It Was 54 Years Ago Today – “A Hard Day’s Night” (What’s Old is New)

Well, well, another anniversary.

Yes, I know, there’s always another anniversary brewing but I think this one is pretty fun.

Fifty-four years ago today The Beatles’ first film entitled “A Hard Day’s Night” had it’s  premiere in theaters at the London Pavilion in front of thousands of screaming fans outside and none other then members of the royal family attending inside.

To say this film was influential is an understatement. Not only is it the best film made by
The Beatles, it’s also one of the best films made about music PERIOD!

Naysayers at the time were won over by the cheeky, down to earth and lovable “mop-tops” as The Beatles became known and to this day this film is still critically revered and a joy to watch.

And seeing as how this blog is about the joys of physical media, I thought it might be fun to take a look at three ancient (at least it seems that way now) ways of watching “A Hard Day’s Night” from the not so distant past – the first VHS Tape home video issue plus two CD-ROM’s (one Macintosh and one Windows).

The first time I was able to get a really good look at  “A Hard Day’s Night” was its original VHS Tape issue from 1984.

I remember ordering it from one of the local video rental stores and as I vividly recall it sure wasn’t cheap! It was somewhere around $80 or more and remarkably enough I  managed to scrap up enough to buy it and anxiously awaited its release.

Talking the tape out now to take photos I forgot that it was even labeled as first issue right on the silver label of the tape. It was also copied onto Maxell brand tape and looks very well made, much better than other tapes at time as I recall.

Of course the picture isn’t up to the latest issue on DVD or Blu-Ray but this release looks pretty good and sounds great still. It was a revelation to finally be able to pop this film in anytime I wanted to and see it uncut in all it’s glory!

(Note: In those days “A Hard Day’s Night” was rarely shown on television or cable so being able to own it was one of the only ways of getting to see it.)

Of course I have always loved the film but I had originally seen The Beatles second film “Help!” first and it took me a while to really fall head over heels for “A Hard Day’s Night” as “Help!” seemed much more akin to The Monkees TV show of which I was and am a big fan.

Nowadays I’d say I’m much more a fan of “A Hard Day’s Night”  because it really does capture The Beatles and Beatlemania so perfectly and it stands out as the best film work The Beatles ever did.

Cut to 1993 and the Voyager company’s CD-ROM issues of “A Hard Day’s Night” in both Macintosh and Windows format.

It’s been ages since I’ve popped these babies into a computer but as I remember you could watch the entire film as well as view the entire shooting script among other goodies.

Of course you had to have decent memory on your computer as I recall the film getting hung up quite often as I didn’t have a state of the art computer at the time but nevertheless I remember enjoying these CD-ROMs but they were no match for seeing the film as it exists today on Blu-Ray.

I just thought it might be fun to take a gander at photos of these artifacts from the past (above) and take a moment to celebrate one of my all-time favorite films (and groups!) and take a quick journey backward.

Makes me want to take out my “A Hard Day’s Night” Blu-Ray and give it a spin.

Until next time, enjoy the summer sun and be well!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We All Live in … Pepperland – Yellow Submarine picture disc plus two magazines

 

 

 

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, or at least never wants to end.

What better way is there to celebrate a warm summer day, two days after the 4th of July (a big celebration here in America of course) then to wake up to a new Beatles release!

And not just any release but a vinyl 45; a picture disc 45 no less!

Today a special limited edition picture disc 45 is being released of The Beatles classic 1966 single “Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby” from their superb album“Revolver”.

This groovy 45 is being put out to promote the 50th Anniversary release of The Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” which is due to hit theaters in a few days for limited screenings with a buffed up 4K scanned picture with a nice 5.1 surround mix for the soundtrack as well.

I hesitated about buying this release as while it is a nifty looking piece is it really necessary? Of course the collector in me won out – shocker I know – so I thought I’d share some photos of the picture disc (above).

This disc looks very nice and believe it or not (yes, I actually played it!) sounds really nice as well. It features the 2015 stereo remixes of both songs by Giles Martin and was surprisingly quiet and nicely pressed.

I was expecting the disc to sound less impressive then it does but if you decide to take this disc for a spin you won’t be disappointed in the sound as it sounds great and I really enjoy the 2015 remixes here as they aren’t as loud as the remixes Martin did for the 50th Sgt. Pepper release from last year.

There are also two really great import magazines from the UK (the Brits have MUCH better music magazines then we do Stateside!) which both feature The Beatles that have just hit this side of the world.

