The Beatles   Fully Revealed on AAA Vinyl

Before leaving for a long planned mid-February 1968 trip to India to meet with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (a/k/a “Sexy Sadie” but not back then) The Beatles began work on “Lady Madonna”, the gorgeous “Across the Universe” and the now somewhat obscure “The Inner Light”, which was chosen as the “Lady Madonna” “B” side but only because Lennon wasn’t happy with “Across the Universe” for reasons known only to him and not to anyone else because everyone else loved it.

A version of “Across the Universe” with added sound effects appeared on No One’s Gonna Change Our World a multi-artist benefit LP for The World Wildlife Fund released December of 1969. The version on Let It Be is the same recording only “Phil Spectorized”.

On February 11th the group recorded “Hey Bulldog” for “Yellow Submarine” and soon off they went to India.

They returned with at least a dozen new songs for The Beatles, perhaps better known as “The White Album” and wrote more while recording those, necessitating the group’s first double album and the first on their own Apple label as well as the first in which Yoko Ono was present in the control room, in the studio and sometimes on microphone.

Geoff Emerick was back in the engineer’s chair when the sessions commenced on May 30th but he quit mid-July tired of the bickering, fighting and cursing. Emerick was, and is a gentle soul. He was living with his mum when I contacted him at home in 1996 about the planned 30th anniversary Sgt. Pepper’s…. CD that never was released. Ken Scott took over for Geoff for most Abbey Road sessions from the day Emerick literally walked off the job.

“Revolution” was recorded first during three sessions eventually resulting in the slow one on the album, the fast one on the single and the bizarre one (#9) also on the album.

Was this album a group effort or a series of solo efforts labeled by “The Beatles”? The group was together laying down basic tracks but generally the song’s writer alone performed all or most of the overdubs. At one point George and Ringo left for America, staying more than a week before returning. In the meantime Paul and John continued working on their songs.

Paul was in America when John with assistance from George finished “Revolution #9” with the two of them reading random phrases into the microphones the best known of which are “the twist” and “the watusi”.

According to the Lewisohn book, Paul wasn’t interested in contributing to the avant-garde project and when he heard it, according to engineer Richard Lush “ didn’t get a fantastic reception from McCartney…” or, for that matter, when it was first released, from most Beatle fans.

So turned off were fans back then that they avoided side 4 altogether even though it contains the slow “Revolution”, “Honey Pie,” yet another of Paul’s “grandma songs” as John referred to Paul’s nostalgia exercises, George’s wonderful “Savoy Truffle” (words courtesy a chocolate confection to which Eric Clapton was addicted) the ethereal “Cry Baby Cry” and “Good Night”— a song that made boomers cry then and now.

In retrospect “Revolution #9” was way ahead of its time as a pre-digital sampling “mash up” that plays well in a cluttered, instant access information age. Don’t expect anything new on the mono “Revolution #9”—it’s the one song on the album that’s a fold-down from the stereo version (it was too complex to remix), but that sure does make it sound more direct and very different. I think in mono it's far more listenable.

Back-to-back the group worked on basic tracks for Lennon’s “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” and “Good Night”, his lullaby for son Julian that soothed children of all ages,. Being tucked in by Ringo was a pleasure of which fans never seem to tire.

The group took time off late July so John and Paul could finish Paul’s “Hey Jude”, destined not for the album but for release as a single.

On July 31st The Beatles went to Trident studios, where they spent a week re-recorded “Hey Jude” on the studio’s new 8 track recorder. Abbey Road was still using 4 track machines, though unbeknownst to them, Abbey Road had bought a 3M 8 track that the studio’s tape recorder expert felt needed some “modding” before it was ready for use in the control room.

A few days later back at Abbey Road, Paul recorded “Mother Nature’s Son”, which like “Blackbird”, included no contributions from the other group members. Yet a few days after that, all were back in the studio to work on Paul’s “Rocky Raccoon”.

The next day the group tackled George’s signature song “While My Guitar Gently Weep” that up to that point existed only in an acoustic version.

Ringo quit the group during the August 22nd “Back in the USSR” session. Paul played drums. Ringo was, in the words of Ray Davies “tired of waiting”. He was also tired of having to endlessly repeat what he’d been playing as the others tried out new variations.

