Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - MONO



A bit of an off-topic surprise, folks, but I wanted to share. I've been collecting vinyl for a couple months, thanks to a recent purchase of a portable turntable. PREACHY SERMON OF THE DAY - get yourselves a turntable and vinyl records.

Anyway, I go record hunting on Saturdays, thanks to several local vinyl record shops in Uptown Minneapolis. Treehouse Records is the best place for used vinyl, and today, tucked away in the recently-acquired stock...The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Hearts Club Band.

Oh, and did you notice that little sticker? MONO.

When I saw this, the adrenaline kicked in. I could hardly believe my own eyes. Is this the long-sought, legendary mono version of Sgt. Pepper's? I pulled out the record and checked the serial number.

Yep. This is the real deal, kids. The mono version of Sgt. Pepper's!

And did you see that price tag again? $25.00. That really sent my head spinning. I was almost certain someone would club me on the head and run off with the record. Breathe, breathe, calm down, don't panic.

This is one of the holy grails of vinyl records. You see, most '60s pop albums were recorded and mixed exclusively for mono sound. Stereo was still a novelty for older consumers with greater incomes, and as a consequence was used mainly for jazz or classical. Coltrane's Giant Steps has some of the best sound you'll ever hear on vinyl.

So that means all the early Beatles albums were created for mono. These are the versions they wanted you to listen to. After the mono album was finished, the master tapes were sent to another plant for the necessary alterations into stereo. Eventually, stereo took over, and those were the versions that persevered.

What does this mean? It means Sgt. Pepper's hasn't been available in mono for 35 or 40 years. It hasn't been around for decades.

The version I have is the Capitol release, and I don't think this baby's been played more than once or twice. It's in perfect shape. The original vinyl sleeve is also here, with the psychedelic water pattern. And, finally, the paper cutouts are present as well.

There are a number of differences between this version and the stereo version everyone knows. Some subtle changes, and a few major changes. At least one song is played at a different tempo, numerous sounds in the mix pop in and out, and you can hear Paul's shouts at the end of the Sgt. Pepper's Reprise. Oh, and the Capitol version doesn't have the famous run-out groove, which royally sucks. I love that part! Ah, well.

How much is this worth? Sgt. Pepper's Mono routinely sells on Ebay for $250-$500. I bought mine for 25 bucks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

Late Update: I have to say, after spending the evening listening to this LP, that this is the best album I've ever heard. Ever. Each time, it seems I get closer and closer to the real music and the real vision of The Beatles. First, with the CD. Then, the (digitally remastered) LP. Now, finally, I've peeled away all the layers of glass and reached the source. Sgt. Pepper's the way it was always meant to be heard.

If it was up to me, we'd see this album, and all The Beatles' albums, reissued on vinyl, with the proper analog mastering, and the original mono mixes whenever possible. No digital anything. The existing LPs are far better than the CDs, but it's still at least one degree of seperation removed from the real music. Digital is not a technological improvement in sound. Digital is not the solution. Digital is the problem. The world simply doesn't exist in zeros and ones, and digital can only simulate so many sounds.

There actually were plans to reissue Sgt. Pepper's on CD back in 1997, to coincide with the album's 20th anniversary, that would have included the original mono version. But these plans were scrapped at the 11th hour, for reasons that remain unknown. What's the deal with that? Whatever. Scavenge through your local record stores, and keep your eyes peeled. Sooner or later, you're bound to find yourself a copy, and hopefully the owners won't know what they have. Ha ha ha!!

2 comments:

Dan said...

While they are not as good as the Beatles, I came across an interesting album by Klaatu called Hope, put out by Capitol Records in 1977. Gave me some "Yellow Submarine" vibes on the first side I listened to. Thought you might be interested.

Weekly Anime Review said...

That's an amazing find! I can't believe it was only $25. Did they forget the zero? :)