The first one is a recent issue of Record Collector Magazine (one of my all-time favorite publications) that has a really nice feature on The Beatles “White” album which is due to celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year with a deluxe box set much like last years Sgt. Pepper box set.

The other magazine is a special issue of Mojo Magazine called the Red Issue 1962-1966 which features some terrific articles about the group  in that time frame along with some really terrific photos and artwork.

There is to be a Blue Issue 1967-1970 coming out soon and that issue will fit nicely in the folder that comes with the Red Issue (see above).

Both of these magazines came out last month or so in Britain but are just in stores around the States this past couple of weeks – at least near where I live anyway.

(Note: All three items above can be found at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide while the “Yellow Submarine” picture disc can also be found at record stores worldwide.)

So sit back and take a trip to Pepperland for a few minutes. Though in all honesty it feels bit like we live in Pepperland full time in the States at the moment- Blue Meanies EVERYWHERE!

And be on the lookout for theaters near you that may be showing “Yellow Submarine” beginning on July 8th!

Until next time be well and play some music!!!

 

 

 

 

You Say It’s Your Birthday – “Wings Greatest” McCartney Birthday Salute!

 

You say it’s your birthday indeed!

Today Paul McCartney turns 76 years old (unbelievable!) and with the imminent news/release of McCartney’s latest album hopefully dropping this week I thought it might be fun to look back at one of my all-time favorite solo McCartney albums “Wings Greatest”.

Even though “Wings Greatest” is a compilation album I think it contains some of McCartney’s most choice solo recordings and is one of the first McCartney solo albums I owned.

I had dabbled in a few of McCartney’s solo singles – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, “My Love” and “Listen to What the Man Said” – but up until 1978 when “Wings Greatest” was released the only other McCartney solo albums I owned were “Ram” and “London Town”.

I was strictly hits oriented at the tender age of 12 and I remember receiving the “Wings Greatest” album for Christmas that year and playing it to death. I must have played that vinyl copy a dozen times in the first week I owned it!

So, above are photos of four different CD pressings of the album from my collection – the first Japanese CD issue, the first UK CD issue, the McCartney Collection issue also from the UK and the latest (and greatest I might add) CD issue, the SHM-CD Mini-Lp Japanese issue which just came out last month.

All four of them sound different as they all have different masterings.

The first Japanese CD issue of the album which was released at the end of the 1980s sounds pretty good but has a noticeable treble boost and is a bit hissy sounding. Not great but not bad either. Some of the songs sound superb while others are hit or miss.

While a bit hard to find these days at one time this Japanese issue was my preferred version of this album and was for awhile the coveted issue on compact disc.

The first UK issue of “Wings Greatest” also from the late 1980s actually sounds really nice and is one of the best sounding versions of this album on CD. I’d give the nod to the latest SHM-CD as it has a bit more fluid low end but this CD is no slouch in the sound department.

The McCartney Collection issue from the 1990s is okay but suffers from noise reduction which was prevalent at the time and while it’s not horrible sounding it’s a bit dead or flat sounding compared to the two best CD versions.

The creme of the crop version of “Wings Greatest” on compact disc by far is the superb SHM-CD which just came out this year.

Not only does it sound great – it’s part of the McCartney Archive Collection releases – but the packaging is terrific as well with the lovely reproduced mini-lp sleeve, poster and inner sleeve that mimic the original Japanese vinyl.

So sit back today and if you own a copy of “Wings Greatest” throw it on in celebration of its creator on his 76th birthday.

Happy Birthday Paul and I look forward to your latest album soon!!!

Cheers until next time!

 

 

 

Sound of the Sunset – “The Monkees Present The Mike & Micky Show” at Rose Music Center, Huber Heights, OH 06-15-2018 (A Review)

 

 

 

Sometimes life surprises you in unexpected ways.

Last night I saw “The Monkees Present The Mike (Nesmith) and Micky (Dolenz) Show” in Huber Heights, OH at the Rose Music Center and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages.

Now I must confess I’m a huge Monkees fan (no surprise to readers of this blog!). I’ve seen various lineups of the group over the years stretching from 1986 to 2016 and this show my friends sits comfortably not only in my top three Monkees shows but in my top three live shows ever.

When it was announced earlier in the year that Mike and Micky would be doing a joint tour together I was excited. When they said they were going to perform some never played live Monkees deep cuts I was overjoyed.

I was expecting a good show but was surprised at how awesome the backing band was, one of the best I’ve ever heard at a Monkees show, and how well the music flowed and sounded.

