The Beatles "1+" Packs Visual, Sonic and Emotional Punch

It's easy to forget in today's image and video drenched world how little we got to see during the 1960s of The Beatles and other rock groups.

Most of what we did see were black and white photos or black and white television. It seemed that The Beatles were black and white! Shooting "A Hard Day's Night" in black and white was a good idea for more than a few reasons, but perhaps one was to avoid shocks to our black and white image of The Beatles.

I remember seeing them in color for the first time in Life Magazine and it was jarring! Same when watching "Help!" for the first time. Seeing them in color almost ruined the pleasure of loving them from a comfortable distance, separated by the color divide.

Pre-teens probably got to see more Beatles images than did high schoolers and college kids who didn't read the fan magazines. Mostly, we had album covers and occasional newspaper sightings, plus of course the memorable Ed Sullivan show appearances that have already been released in various DVD boxed sets.

This double Blu-ray video, single CD set, packaged in book form, reprises on one Blu-ray and one CD the twenty seven number one songs found on the original 1 CD and double vinyl set issued in 2000 (yes, it's been that long), plus on the second Blu-ray disc there are an additional twenty songs (three of which are presented twice for a total of twenty three).

The biggest difference, of course, is that this time, all forty seven are accompanied by videos, many of which you've never before seen, I don't care how big a Beatles fan you are (though excerpts of some of this material was probably on the "Anthology" laserdisc and DVD sets but I can't remember).

Another difference is that all of the music has been freshly restored, remixed and remastered by a team headed by Giles Martin, who, having produced the "Love" mixes knows his way around the tapes.

The videos and films, some of which are now more than fifty years old, have been restored as well. During the recent Apple Corp event I reported on here, we were shown split screen images of the before and after video restoration and played "A/B" audio comparing the previous digital remastering (that most of us were not so keen about) versus the new ones, and both produced visual and audible improvements.

Sometimes when "product" like this appears, it can reek of exploitation and seem to be a cynical attempt to squeeze the final drops from a long ago dried up revenue stream. Of course with The Beatles, it seems the spigot will always be open and flowing as new generations discover the musical magic these four guys produced so long ago and over such a short time span.

Just keeping the music in print in whatever formats of the day people desire would seem to be enough, so it's understandable that some might wonder if we need yet another Beatles package. For Beatles fans, the answer, after spending an evening binge-watching the two Blu-ray discs and later reading the well-produced hard covered book that houses the discs, is clearly "yes", we do need to see what we've mostly only heard.

Assembling videos for the early number one singles was no easy task as early television performances of "Love Me Do" for example, have been lost. In August of 1963 The Beatles performed it on a BBC-TV documentary and that provided the footage that produced most but not all of the video, since not all of the performance was broadcast. Careful editing and additional footage filled in what was not broadcast to produce the finished video under which went the original UK single music bed (the one with Ringo, not Alan White on drums).

Other TV appearances in the UK, Sweden and France, in which The Beatles lip-synched, provided the footage for other early songs. But soon after these early television appearances, the pioneering group began recording promotional videos for their upcoming single releases and there you get to see that from the minute the cameras were pointed at them, how inventive, spontaneous irreverent and entertaining they were.

Some liberties had to be taken to produce visuals for some songs. For instance, you get to see them perform at Shea Stadium, though with most of the footage being a montage of incidental Shea Stadium material behind which is "Eight Days a Week"—a song they did not perform at that scream-fest.

Rather than go through the videos, because if you're reading this you surely will get the box and watch them yourself, just a few observations: at first John doesn't appear particularly comfortable on stage or with a camera fixated on him: he doesn't know where to look or how to look. Instead, he stares uncomfortably into space while Paul, the consummate ham, and even George seem relaxed and camera-relatable. A few videos in, John quickly gets better, much better, mugging and making funny faces to the camera. Paul, however, remains the camera-magnet. You just want to look at him.

On the day after Christmas, 1965 Paul had a Moped accident resulting in a chipped front tooth and split lip. Incredibly, he didn't cap it before videos were shot for "Paperback Writer" and Rain". Paul looks on those two video obviously banged up. On later ones behind dark colored sunglasses they all appear to be somewhat or very stoned. But always they are having fun and always so will you watching their antics, subtle and large.

