June 29, 2009
The Story of the Capital Albums Boxed Set mixup
The Story of the Capitol Albums
By Bruce Spizer, Beatles author and historian
The recent internet chatter regarding the mono glitch appearing on the initial production run of The Capitol Albums Volume 2 shows how confusing listening to the Beatles can be when the focus is on the mixes rather than the music. To appreciate the subtle and sometimes not subtle variations between different mixes of the same song, one needs to understand the mixing and mastering processes.
When tape was first used to record music, it had only one track. That meant that once a song was recorded on tape, the volume of each of the instruments and voices could not be adjusted. If the music drowned out the vocals, there was no way to change the balance. With the advent of the two-track recorder, producers and engineers had two independent tracks upon which to record. This gave them the ability to achieve a proper balance between the two tracks when the tracks were reduced down to one track for the master tape. For example, if the instruments were recorded on one track and the vocals on another, the engineer could achieve the desired balance between the vocals and instruments. This process of reducing a multi-track tape onto a master tape is known as mixing.
An EMI one-track tape machine
In the early sixties, many studios used two-track recorders. The first four Beatles singles and first two Beatles albums were recorded on a two-track recorder at EMI's Abbey Road studio. By late 1963, the Beatles began recording on a four-track recorder. During The White Album sessions in 1968, the Beatles began using eight-track recorders for the first time. Songs recorded during the Get Back sessions had additional instruments added in 1970 when Phil Spector transferred the original eight-track tapes onto a 16-track recorder. Today's studios have up to and even beyond 64 independent tracks.
The master tape is used in the production of the format that reproduces the music. This was initially shellac or vinyl records, but later grew to pre-recorded tape formats (reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassette, DAT and others), CDs and DVDs.
At first, playback systems could only deliver one track of music, so the mixed-down master tape only had one track. But this began to change with the coming of more sophisticated playback systems. Since the early 1950s, master tapes have been either monaural (mono) or stereophonic (stereo). Mono recordings have only one track of music. If a mono record or CD is played through a system with two speakers, the sound coming out of each speaker will be the same. Stereo recordings have two separate tracks of music. If a stereo record or CD is played through a system with two speakers, the sound coming out of each speaker will be different.
THE WAY IT WAS IN THE SIXTIES
Each of the Beatles albums issued by Capitol Records from 1964 through 1967 was issued in both mono and stereo versions. All but one of these albums, Sgt. Pepper, had song configurations different than the albums issued in England. In the sixties, these unique Capitol albums were how Americans were exposed to the wonderful music of the Beatles. Most Americans were blissfully unaware that the Beatles albums issued the U.S. were different than those issued in England.
During the seventies, Beatles fans began learning about and buying import copies of the U.K. albums. They noticed that the Parlophone albums had either 13 or 14 songs as opposed to the 11 or 12 songs found on the Capitol albums. The Parlophone LPs for A Hard Day's Night and Help! each had the Beatles songs from the film on side one and other Beatles songs on side two. These British discs did not have the film score instrumentals found on the U.S. soundtrack albums. The Parlophone albums also sounded different, and to some listeners, better than the American albums.
The Capitol albums began falling out of favor with those in the know. So-called purists quit listening to the American discs, which were suddenly branded inferior. The party line was that all of the Capitol albums were poorly programmed records full of echo-drenched duophonic crap and drastic remixes. Such statements are unfair and inaccurate.
CAPITOL IMPROVEMENTS OR CAPITOL CRIMES?
Before discussing the mixes appearing on the Capitol albums, it is important to understand what Capitol did and did not do. Because Capitol was not sent multi-track master tapes of Beatles recordings, its engineers could not alter the balance of the instruments and vocals to create new mixes from multi-track masters. However, the engineers could alter the sound of the recordings in other ways.
