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Author Topic: I Need To Meet The Beatles  (Read 2140 times)

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TheNewGuy

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I Need To Meet The Beatles
« on: October 26, 2011, 03:13:11 PM »

I’m not a Beatles fan.

It’s not that I ever disliked the music; it’s just that I was never really exposed to it.  I never really listened to it.  Sure, I know the hits and the Wikipedia-esque history, but now here I am at 28, a professional audio engineer curious about what I missed out on.

So here’s the deal:

In a month or two I am going to spend a long weekend listening to every Beatles record back to back in a real recording studio with some serious speakers.  The problem for me though is how do I do this to maintain the contextual integrity of their work?  What versions do I listen to?  What context do I put them in?  From what I can tell, there are too many options and I need some real Beatles fans to steer me in the best direction.

Here are my variables of course…

Should I get the mono box set for the first 11 albums (if you guys consider it 11 full albums) and just listen to the last three in stereo?  Or should I listen to them all in stereo?  Do I get them with the most recent re-masters, or try and track down some older versions on CD?  Do I get “Let It Be…Naked” and listen to that before I get Spector’s take on the record or not?  Hell, what is the “real” discography I should listen to anyway?  I want to keep this as real as possible- minus bonus tracks and all the extra “buy me” add ons!

I want some real fan input!

I’m also interested in some type of literature to accompany my journey.  My thought was maybe to listen to a record once or twice then spend some time reading about the context of that record.  Maybe there is a book with a chapter on each record, maybe there isn’t.  What do you guys think?  Or would reading about these records change my views too much to give a “pure” listen?

I don’t know, I don’t know what the answer is.  I bet you guys do though.

So please Beatles fans, discuss this with me.  Help me map out my journey through the Fab Four!

I’m not much of a writer, but I may consider trying to blog as I go.  Who knows!  Maybe rather than a long weekend I’ll do one a week & digest and write.  I don’t know.  I just need some input on the best way to really experience the Beatles for the first time.

Thanks in advance!!!!!!

Disclaimers:
* I’m posting this on numerous forums, so don’t get discouraged if you’ve seen me post before, I’m genuinely that interested in getting the most info as possible!

**I’m an audio guy by profession, and I unfortunately do have a somewhat biased opinion on musicianship/ production quality… something that may benefit or even take away from my process… but this is also the reason I’m so interested.

***My only major stipulation on discussing listening material is that getting original vinyls is not an option (unless someone with big bucks out there cares to send me copies).  While I am not afraid to search out for used copies of older CD masters on Amazon.com, I am certainly not rich by any means.

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Gary910

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2011, 04:54:36 PM »

To a professional audio engineer, I as a die-hard serious fan of over 25 years, here is what my suggestions are. There are really two books that I would seriously recommend (it will set you back a little bit, but they are books you can use in the future as reference in your profession) Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles Recording Sessions, and Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan's Recording The Beatles. A Google search and you will be able to get both of these books.

As far as listening, hmmm, there are varied opinions/arguments on this one. My first inclination is to recommend the mono albums and the last three in stereo. You also have to listen from "The Ballad Of John And Yoko" forward on "Past Masters" (stereo) as these are two singles that came out in stereo only.

There is more that you can study, but it takes years. If you followed exactly what I have recommended, I think you will be more than amazed. The books that I recommend are scholarly works, and from a well known recording engineer that I am acquainted with are considered absolute required reading.
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2011, 05:13:03 PM »

About the mono/stereo point, it depends on your taste. If you're a stereo guy like me, you'd better get the stereo copies (though the first four albums are better to be listened in mono since the limits in studio during the early days). However, it's said that the Beatles and their producer dedicated more time to mono mixes than stereo ones, so as a professional audio engineer the mono albums (plus the last albums only released in stereo) may be more interesting for you.

This page may also be helpful from a recording point of view: http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/beatles/
« Last Edit: October 26, 2011, 05:20:19 PM by Hombre_de_ningun_lugar »
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Klang

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2011, 06:51:05 PM »


I might suggest that you also consider listening to some of what else was being offered in the years that they were working, so that you can gain an appreciation for how innovative they were. They really influenced - well, everything that came after for quite some time, including now. This may not be easy, but nice if you can do it.