At the end of August while the group at Trident continued work on “Dear Prudence” (dedicated to Mia Farrow’s sister who they’d met in India), Apple Records released “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” along with Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and the Jackie Lomax’s “Sour Milk Sea.”

On September 3rd, the group “liberated” Abbey Road’s 8-track machine before all of the necessary modifications had been completed. On the 8th the “out of their heads” that night group re-recorded “Helter Skelter” punctuated by Ringo’s exclamation “I’ve Got Blisters on My Fingers!”.

Paul recorded elements of the beautiful “I Will” on September 17th and on the 18th wrote, and the group recorded, “Birthday” all in the same day.

Next on the 19th came “Piggies” another wonderfully bitter George rant followed on the 23rd by John’s sadly ironic “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.

On October 4th at Trident McCartney worked on “Martha My Dear”, which was not about his dog, and later a group of musicians arrived for the “Honey Pie” backing.

On October 16th John, Paul, George Martin plus Ken Scott and second engineer John Smith began considering the final running order choosing from among 31 wildly varied songs. Sides 1 and 3 were mostly hard rockers and for a laugh all of the animal songs were strung together on side 2 (“Blackbird”, “Piggies” and “Rocky Raccoon”).

As on Sgt. Pepper’s… this one would be “rill-less” and instead link together the songs, either crossfaded, butt-spliced or naturally faded out and next track commenced.

On Friday, October 18th Harry Moss cut the four mono sides and three days later the stereos. On November 22nd, 1968 but six years to the day since the release of Please Please Me the frayed and fragmented Beatles released the double LP, 30 song The Beatles.

George Martin would have preferred a single album compiled from the strongest material but given that as George later said “(by 1968) the rot had already set in”, no one was willing to sacrifice a song to shorten the playlist. In hindsight most Beatles fans are glad it went down that way: John got his edgy and tenders, Paul his gorgeous ballads, some hard rockers—as if to prove a point—along with his “grandma songs” and George got a record five of his. Ringo added his first song "Don't Pass Me By" and got to say “goodbye” in the most tender of ways.

The plain white cover has become as iconic as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s busy one. Few knew back in 1968 that the group was falling apart or that the album contained what in many ways amounted to a series of solo efforts masquerading as “The Beatles”. All we knew was that after Magical Mystery Tour’s great stumble, The Beatles were back, better, more mature and wiser than ever. They had so much to tell us, even if one of the things was to do it in the road.

Some critics carped both about some of the lightweight material and about the didactic nature of some of the protest songs like “Piggies” and “Bungalow Bill” but fans were more forgiving and were happy for whatever new time they could spend with their heroes.

The record was certainly the opposite of what Lennon had characterized as “rubbish”. It was a far more straightforward production, whether the songs were ballads or rockers—not that there weren’t plenty of little tricks employed to get just the right sound.

Surely by now The Beatles and all involved were paying greater attention to stereo and with a less effects-oriented production, producing a convincing stereo mix was more possible. And the stereo mix is very good. I will continue playing it for sure. Much of it, especially sides 1 and 3 are bright and somewhat hard. Guitar transients are sharp and ring relentlessly, especially if you turn it up.

This mono mix though, makes obvious that mono continued to be the Beatles’ preference. It’s a more masterful and well-blended mix and if you’re only familiar with the stereo mix you’ll hear many startling differences. How about that treated piano on “Birthday”. Where did that come from? The drum break in “Helter Skelter” is another jarring change. In fact everything about the “Helter Skelter” mono mix stomps all over the stereo mix—especially the false ending and following start-up (the mono ends about a minute earlier and before Ringo screams "I Got blisters on my fingers, which is only on the stereo mix). But those are the gross, easily heard differences. The more satisfying ones are far more subtle and some only reveal themselves after a few plays—“Honey Pie” for instance is 100% better in mono and it’s relatively warm sound demonstrates that the harder sounding tracks are not a mastering chain induced coloration. Also far superior is "Good Night". It's like a different song. A comment on another of these reviews asks for a definition of "transparency". Were you to compare this vinyl reissue with the original or especially the mono CD version, the term would self-define. At the appropriate volume (different for each track) you'll swear you were attending a late night Abbey Road Studios mixing session.

