I recently purchase an original, top load copy of the Beatles’ The White Album, which has led to this little article. I now own three copies of The White Album, an early stereo version, a latter stereo version, and this mono copy. This was one of my favorite albums of my teen years and it has stayed with me all these years.
It was released in November of 1968, I was 14 and attending a college prep boarding school. Music and girls were the most important things in our lives. I spent many afternoons and evenings in the dorm with friends listening to this album. I remember the first time I ever heard it was on Lytle’s Magnavox portable record player. They were kind of neat, looked a little like an old-time suit case. It had a speaker on each side, a handle on top, and the record changer folded down from the center. Earlier that year that I had discover a real stereo, a friend who had a Gerrard, a Kenwood, and a pair of homemade speakers. I was hounding my parents for something like that for Christmas that year.
The album was written and recorded shortly after the Beatles had visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. The group went to the studio to record the album. Ringo Starr quit the band for a brief time, leaving Paul McCartney to play drums on two tracks. Many of the songs are “solo” recordings, as each individual member began to explore his own talent.
Upon release in November 1968, the album received fairly mixed reviews but still reached #1 on the charts in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. The album is notable for the eclectic nature of its songs. For me, it was an introduction to much harder rock than I had known before, and would love afterwards.
I have now have three issues of this double LP, the top-load, first-issue, English pressing in mono; an early but not first issue English pressing in Stereo; and a later issued American pressing in stereo. The later one I purchased because I found it sealed and the cover was mint. We can start this review by just eliminating this one from the competition. It is thin and tinny sounding as well as being flat and two-dimensional sounding.
The stereo English pressing is much better sounding, but still flat and two-dimensional. Still, the voices and instruments have much better tonal balance and there is none of the thin, tinny sound you get from the later American pressing. This is the version I listened to even though it was not as pristine as the American pressing with a little surface noise from age. In fact, it sounded better than any digital version I had heard and I enjoyed it very much.
The first issue mono is a whole different ball game though. It is full sounding with a nice, natural warmth. It’s not at all two-dimensional, and has nice body and scale. Of course, it is mono and does not have much image width, but it still has the better spatial presentation. If you want to really hear The White Album you need to hear this version. Of course, the only problem is finding one. First, you have to be aware that all monos are not first issue, the cover should be top loading with a very Dark Green Apple and the numbers PMC 7067 and PMC 7068 on them. On eBay, these go for up to $700. I seldom, if ever, see them on Audiogon, though a seller from Audiogon found mine for me at a price very close to $100. It’s not mint, but I would say the vinyl is VG+, the cover is about the same and the pictures and poster are NM. To get the kind of sound I’ve described above did require a true mono cartridge, and it also sounded even better with my Shindo Giscours selector switch set to the mono phono input.
Now to one other comment, a few of the songs from The White Album are on the Love album from the Vegas show. I would love to have the whole White album reissued like this album is. This is a digital recording made up of the best vocals and instrumentations from different Beatle albums. I don’t completely understand how they did this but the result is simply outstanding. It probably wouldn’t even be possible to do the whole The White Album this way, but I would surely buy one if they did.
I’m not saying the Love album sounds better than the mono, it doesn’t, and a White album like that doesn’t exist. The original, mono is the king of the Beatles’s White album.
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