, and see what the combined talents could collaborate on to produce. The time period would have been the summer of 1969-Self Portrait era of Dylan, post Brian Jones Stones, and the chaos of Let it Be for the Beatles. Johns had worked for years on the Rolling Stones production end, and Dylan was intrigued by his recent work with the Beatles. Despite Dylan’s enthusiasm, only George Harrison and Keith Richards jumped at the chance and tried to gather support. Wyman, Ringo and Watts waited to see what others would do, and Lennon felt ambivalent. McCartney and Jagger would not even consider it for a second, perhaps reflecting the power struggles then going on in both bands. Despite the cachet these names generate, it is hard to see how this would have played out. Collaborative song writing? If real, then it would have been something we’d still be analyzing to this day. But other luminaries were sidling up…

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Fast forwarding a decade comes a super group that strikes very close to home: XYZ. Representing eX Yes and Zeppelin, XYZ was formed in late 1980 as both Yes and Led Zeppelin had imploded (the former due to a break up during the failed follow up to Tormato, the other by the death of John Bonham.). At the time, two of my favorite bands had just jumped the rails, and my lifelong search to finally see Led Zeppelin live summer 1980 was thwarted by Bonham’s untimely death. Whispers by those who had insider information spoke of XYZ-Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Chris Squire and Alan White. Holy Crap–talk about a consolation prize! I anxiously awaited further news. I carried around a 1981 clipping from a local newspaper from a ticket scalping agency for the better part of a decade. Around the border were upcoming big concerts they were pushing: The Rolling Stones, Springsteen, AC/DC…the hottest tours of the biggest bands circled in a border around the advert. But one caught my eye, the elusive XYZ. Was there going to be a tour? Holy shit! But then….an information black out. Nothing in the news anywhere about this. What was going on?  In reality, Page, White and Squire had gotten together with former Greenslade keyboardist David Lawson to combine forces. As a front man, the obvious choice was Robert Plant. Rehearsals in early 1981 progressed well, but Plant dropped out after a single session with them, citing lingering trauma from Bonham’s death. Other sources claim the songs being written were straying into an unfamiliar ground as Squire and White drew Page into much trickier uncharted territory-fluctuating time signatures, stops and starts and evolving key changes–the hallmarks of prog rock and Yes. Plant found this material out of  his comfort zone and a bit too “tricky” for his liking. Whichever excuse you  prefer, Plant was out. This left Squire and David Lawson as vocalists, but the initial momentum and  enthusiasm began to wane as rehearsals continued. Disputes over management between Brian Lane of the Yes camp and Peter Grant of the Zep camp did not help. (The aborted sessions produced some tantalizingly rare outtakes, which finally have surfaced in the bootleg underground and are readily available to the skilled internet surfer). Finally both parties realized that this was headed in the wrong direction without Plant to tie it together, and they went their separate ways. Some of the more finished material ended up on the rare Squire/White single,  Run With the Fox. Other material ended up on the 1983 Yes reformation album 90125. One song ended up on a Page/Rodgers Firm album. One of the ‘trickier’ pieces finally surfaced 15 years later as Mind Drive on the 1997 Keys to Ascension2 Yes album. For many Yes fans, this was the last decent original song they ever released. Few know that its origins have Jimmy Page rattling around in there somewhere. But this wasn’t the only aborted Yes project of the era….

When Yes failed to come up with a follow up to Tormato, they imploded in Paris. Roy Thomas Baker was at the helm, and the band bickered endlessly. Writing was strained and Jon Anderson tried to wrestle control and impose his will upon the band, a very un-Yeslike attitude. (Songs of this era showed up on bonus tracks of Drama and the Anderson solo album Song of Seven. They are excruciatingly bad.) In the background was the easily disaffected keyboard genius Rick Wakeman. Rick had once famously consumed sausage sandwiches on his grand piano while playing on the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour to show his disapproval of the material and horrify the recently vegan turned Anderson and Howe. So when Alan White broke his ankle during the sessions, Rick saw his opportunity and wisely bolted for the door.

