As predicted by just about everybody, The Beatles have finally come to Apple's iTunes Music Store. Yes, at long last, one of the greatest bands of all time (if not the greatest) has their music for sale by the world's largest music retailer.
As a huge Beatles fan, this is the moment I've been waiting for. When I first "discovered" The Beatles (thanks to my Beatle-loving uncle), I ended up buying all their albums... but on compact cassette tape. Any audiophile reading this blog just started laughing their ass off, but I'm from the cassette generation, and that's just how we bought music back in the day. Not to mention the fact that a Walkman was far easier to carry around than a phonograph and a stack of records...
I had super-awesome yellow Walkman Sports cassette player like this. (Photo by Stephen McFall).
Laugh all you want but, in my defense, at least it wasn't 8-track.
Since you can't rip a tape into an MP3 file without some trickery, I borrowed CDs of all The Beatles albums that I owned on cassette and ripped them to iTunes that way. Technically, I did already own the music, so I didn't consider it to be stealing (so go fuck yourself, RIAA). The problem is that I eventually threw out the cassettes (no way to play them!), and I always felt funny that I couldn't point to the music on my shelf and say "yes, I own them."
Hence, the reason I've been waiting for The Beatles to be sold on iTunes... I want to be "legal" in the eyes of the law. And here was my chance, because I had a $75 cash rebate card burning a hole in my pocket!
But let's back up for a minute...
Last year, every Beatles fan's dream came true when beautiful remastered boxed sets were released of the entire Beatles catalog. Of particular interest to me was the limited edition Mono Box Set. In my humble opinion, mono is the only way to listen to most the first ten Beatles albums* because they were designed to be listened to that way by The Fab Four Themselves. The stereo versions were nothing more than a cobbled-together afterthought that usually sounded hollow and freakishly incoherent in my headphones. Some of the albums are so badly separated into stereo (even on the remasters) that they don't even seem like the same songs. My guess is that stereo was kind of a novelty back in the beginning, so they separated the recording as harshly as possible into distinct left and right channels with no middle in an attempt to make you really notice the technology. Well, you do... and it's overbearing in places... so I don't like it and would rather listen to those gorgeously crisp and brilliant mono tracks the way that God (and The Beatles) intended.
The Limited Edition Mono Box Set looked fantastic, but it was selling for $250 (at discount!) and I couldn't afford it, as much as I was dying to own it...
At the time of release, I said "Hopefully when the songs make it to iTunes, you'll be able to buy the mono versions there."
Which brings us to today...
Much to my profound disappointment, all the tracks in the iTunes Store are from the stereo remasters, which are exactly the versions I don't want. This shocked the hell out of me, because it was my understanding that Steve Jobs Himself is a massively huge Beatles fan, and I assumed he would be a stickler for at least offering the true fan's preferred mono versions of the songs. But, alas, they are nowhere to be found.
Assuming that the Limited Edition Mono Box Set would have long-since sold out and only be available on eBay for thousands of dollars, I went to Amazon and nearly wet myself. Not only was the Mono Set still available, the price had actually dropped to $129.99! This was mind-boggling. That's almost 60% less than the original retail price of $300!
Without hesitation, I bought the set.
On the down-side, I won't be getting all the cool iTunes LP extras that you get when you buy from Apple... and I have to spend hours ripping the CDs... and I still have to buy the three remaining stereo albums not in the set (which I will be getting from iTunes)... but, on the up-side, I'm getting the actual music I've been dying for. At last. No thanks to Apple.
And, where The Beatles are concerned, it's their music that's important.
* The possible exception being "The White Album" which sounds amazing in stereo.
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I totally had that exact yellow walkman as a kid!
And my first car had an 8-track: a 1980 Buick.
I managed to bypass 8-Track, and I’m not sure how! Everybody I knew had one.
I had that Walkman too… loved it.
You know, I have never given any thought to the mono/stereo thing. I could swear the “Meet The Beatles” album my uncle had said “stereo.” Maybe by that time they had already been remastered?
Now I’m curious.
Oh, sorry, I probably didn’t phrase that right. There WERE stereo versions originally (though sometimes they were offered at a later date). But, apparently, The Beatles had very little to do with them. The Fab Four concentrated mostly on the mono version, then the studio slapped together the stereo mix using original recordings (though sometimes the material used was different takes than what was used on the mono release). It’s kind of a confusing issue, I guess. And, while I’m sure everybody has their own opinion, to me MOST of the mono issues are the superior way to listen to the music.
Love the Beatles, but wasn’t aware of the mono vs. stereo issue. I’m surprised iTunes doesn’t offer both versions, so they can make twice as much money off the fans that really must have it all.
I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re absolutely right… mega-fans would indeed buy both. Just as I’m sure they bought both the stereo and mono boxed sets. It makes sense, really. Most of the songs sound different… some REALLY different… and since there’s no more Beatles material being made anymore, that’s about all you can get that’s “new.”
I’m not laughing, Dave. My walkman is sitting on my shelf just peeking out from behind my cd player. Course I am wondering *why* I still have it though. I need digital copies of my remaining cassettes or to just give ’em up. Don’t really listen to them.
Then again, my radio shows are on cassette. Guess the walkman stays.
I kept both my Walkmans for a long, long time (I also had the compact, slide-open model which was barely bigger than the tape itself). But eventually there was no point in it, because most everything I owned had been re-purchased on DVD, and I never used them. Kind of sad I don’t have them anymore (they were miraculous engineering jobs!), but I’ve got more than enough clutter already. 🙂
I had that same yellow Walkman. Loved it. Wish I would have kept some of my older gadgets.
As for the Beatles finally being on iTunes, I’m glad, too. I read about the mono set when it first came out and really liked what they did with it. For $300, it wasn’t a pull the trigger, but at $130, it’s much easier.
I had most Beatles albums on LP and cassette. I have a few on CD and need to get them. Searching on Amazon, the CDs are a good $5 cheaper than the iTunes store. But that didn’t stop me from at least downloading a song yesterday to celebrate the digital release on iTunes (Happiness Is a Warm Gun)
I am still dumbstruck that the set is not only available… but WAAAAYYY cheaper than the original retail. I remember at the time speculators were buying up the sets so they could resell them at hideously inflated prices. Nothing makes me happier than having these fuckers get majorly burned. Instead of making a 200% profit, they’ve taken a 200% loss. Karma, bitches!
Yeah, but when are The Smiths gonna make it onto iTunes?
I dunno. Fortunately I own all their stuff on CD or LP Maxi-Single, all of which I have converted to iTunes long ago. Still… it would be nice to share a link with people when talking about a track, so it’s disappointing they’re not there.