Abbey Road Studios: not for sale!

22 02 2010

Here’s a bit of good news (unless you were a prospective buyer.)



10 12 2009

At the gym today, I asked one of the trainers to test me with a hand-held body fat meter.  The gadget measures total body fat by pounds and as a percentage relative to weight and age.  The working number is your BMI or body mass index, a measure of body fat against height and weight.

As soon as we started talking about BMI, the Sex Pistols’  song “EMI” was seered into my brain and has been stuck there all day.  It might be my favorite Pistols song.

It’s all too much

10 09 2009

white_album_monoAs much as I write about the Beatles, sometimes it feels like an insurmountable task to really break down their music, even just one album or song at a time, in any sort of interesting, meaningful way.  Anything that could possibly be said about them has probably been said.  Professional music critics tackle the hard task of reviewing their music.  Not being anything approaching an “audiophile” or formally trained musician — I’m just a fan — I sometimes feel highly unqualified to review music.

Even so, I feel driven to say something about the brand new Beatles remastered CD’s, in particular the stuff in the Beatles in Mono box set.  In short, I love it.   The music sounds so fresh and alive, even in mono, a format most of us are no longer accustomed to hearing.  Here are some random thoughts.  Maybe this will pique your interest and you’ll fight and claw to get your hands on a copy of the BIM set.

  • I’ve heard most of the set which includes 12 CDs (Please Please Me through the “White Album” and two Mono Masters discs) and there’s not a single song that is not improved over the 1987 issued catalog.  Every song I’ve heard is appreciably crisper, clearer, louder and otherwise better sounding, even to the untrained  ear.
  • Since 1977, I’ve had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in some format or another: 8 Track, cassette, CD and even vinyl.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are sounds on the remastered mono (and presumably the stereo, too) that I’ve never before heard.  Pay attention to the end of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise).”
  • The vocals, in particular, are cleaner.  You can almost hear the boys breathing in spots.  “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” hardly Lennon’s best vocal performance, sounds gorgeous.
  • “Helter Skelter” is a monster!  That song has always been a behemoth, but it’s even bigger, grittier and more powerful now.  Pay attention to the pause and re-start at the end of the song.  What you’ll hear there you’ve never heard in forty something years.
  • Help! and Rubber Soul come in both remastered mono and the original “1965 stereo” mixes.  You get those albums in both formats (same disc.)  The differences in the mixes are clear.  I’m a big fan of mono, but the 1965 stereo remix of “Hide Your Love Away,” for example, is fantastic.
  • Instruments that have been audible but muddy all these years are now crystal clear.   Listen for the organ in “Baby You’re a Rich Man.”  Taste every harp note in “She’s Leaving Home.”  Hear and feel the bass in “Helter Skelter.”
  • Hey what’s that sound?  Nothing!  There’s no tape hiss.
  • As much as the recent Capitol Years Vols. 1 and 2 were improvements (in spots) over the EMI CD’s, the new BIM mixes are better song-for-song than those sets.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the stereo set, which has already been shipped to me.  Only 10,000 Beatles in Mono sets have been manufactured.  At least that’s the official word.  I’ve heard that more will be made to meet the unexpectedly high demand.  If you can get your hands on this set, do it, and not just for completeness sake.  The listening experience is worth the money (at least at list price.)

Kicking myself

6 09 2009
Beatles in Mono

Beatles in Mono

I’ve never heard it, but I’ll betcha there’s an old saying that goes something like, “The worst investment is the one that you don’t make.”  Why do I say that?  Well, because I was too short-sighted and frugal to pre-order the “Beatles in Mono” box set that is being released in limited quantities (10,000, apparently) on 09/09/09.

Beatles in Mono got quickly snatched up from essentially all on-line retailers.  Best Buy, Borders,, you name it, none of ’em have it.  Amazon was selling this set, which includes all the (EMI/British) albums Beatles originally recorded in mono, as well as “1965 stereo” mixes of  Help and Rubber Soul.