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WWB-Wakeman, Wetton, Bruford

But this was not the first time Wakeman had pulled a vanishing act. The first time was post Tales, in 1974. He then became a fairly large draw as a solo act, but stage productions for Journey to the Center of the Earth (performed around a lake with inflatable monsters bobbing up and down from the surface) and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of  the Round Table (performed around a skating rink with ice skating characters, and orchestra and choir) drained finances like burning money in a stove. A solution was in the offing, and America had the answer. With ELP effectively off the road, a keyboard led supergroup was needed. That group was Wakeman Wetton and Bruford, WWB.  John Wetton and Bill Bruford had most recently played together in the final 70’s version of King Crimson, and were nearly telepathic in their playing. Wakeman? Well as he himself has noted, was an unofficial member of the UK Olympic Drinking Team. This seemed doomed from the start, but they hung together for six weeks in May-June 1977, took promo photos on a James Bond movie set, had press releases out and record companies lined up. Unfortunately, the execs pumped up Wakeman’s already inflated ego with promises of ELP styled mega events with him at the helm. They also proposed a 50-25-25 split of the finances, something that Wetton and Bruford could not swallow. With  accountants running with contracts after them, the band fell apart. Wakeman rejoined Yes, while Wetton and Bruford enlisted Eddie Jobson and Alan Holdsworth for the more sedate and complex band, UK. The bombastic WWB never saw the light of day. Two songs of their work survived–Beelzebub surfaced on a Bruford solo album, and Thirty Years on the first UK album.

Recent history has provided many an example of super groups that fizzle out upon launch. Had these bands continued and actually toured and released albums,the same fate may have struck the above mentioned bands. But time and events will not let us know how this  would have played out. One thing I do know, I really would  have loved to see Jimmy Page in a progressive rock band. “What if?” indeed.

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AC/DC Bag Half Full-Gov’t Mule New Year’s at the Beacon 2014

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Warren Haynes is a guy that is known for taking chances, and somehow never stumbles. Mule, Lesh, Allmans, the Dead…the list goes on for projects he has either jump started or revitalized. As for his now main project, Gov’t Mule, his work is impressive. With over 300 songs in their working repertoire, and a working knowledge of cover tunes that is inexhaustible, they are able to pull out some obscure chestnuts to surprise a crowd. But it is Halloween and New Year’s Eve that are considered the ‘main event’. Both evenings are usually dedicated to full on tributes: Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, the Doors….this is only a sampling. Last year’s New Year’s show at the Beacon Theater in New York City featured Robbie Krieger on guitar, as Warren Haynes and company plowed though a full 90 minutes Doors set after midnight.
This year’s theme was announced in October as an AC/DC tribute. Some early rumors had Slash as the ‘special guest'(Slash’s vocalist Myles Kennedy as Bon Scott was the actual guest, also known as Led Zeppelin’s final vocalist in the aborted 2009 Zep reunion) Initial excitement was met with some lingering doubts. Even Angus Young would admit that he is not a really exploratory guitar wizard. Would this be a good template for Gov’t Mule to successfully launch into hyperspace?
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The answer? Well not really. Although things were fairly raucous as the band hurtled into Highway to Hell, you could sense some frustration building in the crowd. Myles Kennedy took over lead vocals for the 18 song second set. It was strange to see Gov’t Mule and not see Warren singing for this long. When in the past they have had special guests at a show like this, they were usually musical sidemen, not frontmen. Vocalists were usually given a turn at a song or two. To have someone take over the stage for this long? Weird. The other problem was alluded to earlier. AC/DC songs are not really suited to stretching out musically. Longish solos don’t really feel right, nor are they really vehicles for jumping off to deeper jamming. This is what some in the crowd noticed. Warren, the focus of the band, was relegated for almost two hours to a sideman position. He had been painted into a corner musically from the first notes, and it was very difficult for him to inject his intergalactic guitar extrapolations into these concise tunes. It almost felt half way through the second set as if I were watching a top tier AC/DC cover band, and at 90 bucks a pop for tickets–the most expensive cover band ever. Others around me echoed similar sentiments. Warren looked a bit lost on the sidelines as if even he was starting to wonder if this had been really thought through. Not one of the better Mule shows I have seen, a noble failure if you will. Other things noticed: for the first time in memory, there were no balloons dropped from the ceiling at midnight. Also, the New Years tshirt pictured above as a poster oddly sold out on 12/30 during the show, meaning that everyone who attended on the 31st had no chance to buy a New Years shirt. Some in the crowd were puzzled by this lack of preparation.
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Before we finish, I want to be clear: the purpose of this article is not to take pot shots at Warren Haynes for taking chances, on the contrary, this is to point out and thank him for being one of the few out there willing to take some really big chances. In this age of completely scripted and meticulously rehearsed performances that are getting pretty far from what a real rock show once was: getting out there with an idea and seeing what happens–an event like this is pretty rare. Sometimes you fly, sometimes you stumble, but the point is you tried something different and went for it. More folks in rock music need to think this way-what was once a raison d’être is now becoming a dying breed. As Ian Anderson observed decades ago, this business is a Crazed Institution. Take chances, stay crazy and rock on in 2015 folks!

