I spend about 50 hours a week in the van.
When not listening to CDs, I listen to WBEZ, the NPR affiliate out here.
This week it is pledge drive week. Every 16 minutes regular programming is interrupted to shake you down for money. Last year I pledged $25 and was entered into a drawing for the complete remastered Beatles box set in stereo.
I won it.
For a pittance.
This week I acquired the mono masters for the remastered Beatles albums. So instead of listening to the pledge drive and pledging, I've been studying the differences between the stereo and mono versions of The Beatles' entire catalog.
What an ungrateful asshole!
Discrepancies Between Mono and Stereo Beatles Recordings That I Could Discern
The mono mixes were the mixing sessions that The Beatles took part in, as mono was their preferred choice of listening. The stereo mixes were left for George Martin and his engineers to do while The Beatles walked around the world being Beatles.
For the most part, they seem to have more bottom end, and seem louder. They are more enjoyable to listen to as music, especially on headphones.
The stereo versions often have the vocals and instruments separated on left and right channels, which is fun for studying. You can hear little quirks, like Ringo groaning during the first break in "Revolution," or John laughing a "C'mon" at Paul's lyric flub in "Please Please Me." But listening to that separated stereo stuff on headphones can throw your equilibrium off.
Please Please Me
"Please Please Me" - This sounds like a different take than the one used on the stereo version. You don't hear Paul's mistake or John laughing. Also there's no distracting drum echo on the tag of the song that appears on the stereo version. This is the version to listen to if you just want to hear the song straight.
With The Beatles
"Don't Bother Me" - longer fade-out. Also, the percussion overdub is at the top of the mix on the way out.
"You Really Got A Hold On Me" - There seems to be an edit that starts at the first verse (:14) and ends before the first chorus (:27). The treble drops during this.
"Money" - That strange guitar in the intro is thankfully missing.
A Hard Day's Night
"If I Fell" - John's vocal is single-tracked at the top, unlike the oddly double-tracked vocal on the stereo version.
"Tell Me Why" - this version has less echo. A more enjoyable listen.
Beatles For Sale
I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
Past Masters Volume 1
"She Loves You" - The edits after the second chorus are more prominent (at 1:15 and 1:23).
"I Call Your Name" - It sounds better. The guitar is different at the top and the cowbell is there the whole time, too, unlike the stereo version where they must have used a different take until after John's first vocal.
"You Like Me Too Much" - It sounds like the Leslie cabinet was vibrating Ringo's snares at the very top.
"Tell Me What You See" - The electric piano seems higher in the mix.
"Norwegian Wood" - There's an audible cough at :38. I believe this was inspired by the audible cough on The Beach Boys' "Wendy" at 1:19.
"Think For Yourself" - Guitars are higher in the mix. Either that or the drums are mixed lower.
At this point you may think: Who gives a fucking shit?
You're right. You really are.
I hate to say it but I guess I'm a Beatle nerd. Or a Beatle geek. Or a Beatle loser.
However, I am not one of those people that collects Beatle dolls and Beatle lunchboxes, nor do I eat Beatle ice cream or use Beatle hairspray.
I don't go to see Beatle tribute bands with names like The Doctors Robert, We Are The Walri or Numba Noin.
I will not arrive at the Beatle convention in a psychedelic Rolls Royce wearing a Maharishi snuggie, eating vintage Linda McCartney vegetarian microwaveable dinners while speaking only in Ringoisms.
I do not think I personally know The Beatles and then speak on their behalf.
"John would have sued Oasis."
"Paul would have loved 'Pepper' if he hadn't died in 1966 in a mysterious car crash referenced in 'A Day In The Life. Did you know 'Yoko' spelled backwards is 'Okay?''"
"George would have liked 9/11."
Those are the Beatle weirdoes.
The Beatle psycopaths.
But around 1966 The Beatles put more care into the mono mixes. It feels like these mixes are the way they wanted YOU to hear their music. And because these mixes are hard to find, it makes it secret and special.
Oh no, I'm a Beatle weirdo!
"Taxman" - Guitar way higher in the mix, cowbell comes in sooner and louder. Sounds more compressed and raw overall. Heavy.
"I'm Only Sleeping" - Extra backward guitar in verse before instrumental.
"Yellow Submarine" - The acoustic guitar starts at the very beginning of the song along with the vocals. In the last verse you can hear John echo "a life of ease."
"She Said She Said" - I never knew this song had organ on it.
"I Want To Tell You" - You can hear the guitar's first note in the fade up. It's louder and brasher.
"Got To Get You Into My Life" - Longer fade out, with the horns higher in the mix.
