The Beatles Blue Box Collection – A Homemade CD Box Set (Or the Winner of the You May Have Too Much Time on Your Hands Award)

Sometimes you just have to take fate into your own hands – or at least collecting.

Years ago, actually about 15 years ago to be exact, I thought it might be fun to make some CD-Rs (recordable CDs) of my favorite Beatles UK vinyl pressings.

I had acquired quite a few original as well as reissue Beatles vinyl and I figured if I made some nice CD-Rs I could lessen the wear on my vinyl as well as be able to listen to said vinyl pretty much anywhere.

Fifteen years ago there was really wasn’t that many great options for Beatles album on CD. This was before the 2009 CD remasters and just before the era of the elaborate Beatles remix box sets and the resurgence of vinyl. At the time, while I thought the existing Beatles CDs were okay, I could never find digital sources as decent sounding as my Beatles vinyl sources.

The best sources I found were not surprisingly the original UK album pressings as well as a 1986 pressing of the famed Blue Box Collection set which I happened to find for a cheap price on eBay.

(Note: The Beatles Blue Box Collection was a collection of the Beatles British stereo UK albums. These Blue Box sets were released from 1978 to approximately 1986 and contained whatever current UK pressings of Beatles UK vinyl EMI was producing at the time. Most Beatles fans find that these Blue Box sets contain the most affordable as well as some of the best sounding sources for Beatles recorded output.

Btw there were also box sets made of their mono albums as well but those sets were much more limited and this post deals with the stereo version)

So since I had no digital sources that wowed me I set off on making homemade CD-Rs that would fill the gap until by some miracle The Beatles catalog was treated to an upgrade.

I was going to start from the beginning with the gold label mono pressing of the “Please Please Me” album but I thought it might be better to start with stereo pressings since at that time the early Beatles was MIA on CD in stereo.

Also at that time I didn’t own an original stereo “Please Please Me” or the superior wide German stereo pressing so I thought I’d begin by recording my 1986 Blue Box collection to CD-R first.

(Note 2: since I made this CD-R set I have acquired all the best UK stereo pressing so my next project may be a transfer of all those copies to CD-R or at least digital on my computer)

Now by 1986 the Blue Box albums were still analog but by this time all the Beatles UK pressings did not  use any of the original tube mastered pressings from the 1960s. All the pressings in my 1986 box were mastered using solid state which gave the albums much more detail but not nearly the warm glow of the original tube mastered vinyl.

The later 1986 pressings do sound great but different from the original UK pressings. I’d say the original tube pressings have a denser sound with more mid-range punch to the vocals. Some people say the tube cuts are muddier but I still love to hear that original sound.

As far as the 1986 pressings I’d say that with the clearer and still analog sound of these LPs you may actually have the best sounding Beatles on vinyl.

So off I went to record. I manged to ten of the albums from my Blue Box set (see photo above for which ones) plus I added my German stereo pressing of “Magical Mystery Tour” (the best stereo pressing there is IMHO) as well as an original UK 1966 stereo pressing of “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” just to make sure I had all the hits.

For some strange reason I didn’t record “The White Album” – not sure why – but overall I love how this homemade CD collection sounds and to this day I still play the CDs from this set often. Though truth be told I play them more from digital copies on an Ipod than the discs but I still enjoy these transfers.

A few years later I added a CD in which I dubbed my first pressing of the UK red label “Love Me Do” single with a second black label UK pressing of the “Please Please Me” single as these two singles are much dryer sounding than their LP counterparts and have never been issued digitally in any form in their original 45 state.

I remember stumbling on the CD insert artwork online at the time for each album so it was easy enough to download and print out great looking artwork.

As you can tell by the photos above and below I also went the extra mile by making lovely looking CD inserts as well as LightScribe CD labels with the accurate original UK labels. Some say that a tad bit anal but I love how this set  looks and the attention to detail makes it feel like a genuine Apple/EMI set.

I never did record my original Beatles UK vinyl pressings to CD-R – yet. I may indeed do that someday soon while I can still find blank CD-Rs and as long as my stand alone Pioneer CD recorder still works.

Unfortunately my LightScribe computer bit the dust years ago so any future CD-Rs will just be to be able to have digital files of all my best Beatles vinyl pressings.

Anyway I thought it might be fun to share this lovely homemade set that I made all those years ago and still enjoy to this day.

I do like the 2009 remasters and the current box sets but for the sound that I grew up with listening to vinyl it’s nice to be able to hear digital sources for some of the best sounding Beatles vinyl out there.

That’s all for now.

I hope you are safe and well.

I’ll be back soon and until then ciao and see you soon!