One of the set's highlight is on the +1 Blu-ray. The "Hey Bulldog" video is one of the only chances you get to see them live at Abbey Road recording a song as it appears on record. Another is the film shot for the orchestral recording for "A Day in the Life". Perhaps you've seen some or all of that in one place or another but what a scene! Keith Richards, Donovan and others parading around. The classical musicians all dressed in tuxedos and adorned with cartoonish sized nose masks and fake bald heads. Of particular interest: a promotional video for the "Love" album that combines "Within You, Without You" and "Tomorrow Never Knows". Also here are videos for the posthumously released "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love", based on Lennon cassette demos. Ringo and Paul provide commentary for many of the videos.

As for the audio, Giles Martin and his team have done an outstanding job of improving many of the stereo mixes without harming the original intent. Where possible they've centered the vocals and corrected mix mistakes. A/D conversion has come a long way since 2000. I think you will be impressed—especially by the work done on the later, better recorded tracks like George Harrison's "Something" and "The Long and Winding Road". The vocal clarity and transparency, even on the CD, is mesmerizing. There are 5.1 channel surround mixes in Dolby Digital and non-lossy DTS-HD, but I preferred the familiar mono and stereo (re) mixes.

The book annotation has been superbly produced, with each song getting a two page spread with recording dates, locations, producer and engineering credits, release dates and chart information plus a picture and backgrounder annotation.

This is a classy package visually, sonically and physically, one intended to be repeatedly poured over and enjoyed. Tears of joy and of sadness flowed (you do get over George Harrison's death by disease, sad as it was, but you just never get over John Lennon's death by assassination), there were laughs, a sense of amazement, appreciation, L-O-V-E and especially gratitude that all of this happened, and for Baby Boomers, just at the right time. Following my binge-watch I drew one overwhelming and somewhat surprising (to me) conclusion: without Ringo Starr, none of this would have happened as it did. He was/is an absolutely incredible drummer.

COMMENTS
rakalm's picture

This is really a must for us Beatle fans (I still have a side of me which doesn't trust anyone who doesn't like or at least acknowledge their contributions). Funny you mentioned the video with the tooth and split lip (I thought it was a car accident, maybe that was later). That's the one I thought you may have referred to earlier regarding this release with the stoned reference. Just requesting clarification, as I am trying to update my collection (just got Let It Be Naked and Love vinyl from the UK). Wasn't 1 reissued last year with the Avedon photos and posters? Have to get that one (no pun) just for the Avedon's, my Life (or Look?) page cut outs have suffered. Talk about lack of access, I had a 2 transistor radio (won in a claw machine) shaped like a rocket ship with an alligator clip antenna connection. I had to scrape the paint (I am sure lead) off of my radiator to listen (for the clip attachment). I thought The Beatles were a black female group after hearing "She Loves You"on my red/ivory rocket radio. I was SHOCKED when I tuned in to see them on Ed Sullivan and saw that they were a British white group. Haven't lost interest since.

Michael Fremer's picture
My understanding is that the new mixes and mastering debut on the upcoming "1" vinyl.
rakalm's picture

I went back to your last years review of Love and 1, that's the version I was trying to remember. I see it's sourced from the 2009 remasters. Well, I can't wait to see if this vinyl version includes the Avedon photos. Hope it does so I don't to buy last years 1 release just for those (which I really do want). Keep us updated on any of the vinyl information please. Dylan release this week too. Ouch, the allowance is spent before I get it.

Dpoggenburg's picture

Has anybody ever noticed how MUCH better Ringo tracks from around Beatles for Sale through Rubber Soul sound? I'm certain it's because these were considered throw-aways and the boys didn't bother layering overdubs, etc. The fidelity of the tracks from that period is startling. Can't wait to get my copy -- which arrives on my birthday next Friday. How great is that?

Michael Fremer's picture
Binge-watching birthday!
pmatt's picture

My mom took my brother and I to see Let it Be (the documentary) in the theater when it was released. Even as a ten year old, the end of not only the Beatles, but of the 60s was profound. A feeling that sticks with me to this day. Why is it not more widely available?