"Tomorrow Never Knows" - This one is weird. It actually sounds less professional than the stereo mix, like a rehearsal mix. The sound effects drop in and out rather clumsily. The organ is higher in the mix. Interesting for sure, but I prefer the stereo version for this one.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
"Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" - More reverb on the vocals.
"She's Leaving Home" - Faster, higher in pitch. Sounds sped up. Because it is sped up. No thanks.
"Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" - Sound effects creep in a pinch earlier. Woozier version. Thanks.
"Within You Without You" - Laughing at the end goes on longer and louder.
"Sgt. Pepper Reprise" - The rooster squawk transition is behind the beat and quite different. The tape for the applause rolls on, very meta. The crowd laughs and applauds through the whole thing. Paul scats. Big difference.
"A Day In The Life" - First orchestra crescendo cuts out harshly with no reverb.
Magical Mystery Tour
"Flying" - Mellotron creeps in earlier before the coda chaos.
"Your Mother Should Know" - weird phaser effect on drums and vocals.
"I Am The Walrus" - The drums drop out at 1:17 with a clumsy fade up at 1:20. The edit at 1:34 is more apparent.
"Baby You're A Rich Man" - Another weird mix that sounds like a community college editing class put it together. Vocals seem noticeably higher than the basic track. There seems to be Leslie cabinet breathing, and flange effects on the percussion fills. Atleast the oboe is still going bananas.
The Beatles (The White Album)
"Back In The U.S.S.R." - The airplane noises are longer, in different places, and seem louder than the stereo version.
"Wild Honey Pie" - The kooky guitar part is lower, vocals higher in mix.
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun" - One of my favorite songs became even more favorite. This version has more bottom, giving it more balls and more spook. The guitar tone at the very beginning sounds like wonderful butter, poisoned butter.
An organ part is more prominent. There's a snippet of Yoko yacking at :43.
They fixed the "I need a fix" guitars, giving them more muscle. The drums are finally as loud as the tambourine during "Mother Superior." And the doo wop piano is hotter in the mix. So much better.
"I'm So Tired" - Paul's backing vocal can be heard better.
"Blackbird" - The bird sounds are different and louder, almost distracting. It made me laugh upon first listen.
"Piggies" - More pig noises, strings higher in the mix.
"Rocky Raccoon" - Drums come in sooner.
"Don't Pass Me By" - My least favorite Beatles song just got less disliked. They sped it up so it ends more quickly. Plus the fiddle part is different.
"I Will" - Less percussion at the top, giving it a smoother feel with a better build.
"Yer Blues" - More effect on the vocal at the top. Sounds like the fade out gets cut off.
"Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me & My Monkey" - There's some screaming underneath the 6 big guitar licks before the fade out.
"Sexy Sadie" - Seems to be a reed organ part I've never heard before.
"Helter Skelter" - More squeeze toy sound effects. The instrumental ending is much different. The whole band cuts out at one point, and the drums take us to the fade out, which never fades back in. I prefer this mix, though for future listens I will definitely graft the fade in from the stereo version so I can hear Ringo scream, "I've got chocolate in my peanut butter!"
Or whatever it is he says at the end of this song.
"Long Long Long" - The beginning sounds slower and mellower. Something's off about George's vocal. It almost sounds chipped together.
"Revolution #1" - There's a sustained horn part beginning at 2:44, and a longer fade out.
"Honey Pie" - The guitar solo is more jazzy.
"Savoy Truffle" - The guitar chirp cuts out at 1:04. There's an additional something, (organ?) at 1:27, after which the guitar solo ends differently. A strange out of sync tambourine joins the song at 2:11, followed by a stripped down "cream tangerine."
"Cry Baby Cry" - Paul's untitled song tagged on at the end of this song has a longer fade out.
"Revolution #9" - The talking at the top is more prominent.
Past Masters Volume 2
"Paperback Writer" - More reverb on the vocals in the clear. And for a second you can hear Ringo keeping time on the hi hat.
"The Inner Light" - Different Indian fiddle-y part.
"All Together Now" - Sounds like an air conditioner fan is spinning in the beginning.
"Hey Bulldog" - A longer fade out accommodates one more "Hey bulldog!"
"It's All Too Much" - Horns, tambourine and backing vocals fluctuate being higher in the mix.
So that's what I did today.
Oh, and while I was studying the mono mixes I got a tattoo on my forehead of The Beatles logo as an inverted cross while drinking the blood of Brittany Murphy so that when I meet John and Yoko and Geraldo in heaven we'll have something to talk about.
But I'm not a Beatle psychopath.