When Is a TV Not a TV? – When it’s a Monkees VHS TV Box!

*** The Monkees Complete Series VHS Box By Rhino Records***

“Hey, Hey We’re the … TV Box”.

The TV Box?

Yes, that’s right. A few years ago, oh say about thirty years give or take, a monumental Monkees box set was issued that featured all 58 episodes of The Monkees TV series released for the first time on the home video market.

VHS you say? Yep, 21 VHS tapes in fact.

This groovy box sets 21 VHS tapes contained not only the complete Monkees series but also the first time release of the unaired pilot episode of the series featuring songs with vocals performed by Boyce and Hart instead of The Monkees themselves plus the release of The Monkees bizarre yet entertaining 1969 TV special “33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee”.

This deluxe set also came with a lovely Monkees watch with a bright red watch band as well as a terrific booklet that gave detailed descriptions of each and every episode including listings of all the songs that were originally broadcast with each episode and a lot of really cool photos to boot.

(Note: Even though I rarely if ever look at the VHS tapes nowadays I do love this booklet and still use it as a reference guide when I watch the much superior blu-ray set)

Well let me say that I was drooling at the thought of owning all The Monkees TV episodes in good quality. I didn’t have much access to “The Monkees” series other than the reruns on MTV in 1986/87 and those were in hit or miss quality. And of course those rerun versions featured on MTV were a hodgepodge of original soundtracks mixed with songs from later airings on CBS and ABC from the Saturday morning reruns of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

I had rarely seen the original opening credits for the first season of The Monkees TV show so it was pure delight for me to see a decent copy of that plus the episodes with the original songs all for the princely sum of $399. Yes, you heard right, this limited edition set sold for $399 and even at that price it sold out fairly easily.

I have to admit looking back that I can hardly believe I paid the then (and now) steep asking price for this monster box set. Really I must have been a bit Monkees obsessed to plunk down that kind of change.

(Note 2: that last sentence was totally tongue and cheek as I still am a tad bit Monkees obsessed which you may well know if you’ve ever read this blog before)

At the time of course this set was the only game in town if one wanted to own the complete Monkees series on home video. So at that time I was VERY happy with this set and watched it a lot and enjoyed rediscovering the TV side of The Monkees project which for me had mainly been seen through the lenses of their recordings. Truth be told that’s still the main way I reach for any Monkees fix I need – music first, series second.

Having said that since the fantastic blu-ray set was released a few years ago I can honestly say I enjoy the series much more than I ever have. Yes it’s quirky and weird but even the episodes I enjoy the least are easier to get into with the stunning HD remastered look of the blu-ray set.

(Note 3: Not to mention all the great extras on the blu-ray set. If you’re curious I did an overview of the blu-ray box set and you can look for it with the search button at my home page.)

The blu-ray set was the first time that the complete Monkees series was overhauled from the absolute original negatives and scanned in exquisite quality. (The same VHS box set transfers were also used when the Monkees series came out on DVD which was issued a few years after the VHS set thus it was only marginally better quality than the VHS set).

It’s hard to imagine the appeal of the VHS set now that the new and sparkling HD transfers of The Monkees series exist but it’s still a fun time capsule to look back on and this monster VHS package sure does look purdy. As usual take a gander above and below and if you’ve never seen this set it’s still pretty cool and boy is it hefty – it weighs a ton.

Oh, one last thing. Having looked at some of the VHS tapes on my 48 inch 4K TV I must say the VHS tapes don’t look half bad actually (see screen photos below). Now of course they can’t compete with the newer HD transfers but they are very watchable and not that different from the DVDs except they have less detail overall obviously.

That’s all for now. Just another Monkees blast from the past for a cool spring evening.

Take care and be healthy and more coming soon …

“Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Hype Stickers Ltd.” – The Monkees Fourth Album on Vinyl and CD – With Hype Stickers

Anyone who may have read this blog before knows that it’s obvious I love my hype stickers!

Hype stickers, for those who aren’t familiar, are the little (or sometimes big) stickers on the shrink wrap of vinyl albums or CDs that pretty much hype the new release with various superlatives trying to entice a buyer into purchasing that particular recording.

For me a hype sticker makes the album or CD seem closer to the time it was sitting brand new on a retail shelf. It’s makes it the nearest to traveling back in time to the albums release day. You don’t run into them too often so finding one is a thrill. Most of these elusive stickers were torn off, discarded and forgotten so it’s always a pleasure for me to find new ones as they can be quite rare.