VinnyD's picture

I think it's mainly Paul's doing. In the film, you can see the band falling apart, and Paul comes of looking bossy. You seem him argue with George. It's not the cheery, peace and love Beatles all their other films present. I think they should do a deluxe release with the original film and a second film, taken from the original footage, that shows the happier moments. Things got much better after George quit the band and then agreed to return only if they moved the filming from Twickenham studios to the Apple building.

pmatt's picture

...but so many hatchets seem to have been buried. I actually love the music from this period because it documents the creative divergence of the band. Why deny this part of Beatles history?

VinnyD's picture

I agree. Everyone knows there was acrimony in the band. The movie has some really nice moments too.

Kirby's picture

Got my 2 disc Blu Ray ordered and just wanted to clarify, will all the 27 songs be in Hi Rez stereo on one of the Blu Ray? Hope so anyways. On a slightly different note, on what would have be John Lennon's 75th Birthday,Fri. Oct 9 2015, I celebrated it by going to watch Ringo and his All Star Band in concert.Very fitting and yes Ringo mentioned the occasion.

thomoz's picture

I will be highly suspicious if "Love Me Do" or "She Loves You" are either one in true stereo.

Seriously looking forward to this as Giles knocked the ball out of the park with LOVE. And it does seem that Abbey Road's mastering has ridiculously improved over the last 15 years.

Michael Fremer's picture
of course.
VinnyD's picture

They only have two tracks to work with for those songs. It's either pan far L-R or L(or R)-M. I don't think the software is sophisticated in enough to isolate instruments from a single track.

thomoz's picture

The multitracks don't exist for these two songs so even "split stereo" as you're describing is impossible.

Some have suggested that the backing of "Sie Lieb Dich" is enough the same as the mono "She Loves You" that a simulated stereo could be assembled but the fan attempts to do this that I have heard are of mixed success.

Frequency based editing was used to split off individual instruments for the 'Rock Band' Game several years ago but it sounds better in the game than it does in a remixed file. Bass extracted from a mono track that contains bass and drums will still have some drum leakage into that extracted bass track.

Overboard's picture

Though EMI long claimed that "Love Me Do" & "P.S. I Love You" were 2-track recordings , and that the 2-track tapes were disposed of after the mono mixes were finalized, some people say that more recently uncovered information indicates that the Love Me Do/How Do You Do It session and the Love Me Do(Version Two)/P.S. I Love You session were actually 1-track recordings, with any overdubs accomplished via mono to mono copying.
In recent months, somebody named "Deepsky" did an amazing "Spectral Stereo Remix" of "Love Me Do"(version two), with the rhythm section on the left, Paul McCartney's voice in the middle and John Lennon's voice and harmonica on the right.....all with stable, perfect separation. This was posted on YouTube.
Unfortunately, music biz thugs from Universal Music demanded that YouTube delete this remix.

StonedBeatles1's picture

I've seen these videos and have heard this music over the past 52 years owning every conceivable version, import, USB stick, bootleg available. Not a fan of Giles Martin's remixing at all (Leave perfection alone!), still, this is a must (The Beatles Again).

Coincidentally, I"m seeing Ringo tonight which sadly will most likely be for the last time.

So much for being left speechless.

storym's picture

I wish the cd did not come with it ; I have all the vinyl, I'm 53, I just want all the videos!

Michael Fremer's picture
Contains all new mixes and/or mastering as will the double vinyl coming soon.
storym's picture

Thx for the reminder , was totally overlooking the fact of the new remixes, my mistake, sorry for the Alan white crack , was being wiseguy

storym's picture

Sorry, Michael, have to be a dick , Alan White from Yes? (sarcasm)

soundman45's picture

As a sound guy I'm so glad the Beatles camp decided to release these songs in a remix format. I was a big fan of the Yellow Submarine remixes done back in the early 2000's. As long as they stay faithfull to the original sonic intent, I would love for them to remix the whole catalog.

VinnyD's picture

I agree. I see nothing wrong with remixing the catalog as long as the original mixes are still available.

sunderwood's picture

I was looking up info on the upcoming vinyl release and it will be pressed at QRP. It ought to sound great. The only thing is if you buy that the blue ray will not come with it. That will be good in case you have to budget your purchases.