In the sixties, record companies believed that all songs on a stereo album should sound like stereo. If a stereo master was not available, companies would often create a simulated stereo mix. This was achieved by transferring the mono master to two separate channels and then boosting the low bass frequencies in one channel and emphasizing the high treble frequencies in the other. In addition to boosting the bass and tweaking the treble, Capitol often ran the separate tracks slightly out of sync and added reverb. These simulated stereo mixes were described by Capitol as "duophonic recordings."
The Beatles often recorded songs specifically for release as singles. Because the group's singles through 1968 were issued only in mono, producer George Martin normally did not make a stereo mix for such songs. Capitol's strategy of placing songs on its albums that were released exclusively as singles in England resulted in the company receiving only mono masters for some songs. When these songs were selected to appear on an album, Capitol created duophonic mixes. Capitol's detractors often claim that the company's albums are full of duophonic mixes; however, Capitol only prepared a duophonic mix if it did not have a stereo master at the time the album was compiled.
Although Capitol was sent mono masters for all of the EMI Beatles recordings up until The White Album, the company sometimes chose not to use the mono masters, instead creating its own mono mixes by combining the left and right channels of the stereo masters into single-track mono mixdowns. Internal Capitol documents and acetates identify these stereo-to-mono mixes as "2 to 1 mixdowns" or "mono Type B." The industry often refers to such mixes as fold-down mixes. Apparently Capitol believed that mono Type B mixes gave recordings a fuller sound.
Other differences took place during the mastering process. Capitol's engineers occasionally added echo and reverb to some of the songs. This was done to make the recordings sound hotter.
THE CAPITOL ALBUMS VOLUME 1
The Capitol Albums Volume 1 contains the first four Beatles albums issued by Capitol. Each of these 1964 albums is presented first in stereo and then in mono. Because the first four British albums issued on CD in 1987 are mono only, many of the songs in this box set had previously not been issued on CD in stereo. Many of the stereo and mono tracks in the box set are different than the versions appearing in the standard Beatles catalog.
Meet The Beatles!
With the exception of duophonic mixes made for the songs appearing on the U.K. single "I Want To Hold Your Hand" b/w "This Boy," all of the songs on the stereo version of the album are the same stereo mixes used on the British album With The Beatles (except for "I Saw Her Standing There," which was on the U.K.
Please Please Me LP
The stereo album was mastered by Hal Muhonen on December 19, 1963.
The mono version of the album has Capitol-created mono Type B mixdowns for all of the songs except for "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy," which are the same mono mixes as the U.K. single. Lee Minkler made the stereo-to-mono mixdowns on December 19, 1963. The mono album was mastered by Billy Smith later that day.
British counterparts: With The Beatles LP
The Beatles' Second Album
This uniquely-configured album is full of unique sounding tracks, particularly on the stereo version. The five leftover cover songs from With The Beatles, namely "Roll Over Beethoven," "You Really Got A Hold On Me," "Devil In Her Heart," "Money" and "Please Mister Postman," are the same stereo mixes used on the British album; however, Capitol added a very noticeable amount of reverb to these songs during mastering. Three songs appearing on singles in England, "She Loves You," "I'll Get You" and "You Can't Do That," are duophonic mixes. The other three songs, "Thank You Girl," "Long Tall Sally" and "I Call Your Name," are stereo mixes prepared by George Martin. The stereo album was mastered by Maurice Long on March 17, 1964. The tape box indicates that the songs were "dubbed with E/Q and limiter plus echo."
The mono version of the album uses Capitol-created mono mixdowns for "Thank You Girl" and the five leftover cover songs from With The Beatles. The mono mixes for "She Loves You," "I'll Get You" and "You Can't Do That" are the same as the mono mixes used for the British singles, while the mono mixes for "Long Tall Sally" and "I Call Your Name" are different than the mono mixes that later appeared on the British Long Tall Sally EP. These unique U.S. mixes were prepared by George Martin. The mono album was mastered on March 17, 1964, by Don Henderson, who chose not to add reverb to the songs. Thus, the stereo and mono versions of this Capitol album have a totally different sound.