About a month ago I happened to find a really cool hype sticker on an original Colgems mono copy of The Monkees fourth album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.”. The fact that I have never seen any sort of hype sticker on an original Colgems Monkees album makes this discovery even more special.

Now granted, this hype sticker more then likely wasn’t put on the album at the factory by Colgems Records so it must have been used by a small local retailer. I found the album in Michigan so I have no idea if any retailers there used this but whomever put it on it’s a very cool thing to see.

I have also seen two different local retailer type hype stickers online for Colgems stereo pressings of “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” so I’m guessing retailers around the country wanted to make sure buyers knew the albums was by The Monkees. Unless you were quite familiar with the outline of the group members, which I’m sure most young fans were, you may have passed over this album if you walked by it not knowing it was a new Monkees album.

Sure any true fan can see the top of The Monkees guitar logo peeking out of the flowers on the front cover but I’m sure most places that sold records didn’t want to take any chances.

By the time this album was released The Monkees were huge sellers so that meant many small stores selling records wanted their share of those sales. And his album did indeed hit the top of Billboard’s Hot 200 selling over two million copies in the process so I’m sure a hype sticker was a welcome thing.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this groovy hype sticker here as there might be several weirdo fans like me out there who really enjoy this kind of thing. I was also inspired to dig out my other copies of “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” on both vinyl and CD and post photos of their hype stickers as well.

By the time the later vinyl copies and CDs reissues of this album were released the hype sticker had become the norm and almost every reissue of this album post the Colgems release has one. Looking at some of my other vinyl pressings of this album that I haven’t played in ages really takes me back. I especially love the flyer in the Rhino mid-’80s vinyl reissue of the “Pisces” album that advertises Monkees episodes on VHS! I haven’t seen that in years – too fun.

And of course the 1981 Japanese vinyl with the lovely OBI strip is fun to see again as well. If I remember correctly this Japanese pressing sounds only so-so but the Rhino reissue sounds great even though it’s a bit odd in that it contains a mixture of mono and stereo mixes as Rhino couldn’t find the original stereo master at the time. I remember really loving the mono version of “Hard to Believe” with Davy Jones single-tracked vocal at the closing of the song which gives it a very different feel.

So below are all my vinyl and CD issues of the “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” album that feature some sort of hype sticker. Take a gander at the photos below and you’ll see quite a nice range of Monkees hype on display.

Btw, all this talk of “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” has really primed me up for a Deluxe box set treatment of this album along the lines of last years spectacular “Headquarters” set that has recently sold out on Monkees.com.

Well that’s all for now. Just thought I’d take a quick trip back to November of 1967 with what I consider to be the high water mark of The Monkees career with the release of this timeless and classic album.

As usual be healthy and well and see you soon.

Recent Beatles Vinyl Finds From Around the World

***Beatles Albums from the Philippines, Spain and the UK***

Maybe I’m amazed at the vinyl you can find in the Midwest … sorry couldn’t resist!

This past weekend I happened upon a dealer in an antique mall and a record store that had some pretty nice and fairly rare Beatles vinyl at reasonable prices. That last statement is uncommon these days as most booths in antique malls see the name Beatles and charge you $50 and up for a totally beat up copy of … fill in the blank.

Luck with good vinyl buys goes in spurts but today I’m pleased to say that my Beatles luck has been in “Top Gear” recently (sorry again, really this is the last time). I’ve managed to find one really lovely UK black and yellow pressing from the late 1960s (A stereo “Beatles for Sale”) and two great compilation albums from the 1970s – one from the Philippines (the 1976 “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” 2 LP set) of all places and one from Spain (“The Beatles 1967-1970” 2 LP set).

Not only where each of these albums bought for a decent price they are all three in really good shape for the most part and play excellently!

Let’s take a look at each album:

“Beatles for Sale”

This is a really nice one. I found this lovely pressing in a small record store that had most of their vinyl at very reasonable prices. This particular copy of “Beatles for Sale” was pressed in 1968, I believe, as it has a strange crossed out and corrected 2 in the matrix of Side 1 – YEX 142-1. The original apparently did not have this correction.

I have an early ’70s copy of this album with the “-1” stampers on the silver and black Parlophone label but have not had a black and yellow stereo pressing until now. I must say the “-1” pressings of this album are superb sounding! There is a magic in the mid-range in this pressing and it’s my favorite stereo pressing of this album by far. I love the thick yet punchy sound from the tube equipment it was originally mastered with – easily my favorite ’60s Beatles stereo mix.