You see this is the fourth time I’ve seen Mike Nesmith perform in a Monkees show and what I really enjoy about his participation is that he seems to steer The Monkees train (as Dolenz often describes the Monkees phenomena) toward more of a celebration of the musical side of The Monkees.

That may seem like a weird statement but when Davy Jones was at the helm (and don’t get me wrong, I loved his shows as well) there was more of an emphasis on the madcap TV Monkees with the music along for the ride.

Nesmith’s presence seems to tame the antics and bring more focus toward The Monkees catalog of great songs and last night’s show was just that; it was all about the music – no videos, no shtick and frankly very little talking or story telling at all from either Dolenz or Nesmith.

For the past ten years or so Monkees live performances have featured large video screens with ample clips from their TV show as well as their movie “HEAD” along with a heavy nod to the TV personas they created all those years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a looseness and humor to the show last night  – Nesmith was his usual dry-humored self – but it was very subtle. The humor sprung from Dolenz’ and Nesmith’s own personas not that of the Micky or Mike characters from The Monkees TV show.

Nesmith in particular riffed humorously in various ways about the heat (it was pretty muggy last night) most notably joking several times that it was nice to be back in Australia.

At one point Nesmith also took out a pair of sunglasses (see above) and proceeded to wear them for a few songs because of the strong sunlight that was hitting the stage which quickly brought to mind the the lyric “sound of the sunset” from “Auntie’s Municipal Court.”

Dolenz, in great voice as usual, was surprisingly quiet with very little to say other than to sing his guts out, which he did admirably.

I must say both Dolenz and Nesmith sounded great but you could certainly see that Nesmith was a bit rusty at times (he sang the lyrics as he read them from his Ipad) and wasn’t the well-oiled stage performer that Dolenz has become over the years.

Nevertheless Nesmith sang more passionately then I’ve ever heard him in the four shows I’ve seen him perform and was dead on for the majority his vocal work throughout the show.

It was nice to see his son Christian, who plays guitar in the band, help his dad adjust his Ipad when it got stuck during one point in the performance and watch him just generally support his father throughout the night by giving cues to the band for the elder Nesmith or smile as his he nailed a particularly good vocal.

It was also fun to see Mike Nesmith make fun of himself and just be so loose and relaxed and come across as genuinely happy to be there and touched by the love and affection from the audience which nearly filled the place which was great to see as well.

The standout performances for me last night included “Good Clean Fun” (a track from the “Present” album from 1969), “Me and Magdalena” (a superb performance!) and “Birth of An Accidental Hipster” both from The Monkees 2016 album “Good Times”, “The Door into Summer”, “St. Matthew” (an obscure but lovely choice), “Take a Giant Step” (in the original 45 arrangement) and “I’ll Spend My Life with You” (from my favorite Monkees album Headquarters”).

But the true highlight of last night, and frankly of all The Monkees shows I’ve ever seen, was the stellar performance of “Auntie’s Municipal Court”, a psychedelic deep cut from The Monkees fifth album “The  Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” that I’ve longed to hear in concert for over thirty years and finally got to hear and boy did it not disappoint!

So there you have it, a great show, a great venue (there was a free barbecue included in the ticket price which was a nice and tasty touch) and great weather despite the sometimes muggy heat.

Above I’ve posted a few photos from last night’s show as well as a groovy signed vinyl copy of Mike Nesmith’s album “Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs The Music” and a button set both from the merchandise table.

I couldn’t resist the signed album as I’d actually use it vs my normal shirt or clothing purchase which would probably just sit in a drawer. I would have bought a program but they had sold out by the time I made my way through the long line for merchandise!

All in all, a great night of music and if this is the last time I see a Monkees performance (hopefully not but you never know) it was truly a spectacular way to celebrate their legacy and end on a major high note.

Anyway, enjoy the photos and until next time be well and hey, hey … it’s summer!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Beatles in Uruguay – “Revolver”, “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” and “Let it Be”

Friday!!! Who doesn’t love Friday? Best day of the week. Major TGIF and since the weather’s great even more so!

In honor of the end of another long work week I thought it might be fun to take a journey overseas, to a more tropical climate. Not to troll a beach or gaze at the surroundings mind you, in this corner of the Web we’re looking at records. (Shocker I know).

Today I’m going to feature three of my favorite foreign Beatles pressings – a mono copy of “Revolver” and stereo copies of “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” and “Let it Be” – all from Uruguay which are fairly obscure at least in the United States.

