Friday, May 25, 2012


Remember the first time you heard a compact disc? Didn't you think, "Holy Moly, Myrtle. Can you please help me throw all my records away?"

Then, there were the purists. They knew. They weren't buying this 5" piece of aluminum with compressed music and no liner notes. As much as those damn purists can suck the life out of a perfectly fun conversation about music, they had a point.

So here we are 30 years later, and that elusive mono copy of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" that you tossed into a box with your comic books, Bonanza lunch boxes, and Beatles nodders, is now a hot item and the bane of my existence I might add, while your CDs with their remastered sound and bonus tracks, barely sell for a buck or two on the used market.

Vinyl is hot. Mono vinyl is hotter.

Mono sounds some. (Not to Al Kooper. Trust me.) I'll take a mono LP over a stereo pressing anyday. If you have the opportunity, compare the stereo vs. mono pressings of the following:

Jefferson Airplane- Surrealistic Pillow
Aretha Franklin- I Never Loved A Man
Rolling Stones- Now
Beatles- Rubber Soul
The Who- Sell Out
Otis Redding- Dictionary Of Soul

The mono wins every time. But then again, it's all in the ears of the beholder. For me, all the mono Stax/Volt and Atlantic soul records of the 60s pack a bigger wallop. The rhythm section has a snap, a punch that you can feel in your chest.  (It is all about the bass and drums, isn't it?) "Green Onions" by Booker T. & The MGs? Mono, please!

There are subtle differences, like Paul's harmony vocal on the mono version of "I'm So Tired," which is barely audible on the stereo version. Or not so subtle differences, like the stereo version of "Surrealistic Pillow" which sounds like it was recorded in an airport bathroom, as opposed to the warm, reverb-free mix of the mono LP.

For years I had been listening to "World" by the Bee Gees, wondering what happened to the last chorus where all 3 brothers harmonize.  It was the mono single, the one that got played on the radio, and not what made the hundreds of Bee Gees compilation CDs in stereo. It had a longer fade-out. (Even the deluxe CD edition of "Horizontal," which includes the whole album in stereo and mono, does not do the original vinyl justice.) Speaking of longer fades, the mono "Mrs Robinson" has just a tad bit more at the end.

I guess you may have gleaned from what I've written so far, the theme of this Weekend Mix.

Here is your mono playlist.


Like A Rolling Stone- Bob Dylan
I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better- The Byrds
Bus Stop- The Hollies
Somebody To Love- Jefferson Airplane
You Need Loving- Small Faces
I'm So Tired- The Beatles
World- The Bee Gees
Brown Sugar- Rolling Stones
Sunshine Of Your Love- Cream
Green Onions- Booker T. & The MGs
Bold As Love- Jimi Hendrix
Celebration Day- Led Zeppelin
Stand- Sly & The Family Stone
Feelin' Alright- Traffic
I Can See For Miles- The Who
Tapioca Tundra- The Monkees
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey- Paul McCartney
Waterloo Sunset- The Kinks
Time Of The Season- The Zonbies
Mrs. Robinson- Simon & Garfunkel

Hope ya like it!


soundsource said...

Trust Me....really...Trust Me. Wha'happened....
Great Mix Mr. Mono Wood

Anonymous said...

Nice blog post that goes into some details of why mono pressings of 60's rock songs are the way we REALLY remember those songs, and why the stereo versions (including all the reissues) never capture that buzz.


Albert said...

Dude...this playlist is a revelation....and in agreement with your comments totally(don't faint now, cousin!)....went on iTunes ostensibly to buy the Ram mono mix plus select stereo re-do' such luck....bastards....

Rob said...

Sal - thank you once more for providing the soundtrack to what's shaping up to be a sunny weekend. Isn't it the case that the classics sound better in mono because they were originally mixed to sound good coming out of the single speaker transistor radios that we old farts listened to back in the days when we were still young dogs?

iggy said...

Thanks Sal. You're absolutely right. In fact, all the original Motown albums were mono recordings, with the stereo done in a haphazard post-studio way. And it wasn't just the transistors; car radios were single speaker through most of the '50s and into the '60s. This is a very kind post, sure to open many ears. Have a great weekend, my friend.


Anonymous said...


I have the singles for "Magic Bus" and "I Can See For Miles" somewhere, and I know the "Magic Bus" is a different mix and length. Also "I Can See For Miles" should have a really loud bass and I don't think the one in your mix is the one.


Sal Nunziato said...


I too have the "I Can See For Miles" single. And you're right. But this is my point. The version in the mix is fron the mono "Sell Out" CD. Great, but inferior to the vinyl.

Gene Oberto said...

The Mono-lith can not be stopped.

Who in knew that Jimi could sing over the roar of the guitar in the stereo version? That there was piano in the stereo mix of "Feelin' Alright".

The Bryds track has been my favorite of theirs, as a Sears Silvertone player could only reproduce so much.

Back in the day, these bands would play as a group, sort of bunched up together, sharing mics and, in some cases, amps. Mono brought that out, whereas the guitar in one room, the singer in the bathroom and isolating the drums and base took away the togetherness and left us with a cold (called crisp) sound. It's little wonder that bands today are in search of the lost chord...never being able to duplicate their "live" sound.

Anonymous said...


OK got it. Now I got to track down the single! I think I got it digitized somewhere...


jeff k said...

And in mono, you can really smell the Green Onions!

buzzbabyjesus said...

Damn! I had a mono copy of "Face To Face". I'm looking forward to hearing this "Back To Mono" mix.
Like an idiot I got rid of what records I had left in 1991.
A few years ago, an old friend said he was purging his records and did I want them? I said yes of course. He shipped me about 100 lp's. Some of which had originally been mine.
Less than two months later his house burned down with everything in it. Except his records.

Anonymous said...
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A walk in the woods said...

MONO, MONO, MONO! Yeah man!

Looking forward to hearing it. And I think I'm going to pick up that RAM mono vinyl this weekend, I'm not sure I can resist and the economy needs a lift anyway.

buzzbabyjesus - that is a crazy story. You are living a semi-charmed life.

DaveF said...

Wow the mono mother lode! Thank you so much! Are You Experienced? is also a mono thrill to behold. And of course the obvious Sgt Pepper in mono!

wardo said...

Al Kooper never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Or any story, for that matter. And you can tell him I said so. My career wasn't going anywhere anyway.

Dave said...

Yikes. I have every one of these songs in mono. As a kid with an occasional odd job and a substandard allowance, stereo was as much a gimmick to me as quad was later. I was a mono buyer not out of Phil Spector-purism but because I didn't want to spring for an extra buck if it meant I could buy 33% fewer records.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm listening to it in headphones and because it's mono the sound is both tighter and punchier. Duh, both sides are the same. It's kind of like a form of compression.

Jonathan F. King said...

Yer right about Surrealistic Pillow ... the weirdest "stereo" mix ever.

steves said...

Now, this is cool!

I'm not an absolutist, however. I don't know if I believe mono *always* sounds better. The mono Sounds of Silence and the early Dylan albums (at least on vinyl), for instance, never bowled me over. The mono Blonde on Blonde and Revolver never fail to, though. And while Lennon always claimed the mono Sgt. Pepper blew away the stereo version, I'm kind of partial to the latter.

That said...I'm still psyched to listen to this mix! Thanks, Sal.

steves said...

Wow...I just listened to this week's lineup. These mono's kick ass!

Please ignore my previous post.

Anonymous said...

Great Selection of tracks,

Opened my ears to what Mono can be.


Richard from the U.K.