Three Albums That Almost Changed the Record Business–Bootleg Records Arrive, 1969

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It’s 1969, and Rock n Roll is King of the World. Movie stars have taken a back seat to rock stars, and the international press trumpeting of Carnaby Street, Pirate Radio, Psychedelia, and the Summer of Love have given the naysayers who thought rock was a passing fad a solid thump on the chin. Albums have replaced 45’s, bands have replaced pop stars, and things are changing faster than anyone can keep track. Early sixties bands that once ruled the airwaves are melting away like a spring frost on the lawn. Mid sixties bands are either adapting or dying on the vine. And nobody doubts that there are two giants in music that changed everything: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. And coincidentally, these two bands are responsible for two of the first three bootleg records in the history of rock music. And these records were responsible for some big changes in the perceptions of those who thought “they knew how it is done”.
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The first bootleg in the history of rock was Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder. Released in July of 1969, it was studio quality outtakes of recordings with the Band in 1967. It was a double album contained in a plain white sleeve, and it confused the hell out of everyone. Record stores were serviced back then by “rack jobbers”, independent distributors of vinyl that had access to regular release albums. Some of the more connected jobbers had access to this release, and the fact it was played heavily on the West Coast meant that there were thousands out there that would be customers for this. The lack of any information on the sleeve or label lent a cryptic air to the proceedings. Of course, anyone actually working in a record department of a larger department store had pretty much no idea what anything was. If it was on the shelves, they sold it.
That Dylan album was the first foray into the business of the most famous bootleg label in the history of music, The Trademark of Quality label, or TMOQ. Based in Los Angeles, they were responsible for most of the original bootlegs in 1969 and the early 70’s. (Stealin’ and GWW John Birch Society Blues were two very high quality follow ups to Great White Wonder, also put out by ‘Dub’ and ‘Ken’ the anonymous bootleggers in late 1969)
The next release was something altogether different, and got some serious attention from record companies. The Rolling Stones played in Oakland Coliseum in November 1969- two shows. This was the first Stones tour since the halcyon days of early 1966, the days of screaming teenagers, poor sound systems and shortened shows. In 1969, audiences had matured. LSD and marijuana were now commonplace, and teens no longer showed up to shriek, the showed up to LISTEN. Rock concerts had changed from high energy female shoutfests to sweaty communal gatherings of a near religious import. The tribes had been identified, and had gathered at Monterey and Woodstock in large numbers. They now gathered to commune with the Stones on their 1969 tour.

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An enterprising audience member from the Bay Area decided to show up with a high end reel to reel deck tape deck, and expensive shotgun microphones. You see, there was little to no security back then, and nobody would question someone lugging in some unwieldy professional gear. (hell people could sneak KEGS into shows back then, never mind a beer). The resulting recording was quickly pressed, and hit the streets in December 1969, a month after the show. It was reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine in February 1970, and was highly praised. Other reviews claimed it to be the best representation of the Stones to date. (this was early in Mick Taylor’s first tour with the band) This put the record industry in a difficult bind. Sources for the label said that it had sold in excess of 200,000 copies by November, enough to qualify for a Gold Record award. Panic ensued in most major labels offices. Some schlump could buy a ticket, drag in a suitcase full of semi pro gear, and press up his own hit album? This defied the industry paradigm. What about copyright control? Publishing rights? Art choices? The all important ‘record company cut’ ? If this guy could do it, and get reviewed in Rolling Stone, what was to stop anyone from doing it? This would be the end of the recording industry’s control over their acts. In the spirit of revolution, the people had tried to seize control of their own music.

The Stones and their label Abkco reacted quickly. Press releases said that East Coast shows were to be recorded for an official live album, and Get Your Ya Ya’s Out was rush released to counteract the threat. Most sources agree this album was not planned until the storm of this bootleg broke. (others pointed out that Ya Ya’s had many overdubs to clean up mistakes, and wasn’t technically a live album, leaving Live’r as still the honest album)  All major arenas were warned sternly by promoters to have heavy security on hand to prevent any repeats of this debacle. Billboard reluctantly included it on a list of top selling bootlegs of the year, but did not put it on any charts, to curb any possibilities of ‘legitimizing’ this burgeoning illegal industry.

