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The Beatles In Mono Box
This collection is not available via iTunes.
To purchase this collection from Amazon.com, click here: The Beatles Mono Box Set _________________________________________________________________

A note from AlbumLinerNotes.com:

On September 9, 2009 Apple Records released the remastered Beatles on compact disc.

There are two ways to hear these collections, in stereo and in mono. The mono releases are included in a Box Set. This is the only way to obtain these CDs.

This collection has Liner Notes written by Kevin Howlett which include an essay regarding the Mono recordings, which is below.

The Liner Notes for most of this box set are redundant. They simply replicate the original notes that were on the LP, those notes can be found on their individual pages. The only two discs in the Mono Box that have additional Liner Notes (also by Kevin Howlett) are the Mono Masters Discs, a two-volume set (Discs 12 and 13). The music on these discs would be familiar to Beatle fans as, essentially, "Past Masters, Volumes One and Two."

For this reason, the only Liner Notes presented under this Box Set are the Mono Masters discs. You can connect to those pages below, and Kevin Howlett's main essay as well.

Mono Masters, Volume One
(Disc Twelve)

Mono Masters, Volume Two
(Disc Thirteen)

The Beatles In Mono
By Kevin Howlett

Why listen to The Beatles in mono? Some might choose mono to rekindle a joyful memory of the music blasting from a portable record player in a bedroom or booming from a coffee bar jukebox. But there is another reason besides nostalgia. The Beatles created their complete catalogue in just seven years from 1962 to 1969 and that abundant period coincided with a time when listening to recorded music at home was changing from one to two loud speakers. The by-product of this gradual transition is a significant number of variations within The Beatles' discography.


At the start of the 1960s, stereo albums were issued in fairly small quantities for a specialist market of hi-fi (high-fidelity) enthusiasts, who muttered mysteriously about moving coils, woofers, tweeters and rumble. The sleeves of these LPs sometimes including bossy diagrams of how to position your speakers and where to sit, plus technical data about cartridges moving up and down while wiggling sideways. The music released in stereo was mostly aimed at an affluent adult audience and was usually serious (classical or jazz) or light (‘easy listening’). But few people had ever heard stereo sound because most record players had just one speaker and stereo radio was still in its infancy. If offered a choice, a record buyer usually preferred the mono release. Teenage pop fans rarely had a choice.


Clearly, in the sixties, mono was king. Even in 1967, when The Beatles were at the height of their experimentation in the studio, the mono mix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was their absolute priority. That is the important point about this period of transition; until the 1969 release of the Yellow Submarine album, each Beatles LP had a unique mono and stereo mix. After songs had been recorded, the mono and stereo mixes were often made weeks or even months apart. In the time elapsed, mixing decisions may have been altered or forgotten.


The main differences discernable between mono and stereo mixes from the early years of The Beatles' recording career are due to the choice of performances. For example, compare the mono version of their second Parlophone single ‘Please Please Me’ mixed on 30th November, 1962 with the stereo version released on their first album. When the song was mixed in stereo on 25th February, 1963, the new master included an obvious mistake in the vocal interplay between John’s lead vocal and the backing vocals by Paul and George. Following their clash of words, there is a hint of a chuckle in John’s voice as he sings ‘Come on’. The normally fastidious EMI paperwork does not reveal why different takes were edited together to create the stereo version of ‘Please Please Me’ but it seems reasonable to regard the mono version as more authentic.


With The Beatles' move from twin-track to four-track recording in late 1963, mixes became more complicated and so the number of accidental variations between mono and stereo was likely to increase. Sure enough, by nitpicking to the nth degree, you will find an odd cough left faded up, a missed cue by a word or two for a double-tracked vocal or a prematurely faded harmonica figure. There are, however, quite significant differences heard in ‘If I Fell’ on A Hard Day’s Night and ‘Help!’. During the stereo mix of ‘If I Fell’, Paul’s voice strains slightly as he sings the high note on the word ‘vain’ for a second time. At the same point in mono, he hits in perfectly. Listen to John’s lead vocal in the two mixes of ‘Help!’ and it appears that each is a different performance; most obvious when he sings ‘change my mind’ for the first time.


Documents in the EMI archive to tell us that producer George Martin was not present when eight of the songs included on the UK Help! album were mixed in stereo. Twenty-two years later when The Beatles' albums were first released on compact disc, George decided to supervise a new stereo mix from the original four-track tapes for both Help! and its successor Rubber Soul. The original 1965 stereo mixes for those two UK albums have note previously been issued on compact disc and so both have been included in this collectors’ box alongside the mono mixes.