VinnyD's picture

I don't understand the desire for a vinyl version when the source is not analog and a high definition digital version is available on the blu-ray disks. I realize the vinyl may come from a higher resolution source than the blu-rays. The USB stick of the catalog contained 24 bit, 44.1 kHz versions, and the source for the vinyl releases was 24 bit, 192 kHz, but the HD digital sounds sublime. I don't know the resolution of the new blu-ray audio, but I can't imagine the vinyl sounding better.

wao62's picture

It's for those of us who only have a turntable in their system!

VinnyD's picture

That makes perfect sense. Don't get wrong, I'm not knocking vinyl. In fact, I recently bought a vinyl copy of REO Speedwagon's "You Get What You Play For" mainly because the CD version reduces the double album to a single disk and eliminates a couple of songs to do so, but I also prefer vinyl to CD quality (16 bit, 44.1kHz).

VinnyD's picture

I just discovered this "Audio in the Blu-ray edition is presented in ultra-high resolution 24-bit / 192 kHz stereo PCM state-of-the-art master quality sound, while audio in the DVD edition is presented in high resolution 24-bit / 96 kHz stereo PCM audiophile quality sound. The CD edition is presented in standard resolution 16-bit / 44 kHz stereo PCM CD quality sound." Therefore, it's IMPOSSIBLE for the vinyl to sound better unless you prefer the added noise.

sunderwood's picture

I think I will probably get the blue ray for the room where my TV is and the vinyl for my listening room.

VinnyD's picture

Nice.

stretch35's picture

"impossible for vinyl to sound better"......conversation starter here.

VinnyD's picture

It will be a short conversation. The remixes/remasters are created with Pro Tools using a 24 bit, 192kHz resolution. The resulting files are used to cut the vinyl records and are copied onto the blu-ray disks. The vinyl will only add noise and it may even be compressed a bit to keep the needle from jumping out of the groove. Don't get me wrong, I like vinyl if it is cut from an analog source and there is no high resolution digital version available.

Michael Fremer's picture
On the quality of your D/A converter in either BR player or receiver. I don't have a BR player in my listening room so...
VinnyD's picture

You are right. D/A converters do make a difference. I recently got a professional quality digital interface to do home recording. The difference in sound quality was quite stunning.

mb's picture

The DAC used in the vinyl cutting process could be superior to the consumer grade DAC in a home system.

soundman45's picture

I was wondering Michael is there any Hi-Rez audio mixes on the DVD?

VinnyD's picture

I read the DVDs will be 24-bit / 96 kHz. Excellent quality.

Lemon Curry's picture

Hello everyone. I registered just to join this conversation!

I simply cant drink the kool aid on this. I've been carefully comparing the youtube previews of A Day in the Life and Penny Lane to the reference mono versions, and I'm simply appalled. The mission for Giles Martin had to have been to create a better sonic experience, and to correct the historical accident of the Beatles in stereo being about extreme left and right panning. What he did was take liberties far beyond that mission, and has inserted himself directly into the music.

Listen to the orchestral wind up in a Day in the Life. Lennon's voice is actually cut off while singing "I'd love to turn you on". And where did Paul's bass go that used to drive throughout the whole thing, continuing into the alarm clock intro? It's totally different, and FEELS totally different.

Penny Lane is far worse - it's a profoundly different mix with an annoyingly loud snare drum and the reduction of horns throughout. Listen to the sections where Paul sings "selling poppies from a tray" and then "we see the banker sitting waiting for a trim" - in the original mono, the drums, horns and piano work together to form the pops of a groove that in my mind is the song's signature. In the new version, all i hear is drums and off-beat piano tinkling that was once inaudible. Where are the horns? The whole piece lacks a groove, and is stripped of a lot of power. Just awful.

With all the Beatle re-releases and remasterings of the past, the artists' original vision - their painting - was never tampered with. (Except for obvious stuff like Love and Anthology) For the first time that has changed - this is being passed off as reference for these songs. Whatever the positives about keeping the catalog on print and gaining new fans, its not worth the destruction of the art.

thomoz's picture

Lemon Curry:

I watched / heard the VEVO video for HG and heard missed cues / things too loud in the mix there as well, so of course there will be differences in the remixes. Hopefully the clarity on the recordings for those of us who listen in 5.1 will be satisfying enough, despite the occasional missed cue / effect.

itsgoodtobeanywhere's picture

... with remixes. Someone will like the new mixes and someone else will hate them. At least it seems there are no plans to make the original mono and stereo mixes unavailable. Actually (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) I heard the original catalog would be making its way to Pono at 24/192.