The Monkees “Headquarters” at 55 – Over Fifty Years of Sunny Girlfriends, A Man Named Webster and A Randy Scouse Git

Color me old.

I know I’ve said in the past that I was going to try and stay away from excessive anniversary posts … “and here I go again” (just a nod and a wink to today’s post – Monkees fans will get it).

Yesterday, May 22, was the 55th anniversary of The Monkees seminal album “Headquarters”.

It just seemed to me that the double nickel anniversary of one of my all-time favorite records couldn’t go past without some kind of special mention from me. Okay seeing as today is May 23rd I may have missed the exact anniversary by a day but nonetheless here we are.

As I’ve said many time before on this blog the “Headquarters” album may be my favorite album by The Monkees. This 1967 album was the first time that the make-believe television creation actually morphed into a real pop/rock group.

The “Headquarters” album was the first time that the four group members/actors who comprised the TV show cast of “The Monkees” were allowed to play all of the instruments (errr, well mostly all) on a full Monkees album.

The previous two Monkees albums (“The Monkees” and “More of the Monkees”) featured scant instrumental work featuring one or two group members and mainly used session players with vocals provided by the four Monkees.

This method of working did produce some exceptional pop records and while the results speak for themselves (the first two Monkees albums sold over 5 million copies each!) there was some kind of magic that happened when the group took over the reigns and actually became The Monkees for real.

Now of course there’s no way you can compare the playing of the four Monkees to the exceptional chops of the session players who played on the first two Monkees albums. By comparison the actual four Monkees sounded more like a very good garage band with a lot of spirit.

But here’s the magical thing. This “garage band” and amateur sounding Monkees not only hold up damn well to the studio pros but the excitement and energy the group generated made the “Headquarters” album just as fun, more fun in fact, to listen to as the first two albums.

It also didn’t hurt that group members Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz provided quite a few self-composed songs on the album that were first-rate pop songs which were as good as many of the songs on their first records – the giant hits withstanding.

There’s just an energy and a feeling of freedom as well as an adventurous to the songs and performances on the “Headquarters” album that really makes it come alive in a way the first two records didn’t in comparison. Plus there’s something about the rough garage band quality of the “Headquarters” Monkees that matches the on-screen Monkees perfectly.

Of course the on-screen Monkees were a band struggling to be The Beatles who quite never seemed to make it in the music industry. A band like that would probably sound less polished and less slick than The Monkees of their first two mega-selling albums.

All one has to do is watch of the rerun version of an early Monkees episode entitled “Royal Flush”. In the 1967 summer rerun version of this episode the 1966 song “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day” is replaced with the song “You Told Me” from the then current “Headquarters” album.

While I love the song “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day” there’s an energy and excitement that the song “You Told Me” injects into the romp from this episode that makes that rerun version my preferred way of seeing the “Royal Flush” episode.

To me The Monkees of “Headquarters” are much better suited to the on-screen Monkees and as far as the show is concerned make a much better match for the fictional garage band then the super slick studio Monkees.

Of course both versions of The Monkees are great but there’s an extra magic present in theĀ  “Headquarters” Monkees and really this version of the group fits the TV show much better and would have made a better choice for the TV show if the goal was about striving for the better show vs striving for the hit record.

Enough said. There’s my two cents about the “Headquarters” album.

Today in honor of the albums 55th anniversary I thought I’d share a few of the different versions of the “Headquarters” album that I own on vinyl as well as CD.

(Note: this isn’t even all the versions I own of the “Headquarters” album – seriously, I know – but these are some of the favorite ones from my collection)

So today we have the following versions – see photos above and below:

  • An RCA original stereo German vinyl pressing
  • A stereo “Beards” RE second vinyl pressing that came out I’m guessing in late 1968 (still in the shrink wrap no less)
  • A Japanese Arista CD issue from around 1992 with a groovy uniquely-colored back cover (this Arista version features the album completely remixed from the multi-tracks like the 1987 US CD version)
  • The original Rhino 1994 CD release with bonus tracks plus hype sticker and card
  • A Rhino CD release from around 2011 with no bonus tracks but with the small hype sticker
  • A Friday Music 2 CD Deluxe Edition which is Friday Music’s reissue of the Rhino 2 CD Deluxe Edition which contains a ton of outtakes and rarities from the “Headquarters” sessions

Plus as an extra bonus I threw in a photo of my lithograph of the “Headquarters” album signed by all four Monkees that was offered via mail order for a brief time by Rhino Records in 1996.

Well there you have it. Just my little tribute to The Monkees “Headquarters” album on its 55th anniversary.

That’s all for now.

Until next time be safe and well and see you soon and listen to some Monkees!