Lads From Liverpool

By Chris Chadwick

Originally published in EUG #31

Your mention of listening to the latest Beatles Anthology releases got me thinking about just how much material they produced as a group and a little sceptical about whether anyone can truly have all their officially released output.

All the official Beatles output in its final British album format (plus single and EP tracks not on the album) was given a worldwide release on CD in 1986-87. While this was a very good attempt to get it all on digital medium, it was actually another version ("Mix" as I believe pop-pickers have it) of their work, even if it stuck close to the original. However, a vast number of slightly, and some greatly, different mixes are left ignored on vinyl and even shellac all around the world.

I don't mean accidental issuing of recordings with the wrong EQ setting for the medium (all their albums were available on vinyl or open reel tape during the Sixties, this small techy difference has an immense effect, it usually sounds like a bass/drums heavy remix - mistakes occur today with the CD/cassette media), but full blown different versions.

A silly example first. "All My Loving" in vinyl single form starts with three high-hat beats, but only the album version, sans high-hat, was released on CD. More seriously, "And I Love Her" a maudlin air from The Beatles' lovable mop-top period came in different versions in different territories. The difference is the number of repeats of the closing guitar riff. Of course these are not major differences, but they do change the overall feel of the recording.

By the time The Beatles had mastered growing their hair but were beginning to lack confidence with a brush and comb, some songs were doctored for the express reason they were considered unsuitable for 'unsophisticated' US ears. This ranges from "Wacky Backy" fuelled "played it backwards, recorded it forwards, played it back backwards" guitar solos in "I'm Only Sleeping" (A recent hit for someone else) to twenty seconds of Lennonesque noise in "I Am The Walrus. By a quirk of fate, "I Am The Walrus"' (Stop smirking) is the only one available on CD.

The first four Beatles albums weren't released in the stereo form on CD that was popular for twenty odd years on LP prior to the remastering. Half of the joy to me of these versions is hearing all the switches and glitches expanded across two channels that are deliberately submerged in mono. But I didn't realise that there are greater differences too. Most notably "Please Please Me", I am reliably informed, has a different final verse between stereo and mono releases. You can get them as pirate CDs, but the quality is almost certainly very poor.

Ok with the mono stereo thing so far? Now cop this. By the time The Beatles had abandoned all manner of tonsorial tweaking in favour of spending a year in bed for tax reasons, stereo had very much pushed mono to one side and the fabs knew it. So the "The Beatles White Album" comes in two very different forms on original vinyl - one mono one stereo. The songs are mixed differently (Guitar up, bass down, sitar sideways, "BASS UP or I'll leave") and come in markedly different lengths. I don't much care for the white album, it's a triumph of form over content with content putting up no fight, but I'd love to hear and compare the two versions.

Which is why the original 60's (Especially), 70's and early 80's LP's (The deluxe edition LPs that accompanied the CD issue were the CD mix) command such exorbitant prices in second hand record shops. Because they are (In many cases) different from the CD version for half as much in the high street. Except the budget label re-release of the "Rock'nRoll" music album, that is. As Beatles collectables go, it's got everything going for it. Not only are there stereo versions of the only-mono-on-CD songs but it was actually withdrawn by EMI. Yep, John 'Full wack, wack' Lennon really imagined no possessions and had it taken off the shelves because it was budget price. But no value at all secondhand for Beatles collectors.

Oh yes. And when was the LP version of Mystery Tour released in the UK? 1978, true. Prior to that it was imported, officially, in vast quantity as a US Capitol/Apple album, while EMI/Parlo stuck with the double EP. So that's why, uniquely among Beatles albums it is stuffed with singles - and probably why it lacks the 'oneness' of a real Beatles album too. And why the US mix of '...Walrus' came to be favoured over the British one on CD.

Finally, a nasty spaniard was thrown in the works with the lastest rash of 'lost' material. I'd take a small wager that you didn't buy the CD singles that accompanied the BBC and first two Anthologies. Shame. For another four quid a throw you get three tracks not included on the albums. Surprisingly this simple sales ploy wasn't promoted to the 'original' Beatles people who have long since foresworn the joys of the single and countless extra sales and three number ones were lost. I only discovered this because being a tight-wad I refuse to pay full price for a single and lurk around the 99 pence singles bin in Woolies. Being The Beatles, these singles will probably remain available forever but you've missed the discount boat I fear.

The Beatles on shellac includes a 78rpm version of "Hey Jude". Seriously, it was released in India in 1968. Bound to be different methinks.

Chris Chadwick, EUG #31

I love talking about The Beatles. I can still listen to their music and enjoy it.

I did much of my growing up in the Sixties since I was born in 1955. I can remember the first time I heard "Hey Jude". I was at a boarding school/concentration camp. We did classes from nine in the morning 'til eight at night except Thursday when we finished at 7:15 so we could watch top of the pops. We were usually pretty exhausted by this time. We all knew there was a new Beatles song and couldn't wait to hear it. The usual format of 'Top Of The Pops': All the rubbish first then came The Beatles. It started and we thought "Hmm" then "OK" when it came to the chorus. We were dancing by the end of it. I've seen the video version recently on VH1 and it isn't a patch on the record but memories like that are priceless.

I knew that there were a number of versions of The Beatles' work. Sadly, I'm not sufficiently musically-minded to be able to remember them all. Though what you have described does sound interesting. The Indian "Hey Jude" would be worth hearing.

I have to disagree with you about The White Album though. I personally think it is perhaps one of the best rock 'n roll albums of all time. But taste is so personal. I have had several copies over the years and do recall of number of slight differences in production. I deeply regret not having all of these now. I have had original versions of The Beatles records over the years but these have mostly been lost or destroyed. I now have everything on CD. It's convenient and I can listen and the memories do come back.

One thing I do seem to remember though, on "Sgt. Pepper", the bit at the end where the senseless sound was repeated over, I am sure that on my original version (which I bought in a department store in Dundee), and much to my sister's annoyance at the time, this sound was completely different.

Knowing The Beatles, I'm probably right.

Gus Donnachaidh, EUG #31