 :)

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peterbell1

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 12:23:51 AM »

I would dispense with all the books and recording studios and stereos vs monos.
You talk about "contextual integrity". These records were released more than 40 years ago. So go and get yourself an average record player (not some expensive high-end thing) and some original 60s vinyl (a few scratches will add to the experience  ;D ) and give the records a spin.
Watch the Hard Days Night film and then play the vinyl LP a few times.
Look at what else was going on in 1964 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_in_music) and you'll see the charts are still full of easy listening artists, but the Beatles are beginning to open the way for a whole host of bands.
Get some singles and enjoy the process of getting up to change the record every three minutes or so  ;D.
Listen to those B-sides (which the modern music industry has just about phased out with so many singles being sold as downloads). Imagine the work that went into something like Rain, and then think about the fact that it was consigned to the back of a hit single.
Make your own mind up on the music. You don't need us lot or a bunch of books to tell you if the music is good or bad. Let your ears and your heart decide.
For me, they're the biggest band on the planet for a reason - and that's because they're bloody good!!
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peterbell1

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2011, 12:47:40 AM »

And I almost forgot ....
Get yourself a copy of "The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl" LP and hear what The Beatles really meant to their fans back in 1964/1965.
It's not going to be the greatest sonic experience of your life, but it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up to hear this introduction, over 30 years since I first went out and bought this album  ;D

The Beatles - Twist And Shout Live At The Hollywood Bowl
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Hello Goodbye

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2011, 02:19:04 AM »

I have that LP too, Peter, and it looks like we both got our copies around the same time.  I especially like Paul and John's patter before each song, you know, their first film being in black & white and the second in color.    ;)

This video has some footage of them at The Hollywood Bowl...


The Beatles, Help, Live at the Hollywood Bowl, with Footage...

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2011, 02:21:35 AM »

...and wecome to the Forum TheNewGuy!!
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In My Life

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2011, 03:50:09 AM »

Make your own mind up on the music. You don't need us lot or a bunch of books to tell you if the music is good or bad. Let your ears and your heart decide.
For me, they're the biggest band on the planet for a reason - and that's because they're bloody good!!

I have to agree with this. I also think that it may take more than a marathon listening weekend to really find out what this is all about. You need time with each album to really absorb it. Enjoy the process!
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Kelley

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TheNewGuy

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2011, 03:21:26 PM »

You guys are great.

It's tough figuring out a way to experience something objectively when none of us have ever naturally or organically really discovered a band without some type of preconceived notion- be it friendly recommendations, a single we enjoyed, or an image we saw presented to us on the television.

The concept of listening to other artists from the same time frame is a fantastic idea, and I take that in as a great piece of advice.

I also love the idea of actually chasing down the vinyls.  One thing I think so many music fans either don't realize or forget about is how integral a part sequencing tracks has become in the final phase of making an album.  Plus, when it comes to making a vinyl, that process becomes even more important.  I personally recently worked with an artist that is planning on a vinyl release, and the producer was very intent on making a sequence that not only worked well from top to bottom, but also one that had an impact when you had the time in between the last track of Side A & the beginning of Side B.  In many aspects this is truly an art form, and it would really be great to experience the entire discography in that way.  I'm not quite sure I can quite afford this at the moment though, chasing down original vinyls is an expensive commitment (I do it with other artists I've been a fan of quite frequently).

I think mostly what I am discovering from reading your comments is that I may need to try and define my own purpose for listening... I know I don't want to do this as a case study in production; however, am I doing this to "get" the Beatles impact or to just try and enjoy the music on a big picture platform.  As of now I'm not sure, I just know I want to be somewhat meticulous in structuring it (within a purpose of enjoying it) because whether or I end up a fan or not, I will only have this opportunity to do this once.


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TheNewGuy

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2011, 03:28:28 PM »

Argh, one more thing...

Peter you're idea of dispensing with the books is probably the best thing for experiencing the music.  You can always go back and read & re-listen to these records, but you really only get to experience the music for the first time once.  After all, how many times did you guys listen to these records over and over before wading deeper into the history of it.  For fans of any genre/band it's the music that's what's really great... not the process or machine that created it!

Thanks again everybody, I love reading everything you guys say, and hope this sparks up some cool new perspectives for you guys too!
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peterbell1

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2011, 04:08:22 PM »

... chasing down original vinyls is an expensive commitment (I do it with other artists I've been a fan of quite frequently).

It doesn't have to be too expensive. For example, you don't need to get original 1960s issues - you can go for 1970s reissues which are often half the price of the originals, if not cheaper. You'll probably find them in much better condition as well, so that will improve your listening experience. Here in the UK you can get what we call "2-box EMI" pressings from the 1970s much cheaper than the "yellow & black" label Parlophone 1960s originals.

