NOTE: Today I’ve decided to update one of my earliest posts for this blog.
Shortly after starting this blog I happened upon one of my “holy grail” records, a mono copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 album “Bookends”. Not only is the “Bookends” album my favorite album by Simon & Garfunkel but it’s one of my all-time favorite albums by anyone.
To say I have been searching for a mono pressing of this album would be a major understatement as I have never seen another copy of it in over forty-five years of record collecting until I spotted it in a Midwest record store a few years ago.
The “Bookends” album was released at a time when mono pressings were being phased out so locating a mono copy of this album is darn near impossible!
The copy I bought and featured on this blog is in VG/VG condition but sounds great and after all this time of searching for it it is a true pleasure to own.
Since I originally posted here about my mono “Bookends”, I managed to track down the original poster that was issued with the album – it was missing from my copy. And for some reason my earlier posts lacked a lot of photos so I took a new series of photos of the album so anyone out there looking for one can see what it looks like so they can spot a mono pressing if they happen upon one in the wild so to speak.
I also added a self-made CD of this mono pressing as I don’t want to wear this copy out as I’m sure I’ll probably never locate another copy. By the way the copy I found is a stock copy. I’m guessing it’s much rarer than promotional mono pressings which I think come up more often though are still incredibly hard to find.
Anyway, enjoy this updated post and below is the original text from that long ago post about finding a mono pressing of “Bookends”:
“And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson …”
Good things come to those who wait – or so they say.
Last week, I was on vacation and in my usual round of record store hunting (sorry Doug! lol) I found a vinyl album that I have been searching for for over twenty – yes twenty – years. Okay, you have to be a record fan or you might have a bit of a queasy stomach about now.
BUT, I happened upon a mono pressing of Simon and Garfunkel’s best (in my opinion) album called “Bookends”. To say this album in mono is rare is a major understatement. It was released in April 1968 at a time when mono records were being phased out. Thank goodness this copy was under $40 as it tends to go for well over $150 to upwards of $300 if you can even locate a copy. This is the first copy I’ve found out in the wild as they say and not on ebay.
Okay, lesson time: In the 1960’s, pop music was available in either mono or stereo versions or mixes. Mono (one channel) had the sound dead center (all instruments and vocals coming out of the center if you listen on a two speaker stereo system) and stereo had two channels with the instruments and vocals spread out across the two speakers.
Modern stereo includes surround sound with sound coming out of your ears, under your seat and every direction known to man but in the 60’s it was either one or two channels.
Now, readers who aren’t music geeks – gee I’m wondering if you’re still even reading – need to know that most pop/rock music before 1968 was produced to be heard on tiny AM radios or small record players with tiny speakers and was predominately mixed in mono.
Mono generally is more in your face, louder and more shall I say it ballsy then stereo especially pre-1965 as stereo was a newer format and producers weren’t used to mixing in stereo. The mono mixes tended to sound more alive and cleaner and were meant to cut over the din of the tiny speakers people were using.
Anyway, back to “Bookends”, the mono mix of this landmark Simon and Garfunkel album is really quite lovely sounding. In fact any young readers out there (or anyone interested in vinyl frankly) should check out the first five Simon and Garfunkel albums which are available in mono – “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.”, “Sounds of Silence”, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, “The Graduate” (another really rare mono pressing) and “Bookends”.
The only way to get these albums in mono is to track down the original 60’s vinyl pressings and it’s well worth it. For some reason it’s rumored that Paul Simon won’t allow the Simon and Garfunkel mono versions to be reissued which is a shame if true.
Simon and Garfunkel in mono sound superb. They are punchier, the instruments – especially Paul Simon’s guitar work – really pop out at you as if you are in the recording studio with them. The stereo vinyl isn’t bad at all mind you. In fact the stereo mixes are great too it’s just that I have a preference for the mono mixes of these albums.
Another note, Columbia Records who own and release Simon and Garfunkel recordings had a practice in the 60’s and 70’s I’ve read in which they used the original master tapes (used to make the vinyl pressings) over and over again instead of making a dub thus wearing out the original tapes.
So if you want to hear Simon and Garfunkel closest to how the masters sounded when they were released, track down original stereo or mono pressings if you can find them in decent shape.
As for this pressing I just found last week, the cover is kind of worn but the vinyl is in nice shape thank goodness. The album is here in all it’s analog glory.
For those downloaders or streamers out there, you hear in analog and I think the reason some people are attracted to vinyl again is that the analog mixes are much easier on the ears and nervous system.
Instead of the one version available to download, each pressing of an album is unique and can sound different depending on the part of the country it was pressed in, the plant, the engineer, etc. It’s like a treasure hunt finding the best sounding version (okay, okay a tad obsessive I know but that’s what makes collecting fun!).
The mono mix which I first heard on a bootleg CD, which can probably be tracked down somewhere on YouTube, is really the way to hear this album. The opening song “Save the Life of My Child” sounds much more urgent and exciting and the female voices cry out as if from some pit of agony.
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” has much more bite and “Fakin’ It” has a more three dimensional sound if you can believe it and the English interlude has a much different feel than the stereo version. Every song has noticeable differences to their stereo counterparts with vocals and instruments popping up in different levels and places throughout the songs.
If you’re lucky enough to come across a mono copy of this album grab it! I’ve read the promo copy of this album in mono may be a tad more common than the stock mono copy which I bought. Though either would be a treasure in any record collection.
Well, that’s it for now kids. If you’ve made it this far, tune in next time (same Bat Channel, same Bat Blog) for some Rice Crispy records? No really, pass the milk …
Until then, check out some photos of this copy of “Bookends” above.