Back in 1998 EMI issued a “30th Anniversary” double stereo CD of The Beatles. It was bright, hard and relentless on those two sides as it must be on the stereo tape because the original LPs have that same unforgiving sound, which is what made the stereo box reissue so disappointing. It was an attempt to soften things up and make them more pleasant sounding. That was clearly not intended by everyone involved. The album’s sonic greatness is enhanced by the strong “hard/soft” contrasts among the tracks.

Not only is this reissue bright, hard and relentless in places too, but the mono mix serves only to further harden and further spotlight much of the production’s “in your face” closely miked quality that the mono CD box set producers also softened. On the other hand a few hard-nosed tunes like Lennon’s “Yer Blues” and “Helter Skelter” are processed and so generally tonally soft. That leads to McCartney’s “Mother Nature’s Son” and here the mono’s superior intimacy and directness become clear. Still with this album, it’s more difficult to argue with those preferring the stereo mix.

I attended the lacquer cutting sessions for this reissue and believe me it was as much fun as a Beatles fan could could possible have short of meeting Paul and Ringo, but Sean Magee wasn’t turning up the volume during playback for obvious reasons. While a cutting head is less susceptible to acoustic feedback than a playback cartridge, there was no point taking any chances.

Still the sound of the master tape came through even at lower than average listening levels. It was not polite and this reissue isn’t either. Still, when Steve Berkowitz brought over a test pressing more than a year after that visit, when we compared it to an original UK mono two things were clear: the reissue’s bottom end foundation was far superior to the original’s (the bass will amaze generally and especially on “Helter Skelter”) and the top end is somewhat sharper and less forgiving—differences you might expect comparing a tube and solid state cut, not that I’m convinced that necessarily accounts for the differences. If you’re having trouble with the directness of the mix and its not being panned and connected with reverb, play “Long Long Long” and I think great appreciation for both the mix and the quality of this reissue will follow.

This reissue is another success, though I have a feeling not everyone will agree. You probably won’t be wanting to turn up the volume too high on some tracks but it’s not because it’s “digital”. It’s because the miking was close, no doubt some compression was applied back in 1968 and the original EQ in places was frosty. Another flat, silent slab of Optimal vinyl by the way.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Jake's picture

Glad there was no evening out of the "hard/soft" qualities on this mono reissue. The Beatles album should sound like the Beatles album. Hated the stereo version.

Any chance they might redo the stereo Beatles albums would be great news!

wao62's picture

They would need a different 'spin' on another stereo release since the last ones are only a few years old. Might I suggest the White Album (as a boxed set) and Abbey Road @ 45rpm.

JC1957's picture

I'm all in favor of reissuing the stereo LP's done completely in analog like the mono's but at 45rpm?? No. While that would certainly be a sonic enhancement, it would totally destroy the flow on side 2 of Abbey Road for one.

StonedBeatles1's picture

That's all I can say.

Martin's picture

Congratulations on getting all the reviews done by monday. Apart from the mono masters triple...
That must have been some marathon sessions.
Great review, many thanks.
It's interesting, I have several stereo pressings of the white album, it is my favourite Beatles recording, including an original top loader, a german press, the MoFi, a French pressing, etc.
And of course a single mono pressing. Which is only around a VG condition. As opposed to the UK stereo first, which was basically mint when I got it.
Guess which one gets listened to?
The mono. If the white album gets put on, it's the mono. With the rustle, the surface noise, the pops.

I would get the box set just for the white album and the mono masters three LP set.
This is box set is a Bargain!!!

Mine should arrive the next few days.

dds's picture

What about Don't Pass Me By?

Also, what happened to editing? This has so many typos that it's just barely readable.

Goochified1's picture

...Michael's been burning the candle (hopefully not the wax) at both ends. As he noted in an earlier posting, he can fix the typos once they've been committed. And give Ringo his due for the singular "Don't Pass Me By." Anyhow, let's give him a hand for all the reviews including the handful that have appeared over the weekend. Now I got another week before my box arrives (ordered thru Amazon Canada, which was the best price back in July, but they don't ship until Tuesday).

Michael Fremer's picture
Re: Ringo's song. As for typos, and editing, you've got to be kidding...
StonedBeatles1's picture

If my memory's correct Ringo may have written that song as early as 63/64 with them finally bringing it to fruition in 68.

