Beatles’ Mono Vinyl Brings Fans Back To The Beginning

Dancing round the bedroom or curled up on the sofa, Baby Boomers can remember the very first time they heard a record blaring from a popping, bypassing turntable.

With its distorted but full-bodied sound, vinyl is the preferred system of many for digesting music and, as a part of a recent resurgence of the format, has led to a different vinyl collection that will leave any fan of The Beatles salivating: The Beatles in Mono, out Tuesday.

Sold as individual records or as a 14-disc box set, The Beatles in Mono features remastered recordings of landmark albums like A Hard Day’s Night and Revolver — re-cut minus using any electronic technologies in Abbey Road Studios in London by engineer Sean Magee and mastering supervisor Steve Berkowitz. The limited-edition collection ($375) comprises the nine U.K. albums, the American-compiled Magical Mystery Tour album and also the triple-disc Mono Masters collection of non-album tracks.

Each Beatles album until 1968 obtained a mono and stereo mix, but mono was the manner by which the recordings were “initially conceived,” says Berkowitz. “For those of us who grew up in the ’60s, we discovered this music in mono first” Unlike stereo records — with vocals and instruments recorded on different tracks in the studio and intended to be played speakers — mono records were recorded and played on transistor radios and turntables, where audio came from 1 area.

Since mono was shuffled out in favor of stereo, The Beatles and producer George Martin began experimenting with levels of recording on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 1967 album was “not necessarily the replication of a live performance on a disc (such as mono), but the creation of the art was also happening in the record,” Berkowitz says.

For the vinyl releases, Berkowitz was paired with Magee, who worked at Mono CD set made from digital remasters and released in 2009. The two listened in the ’60s to the master tapes and pressings of mono records, using the albums and transfer notes of engineers in an effort to recreate that noise.

“It was a joy and an honour to work on those records and too daunting, because it is The Beatles — they are some of the greatest recordings in history and it is not to be dismissed,” Berkowitz says. “I expect we attained the goal of replicating the artists’ intention.”

From the sound of it, they triumphed: In a 50th-anniversary year flooded with Beatlemania, the new box set (which contains a 108-page book of rare photographs and archive files) is the definitive way to hear that the iconic band, states Beatles historian Matt Hurwitz.

“That is the sole (reissue) so far that really puts a fan back into a room with actual records, because they seem how kids would have discovered them,” Hurwitz says. And for those older fans who are to vinyl, “it’s a little due to nostalgia, to find out what is from another age. But particularly with a few of the documents such as these, (they) also get a sense of what it had been like to listen to a record how artists made them back then.”