Records, cassettes, CDs, iTunes

Back in 1995, I wrote as part of my History Of The World:

1964
Beatlemania sweeps the world. Shortly afterwards, electronics companies devise a fifty year plan to get people to buy all their favourite music many times over, by introducing new recorded music technology every decade. This works until the 1990s, when, due to a tactical miscalculation, everyone is perfectly happy with their CDs.

I guess the joke’s on me.

Love the advert, by the way… but I’m resisting. My CDs, some going back to the late-80s, all still work (though I admit getting suckered into upgrading to the remastered Abbey Road a couple of years back).

The Long And Winding Road

Call me slow, but I just figured out why I never used to be that keen on The Long And Winding Road but how recently I’ve come to like it — and even find it quite emotional.

It’s not just because I’m getting old.

It’s because for years all I had was the original version from Let It Be, and now I have the revised Let It Be — Naked version (as well as a similar version from Anthology 3).

What’s the difference? The originally released one, as much as any song on the album, has Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” thing happening, with loads of noise piled on top of the band… choir, harp, brass, orchestra, the full bit.

And it ruins it. Any emotion in Paul McCartney’s vocals is completely lost. It sounds like some dull cabaret jingle or something.

In fact I see now, this text on Wikipedia:

Paul McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the “Wall of Sound” production style of the Phil Spector remixes, especially for his song “The Long and Winding Road”, which he believed was ruined by the process.

Yep.

Some songs need a certain rawness for the emotion to come out properly. The live version of WPA’s For A Short Time is another that springs to mind. Cover it up too much, and the performance loses its impact. (That song tugs at the heart strings for other reasons.)

If you’ve only heard the Spector version of Long And Winding Road, I highly recommend you check out the stripped-down one if you get the chance. (Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be available on iTunes.)

Update: Ah, found it:

Someone else has uploaded the Spector version too.

John Lennon 1940-1980

John Lennon died thirty years ago yesterday. He was as old then as I am now.

It would have been the following day, thirty years ago today, when the news broke in Australia. I remember getting home from school and switching the television onto channel 9, probably to watch Skippy or The Curiosity Show. A news flash came on.

When I spoke to my mum at work a little while later on the phone, I don’t think she believed it.

Who else remembers where they were?

Abbey Road remastered

Abbey RoadMy old school friend Raoul used to say he went into Brashs in Elizabeth Street sometime in the 80s and asked for Abbey Road and was told they didn’t stock reggae. I asked Raoul last week about the new remixed Beatles CDs, and he reckoned don’t bother unless you have a high-end stereo system — which I don’t.

On the other hand, as one of the iPod masses, I listen to a reasonable proportion of my music through earphones, which leaves you hearing more detail.

Anyway… I’m a sucker. When I saw it in JB Hifi for $19.99, I bought the new version of the Abbey Road CD — an album I’ve already owned in two formats (cassette and CD — unlike some other Beatles albums I never bought it on vinyl).

Unlike the old one it comes in one of those awkward cardboard things which makes it so difficult to get the disc out in comparison with the jewel cases that it’s like they’re begging you to put it on your iPod and forget about the CD.

There’s a nice booklet in there.

And the sound? Via headphones at least, it does sound more crisp, really great for a forty-year-old album. You can hear some of the detail of the individual instruments that couldn’t be heard before, such as Ringo’s tambourine on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. And the spread of instruments between left and right seems more pleasing. I like it.

Some noticeable things on specific tracks:

Come Together — doesn’t sound much different to start with, but the heavy guitar is more heavy.

Oh Darling — a lot more detail from the guitar in the right speaker, and you can hear Paul’s worn-out voice much better.

Octopus’s Garden — this is a long way from being my favourite track, but I’m hearing little flourishes I never noticed before.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) — the repeating bit at the end seems way “heavier” — dense with sound.

Here Comes The Sun — some interesting synthesiser notes and other sounds that have probably always been there, but are now nicely separated out and distinguishable.

Golden Slumbers — you can hear a lot more feeling in Paul’s voice, particularly in the lines “Golden slumbers fill your eyes / smiles await you when you rise”

The End — lots more detail here, love it. The sudden noise-to-silence cut-off at the end flies from right to left. (OK I checked the old version and it does that too.)

Admittedly some of the difference here will be from intently listening to new version, on the lookout for differences. As well as doing the MP3s from the CD at the highest bitrate possible to make the most of the remastering, rather than the 192 Kbps I usually use.

Will I buy more of them? Probably not — Raoul was right. Mind you, it was enjoyable listening out for all the “new” things I could hear, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if Sgt Pepper or the White Album shows up under the Christmas tree this year.