Monday, November 15, 2010
Layla & Other Assorted Mono Mysteries
So completely enthralled for the last year by the stunning sound and revelations to be found on The Beatles' Mono boxed set, I've become a bit obsessed with the word "mono." That's all I want to hear- mono recordings of my favorite music, because, if it was recorded in mono, isn't that the way it was meant to be heard? Just ask Phil Spector. (You can bake a note inside a cake.)
It's not just the purity of it all. It's also the fun of hearing the mix, which more times than not, offers something different than what is to be found on a stereo version. (And vice versa, of course, but in this digital age, most of us have forgotten the mono hits we used to hear on the radio.) Punchier drums, acoustic guitar where you never thought there was before, a vocal inflection that may have been buried, these are just some of the many nuances that may surprise you when A/B-ing your favorite song.
One example that made me go "Oooh," was "I'm So Tired" from "The White Album." The stereo version has Lennon's voice on top of Paul's on the chorus. The mono has Paul's voice on top of Lennon's. Maybe I'm a bit cuckoo, but when you've heard something the same way for so long, that little shocker is one of the many joys of being both a Beatles' fanatic and a lover of music in general.
I think the last remaining record labels have caught on as well, with Sundazed Music, often releasing vinyl-only editions which feature the "long lost original mono mixes" of everyone from Bob Dylan and The Byrds to the Vanilla Fudge and most recently, The Hollies & The Mamas & The Papas. (All of which are fantastic.) Sony got on the bandwagon too, with the just released Bob Dylan Mono Recordings. I must say, I am all for it.
So, when I have a minute, (and when don't I), I search for "mono lps" on eBay, as well as trolling the net looking at many other blogs, hoping someone will have posted some rare mono edition of a classic.
A recent find on eBay was the debut from the Grateful Dead, a record that in its first mono state, just sold for $115.00. I snagged a copy about a month ago for $30. The cover has a few seam splits, and the vinyl looks worse than it plays, but for $30, I was thrilled. The difference between stereo and mono on this release is jaw-dropping. It sounds as if the band recorded it twice, in two different sessions, with different musicians and instruments.
I also found a mono mix of Derek & the Dominoes' "Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs" on a bizarre little website, but I'm not sure of its authenticity. Just when did record labels stop releasing both mono and stereo editions? I would think 1968 or 1969, and "Layla" came out in 1970. This claims to be a "needle drop upload" from a "white label/mono DJ" LP, and unfortunately I have nothing but a sound file to go on. I came up empty when trying to find any more information.
Listen to "Little Wing" in both stereo and mono and tell me what you think. I admit, I would have preferred to illustrate this phenomenon with tracks from the first Dead LP, but I just don't have the ability to upload vinyl. Plus, I was really hoping someone could should shed some light on this supposed mono copy of "Layla."
LITTLE WING (stereo)
LITTLE WING (mono)
And please don't tell anyone, but here are both the stereo and mono versions of "I'm So Tired," just for fun.