I acquired these three beauties somewhere in the late 1970s at of all places my local shopping mall!

There was a store there which is now long gone and of course I forget the name but they used to stock quite a few import Beatles lps – UK, Japanese and these three pressings (see above) from Uruguay.

While these Uruguay Beatle records come with flimsy covers consisting of thin paper stock covered in plastic and look cheaply made they sound surprisingly good!

They seem to have been made from UK pressing plates as they have the same matrix numbers as UK pressings and fairly early numbers as well – see below:

“Revolver” – XEX 605-2 and XEX 606-2

“A Collection of Beatles Oldies” – YEX 619 and YEX 620

“Let it Be” – YEX 773-3U and YEX 774-3U

 

Because of using the British parts these really sounded much better than I remember as I hadn’t touched them in over 20 years.

I just played through all three pressings this week and while I would say the vinyl quality is a tad below a standard UK pressing (the Uruguay pressings have an occasional pop and crackle) they really do sound wonderful and are almost as good sounding as first pressing UK copies.

This mono copy of “Revolver” was the first mono copy I had ever heard and as soon as the cowbell popped up loud and clear in “Taxman” as it does in the mono mix I knew this pressing was something different and exciting.

“Got to Get You into My Life” is another song from the mono “Revolver” that really stood out as Paul’s vamping near the fade is just great, one of the reasons I prefer the mono version of this (and truthfully most) Beatles albums as the mix seems to just pop with an energy and vitality that’s missing from some of the stereo mixes.

I don’t have many other Uruguay pressings to compare (I do own an album by the group America but haven’t played it) but if all pressings from Uruguay sound this good it might be worth tracking some down if you can find them.

I would imagine these were’t pressed in great numbers but who knows, they did find their way to a Midwest shopping which seems amazing to me.

Anyway, feast your eyes on these unique pressings and until we meet again on the World Wide Web enjoy the sunshine – if you have it!!!

 

 

 

 

 

That Was Then/Remixes and Rarities – Monkees Arista CDs from Japan

Okay, since I’m still in a Monkees mood I thought I’d once again take a trip back in time and take a look at some Monkees music on compact disc.

Rhino Records/Warner Brothers, who currently own The Monkees back catalog, have done a magnificent job of not only reissuing all of The Monkees albums on vinyl as well as CD but expanding them to include practically every aural morsel of music that resides in the Rhino vaults.

Nowadays fans are used to deluxe CD box sets featuring outtakes, rare mixes, TV mixes as well as nice booklets stuffed with great information/details about Monkees recording sessions (courtesy of Monkees historian Andrew Sandoval) so these older CDs may seem quaint by comparison.

BUT there was a time in the early 1990s right before The Monkees catalog was purchased by Rhino Records in 1994 when it was hit or miss if the entire Monkees catalog would even come out on CD let alone have all these terrific sets with bonus material.

You see, several of The Monkees master tapes have been MIA for decades and even to this day some of the mono and stereo master tapes for certain albums have yet to surface.

That was even more so the case in the late 1980s and early 90s when a large majority of Monkees masters where unable to be located for CD reissues.

This led Arista Records, then owners of The Monkees catalog, to end up releasing several Monkees albums featuring remixes of certain tracks mixed with the then currently available Monkees masters.

(Note: Luckily several of the Monkees multi-tracks (which are used to mix down to a stereo or mono master) survive thus enabling several songs to be remixed)

The first five Monkees albums plus their seventh were in fact released by Arista in Japan (only the first four were issued in the U.S. by Arista) and are a real treat for Monkees fans as the remixes are really fun to hear and have subtle but interesting differences from the original mixes.

Plus the Japanese Arista CDs feature artwork that in several cases is drastically different to their U.S. counterparts which also makes them quite desirable to collectors.

I was fortunate at the time these came out to be able to acquire them through mail order and to this day I love to listen to the mix variations available on these CDs.

The first two Monkees albums “The Monkees” and “More of the Monkees” as well as their fourth album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd.” feature a mixture of mono, stereo and remixed tracks while their third album “Headquarters” was remixed entirely from scratch with all songs getting a new sonic makeover.

The fifth Monkees album “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” and the seventh  “Instant Replay” didn’t feature any remixes on the Arista CDs that I remember but were the first time these albums were released in their entirety on compact disc.

These last two CDs sound very similar to the Rhino CDs that were released later but I have an affinity for these as they have such groovy cover artwork and they were the first CD versions I owned of these albums.