Both the cover and the record are in really nice shape and I was surprised to find a black and yellow Parlophone pressing in a record store in the Midwest – a real rarity for me.

I have to say that the original black and yellow Parlophone Beatles albums in good shape are the best way to hear these albums. Even though I love the CD versions of Beatles albums there’s just a magic to the sound of these original pressings that can’t be replicated with the mastering on modern equipment.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” 

Now this record I was truly surprised to see sitting in front of me. I had gone through a large stack of average looking Beatles records at an antique mall when this beauty popped up. I had to check it a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

I have never seen a copy of any Beatles record made in the Philippines so even though the cover wasn’t in the best condition I was thrilled to discover it. At least the vinyl was in near excellent condition and looks largely unplayed. So of course it was a no-brainer for me to snatch this puppy up and add it to my collection.

It appears that this pressing was made from British parts as the sound matches the regular mixes found on the UK copies of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” and not the George Martin equalized versions that were found on US copies.

A rare find for me and one of my favorite discoveries this year so far.

“The Beatles 1967-1970”

Shortly after finding the Philippines copy of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” I happened upon another small antique mall (I went to a small town that had several unique malls within a five mile radius) and was shocked to find a beautiful copy of the 1973 double album “The Beatles 1967-1970” pressed in Spain.

Because the album was in such good shape I snapped it up before closely looking at it. After I got home I was pleasantly surprised to find that this particular pressing had an alternate track list from the rest of the world. There on Side Three, as I was cleaning the vinyl, the song title “One After 909” jumped out at me and I was flabbergasted – in a good way of course.

I know next to nothing about Beatles records pressed in Spain but apparently the song “The Ballad of John & Yoko” was dropped from this album because of the lyrics “you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain” as there was a diplomatic conflict between the UK and Spain about Gibraltar. I had no idea. I was so happy to see that they substituted the song “One After 909” as it’s one of my favorite songs from the “Let it Be” album and it works really well on this collection.

Had I known that this was the case I would have for sure scooped this pressing up quicker but as it is I’m just happy to have it and it sounds great and is a really fun listen. It’s very close to sound of the original UK copy. I’m not sure if it’s a first pressing or not but I don’t care as I love foreign pressings like this that differ from the norm.

Anyway, that’s my latest update. Feast your eyes, above and below, on my three recent foreign acquisitions.

That’s all for now.

See you soon and I hope you are well and healthy.

Tasting Much Sweeter Than Wine – The Beatles “Please Please Me” Album at 60!

It was sixty years ago today … well, almost.

Tomorrow on March 22 it will be sixty years since The Beatles released their first album in the UK. Sixty years, wrap your mind around that for a moment. I’ve done a lot of fifty year anniversary posts in the last few years but now that we’re up to the sixty year range it’s truly a bit surreal.

When The Beatles “Please Please Me” Lp was released in Britain on March 22, 1963, they already had one Top Twenty hit (“Love Me Do”) released in October 1962 and a second hit (“Please Please Me”) that reached No. 1 (or No. 2) in early 1963 depending on which UK sales chart you followed.

Since The Beatles popularity was rapidly growing making a full-length Lp seemed like the next logical step for their career. I’m sure their record company EMI and producer George Martin felt the same way so the time was right to try a full album.

After spending the day in the studio on February 11, 1963, The Beatles recorded ten more songs to add to the four songs from their first two singles and presto the “Please Please Me” album was born. While it may have only taken a day to record most of the album, the album certainly has stood the test of time.

In 1963 albums weren’t big sellers for the teen market in the UK as they were much more expensive than the average teen could afford in that era. Even EMI I’m sure had not anticipated The Beatles first album not only hitting the top spot on the UK sales charts but spending a whopping thirty weeks at the top which was something unheard of for a new pop group especially one from Liverpool of all places.

(Note: The north of England was looked down upon at that time and no pop groups from port cities like Liverpool had ever become top sellers let alone a world wide phenomena. The Beatles in may ways broke the mold of what a pop group could do and achieve).

So here we are sixty years later and to celebrate I thought I’d share my all-time favorite mono and stereo vinyl as well as CD versions of the “Please Please Me” album that I have in my collection.

First up, the vinyl:

Please Please Me – UK gold label mono first vinyl pressing

What can I say, this first pressing of The Beatles very first album is special in more ways than one.