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The other major release came very shortly after the Stones, in December 1969. This was a preview copy of the upcoming Beatles album, eventually titled Let it Be. It’s working title throughout 1969 had been Get Back, hence the play on words with Kum Back. This version was stripped down high quality rock ‘n roll-no strings, few overdubs, different songs, wholly different mixes-a holy grail for many Beatles fans. The master tape for the album had been mixed several times in early 1969, and these Glyn Johns mixes were reportedly in John Lennon’s possession in late summer 1969 when he visited the States, and he traded an acetate to a collector who had some early Beatles recordings he did not have. This is the generally accepted story, per his own quote. Whatever the truth, this album circulated throughout the major FM stations of the country-WBCN in Boston broadcast it in late September 1969. WKBW in Buffalo played it at the end of August 1969. WBAI in New York, WMMS Cleveland, CKLW Winsor/Detroit, KXOK in St Louis and WEBN in Cincinnati were also among the first to air this. For an album officially released in May 1970, this September 1969 radio release of the largest selling band in the history of music would be considered an extremely troubling leak, or a disaster of near apocalyptic scale, depending on your view.  High quality mixes circulated across the country courtesy of these radio stations, and the WBCN tape was used as the source for the album itself.

Like the Stones live album, this showed up in droves in legitimate stores, sold by the pallet-load, and was reviewed once again by Rolling Stone, confusing the issue of legitimacy. Storm clouds gathered in powerful circles. What could companies do to wrest control back of these cash cows from the stoned and delighted masses? Music belongs to the people was a quote oft heard back in the late ’68 and early ’69. Now it was coming true. Bootlegs needed to be demonized, made illegal, and draconian penalties had to be associated with this behavior. While this was in practice true, bootleg records continued to flourish well into the 1980’s and the advent of the CD era.

All three of these albums were sold in department stores (the major source of records for mainstream America) and underground record stores. Little distinction was made as to the legitimacy of each release. It was just ‘cool’. And to be fair, few clerks in a department store would have any idea what it was other than just another obscure ‘rock’ album. They all got reviews in major music magazines, including Rolling Stone. They sold well enough to earn Gold Record awards. They gave record companies endless nightmares. One more thing they have in common, though…

As legendary and as rare as these albums are, many will be surprised to learn that they are not out of reach for the average vinyl collector. This year I found two copies of Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be in one store, both for around ten dollars. Kum Back I found last month for an inexplicable three dollars. Great White Wonder is a bit harder to find, but generally a patient person can find one for around 25 bucks or so. These prices are definitely on the low side, but the diligent collector who puts time in can do it. This is something anyone into rock history should investigate: three albums that together nearly brought the record companies to their knees? That is the power of the people in action. Rhetoric is easy, but actions are powerful. These albums caused the largest uproar in the history of rock. Go find ’em.

The Beatles Mono Vinyl-Sell Your CD’s, Sell Your Remasters, Sell Your Children

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Rarely does a new release on vinyl grab any attention from music fans–hell 50% of the country doesn’t even know that vinyl records are even still being made. But the recent issue of mono versions of the Beatles albums is a cause for major celebration for all vinyl junkies out there, never mind Beatles fanatics. Never before has a reissue program made such an impact on the record buying public as this. There are several reasons, but the main point of this is: you need these records.

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Mono albums are kind of a polarizing issue for many people. I mean stereo? This is what we grew up with. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is a good example as to what can be accomplished with stereo-effects fluttering throughout the mix, sounds travel back and forth, up and down, and essentially you freak out nicely at the sonic gymnastics. This is what we grew up expecting, spatial stereo mixed albums. Mono comes out the same in both speakers. No separation of instruments, voices, percussion. Done well, it can feel very warm. Done poorly it can sound like a cheap AM radio playing. But back in the 60’s, mono was the gold standard. The Beatles (and the Rolling Stones) put all of their albums out as mono releases. The big reason was that back then was simple. Most record players had a single speaker. Most portable radios had a single speaker. Car radios had a single speaker in the top of the dashboard. AM radio broadcast in mono. So for all practicality, mono was best suited to all forms of playback that were out there. This is why an inordinate amount of time was put into mono mixes. For many vinyl aficionados, mono releases are du rigeur.  Fifty years of stereo releases have erased this fact from most people’s memories and from most audiophile’s playbooks. The new Beatles releases are set to change all of that.

