Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mono Box, Stereo Apple ripping us off?

There are now six versions of the Help! CD.

1) The 1987 mix
2) The new 2009 remastered stereo version of the '87 disc
3) The Capitol stereo mix
4) The Capitol mono mix (on the same CD as the Capitol stereo )
5) The new 2009 mono
6) The '1965' stereo version, included as a bonus on the new mono CD

So which one is my 'go to' Help!? I'd have to say the new remastered 2009 stereo (#2). I would probably give the nod to the new mono, but I don't want to hear back-to-back mono and stereo versions of Help!.

Some people are suggesting that Apple is 'ripping us off' by not putting both new mono and stereo on the same disc for all of the remastered CDs (it's only done on Help! because the 1987 stereo version is not considered 'true' to the 1965 mix. And it's different from the new remastered stereo CD. In other words, there are three 'new' Help! mixes. Confusing, I know).

But I disagree with this 'mono/stereo on the same disc' nonsense. That's 'fan-boy' talk. The vast majority of these CDs are being sold to people who know squat about the Beatles, much less the intricacies of mono versus stereo. It would just be confusing to them.

It's an okay format for the Capitol CDs, which are a novelty for North America baby-boomer fanatics who grew up with those versions. It's not the official canon. I think we're lucky they gave us the Capitol versions and had the insight to know we'd want both mono and stereo. They would've made just as much money and sold as many copies had they just released one version. I don't imagine the powers-that-be sitting around and saying 'We can charge more money if we give them both versions!' No. I think it was more like 'We have to release both because that's what the hardcore fans want.' And putting them on one disc was the most efficient way to do it!

I think Apple did exactly the right thing with this new release: Stereo for the masses and a Mono Box Set for the hardcore loonies like me.

But you know, after all is said and done, my real 'go to' Help! is still my vinyl stereo Capitol album. Because that's the one I had back 'in the day'. I like the 'instrumental' stuff, even though the Beatles hated it and so do most fans. And I like opening the gate-fold and even the lousy graphics on the cover.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beatle Books

There's a million Beatle books out there. But if someone asked me 'which ones should I read?', it would be pretty easy to select a handful.

First, I'd suggest the two 'official' ones that came out before they broke up: 'A Cellarful of Noise' by Brian Epstein and 'The Beatles' by Hunter Davies. And while these books don't give a lot of the real 'dirt', they are the only authorized bios from the actual time so they are a must-read.

Among the insider books (by wives, friends and colleagues), the best one is 'The Love You Make' by Peter Brown, who was Epstein's assistant and Beatle gofer. Lots of good gossip and behind the scenes info.

Ringo and John never wrote bios, and George's 'I Me Mine' is void of anything interesting. But Paul's 'Many Years From Now' is terrific. His detailed description of how the 'White Album' poster was created alone is worth the price of admission. I have to admit that I haven't read Pete Best's book 'Beatle' (written about 10 years ago), but have ordered it and will let y'all know my thoughts. But after hearing Pete interviewed numerous times, and from what I can gather about him, I doubt that it's all that good.

The 'Anthology' companion book to the documentary is also great. It's basically the Beatles and a few insiders just talking about their experiences. Very insightful.

But the best, without a doubt, is 'Shout!' by Philip Norman. It is detailed, accurate and epic-like. Be sure to get the updated version (up to George's death). His follow-up, 'John Lennon: The Life' is not nearly as good, but also interesting. The only 'great' Lennon bio.

And speaking of Lennon bios, DON'T bother with the over-bloated fantasy 'The Lives of John Lennon' by Albert Goldman. May Mr. Goldman rot in hell for writing such garbage.