If Revolver in stereo has long been embedded in your memory, prepare yourself for some surprises when you listen to it in mono. The tape loops on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ fade in and out more quickly and the guitar solo has a different sound and is missing the final feedback note. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ arguably sounds even better (is that possible?) and does not have the little error in stereo where the ADT (Automatic or Artificial Double Tracking) treatment on the first chorus is left on and affects the opening word of the first verse. There are subtle differences in ‘Yellow Submarine’ (listen for John shouting ‘life at ease’) and ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, which has some extra backwards guitar before the solo. ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ has bolder brass and lasts longer. But all this is quite mild compared to the astonishing experience of listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band in mono.


The Beatles had soon begun to take an interest in how their recordings were completed during mixing. While Sgt. Pepper was assembled in 1967, they attended all the mono mixing sessions and would sometimes add another element at this final stage of the recording process. However, once the mono version of the album was finished, the group were content to leave the stereo mixing at the hands of George Martin and his engineers. For whatever reasons, this stereo mix is remarkably different. Did someone forget about pressing a tape machine vari-speed button so that ‘She’s Leaving Home’ in stereo runs slower and is a semi-tone lower in pitch than the mono-version? Why was the laugh at the end of ‘Within You Without You’ much quieter in stereo? Why is Paul’s powerful scatting vocal at the end of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’ barely audible in stereo? What happened to the dreamy phasing so clearly heard on the mono ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’? Some of the songs are longer in mono and cross-fades happen more quickly. Of course, this is Sgt. Pepper … mono or stereo, it is one of the most celebrated and successful albums ever made. However, if you want to hear the authentic version of The Beatles' brainchild then listening to it in mono is essential.


The group’s last album to be released in two distinct mono and stereo mixes was their double-LP The Beatles. Known universally as ‘The White Album’, it has the most obvious mono and stereo variations of the whole catalogue. However, as it was the first Beatles album in the USA not issued in mono, many were unaware of an alternative mix. Some of the differences heard in mono derive from how the sound effects tapes were used during mixing. The aircraft noise is different throughout ‘Back In The USSR’, the chirping on ‘Blackbird’ is heard earlier in the mono version and if you know precisely where every grunt appears in ‘Piggies’, you will miss some in mono. One of the many musical differences is Paul’s ‘sung bass’ part on ‘I Will’, which in mono arrives after the first verse rather than starting right from the beginning. Most startling to the ear are ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and ‘Helter Skelter’. In stereo, Ringo’s song is heard in its original key and tempo but has been speeded up for the mono version and, as a result, is a semi-tone higher in pitch. That alteration may have been accidental, due to an error during either the mono or stereo mix, but happenstance cannot explain the decision to edit the mono version of ‘Helter Skelter’ in another way. Nobody remembers why but it is almost a minute shorter than the version on the stereo album and we never do hear Ringo announce that he has blisters on this fingers! But overall, neither mix of ‘The White Album’ has a clear advantage over the other or a claim to be the authentic version. Some songs sound better in mono; some benefit from being in stereo.


The release of ‘The White Album’ in November, 1968 marked the end of the policy of producing exclusive mono mixes. Well, almost. In 1969, ‘Get Back’/’Don’t Let Me Down’ was the first Beatles stereo single in the USA but its British release was in mono. Those mixes can be heard on the Mono Masters album included in this box. The first British stereo single by the Beatles was their next hit ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’. Although the soundtrack album for Yellow Submarine was released in mono, it was a ‘fold-down’ mix – created during the cutting process by simply combing the left and right channels from the stereo master tape. The last two albums – Abbey Road and Let It Be – were only ever mixed in stereo, although ‘fold-down’ mono versions were released in some countries.


From the 1970s onwards, when stereo superseded mono, what was once the priority mix of a Beatles album became relegated to an out-of-print rarity. However, when the UK Beatles albums were first transferred to compact disc, George Martin decided to rectify this anomaly by returning Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles For Sale to mono. This box includes those four albums but now remastered along with the rest of the catalogue.


Over the years, original fans replacing their vinyl copies of Beatles albums my well have been surprised by how they now sounded; in many cases, not just because they were in stereo rather than mono. This collectors’ box will reunited them with some much-loved friends. For some, it will provide a first-time experience of this magnificent music in mono – the closest you can get to hearing the authentic sound of The Beatles.


Kevin Howlett
February 2009

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