All of songs on the stereo version of the album are true stereo mixes. The stereo album was mastered by Maurice Long on July 1, 1964. He did not add echo to the songs as he had done with the previous stereo album.
All of the songs on the mono version of the album are true mono mixes; however, four of the songs, "I'll Cry Instead," "And I Love Her," "Any Time At All" and "When I Get Home," have mixes different than those appearing on the mono Parlophone A Hard Day's Night LP. These unique U.S. mixes were prepared by George Martin. "I'll Cry Instead" is an edit of two takes. The mono version appearing on the Capitol album has an extra verse not present on the stereo mix or the U.K. mono mix. The mono album was mastered by Billy Smith on June 29, 1964.
For this December, 1964, release, Capitol combined the Beatles latest single and a leftover track from the British A Hard Day's Night album with eight songs from Parlophone's Beatles For Sale LP. The stereo mixes for the latter eight songs are the same as those on the Parlophone LP. "I'll Be Back" is the same stereo mix appearing on the British A Hard Day's Night LP. "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman" are duophonic mixes prepared from George Martin's mono mixes for the U.S. single. While most of Capitol's duophonic mixes sound great, these two mixes are muddy-sounding echo-drenched disasters. The stereo album was mastered by Maurice Long on November 9, 1964.
The mono mixes for the eight songs from Beatles For Sale are the same as on the U.K. album. "I'll Be Back" appears in a slightly different mono mix made by George Martin specifically for the American market. "I Feel Fine" and "She's A Woman" are the same mono mixes prepared by George Martin for the U.S. single. Both have more reverb than the U.K. mono mixes. The mono album was mastered by Maurice Long on November 10, 1964, the day after he mastered the stereo album.
THE CAPITOL ALBUMS VOLUME 2
The Capitol Albums Volume 2 contains the four Beatles albums issued by Capitol in 1965. Each of these albums is presented first in stereo and then in mono.
The Early Beatles
This album contains 11 of the songs originally appearing on the Please Please Me LP in England and on the two versions of Vee-Jay's Introducing The Beatles in the U.S. The songs were recorded on a two-track recorder with vocals on one side and instruments on the other. Capitol used the same severe stereo separation mixes that appeared on the British stereo album. "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" are the same fake stereo mixes made under George Martin's supervision for the British stereo album. (No true stereo mix was possible because EMI did not keep the multi-track masters for these songs.)
The mono version of the Capitol album has true mono mixes for "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You," but the other nine songs are unique Capitol stereo-to-mono mixdowns.
Counterparts: British Please Please Me LP and Vee-Jay's Introducing The Beatles
This album from June, 1965, features the six leftover tracks from Beatles For Sale plus the B-side "Yes It Is," the debut of two songs ("You Like Me Too Much" and "Tell Me What You See") that would later appear on the British Help! LP and two songs specifically recorded for the Capitol album, "Bad Boy" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzie." All of the songs except the single "Yes It Is" appear in the same stereo mixes as on the British albums. "Yes It Is" is a unique duophonic mix. The stereo album was mastered by Maurice Long and Wally Traugott on May 14, 1965.
The mono mixes are the same mono mixes as on the British albums, although five of the six leftovers from Beatles For Sale ("Kansas City" being the exception) are identified on the mono tape box as "1 to 1 Remix with Echo & Rev. CCT." This means that these songs have added echo and reverb, although the amount added is, unlike the cover songs on stereo version of The Beatles' Second Album, barely noticeable. The mono album was mastered by Wally Traugott on May 14, 1965.