I remember it being played often at a Brooklyn head shop called ID back then with it's store staff and customers mental state being on another planet as the female customers took their clothes off and real live monkeys were on the countertops. At the time it was quite an education for this young guy..

Michael Fremer's picture
If you see any now please be specific.
madfloyd's picture

"I attended the lacquer cutting sessions for this reissue and believe me it was as much fun as a Beatles can could possible have"

'can' should be 'fan' I assume...

Great reviews, Michael - thank you SO MUCH for all your efforts. Wonderful background and stories that are both informative and entertaining.

Mark Fleischmann's picture

Having loaned my original U.S. White Album to someone who never returned it, I've bought several secondhand copies over the years, and all of them have loud scratches at the transition from Cry Baby Cry to Revolution 9. Apparently every original owner of the album raced across the room and knocked the tonearm off the record to avoid hearing Revolution 9. (The Japanese pressings are the only exceptions.) What is it with these people? Haven't they ever heard of the cueing lever? The track has grown on me over the years, so I play the side uninterrupted (as I do with the other three sides).

vinylsoul1965's picture

If I remember correctly 5 George songs might have been recorded but only 4 made it to the White Album:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Long Long Long
Savoy Truffle

Not Guilty never made it to the final cut but glad it survived on boots and the Anthology.

Michael thank you for these reviews. As I listen to another album from my set I then read your corresponding review and for the most part we have been on the same page. I do love the mono White Album but there are times that I am mystified: Sexy Sadie - did someone forget to turn up Paul's bass track while mixing? It seems so late when the bass does enter. Sounds like the fader is going up quickly :)

Mark Fleischmann's picture

Got my mono box today. My copy of the White Album is stamped 9010985. I'm guessing nine-million-plus weren't pressed for this reissue. But is it possible that the reissue starts the numbering at 9000000? Also, what's your number?

Bill-B's picture

Just kidding , it's 9009342. My box came yesterday. This was shipped last Friday from what should have been first batch Music Direct received. Hard to believe they would have gone over 10k in first pressing. Though maybe the one who was catalyst for this project promised to buy up all unsold copies.

kammerathdk's picture

Mine is 9000379 - still much higher than my UK mono original (0096106). The reissue is not laminated and the font used for the numbers is larger than on the original.
As MF says, the top and bottom on the reissue are superior to the original (NM copy) - this is evident even on much cheaper equipment (Rega P7/Exact2/NAD M3 amp in mono mode).

jahnghalt's picture


"George Martin would have preferred a single album compiled from the strongest material but given that as George later said 'by 1968) the rot had already set in', no one was willing to sacrifice a song to shorten the playlist. In hindsight most Beatles fans are glad it went down that way"

No one knew how much the Boys were on the outs back then - that there were but 2 albums left to go. I'm often surprised, when I talk to late and post-boomers (born after 1957), how many say "The White Album" when I ask what their favorite Beatles album is.

In 1987, Paul referred to The Beatles as "the tension album". There's a clip in the Anthology DVD documentary where George Martin used the same phrase.

McCartney continues: "Never before had we recorded with beds in the studio and people visiting for hours on end, business meetings and all that."

See other comments on The Beatles here (and Hey Jude) here:

vinylsoul1965's picture

I have to say as I listen to the new issue and compare it to an 82 tube cut, I like the added detail on the top. This record has always felt murky to me - due to again the close miking, compression, eq BUT this version has brought just a little amount of clarity that I think works for this title. Just listening to Helter Skelter now and love how Paul's Rickenbacker bass sounds...It's nice to have a "Sunday Morning Listening" version of this record - I can play the tube cut on Saturday nights :)

julio's picture

John plays bass on helter skelter

AnalogJ's picture

To me, aside from a few songs which I do prefer in mono, I think the stereo is FAR superior. Most of the mono is so dynamically squashed. And many tracks like they were recorded through a blanket - in the other room. Yer Blues has no bite, for example. And the closer, Goodnight, is so much better in stereo. Here it sounds smaller and muffled, with Ringo pushed back in the mix. On the stereo, the orchestra is full and lush, with Ringo quite prominent. It has the kind of crooner style song with lush orchestration you would find on a Nat King Cole album from the late '50s, and I think that's what was intended. You've totally lost that feel with the mono.