Lemon Curry's picture

Pono would be great news!

Yovra's picture

...until I hear the remixed stereo on my system on the cd. Everyone commenting on the new mixes ar (I presume) referring to the Youtube-clips.

John Macca's picture

Well well well,oh well: vinyl is vinyl, 4ever!

soundman45's picture

For all who might be curious about the Beatles 1 remix of "a Day in The Life" which Lemon Curry pointed out having an abrupt fade out in the line "love to turn you on" is totally correct.

After further investigation I discovered that the isolated vocal track has either bleed from headpnones or from playback speakers containing the Mal Evans countoff which was present in the 1967 recording but is abscent in the remix. The countoff actually steps on Lennon's vocal track at the tail end of "turn you on:, thus why they probably faded the lead vocal out early.
How I found this out was I have the Beatles Rock Band Discs and when you listen to the individualized tracks it is definately apparent.

Lemon Curry's picture

...just leave Mal's count in the mix? And how about the bass guitar, too? Why make an active decision to make a change rather than honor the original?

StonedBeatles1's picture

WTF?
Will somebody please break Giles Martin's hands. Bloody wanker's a piece of shite. Has dick for ears with not an ounce of creativity in his minuscule brain.

Video restoration is nice but the remixing of the audio I've heard thus far is for shite. Shoulda left well enough alone.

My excitment for this release is fin..

Yovra's picture

It's not compulsory to buy this release. And you may only have heard the sound to the compressed video clips. Enjoy the promo's and burn the audio cd, that's another option. And the most important one: take a chill pill and mind your language.

PaulMossUK's picture

Whilst I'm really looking forward to seeing this, using the stereo mixes, re-mixes, re-gurgetated or whateverthe f**k we like mixes, these are not the mono mixes that sound so much better.

Overboard's picture

In some early Beatles video footage, John Lennon squints and appears uncomfortable. This is because he was very near-sighted, and, initially refused to (publicly) wear glasses or contact lenses. Without them, he couldn't really see the audience.

AlanWK's picture

The new mixes remind me of a joke told by Freddie Prinze,his neighborhood was so crime filled he once bought a stereo that was originally his, "Buy it again the guy says you know it works!" this pretty much sums up the new Beatles 1+ and while the videos are nice, a CD has to tag along in the package like the ugly sister of the hot chick your trying to date. I mean the first '1" back in 2000 was not all that bad and I didn't buy the 2009 remaster but the new mixes are like WHAT? Lady Madonna sounds like it came off Bob and Ray Present a Stereo Spectacular. Is this what The Beatles wanted us to hear? I won't be buying the new vinyl since I just bought the new analog 67-70 which was the end all I was told. So sorry Yoko or Jody Klein or whoever is raking in the bucks on this never ending reissue madness.

Overboard's picture

Jody Klein(Allen Klein's son) gets no money from any Beatles product. The Beatles paid a $5 Million settlement to Allen Klein to remove Klein as manager of John, George & Ringo and Apple Corps decades ago.

azmoon's picture

..most of these remixes take away the magic and dynamic quality of the originals. They sound antiseptic. Lets hope this is the end of this ego trip for Giles Martin.

Overboard's picture

Those of you who have bought the CD+Bluray or CD+ 2-Blu-ray editions will note, that after every 2 or 3 songs, that the next song is again designated "track 01", and your blu-ray to T.V.(or blu-ray to A/V receiver to T.V.) HDMI "handshake"must be re-established, with a somewhat prolonged delay before the next song starts. At first I thought that this was being done to complicate things for people making unauthorized copies, but, apparently, it is due to the compilers' desire to retain the original frames per second (FPS) rate of the source material, so several FPS rates are in use throughout this video collection, and whenever the FPS rate changes from 24 to 30, the HDMI "handshake" must be re-established.(Yes, I know that the actual FPS rates are 23.9 & 29.9, but i said 24 & 30 to simplify things)

Ed Zepelin's picture

When I listen to the surround mixes I don't hear anything coming from the back speakers unless I put my ear real close to the speaker. Is my bluray set defective? If not, then these are the lamest "surround" mixes I've ever heard.