By Christopher Scapelliti
No conversation of the Beatles’ music is complete without a discussion of the group’s sonic innovation. But what’s often forgotten is that almost all of the Beatles’ albums were originally mixed with the intention of being heard in mono, rather than stereo.
In the Sixties, AM radio stations still broadcast in mono, and teens’ record players were invariably simple one-channel affairs—stereo was still the province of audiophiles. Geoff Emerick, the legendary engineer behind much of the Beatles’ post-1965 recordings, recalls that when mixing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles’ 1967 masterpiece, “we spent three weeks doing the mono mixes—and maybe three days on the stereo. That’s how important mono was at the time.” (It quickly became outmoded, however: neither 1969’s Abbey Road nor 1970’s Let It Be were ever mixed for mono.)
Purists who want to experience—or perhaps re-experience—the thrill of the Beatles’ music as it was meant to be heard can rejoice. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S., EMI will this week reissue the group’s original mixed-for-mono albums on vinyl. This new offering includes each of the Beatles’ U.K. albums from 1963’s Please Please Me to the 1968 White Album, as well as the U.S.-compiled Magical Mystery Tour and the Mono Masters collection of nonalbum tracks, all on 180-gram vinyl with faithfully replicated artwork.
To those who think this is just a vinyl reissue of the 2009 Beatles in Mono CD boxed set, think again. Each track has been newly remastered from the original analog tapes at Abbey Road Studios, then cut to disc using the same procedures used in the Sixties, guided by the original albums and detailed notes of the original cutting engineers. The finished discs were manufactured at Optimal Media in Germany, a facility known for its peerless pressings.
While each of the albums is available individually, there’s no substitute for the limited-edition 14-album box set, which includes a 108-page hardbound book featuring new essays, a detailed history of the mastering process, and rare studio photos of the Beatles as well as articles and advertisements sourced from Sixties publications.
For more information, or to order, visit thebeatles.com.