THE BEATLES
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2 CD Version)
(Apple Records / Capitol Records / UME)

 

Regarding his 2017 stereo remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, offspring of fifth Beatles legend George Martin—the son, Giles Martin has said in recent interviews that the fabled, original Beatles-endorsed 1967 mono mix of the Pepper album sounded ‘old’ to him. Henceforth, young Martin was summoned by current Apple Records ex-pat honcho Jeff Jones to present a new 2017 CD remix released at the midyear, just in time to celebrate the half-century anniversary mark of the original Sgt. Pepper album. That remark by young Martin is quite a remarkable statement in and of itself. I realize that Martin’s 50th anniversary stereo remix album will be a million seller, yet fans who were actually active record buyers in 1967 will tell you that we were never even told that The Beatles themselves mixed their albums only in mono and that they basically wanted to have nothing to do with a cumbersome, distracting and ear-hurting stereo mix. In retrospect, one belief among industry-ites now is that the then burgeoning pop music industry of 1967 was fueling an extremely lucrative high end audio industry eager to promote and pedal its wares. Yet, for all the new fangled gimmicks associated with the quickly growing stereo trend—during the car radio era of the mid 1960s, mono was still the key.

Were young Beatles fans misled by the 1960s audio industry into buying stereo Beatles albums in the mid 1960s decade? Sam Goody's famous music store in Valley Stream Long Island was where I bought the Pepper album (in stereo) the week it came out in May 1967 and it's interesting to note that "Goodys" as we called it, also sold high end audio gear at the same time! Audio stores were booming in the mid 1960s. Just consider the fact that back in the mid 1960s most people never even knew the Beatles prepared mono only mixes / versions of their albums and might've even laughed about the stereo mixes. Even then, after 20+ years of Beatles albums available only in stereo on compact disc (discounting the now disregarded first ever CD pressings of their first four albums in mono as prepared by the German audio geniuses in February 1987)—the masses were finally given the whole truth on September 9th, 2009 when the famous Japan-pressed Beatles In Mono box arrived, along with the lesser desired Beatles In Stereo box. Only the stereo albums were reissued separately, as individual titles in 2009. So, going back to Summer of ’67, the fans and the teenyboppers, 13 and under, who were sold the stereo Lp of Pepper were not even hearing the Beatles’ music the way the Beatles themselves wanted it. Everyone back then was afraid of "catching mono" so the connotations alone ... (lol) Even though more astute collectors knew about the mono albums thanks to pricey Japanese vinyl pressings—like the brilliant Japanese red disc Beatles mono Lp reissues of the pre-CD early 1980s—most of those misled millions, ironically heard Pepper properly for the first time on CD in impeccable mono on 9/9/09. So, sorry to differ, but just 8 short years ago after the 9/9/9 mono box, Pepper in mono isn’t even close to being “old” as the young Martin predicates in his recent interviews.

For someone who grew up listening to the original mono mixes of the now historic, soaring instrumentals from Abbey Road studios beat group icons The Shadows, John Lennon was clearly a mono freak—taking his mono obsessions to the max just 3 short years after leaving Pepperland, working with mono master Phil Spector on Lennon's historic wall of sound antiwar singles like “Instant Karma” and “Power To The People”. Ironically it was producer Spector himself who, was one of the keys to the wider acceptance of the stereo industry in 1970, as he pioneered while producing historic first solo albums by both John Lennon and George Harrison.

Back in 1997, 12 years before 9/9/9, the fabled Peg Boy Records released It's Not Too Bad—a definitive 25 track audio log of the making of “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Never before heard, long lost mono masters used on that CD had never been equaled by Capital or EMI until the 9/9/9 mono box—including, or at least compared with the stereo masters used for Martin's 2017 double 50th CD stereo remix Pepper release. In a passing note, one among those same bootleg labels actually released what I consider to the definitive mono version of the “White Album” back in 1998. Let’s see if Capitol comes close to that one in 2018 and please Jeff, no 2018 white album-remix in stereo! And don’t get me started on the impressive Brazilian fold down mono mix of Abbey Road which kicks ass compared to the 9/9/9 stereo box set version. That said, the 2017 stereo remix version of Pepper isn’t a bad catch for those who might have missed out on the revelatory 9/9/9 momo box event or any of the current bootlegs for sale on ebay, still. The 9/9/9 version of mono box version of Pepper is hopefully what is featured on disc 4 of a high price 5 disc 2017 Pepper box set with a mono mix—so what that mix is, is yet another question mark as are the two CDs of more alternate Pepper outtakes on CD 2 and 3.

Even though young Martin has excellent ears—note his brilliant remixing work on the George Harrison Let It Roll CD—one would have hoped for a kind of more comprehensive / definitive audio soundtrack of the music and the crucially important social statement the Beatles made in the first half of 1967 culminating in the most important song of 1967, “All You Need Is Love” —a track which didn’t originally appear on the Beatles’ official Magical Mystery Tour release—and for good reasons. The sound of the ’17 Giles Martin stereo Pepper is quite good for collectors of Beatles in stereo—complete with some new impressive stereo pans and sundry audio feats, mixing vocals more center, etc. Only some tracks on this Pepper in stereo actually hurt my ears—yet more proof how conditioned I am to hearing the Beatles In Mono. Compared to the modest scope here, at least on this 2 CD stereo version, it appears at the onset that Capital missed a really good chance to set the all-encompassing Beatles 1967 event into an even better audio perspective but really, who knows what Fab Four audio relics and concept albums will come around in the next 50 years? Here’s a toast to 2067’s 100th anniversary 10 disc Sgt. Pepper's box set. And yet, who knows what type of discs or music players they’ll have in 2067! All you need are the Beatles, in any century right? One highlight of this 2017 Pepper stereo reissue marks the first time the original backdrop of the Pepper album art (at least on the 2017 CD booklet and pictured above) was restored on an "official Beatles release", with the headshot of Leo Gorcey, aka Terence Aloysius ‘Slip” Mahoney, pictured right next to his Bowery Boys partner Huntz “Satch” Hall. I hope Apple finally settled up with Leo’s estate on the five hundred bucks he was asking (and denied!) to use his mug back in 1967! www.beatles.com



 

 
   
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