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Sgt. Pepper's - 50th Anniversary version


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I gotta say, the outtakes were a bit disappointing to me, with some exceptions. I think part of it is that during the sessions McCartney sat out bass-wise and later overdubbed bass after futzing around with bass lines. He was inspired by the bass lines on Pet Sounds and wanted to come up with some crazy bass lines. So hearing the sessions without bass just kind of...takes away a lot of oompph.


BTW, as a die-hard Beatles fan, I'm about to commit a major act of sacrilege by expressing this view:


The mono mix is terrible. Yes, that's right: it's pretty bad. It really hit home how bad it is when the 2009 reissues came out; I didn't really listen to the mono mix that much before then. But just hear me out. And I'm not meaning this to be an attack on anybody; rather, it's just an explanation of where my head is as a Beatles fan.


Many -- including George Harrison himself -- have said that the mono mix of SPLHCB is the definitive mix. Pish-posh, I say.


First of all, there's the logical reason: The Beatles were last seen as the band of moptops, playing to screaming girls at Candlestick Park, wearing matching suits, with the usual three-guitars-and-drums combo (and this is even after the release of Revolver). Then The Beatles suddenly drop out of the scene. John and Ringo head off to Spain while John films How I Won the War. George is off studying with Ravi Shankar. Paul does his own thing by scoring The Family Way. Rumors of a breakup were going around. But it turns out the band was not over: they simply went into a coccoon...and emerged as colorful butterflies with the Sgt. Pepper's costumes on their album cover and Carnaby Street mod wear in real life. They have released an album jammed with new sounds, complete with blends of western rock'n'roll music and orchestral sounds with a bit of eastern flavor with a lot of spirit. The construction of the album is revolutionary, with virtually no silence in the rills and (at least in England) the album so jam packed that they literally put sounds on the run-out portion of the groove at the end of side 2...and even something for the dogs with a 15khz tone! The album cover is elaborate and colorful and run through a filter to make it look like a painting. And for the first time ever (as far as I know), the back sleeve actually doubles as a lyrics sheet.


So this huge, colorful, lush production is definitively listened to in glorious, colorful, lush....mono???


Okay, if the logical reasoning isn't a factor in the mono versus stereo debate, let's consider the realistic reason: the mono version is sloppy:

  • The title track comes to a complete stop before "With A Little Help From My Friends" kicks in, making the transition kind of rough, while there's a smooth crossfade on the stereo version.
  • It becomes apparent during "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" that the mono version is mastered at a slightly off speed, as most of the album drags a bit -- it plays back at a noticeably (but subtly) lower speed than the stereo. So is it the mono or stereo that's at the right speed? Easily the stereo, as it's mastered at concert pitch.
  • "She's Leaving Home" plays back too fast. Yes, I know, the "official" word is that the mono version is the official speed, but the session outtakes prove that this is incorrect.
  • "Good Morning, Good Morning" -- the transition into the title track's reprise is a mess. It sounds like someone started a tape too late or something; the transition is fixed in the stereo version.
  • "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)" -- you can actually hear the tape start off awkwardly at a slow speed and quickly accelerate to the correct speed. Also, there are a couple of extra drum beats during the intro that throw off the 4/4 count in the measures.

Those are just a few things I can think of (just woke up half an hour ago!). And interestingly, these are neither the first nor nor last times that Beatles mono mixes had errors that were corrected with stereo mixes. Off the top of my head I can think of "Matchbox" and "Don't Pass Me By." (And yeah, I know "Please Please Me" and "If I Fell" have the exact opposite issue.) Interestingly that people think that the version with sloppy mistakes would be the definitive version.


Mind you, there are some cool things about the mono version. The most obvious bonus of the mono version is the flanging used during "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." THAT IS SO EFFING COOL. But it's not there on the stereo version. Why not? Because "flanging" was done by hand back then - the effect was done by playing back two identical recordings but by placing your finger on the flange (that is, the physical reel) holding the tape on one of them, making them ever so slightly out of sync and causing that phasing effect. That was done live during the mono mix, but those in charge of doing the mixes didn't want to go through that hassle again when they did the stereo mix. (Same reason why "Your Mother Should Know" has the same effect on mono but not stereo.) And during the chord-that-never-ends in "A Day In The Life," you can actually hear a chair squeak in the mono version but it's not audible (or at least *as audible*) in the stereo version -- that's the kind of mistake that makes for cool listening!


And finally...the sound on the mono mix -- and MOST mono Beatles mixes, for that matter -- just isn't good. It's all lows and middles with very little highs. Every time I heard a Beatles mono mix I want to take the treble control and turn it up to 20.


The new stereo mix is great. Giles Martin said he used the mono mix as a guideline for that, but I don't hear that at all. Sounds closer to the original 1967 stereo mix to me, except that "She's Leaving Home" plays back at the wrong speed.


Tell ya what I'd really love: the individual tracks so we can make our own mixes....or just sit in awe of the individual pieces. I was hoping the DVD-A/Blu-Ray would be like that, but it's not mixed as six separate channels....so much overlap in all the channels that it's not really worth listening to the stand-alone channels.

Edited by dauber

Supernatural, perhaps...baloney, perhaps not.

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