Firstly it’s the only pressing that features the gold colored Parlophone label, that in itself is really cool. But it is also one heck of a great sounding disc as even if you have a beat up copy these early British pressings were made to last and even a worn looking copy probably sounds great.

Since my pressing is a fairly early copy I think (Matrix/Stampers: Side One XEX 421-1N 1P and Side Two XEX 421-1N 1L) the sound on this pressing just shines; it’s full of life, punch and clarity.

Overall I prefer the mono mix of this album though I do enjoy the stereo as well. This first mono pressing is nice and punchy and jumps out of the speakers and hits on all cylinders. I also own a 1982 repress of this mono mix but this first pressing just has a life and excitement that other pressings lack.

(Note: Mono copies of this album on the regular black and yellow Parlophone  label that were also pressed in 1963 sound just as good. If you can find one of those at a decent price and can’t find a black and gold label copy you’ll be quite pleased.)

I know it’s becoming harder and harder to find a decent copy of this first pressing mono that won’t break the bank but if you can manage to swing it this copy does not disappoint. Even though many of the second issue UK mono copies sound great as well there’s just something special about this first issue that’s well worth seeking out.

Please Please Me – German Stereo vinyl pressing:

This stereo copy from Germany was first released in the late 1960’s on the Horzu label and was titled “Die Beatles”. I guess the first pressings of this album sounded like the UK stereo pressing but later pressings with the matrix numbers SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 come from an uncompressed tape that sounds a lot better than any other stereo pressing of this album out there including the first UK stereo pressing.

I’ve read that either an early twin-track tape before compression was added was copied from EMI and sent to Germany or somehow the German record company did some kind of eq to get this result but whatever the case this version is the version to have of this classic album as it’s the best sounding version of this album I’ve ever heard.

My particular copy has the following matrix numbers; Side 1: SHZE 117-A-2 04219-A-2 and  Side 2: SHZE 117-B-2 04219-B-2. This copy is on the Apple label (see photos below) and was released under the original “Please Please Me” title. If you look closely at the photos below you can faintly see the SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 matrixes followed by the 04219-A-2 and 04219-B-2 which are easier to see.

Copies without the SHZE 117-A-2 and SHZE 117-B-2 in the run-out groove are out there but they don’t have the uncompressed sound so if you look for this album make sure to check the run-out groove for these matrix numbers.

The CDs:

“Please Please Me” – Mono 2009 CD remaster

The 2009 CD remaster of the “Please Please Me” album which came in “The Beatles in Mono” box set is my go-to version of this album in mono on CD. The original 1987 CD version which was the only official CD version from 1987 to 2009 is actually not that bad but suffers from being mastered on a stereo tape deck instead of a full mono deck which left the sound a bit lacking compared with the 2009 remaster.

Plus the 2009 remaster mono CD comes in a stunning mini-CD cardboard cover that replicated exactly the original UK mono album even down to the correct inner sleeve. I love the flip-back style mini sleeves which really give you a feel for what an original copy looks like and with the better sound it’s my favorite mono CD version of the album.

“Please Please Me” – Stereo 2009 CD remaster (SHM-CD mini-lp CD version):

The 2009 stereo remaster CD of the “Please Please Me” album is the only official stereo version of this album available in the CD format. Like I said previously up until the 2009 remaster the “Please Please Me” album was only available on CD in mono and on an inferior version as well.

The version I’m sharing here is the groovy Japanese SHM-CD mini-lp CD which was a limited release of the 2009 stereo CD in a stunning flip-back style mini sleeve of the original UK stereo pressing of the album.

I know others feel the SHM-CD format is some sort of snake oil but I think this SHM-CD version of the “Please Please Me” CD has better bass and separation that the regular CD so this makes it my go-to version of the stereo album on CD. It’s nice to finally have a decent sounding stereo version of this album on CD and hopefully a box set of the “Please Please Me” album is on the horizon so maybe an even better version of the stereo CD will happen soon.

Well there you have it. This is my special celebration the 60th birthday of the wonderful “Please Please Me” album. I have to say it’s the most dated sounding of The Beatles original albums, which is no surprise, but to me that’s part of its charm.

I remember when I first heard this album on a 1970s Parlophone UK vinyl pressing and thinking that I loved the older sounding songs like “Chains”, “Baby It’s You” and “A Taste of Honey” because that took me to another place and time. To me the energy of the performances on this album still transcend time making this album one of my favorite Beatles albums of their entire catalog.

So happy birthday “Please Please Me” and until next time be well and safe and see you soon! That is all.