There was also a really nice 3 CD set released on Arista Japan called “By Request” that features a really nice overview of The Monkees career up to the early 1990s and includes several of the remixed tracks from the other Arista CDs.

I also happened to acquire a nifty Japanese Arista CD of “Then and Now – The Best of the Monkees” that features only the tracks that were released on the original vinyl album not the 25 tracks that were later released on the U.S. CD version of this album.

As for the remixes on these CDs, I think they’re all well worth checking out if you’re a Monkees fan.

Some of my favorites include the longer mix of “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day”, the different sounding mix of “Mary, Mary” which features Micky’s growled vocal more clearly, the lovely mix of “She Hangs Out” which features the horns with a nice sustain that lasts longer than any other version of this song and the entire CD of “Headquarters” which is really nice to hear as the whole album has a slightly different feel in the remixed version.

The first four Monkees Arista CDs are probably much cheaper to find if you track down the U.S. versions but they’re missing the really nifty Japanese artwork.

In fact the rear of the “More of the Monkees” CD matches the Japanese Arista vinyl pressing of that album which I got in the late 1970s so that’s a real treat for me.

So as usual, take a gander above at the CDs mentioned in this post. They’re fun to see of you’ve never had a chance to see them in person.

(Okay, okay I have a lot of Japanese CDs but if they didn’t make them so enticing I wouldn’t lol!)

Until next time, be well and only eight days until my Monkees show!!!

(Ps. I will post a review here with photos a day or two after the show next week so stay tuned)

Bye bye bye bye … (“Star Collector” anyone?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at Me – “Monkees Forever” SHM and “Davy Jones” Blu-Spec Japanese CDs

As I gear myself up for seeing The Monkees Present Mike and Micky concert next week, I thought I’d take out some Monkees CDs and give them a spin.

I happened to stumble across a nice little CD called “The Monkees Forever” which has a good selection of hits and also includes 2016’s “She Makes Me Laugh” from the terrific “Good Times” album so out it popped into my CD player.

This CD came out in 2016 for the Monkees 50th anniversary but at the time I really didn’t have much interest in it and I passed it up in favor of all the other groovy new Monkees releases that were being released that year.

Just a couple of months ago I happened upon the Japanese SHM-CD version of this album which includes the song “Star Collector” as a bonus track on sale no less so of course I finally took the bait and added this CD to my collection – and I’m certainly glad I did!

As I’ve posted before, I think the Japanese SHM-CDs (Super High Material) actually do have improved sound (at least on my CD player) and this CD is no exception. I can’t speak to the Rhino US version of this CD as I don’t own it but the SHM-CD of “Forever” sounds really wonderful!

I was expecting to be underwhelmed with the sound for some reason but was pleasantly surprised that this is now one of my favorite sounding Monkees discs. In fact it’s now my go-to disc for a quick Monkees fix and for that it fit the bill tonight just perfectly.

And since I was talking about Japanese Monkees CDs I thought I’d also include a really nice mini-Lp Blu-Spec CD of the “Davy Jones” album that came out in 2013.

This CD has the same track selection as the U.S. Friday Music disc called “Davy Jones: The Bell Recordings” but comes in a wonderful reproduction of the original Japanese Lp sleeve and also includes a small two-sided poster and booklet with the lyrics to the songs printed in Japanese.

Blu-Spec CDs are also supposed to be made with the same materials as a Blu-Ray disc which is said to enhance the sound quality as compared to regular CDs.

In my experience the Blu-Spec CDs don’t have as much of a sound difference as the SHM-CDs but this disc does indeed sound sweet and you just can’t beat the lovely packaging.

I used to play the “Davy Jones” album quite often as a kid so it’s really wonderful to rediscover this album again in the digital age.

Not every track works but songs like “Road to Love”, “Rainy Jane”, “Girl” (from the Brady Bunch episode but presented here in its 45 mix) and especially “Look at Me” are really good songs and Davy Jones was at the height of his vocal powers for these 1971 sessions.

I think there’s enough solid songs on this album to highly recommend it and if you’re a Davy Jones fan then it’s a must buy either in the regular U.S. version or this terrific Japanese mini-lp version.

So in honor of the current Monkees concert tour here’s a look at these two wonderful Japanese CDs with pictures (as usual) for those who’ve never had a chance to see them.

If you’ve never owned these CDs the Japanese versions aren’t hard to find and in my opinion are certainly worth the hunt.

Until next time be well and  … Here they come …