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King of the mono mixes: A Hard Days Night

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  • King of the mono mixes: A Hard Days Night

    Hey all,

    I have a thing for mono mixes. It's a lot harder to get air and depth into a mono recording and when you hear a good one, it really stands out.

    I was listening to The Beatles "A Hard Days Night", and if there was an award for best mono mix, I might give it to this album. The tracks are lively with great separation and plenty of ambience. That's not easy to achieve without stereo.

    If there was a runner up, I might choose The Animals. It helps that Eric Burdon's voice could cut thought a lead block, but their sixties stuff was well mixed.

    An honorable mention goes to early Ricky Nelson recordings, or perhaps The Kinks. But none of these really touch "A Hard Days Night". That album is head and shoulders above in terms of sonics.

    144 dB
    Just Finished: Two Button Press
    Working on: Condensation, The Jupiter Bluff
    Main Axes: Kawai MP11 and Kurzweil PC361

  • #2
    Sgt Pepper is much more popular in the US in the stereo version, but what many people don't realize is that the stereo mix was largely treated as an afterthought - mono was far more popular than stereo in the UK at the time and the band didn't even bother showing up and giving their input on the stereo mixes. It was always intended to be heard in the mono form... and there are some notable differences between the stereo and mono mixes. If you've never heard Pepper in its mono form, track it down and give it a listen. It can be an eye-opener.
    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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    • #3

      So much of the mono/stereo debate is what you are used to. I've heard for years that the mono Sgt Pepper is the preferred mix, but I just can't get into it. It just sounds so 'closed' and smaller to me. But I had never heard it in mono until the CDs were issued in 2009. The stereo is how I know it.

      But I also just prefer 'wider' mixes and more separation. Give me a 5.1 version pretty much every time if one exists!

      I don't know if the mono was the "intended" choice, but it was certainly the priority for the engineers at the time. Probably due mostly to the demands of the market. IIRC, by the time of the White Album, they were more focused on the stereo mix and by Abbey Road, there was no mono version mixed at all.

      I'm guessing the band and the engineers didn't really care THAT much about which format they were mixing, the engineers were just doing a job and the band was probably just around for the first mixdowns and then had other things to do. Had the stereo been mixed first, they might have bailed for the mono mixes?


      There are some real differences on the Pepper albums, to be sure. "She's Leaving Home" at a completely different speed maybe being the most noticeable one,
      ______________

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      • #4
        Originally posted by 144dB View Post
        Hey all,

        "I have a thing for mono mixes...."
        Me too. I am lucky enough to live in a town that has an FM stereo station w/a mirror AM place on the dial. Few things beat the in your face presence of songs on the AM car radio.

        I agree w/your choices for their era. But I think the better mixes I've heard were all pre-British Invasion.

        Like this Lieber and Stoller-produced gem.

        Last edited by Etienne Rambert; 03-01-2017, 08:17 AM.
        He has escaped! Youtube , ‚ÄčMurika , France

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
          Sgt Pepper is much more popular in the US in the stereo version, but what many people don't realize is that the stereo mix was largely treated as an afterthought - mono was far more popular than stereo in the UK at the time and the band didn't even bother showing up and giving their input on the stereo mixes. It was always intended to be heard in the mono form... and there are some notable differences between the stereo and mono mixes. If you've never heard Pepper in its mono form, track it down and give it a listen. It can be an eye-opener.
          I recall reading something where Geoff Emerick said they would spend several weeks on the mono mixes and only a few days on the stereo.

          I bought the stereo versions of The Beatles albums as they were being released because I thought it was the better choice. When the re-mastered mono versions came out I got them and thought that I had short changed myself in the sixties buying into the stereo hype.

          For me The White Album is an exception. I remember playing the stereo version on my father's German tube stereo hi-fi system for the first time and it was the heaviest thing I had ever heard up until that time - so heavy it was scary at times. Perhaps it was that initial experience but I prefer the whacked out stereo mix of that album to the mono version.

          Some of their early stuff that was only intended to be released mono got separated into two tracks by Capital. It was weird having the vocals on one side and the instruments on the other. That version of Rubber Soul is hard to listen to with headphones but it made it easy to pick out the guitar solo in "Nowhere Man" which had been overdubbed onto the track used for vocals.



          Last edited by onelife; 03-02-2017, 04:51 PM.
          As a human being, you come with the whole range of inner possibilities
          from the deepest hell to the highest states.

          It is up to you which one you choose to explore
          .

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          • #6
            I've read similar comments from Geoff and Sir George about the relative amount of time and effort that was put into the stereo vs. mono mixes.

            Having said that, like guido, I grew up listening to the stereo versions too, and I've always appreciated them a great deal. It wasn't until much later that I really heard and started appreciating the mono mixes.

            The problem for the EMI engineers was that even with the bounces ("reduction mixes") they were dealing with having everything sitting on no more than four tracks on the master multitrack tapes for every release up to and including Sgt. Pepper. The White Album was the first Beatles release that used 8 track recorders, but there are a few things even on Abbey Road that were done on only four tracks... and with only four tracks you're really limited in terms of true stereo recording and even panned mono tracks on a pop / rock record. That's why the stereo versions are so "different" or "strange" by modern standards, with things like drums panned to one side and the lead vocals to the other.
            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

            Comment


            • #7
              "Your Mother Should Know" is unusual, even for The Beatles. The vocals start off on the left side, move to the right then back to the left.