If you ARE looking at using vinyl, it obviously depends on where you live, but bear in mind that The Beatles albums that were released in the UK were changed quite a bit by record companies in other countries, so that some of the US albums, for example, are unrecognisable alongside their UK counterparts.
Capitol in the US (and Canada) chopped 14-track UK records down to ten tracks and also included hit singles and B-sides (something which The Beatles tried to avoid in the UK) so that they could get an extra album on the market over the course of a year or whatever. This was mainly done in the first half of The Beatles career and, after Revolver, it was only the Magical Mystery Tour album that was different in the US (it was a double EP in the UK).
So, depending on where you are, you may want to listen to albums the way they were first released in your country. But my suggestion would be to get hold of the UK versions as these are considered the definitive ones (apart from Magical Mystery Tour, which is issued nowadays in its US format rather than the UK one).
Sorry to confuse matters  ;)

If you're going for CD versions then ignore me  ;D

Enjoy your trip of Beatles discovery and make sure you come back and tell us what you thought of it all. Make a few notes along the way and share them with us - it would be interesting to hear your views.

Cheers,
Pete
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In My Life

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2011, 04:29:57 PM »

Quote from: TheNewGuy
One thing I think so many music fans either don't realize or forget about is how integral a part sequencing tracks has become in the final phase of making an album.

You'll find a lot of evidence to support this as you progress through the albums. I think you're in for a real treat!
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Kelley

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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2011, 05:23:18 PM »

I think mostly what I am discovering from reading your comments is that I may need to try and define my own purpose for listening... I know I don't want to do this as a case study in production; however, am I doing this to "get" the Beatles impact or to just try and enjoy the music on a big picture platform.  As of now I'm not sure, I just know I want to be somewhat meticulous in structuring it (within a purpose of enjoying it) because whether or I end up a fan or not, I will only have this opportunity to do this once.

My advice is that if you really enjoy the Beatles music and end up being a fan, don't waste your money and time on records like the Anthologies that you'll hear only one or two times, alternate versions of albums or cash-in compilations (apart from the Past Masters). If you can't get enough of the Beatles you could also try a few key records from their solo careers. But, more important, to get the whole experience you should listen to other key bands from the 1960's, like the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Byrds and the Kinks, to name a few. The Beatles were the most important part of something bigger, and someone who really appreciates their music will also enjoy a lot of great albums released during that time.
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stevie

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2011, 09:06:27 PM »

Play a few songs by other artists from 1963...

Then play 'She Loves You' at full volume and keep reminding yourself that this song will be 50 years old in 2013.

If the sheer power and innovative energy from that doesn't move you, then you need a pulse check.   ;D 8)
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tkitna

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2011, 01:15:13 AM »

Dont get yourself so involved with what to listen to and what to read at this stage. When talking about which format to get, none of them will be an earth shattering experience over the other. For the first time listener, like yourself, i'd get the 1987 CD copies (is that the right year?) or even just pull the songs up on the computer. Why? Because thats the cheapest way. After listening to the albums (in order please), i'd come back to this very forum and read the 'Beatles under a microscope' threads in the album section and get some different perspectives of their music from us diehard fans. When your taking that in though, make sure you take into mind what other music was being created and played at the same time and compare a little. Come up with your own opinion.

Welcome to the forums.
 

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2011, 04:24:34 AM »

don't waste your money and time on records like the Anthologies that you'll hear only one or two times,

I listen to the Anthologies a lot but those come later. Master the basics first.  ;)
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Kelley

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Gary910

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2011, 03:54:45 PM »

It is interesting everybody's different take on how to become familiar with the music.

Which begs the question, are you interested from a scholarly point, or "I have been missing something, what is it all about" point of view. If the latter is true, than I agree with what everyone has been saying. My response to your inquiry was simply because you stated that you are a recording engineer, so I was suggesting the logical path from what I perceive as your perspective.

If you are a prospective fan, than just buy the music and listen, and enjoy.
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2011, 05:52:34 PM »

I listen to the Anthologies a lot but those come later. Master the basics first.  ;)

I did hear the Anthologies a couple of times but didn't buy them. I prefer to spend time listening to essential material from other great bands than left-overs or alternate versions from the greatest band. I would define me more as a 1960's music fan than a Beatles fan (even though they are my very favourite band).
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 06:04:56 PM by Hombre_de_ningun_lugar »
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Toejam

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Re: I Need To Meet The Beatles
« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2011, 06:40:17 PM »

You don't need any books. Just read the wiki's. Start with the actual Beatles wiki then the albums and just take it from there to the songs,peripheral figures...well maybe that's not the best word important figures after the band...G.Martin,Brian Epstein,the engineers...friends and rivals, the hippy movement, Beatlemania, apple and the break-up.
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