When I pre-ordered the Beatles remastered stereo set in early August, I assumed that the mono set would be of less interest and left it for later.  At that time there were some available and I could have bought it for $229.00, plus free shipping from  Now the only mono sets available are “imports” going for as much as $704, maybe even more.

Had I known then what I know know, I would’ve bought two (2) mono box sets, one to sell and one to keep.

Hopefully EMI/Apple will put more of these sets out.  I know that will drive down the value, but since I didn’t make the investment, I have nothing to lose, right?

Not until 09/09/09

11 08 2009

As you may know, on September 9, 2009, EMI is releasing the entire Beatles UK catalog on CD.  The albums, all remastered and with expanded liner notes and slick new packaging, will be available in stereo and mono.  The stereo albums will be available individually or in a box set, but the mono albums will be available only in a box set.

I’ve heard that the sound quality of the new remasters is supposedly out of this world.  Hopefully it will merit rebuying (at least one copy of) the Beatles’ catalog.

I want to enjoy the new release so on August 9 I pledged to not listen to any Beatles for a month.  Ideally this will make me crave the new releases and give me a fresh ear, so to speak.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire month without listening to the Beatles.  This will be a musical Ramadan of sorts for me.

Fab(ulous) covers

9 07 2009

More than their haircuts, the suits, the Ed Sullivan Show, the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or even “Beatlemania” in general, the Beatles, in my estimation, are known for writing an incredible amount of mind blowing original material.  Even early on in their recording careers, John and Paul, and to a much lesser extent George, put together enough original material to round out their first few albums and make a handful of chart-smashing singles.  They even had enough songs left over to give to up-and-comers like the Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.

Still, from 1962 to 1964, the Beatles were still something of a cover band.  Instead of doing what many in the pop world did regularly, i.e. playing canned tunes written especially for them, the Fabs did what they did in their club days: they played the rock and roll they loved.

To say I’m a fan of their original material would be an understatement of staggering proportions.  But I really love a lot of their cover songs, too.   I’ve been listening to the Capitol Years Vol. 1 lately, really paying close attention to their execution of others’ music.  Perhaps I’m being unfair to the original recording artists — after all, how do you compete against the best band in the world, even with your own material? — but I love the way the Beatles treated most of that work.

This is my list of the 10 best Beatles cover, with the names of the songs’ writers.  I’ve culled this list only from original, official EMI/Capitol releases, set aside recordings from Hamburg or even the sanctioned BBC discs.

  • Slow Down – Larry Williams
  • Matchbox – Carl Perkins
  • Roll Over Beethoven — Chuck Berry
  • Leave My Kitten Alone – Little Willie John, Titus Turner, James McDougal
  • Twist & Shout -Phil Medly, Bert Russell
  • Long Tall Sally – Enotris Johnson, Robert Blackwell, Richard Penniman
  • Rock N’ Roll Music – Chuck Berry
  • Words of Love – Buddy Holly
  • Baby It’s You  –  Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Barney Williams
  • Anna (Go To Him) – Arthur Alexander

No wonder the Capitol Years Vol. 3 was squashed.

7 04 2009

As you might have already found out — it’s all over wordpress — the Beatles are releasing re-mastered versions of their British (Parlophone) catalog this coming September.

Audiophiles have been begging for this for years.  I always though the 80s CD releases sounded pretty good, perhaps because I used to listen to the Beatles on scratchy vinyl records.  But apparently the mixes could — and will — sound better done on today’s technology.  Who am I to argue?

Capitol Records put out the Capitol Years Vols. 1 and 2 a few years back but Vol. 3 never saw the light of day.  If you’re not familiar, these were updated re-issues of Capitol’s Beatles catalog available for the first time on CD.  In essence these were the American albums through Rubber Soul.  Speculation was that the Vol. 3 was never released because the Beatles, who prefer the British catalog (for good reason) were going to re-release those in updated format.

If you like the Beatles, I think you’ll be happy with the expected output.  I have all their CDs but I think I’ll need to re-purchase everything.