 

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Some little known facts back this up. First, the mono mixes were the only ones the Beatles sat in on, and approved. They worked long hours to get these mixes perfect. They recorded with mono in mind. The set up of microphones in the studio for all instruments was done with mono in mind. The final product was intended to be mono. With the recordings fresh in their minds, the band and George Martin worked together to put the final touches on the recordings to make them ‘perfect’. Or as perfect as they could. Stereo was new then, few had discrete stereo systems with two speakers. FM radio, with its ability to broadcast in stereo was in its infancy in America. So stereo mixes were haphazard, quick and sometimes messy. The Beatles were not in attendance for any of the early mixes in stereo, and sometimes even George Martin declined to participate, leaving the task to studio engineers. They were considered an afterthought. (although some concerted stereo effort did go into the White Album, and Sgt Pepper) The stereo albums often amateurishly  pushed the instruments into one channel and the vocals in the other, an unsettling experience on a good stereo. This is an important point: the Beatles mixes we have been listening to since childhood are not the ones the Beatles thought were what the album should sound like.  From the first album Please Please Me to The White Album, all Beatles albums were created in mono, meticulously rendered by George Martin and the band. But these albums disappeared very quickly from shelves, or in the case of the White Album, never appeared on American shelves at all. (Abbey Road and Let it Be were recorded only in stereo). The stereo mixes soon crammed the mono albums, the ones that the Beatles intended us to hear, completely out of sight forever. A huge part of musical history was lost. George Harrison is on record as saying the stereo mixes “ruined the sound from our point of view”. This is pretty weird when you think about it. The Beatles albums that were created from 1963-1968 have essentially never been heard by anyone in the United States, or even the UK for that matter. Unless of course you are over 60 and were clued in to what was cool in the mid sixties. That list is definitely makes up the minority of record collectors.

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This changed in September 2014, with the vinyl release of the Beatles complete in mono. I know what some people are thinking-“Didn’t the Beatles remasters come out on vinyl in 2012?”. Yes, that is true. But those copies are not true analog releases. For some inexplicable reason, they were sourced from digital remasters, (and not even the high quality transfers either, the downsized 44.1k files were the source, not the 192k transfers). Most of the public has never heard an analog Beatles release-1987’s CDs were sourced from a digital transfer. So for the last 27 years, we have had some fairly crappy approximations of what the Beatles wanted us to hear. The new mono releases, however were created in a true analog path. The original analog master tapes at Abbey Road were brought out of mothballs, fired up on original tape machines, and were sent to a laquer cutter with no digital equipment involved in any part of the path. Pretty amazing to pull this off in 2014’s digital age. The result is an endearing warmth that is easily noticeable on any decent sound system. Advances in sound reproduction in the last 50 years have enabled masters to be cut with more clarity and definition than the originals, and sound is improved. This is an achievement for 2014, going backwards to go forwards.

Another big reason to snap up these puppies is that for the original mono releases, many different mixes were used. The best example is Sgt Pepper. Playing this album will be a revelation. You never have heard this record sound like this. Other websites chronicle the exact differences (suffice it to say they are significantly different), but lets leave it at this single statement-mono Sgt Pepper and stereo Sgt Pepper are two completely different animals. The White Album and Magical Mystery Tour (really only an EP, not an album) also deviate noticeably from the familiar mixes we all grew up with. Revolver and Rubber Soul also have some large differences in guitar, vocal and percussion choices.

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The production is stellar. They were pressed in a former East German record plant, with heavyweight virgin vinyl, under near computer chip clean room protocol. Each individual LP was allowed to cool before being sleeved. The US stereo LPs of 2012 were pressed at Rainbo records, and were distinctly poor quality. Recycled vinyl, paper scraps swirled into the vinyl, pops, warps and skips. Terrible stuff. But these things look and sound incredible. Between songs they are almost as silent as a CD. The jackets reproduce the mid sixties UK jackets-glossy covers, flaps wrapping around the back on three sides, the White Album sliding the vinyl in the top not the side (and each LP individually numbered like the original), the original inner sleeve for Sgt Pepper (not seen in over 45 years). The only quibble would be the photographic reproduction of the color covers is not quite up to spec, fuzzy and unfocused, with color washouts.

So to wrap it all up in one shiny blanket-get these things if you have a turntable. Get these if you like the Beatles even if you don’t have a turntable. Ditch your 2012 vinyl remasters. Ditch your CDs, ditch the kids, settle in, hunker down, and relive the sixties like you were meant to. But never had the opportunity. Until now.