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              As a human being, you come with the whole range of inner possibilities
              from the deepest hell to the highest states.

              It is up to you which one you choose to explore
              .

              Comment


              • #8
                A little off topic but...

                My first four track experience was with a Tascam open reel simul-sync machine. I didn't have a mixer so I used a couple of Y adaptors to facilitate "reduction mixes" and "mixdown" to a Sony open reel stereo deck. Everything came out hard panned to one side or the other but it didn't matter - I was multitracking and The White Album was my benchmark. Unfortunately I don't have those tapes anymore.


                Later, a good friend and mentor of mine had a Tascam 80-8 and, IIRC, a TEAC 5 8-channel mixer. He did shift work and showed me how to "break in" to his house so that, when he was on the midnight shift, I could use studio. The only stipulation was that I had to record original music. I remember his exact words: "I don't want to come home in the morning and find Beatles' song on my machine."

                I would get out there and get all setup with nothing to record so, in an effort to not squander the opportunity, I had to come up with some musical ideas. By the time he got home I was either passed out or had left the building. He would listen to the tapes and pick out the bits that he thought had potential. I would take those ideas and develop them further then take them to my band. Some of them, including one I don't even remember recording, eventually made it to an album.

                I stumbled on this old ad for the 80-8 which reminded me of the story...



                As a human being, you come with the whole range of inner possibilities
                from the deepest hell to the highest states.

                It is up to you which one you choose to explore
                .

                Comment


                • #9
                  I was in those peak impressionable years as the transition was made from mono to stereo. At least at the middle-class listening level, circa 60s.

                  All us music-oriented kids had cheap mono record players. A few parents had those big mid-century modern wooden console stereos that usually only were brought into service for material like The 1812 Overture, The Sound of Music, Sinatra's "That's Life", Lawrence Welk compilations, and Bing Crosby's White Christmas album. Radios in cars were no better than the cheap mono record players, and there was road noise anyway, and cars were noisier. I mean NOISIERRRRRRR.

                  My brother brought home a lot of 45s, some of which he paid for. We had stacks and stacks of all that "Nuggets" stuff on 45 - The Electric Prunes, The Troggs, The Kingsmen, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Sam The Sham, The Standells (that Dirty Water song still sounds soooo good), The Seeds, Count Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Music Explosion, The Amboy Dukes, Booker T, The Beau Brummels, The Lovin Spoonful, etc etc etc.

                  And we had soul and the girl groups 45s, too - the Supremes, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Little Stevie Wonder, Percy Sledge, Aretha, The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas, Ray Charles, Mary Wells, The Drifters, Dionne Warwick, etc etc etc.

                  Hours and hours and hours, listening on almost nothing but cheap, upper-mid-range heavy mono systems with no bass, no upper frequencies, no air.

                  So I never perceived that there was a bass part following the electric guitar on Day Tripper until I got to hear it on a "real stereo" years after it came out. It just couldn't be heard on the 45, on the little mono record player.

                  As much as we loved the soul and the garage-y, rackety, rather elemental stuff, we knew The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Hendrix, Cream, were taking things someplace more sophisticated, more amazing, and more high-fi. Especially The Beatles.

                  There was therefore this hunger for higher fidelity - to really hear bass in particular, but also to hear all the instruments, all the singers, and be able to pick them out, to relish every little nuance, every studio trick and effect.

                  At the same time, the musicians themselves had this hunger for heavier and heavier sounds in rock recording. More bass, more distortion, more sheer overwhelming roar from the lowest hz to the highest Khz. So as soon as we could afford to buy our own playback systems, we bought the best we could afford, and we re-listened to everything to hear what we knew we had been missing. And the big rock groups like Zeppelin and Mountain so many others to follow did not fail to bring the roar at all frequencies. And as we got older, we upgraded and upgraded. More, more, more. For all the boomer's obvious faults, hypocrisy, latent conservatism, self-indulgence and self-importance, etc., we could be really serious when it came to music.

                  So moving from mono to stereo was part of all this. As for the mixers and producers, the first notions of "what to do with stereo now that it can be done" were rather primitive. The idea of "recreating a sound stage" did not occur to pop/rock engineers for a good while. The first idea in broad usage - the vocals on one side, the backing musicians on the other - was just a simple extension of the way engineers thought about priorities in music anyway - the big name vocalist was the main thing by far, and then there were a bunch of nameless backup musicians. On stage you put the singer in the spotlight in front, the backup in shadows behind. So separating them left and right was just doing the same thing in the horizontal plane.

                  But the 60s got so experimental. Hey, we can make things whizz from one side to the other! So Hendrix did that - by today's standards, overdid that. But it was a trip at the time. But aside from the tricksy stuff, the strong hi-fi impulse - the desire to hear everything accurately reproduced, I think led to using the stereo field to make things audible in detail. Not a wall of sound any longer, not a banging mid-range blast from a car radio, but a sophisticated orchestration of a full range of sounds, each one deserving some measure of attention on some enthusiast's big stereo component system.

                  From there, and over time, certain conventions developed - the ones we for the most part follow most of the time even now. It's not all that much like a real sound stage to have the bass, kick, and vocal all centered up, with keys and guitars panned to the sides. But it works quite well, and it's now standard. And it serves the hi-fi impulse, which is great in my book, being a boomer.

                  But still, All Right Now on an old mono car speaker, windows down, sunny day, gets the juices flowing.

                  nat





                  Last edited by nat whilk II; 03-03-2017, 02:37 AM.

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