There are a few songs which are stronger here. Happiness Is A Warm Gun, I'm So Tired, Long Long Time are all songs which are improved by the focus on the vocalist. Yes, Honey Pie is another. But Savoy Truffle has become thinned by substituting artificial sweetener, losing its balls of truffles. Julia should be great, but the bass is boomy here (in spite of VTA being raised) and, as a result, the song loses some intimacy.

Overall, I find my original top loader is stunning and far superior. It's not just here. The same goes for an original. It's probably the only album I'd do the stereo over the mono pretty much every time.

hans altena's picture

First, all the albums up to MMT in my opinion have gotten rid of the syrupy feel that coats the stereo counterparts and makes them pop records, without the experimental rock feel, even if the grandeur of Tomorrow never knows, Strawberry fields forever and A day in the life in stereo is obvious, I prefer the much more scarier mono versions, where you cannot dream away but get punched around with alien beauty, so I agree with you on that part. But The white album is delivering just the same in that field. The lushness of stereo Goodnight was bothering Lennon for instance, in mono it has the needed intimacy (through the whole boxset the orchestral parts are more daring and up your face, classical, instead of earcandy for supermarkets), and all the tricks are more integrated, balanced, leaving space for the back to basics approach to fully bloom in the foreground. The rock songs are funkier, with the drums and bass presented fully as a whole, the ballads shining in acoustics. That leaves two big problems. The album doesn't work as nice background, so a lot of people will be chased away by the confrontational sound, even Revolution 9 in stereo comes accross as a pet animal acting funny. And, once more Revolution 9 is giving trouble because it is a fold down, so where the whole idea was representing the music as The Beatles intended them, here we get a compromised picture of what Lennon had created with so much care, complete with the panning which is of course lost in mono. I take it for granted, seeing what is gained for the most part, and, funny thing, the mono Revolution 9 has a lot more threatening sounds, and is clearer, and thus fits more in the overall picture of alternating grit and harshness with pure poetry of sound...

AnalogJ's picture

Ordinarily, I'd agree. I do find the mono albums more direct. But, aside from a few songs, not here. The sound is so much murkier and compressed in the mono version of the WA that a lot of life has been sucked out of the music. You can't tell me that Yer Blues rocks out harder or sounds more direct than the stereo (and you have to jess an original UK to compare). Savoy Truffle lacks bite, pardon the pun.

There are songs, as I mentioned before, which survive the mono and are even enhanced, but they're few and far between.

hans altena's picture

What I had to compare to was a UK vinyl, German vinyl and Dutch vinyl stereo (70, 72, 77) cause I had been in search for a spotless one, which the Bluebox Dutch one did deliver. The all sound pretty, and were a joy to listen to, though a bit messy, all over the place with its effects and seperation, also the overdubs just too obvious and sometimes with mistakes, as in HIAWG. With Yer Blues I might agree it is less claustrofobic in stereo, but was that the intention of the song? And also in Yer Blues I can now hear how the guitar parts are clumsily edited in stereo. Yer Blues comes out more soberly, with less width, so I understand your point, but it grasps me more by the throat in mono. Savoy Truffle is very good in stereo, still I like the guitar etter in mono, but the overall sound here is a bit thinner, granted so it's a toss up. Where I cannot agree that the life is sucked out, on the contrary, but maybe I get this life more out of the punch and less out of the nice soundpicture which the stereo delivers, so I get your point on the whole but disagree in the end. You have good ears, as a musician i sense that with you, that's clear, but I would not call the album murky, dark, yes.

bmwnutt's picture

Has anyone heard about an audio engineering post doc from UC Berkeley that mixed Revolution 9?
Back in 1982 my audio engineering theory teacher, at The College For Recording Arts in San Francisco, told me he was there(as a student to observe) when they were working on the Beatles White album and also Abbey Road………..but that’s all he could tell me. I did get out of him that he mixed Revolution 9. He said he used clips from BBC broadcasts.
I’m just wondering if anyone has read anything about this?

I have no reason to not believe him. Because of his career and the many famous people he had worked with since, he had much better things to brag about. Not that he ever did brag.