Help! (Soundtrack Album)
All of the Beatles songs , with the exception noted below, are the same stereo mixes from the British Help! LP. Although a stereo mix of "Ticket To Ride" was made prior to Capitol compiling its soundtrack album, EMI did not send the stereo mix to Capitol. Apparently unaware that a stereo mix of the song was available, Capitol created a duophonic mix of "Ticket To Ride" for its stereo LP. The five instrumental tracks and the uncredited 15-second "James Bond intro" to "Help!" were scored by Ken Thorne and appear in true stereo mixes. The instrumentals were edited from the film soundtrack by John Kraus under the supervision of Dave Dexter. The stereo album was mastered by Hal Muhonen on July 2, 1965.
The only true mono track on the mono version of the album is "Ticket To Ride." The others tracks are unique Capitol stereo-to-mono mixdowns.
Rubber Soul (American Version)
Ten of the twelve songs on this unique Capitol configuration are from the British album of the same title. Except as noted below, Capitol used the same stereo mixes as those on the British album. Capitol used the November 11, 1965 mix of "The Word" rather than the later November 15 mix found on the British LP. Also of note is the false start guitar intro to "I'm Looking Through You" that is present only (at least until 2006) on the stereo Capitol album. The two leftover tracks from Parlophone's Help! LP, "I've Just Seen A Face" and "It's Only Love," are the same as the stereo mixes on the British album. Nearly all of the stereo mixes made during the Rubber Soul sessions have the vocals placed almost exclusively in the right channel, which has little, if any, instrumental backing. The left channel occasionally has backing vocals, but on most songs is limited exclusively to instruments. The stereo album was mastered by Hal Muhonen on November 16, 1965.
A limited number of stereo discs have added reverb that is not present on any other version of the album. These records were pressed with metal parts originating from a later master cut in New York and have W8 in the trail off area to side one and W14 in the trail off area to side two.
Except as noted below, Capitol used the same mono mixes as those on the British album. Capitol used the November 9 mix of "Michelle" rather than the later November 15 mix found on the British LP. The two leftover tracks from Parlophone's Help! LP are the same as the mono mixes on the British album. The mono album was mastered by Billy Smith on November 16, 1965.
GEORGE MARTIN REMIXES FOR CD
By the time EMI and Apple settled their differences and began preparing the Beatles music for release on CD, a decision had been made to standardize the group's catalog throughout the world. This meant that the albums released on CD would be the original Parlophone LPs. The unique Capitol albums were not released on CD and were eventually deleted from the catalog.
The first four British albums were issued on CD in mono only. Because the first two albums were recorded on a two-track recorder, their songs had the vocals in one channel and the instruments in the other. George Martin had recorded the songs that way to get a proper mono mix and only made stereo mixes at the insistence of EMI. When it came time to issue the albums on CD, he requested that EMI use the mono masters. Apparently Martin's request for mono applied only to the first two albums, but EMI misunderstood his directive and issued all four of the albums in mono.
For the release of the next three albums, George Martin took a more active role. Although he believed that the mono versions of these albums were superior to the stereo versions, he recognized that consumers wanted these CDs to be stereo. He decided to remix Help! and Rubber Soul to improve upon his original 1965 mixes and give the albums a more contemporary sound. In the case of Help!, he added echo. For Rubber Soul, he moved the vocals more towards the center.
There was precedent for George Martin remixing his own work. When Capitol prepared its 1976 compilation album Rock 'N' Roll Music, Martin remixed the songs to give them a more contemporary sound.
Capitol's Rock 'N' Roll Music LP
FUN FACTS AND IRONY
The remixing of Help! and Rubber Soul for their 1987 CD release coupled with Capitol's decision to use their original 1965 master tapes leads to the strange situation where George Martin's original 1965 stereo mixes for these albums would not be on CD but for their use in The Capitol Albums Volume 2. Thus, Capitol is preserving the integrity of George Martin's original stereo mixes.
Oddly enough, the songs appearing on the British Help! LP are spread out over three of the four CDs included in the Capitol box set. Because Capitol used George Martin's original 1965 mixes of those songs rather than the 1987 George Martin remixes with echo, we have the reverse of what sometimes happened in the sixties. We now have a British album on CD that has added echo not present on the Capitol albums on CD.
