Is "Beatles For Sale" Sellable?

This fourth Beatles album didn't exist in America because it didn't contain any hit singles. In England, hits were singles, sometimes issued as four song E.P.s. In America hits were the bait to get teens to buy albums, but in England you got fourteen songs for your money. In America you got twelve but you got the hits.

Some Beatles fans think the American version of Rubber Soul cobbled together by Capitol was better than what The Beatles and George Martin managed, but if you wanted to hear what the originators wanted you to hear, you had to buy these albums as an imports even if they were missing the hit singles.

Eventually Parlophone issued A Collection of Beatles Oldies (PCS 7016), which was almost a "greatest hits" album containing sixteen tunes. That was enough to entice some "mainstream" record stores to import it and thus give fans their first glimpse of a Beatles import. When they heard how much better it sounded, and heard songs like "I Feel Fine" in real stereo for the first time, many sought out all of the originals.

For those lucky enough back then to have access to imports, this one was both exotic, with its never before seen image of the Beatles on the cover and another great one inside plus a collage. It's difficult in these image-saturated days to remember a day when a single photo or a few of them could so jar the senses and be considered so precious, but that's how it was. And there were even literate liner notes by Beatles publicist Derek Taylor that addressed fans as adults.

Taylor writes about how future generations of young people will react to the group: "The kids of AD 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today." True!

He also said of the album "It isn't a potboiling quick-sale any-old-thing-will-do-for-Christmas mixture." Also true!

Speaking of jarring senses, for anyone with a decent stereo, hearing the original of this record for the first time was a shock to the senses. The vinyl was so much quieter and better finished than what "Crapitol" produced, the clarity of the mix so pronounced minus the reverb Capitol often added along with an EQ sheen the label thought would please the "kiddies" that it felt as if you were finally in the studio with the fab four.

These tracks were spread among several Capitol albums but heard together as an album makes more sense. The mix of well-considered covers from The Beatles' American heroes like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry along with originals that mirrored the group's love of both American R&B and country added up to nourishing pivot point in The Beatles' growth as a creative entity moving beyond its teenie bopper beginnings.

No doubt the dour autumnal cover art and almost mournful faces scared the beejeezus out of Capitol's execs but The Beatles knew what they were doing here and where they were headed.

What's most interesting about the sound and mix of this album is how accomplished it is compared to the earlier L/R mixes and even what happened on Rubber Soul. It sounds as if this was recorded to a 4-track machine, with instruments neatly spread and the vocals finally coming mostly from the center.

Thankfully, this is one of the better efforts in the box set. It can be argued that the original is a bit dark (like the cover art and mood) while the EQ on the reissue is better balanced on top without being bright—and this observation is not because the high frequencies have been worn from the original! In addition, the equalization seems to bring clarity and resolution of new detail. Even if you own the original and know it well you might be surprised by what you hear on this reissue. I've always noticed on the original what sounds like a tape-glitch in the cymbals during the break on "Kansas City" that's not on the reissue. Maybe they fixed it?

That said, you do lose the sense of intimacy and being on the other side of the microphone the original provides. Instrumental textures are lost in the slight hardening of transients and the reverb clearly heard bathing the original's vocals dries up. As the liner notes reveal, George plays an old African drum on "Mr. Moonlight." Listen to the distinctive skin texture on the original reduced to an indistinct cardboard hit on the reissue.

Still, of the records in the box set I've so far played, this one is the most faithful to the original, except that in some ways it's actually better. Coincidentally it was the best-pressed too.

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JC1957's picture

Pressing from 1969 that is the much loved YEX 142-1/YEX 143-1 stamped LP but the inner groove distortion is usually apparent on the song Kansas City (Hey, Hey, Hey!) Part of the blame for this is improperly set up turntables and many repeated plays. Even some newer pressings of Beatles For Sale are tough to track all the way through without any IGD. 

It'll be nice to get a vinyl copy that can hopefully get away from that.

marmaduke's picture

Finally a glimmer of positivity.

You like me, you really really like me!

Pick another winner Mr.F

hanuman's picture


Are you able to offer an opinion whether this new set is a worthwhile upgrade over the '80s English-made DMM releases, which is the set that I have?

thomoz's picture

The 1988 DMMs are pretty bad, poor transfers of the music from primitive digital, cut to copper with all the low bass summed to center and the treble is screech city.  Sean did test cuts for the new series to DMM and found the sound unpleasant, so he went with lacquer cuts (resulting in the nice, wet sounding bass that people have reported on the new pressings).  The German 1982 DMM cuts of the Red, & Blue collections, and their DMM White Album all sound pretty good if a bit sharp on the top but the 1988 digitally-sourced DMMs are among the worst sounding Beatles records pressed outside the US.

hanuman's picture

That critique pretty much sums up my own view of the '88 DMMs - pretty crappy generally. So, I'll take that as confirmation that I can order the new lot with confidence. I'll be interested in how it compares to the "Love" LP, which I think was beautifully done.

Michael Fremer's picture

We have the most informed readers. I learn a great deal from them. Thank you!

Michael Fremer's picture

I've not heard it but someone else has!

thomoz's picture

If no one has said it yet, the glitch (which must be on the 4-track master, as it's audible in both the mono and stereo versions of this song) was digitally rubbed out on the mono and stereo 2009 cds, as well as Ted Jensen's transfers of the Capitol tapes for the US boxed sets.

jpg r's picture

in my opinion, The Beatles for Sale, in  my EU pressed box set is easily the best stereo version i have ever heard. and until these comparsions you are making with earler UK pressings, are made with eu pressed vinyl, it isnt very valid. of course import pressings of beatle albums are better then the usa isnt different now.

rockvinyl71's picture

I'm lucky (it seems) enough to have the EU pressed box. I've only listened to the first 4 albums so far and Beatles For Sale easily made the biggest impression. I only have a mix of Cambridge Audio / Pro-Ject gear but on my system this really sounds nice.yes

Boulder Bob's picture

how would one go about obtaining an EU pressing of this singe LP?

DJ Huk's picture

It's an eccentric affliction, but I always preferred the Capitol version, sound aside (I know, I'm blaspheming).  It feels punchier and it has I Feel Fine on it, which Lennon always bragged was the first rock song to use guitar feedback (he was wrong, by the way).  Strangely enough, the first edition of Rolling Stone Record Reviews says that Beatles '65 is the first concept album by the group.  It was edited by Dave Marsh, who also has my admittedly questionable taste for certain Capitol releases, as he essays in his book The Beatles' Second Album (also an interesting history of how Dave Dexter Jr., a Capitol records executive, would chop up the English pressings and inadvertently create what some consider preferred versions, like the "folk-rock" Rubber Soul.  Dexter, however, hated Beatles music, another twist to the tale).      

Nordfinn's picture's going right back. Assuming my record shop will take it. So noisy! Bacon frying, clearly audible, even on denser tracks (e.g., "No Reply), and so plain between tracks. Makes you wonder: if certain skills have been lost, why bother? (I picked up a forty-year-old pressing at the same time that's very quiet.) The surface on this looks pristine, but...
Thought it might be simply static charge, but the zerostat did not help. So disappointing.

Amazing, wonderful music, though, and one can hear that's it's a lovely mix.