The Beatles catalog first appeared on CD in 1987. These albums have not been upgraded although mastering techniques and technology have improved significantly in the two decades that have passed. While some people believe that the British vinyl albums of the sixties sound better than the Capitol albums, even so-called purists would be hard pressed to argue that the British CDs from 1987 sound better than the discs in the Capitol box sets. That fact of the matter is that they sound flat and lifeless when compared to the Capitol discs. Until the standard Beatles catalog is remastered and released on CD, the Capitol discs are the best way to listen to the Beatles recordings from 1964 and 1965.
These box sets are important not only for historical reasons, but also for providing hours of listening pleasure. They are a sonic delight, bringing the wonderful memories of how Americans grew up listening to the Beatles. It's like listening to the original albums, but without the scratches.
THE MONO MISHAP
The initial production run of The Capitol Albums Volume 2 used improperly compiled masters for the Beatles VI and Rubber Soul discs. Although the discs sound great, they are not historically accurate in that the mono versions of those two albums are stereo-to-mono mixdowns. Oddly enough, The Early Beatles and Help! were originally prepared by Capitol in 1965 as stereo-to-mono mixdowns. So the initial production run of the box set has proper 1965 stereo-to-mono mixdowns for The Early Beatles and Help! combined with improper 2006 stereo-to-mono mixdowns for Beatles VI and Rubber Soul.
Here is an explanation of how the mono mishap most likely occurred. Capitol sent its 1965 stereo and mono master tapes of the albums to Sterling Sound for mastering. Sterling made stereo and mono masters for each of the albums using the original stereo and mono tapes from 1965. Sterling also made stereo-to-mono mixdowns for all of the albums. This was done to determine if the two tracks of the stereo masters were properly phased. Failure to have the tracks properly in phase would result in problems if the tracks were mixed down by radio or television stations for mono broadcast. These test mixdowns were not intended for release and were not sent to
Capitol received reference discs containing the proper stereo and mono versions of each of the four albums. After careful review, Capitol gave its approval for the CDs to be manufactured with the stereo and mono masters it had received from Sterling. Unfortunately, an employee at Sterling mistakenly used the stereo-to-mono test mixdowns of Beatles VI and Rubber Soul when compiling the production masters. Thus, the factories were sent improper mono masters for the two albums.
Capitol was made aware of the error during the production run. Andrew Gardner, host of a Beatles show in Philadelphia, noticed something odd when listening to an advance copy of the box set. He knew that the stereo version of "I'm Looking Through You" has a false start guitar intro not present on the mono version of the song. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the mono version of the song on his CD also had the false start. He contacted another disc jockey, who put him in touch with me.
Although I was on vacation and had not heard the CDs, I knew from Gardner's description of the song that there was a problem. I called Capitol and made them aware of the error. It was quickly determined that the wrong mono tapes were used for Beatles VI and Rubber Soul. Capitol immediately contacted Sterling, who then sent the proper tapes to the factories for use in the remainder of and all future production runs. Capitol also set up a procedure where purchasers of the initial production run can exchange their discs for the corrected discs.
In 1965, Capitol intentionally created two albums worth of new mono mixes when it made stereo-to-mono mixdowns for The Early Beatles and Help! Over forty years later, Capitol unintentionally created two albums worth of new mono mixes for Beatles fans and collectors with its initial production run of Beatles VI and Rubber Soul. As John would say, "Most peculiar, Mama!"
Bruce Spizer is author of the critically acclaimed books, The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay, TheBeatles' Story on Capitol Records parts 1 & 2, The Beatles on Apple Records, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, and The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America, and served as an official consultant to Capitol Records on The Capitol Albums Volumes 1 and 2. - Source: beatlescollecting.com
You can get them here: http://beatlesmagazinemusic2.blogspot.com/2008/08/beatles-capitol-albums-vol-2.html