There seems to be some confusion over what the differences are between the Mono Masters non-album tracks double disc compilation (available only as a part of The Beatles In Mono Box Set) and the Past Masters non-album tracks double disc compilation (available as a part of The Beatles In Stereo Box Set and for individual purchase.) In this post I hope to make those differences clear.
These compilations contain all of the non-album songs that were released from 1962 through 1970 in mono & stereo respectively. The track listings are chronological which makes them a pretty good way of hearing the progression of the band.
Some people may hear the phrase “non-album” and think that these are just the songs that weren’t good enough to make it onto their albums and while that may be the case with a few of the b-sides (“Thank You Girl” is definitely not among their best work) these sets actually contain many of The Beatles greatest and most well known songs.
It may sound quite strange today, but at the time The Beatles didn’t like to include their big hit singles as a part of their albums, they preferred to let them stand on their own. They thought of singles & albums as two separate things. And part of the thinking was that since their fans already bought the single, they wouldn’t want to hear the same song again on the album. Five of their albums include no singles at all including Sgt. Pepper & The White Album.
Disc 1 of both double disc sets contain the same 18 songs which were originally released from 1962 through 1965: “Love Me Do,” “From Me to You,” “Thank You Girl,” “She Loves You,” “I’ll Get You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “This Boy,” “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand,” “Sie Liebt Dich,” “Long Tall Sally,” “I Call Your Name,” “Slow Down,” “Matchbox,” “I Feel Fine,” “She’s a Woman,” “Bad Boy,” “Yes It Is,” & “I’m Down.”
“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” & “Sie Liebt Dich”? These are German language versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” & “She Loves You.” They are suitably ridiculous. The instrumentation is the same as the English versions, they just recorded new vocals in German over top. The instrumentation on these doesn’t sound nearly as clear as it does on the regular versions.
So because the the track listing is the same does that mean that these two discs are the same? No. Besides the fact that the songs on the Mono Masters set were mixed in mono and those on Past Masters (with a few exceptions) were mixed in stereo – they were also mastered differently.
Some prefer the mono mixes because they were how The Beatles were originally “meant to be heard” and they are more “powerful” plus many people just can’t stand the wide panning of the stereo mixes. I understand all of those arguments and even kind of agree with them, but I do find myself really enjoying the stereo mixes because I love the clarity of the stereo mixes. I love being able to hear each part of the music and that’s where the stereo mixes really shine.
In short, I think both the mono & stereo mixes have their positives. I don’t think it’s so clear cut as to say one is “better” than the other. I enjoy both the mono & stereo mixes and do recommend both box sets for Beatles fans.
Disc 2 of both the Mono Masters & Past Masters have the same first 8 tracks (“Day Tripper,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Paperback Writer,” “Rain,” “Lady Madonna,” “The Inner Light,” “Hey Jude,” & “Revolution”) but then things start getting a bit different.
The following songs are on the Past Masters set but not on the Mono Masters set: “The Ballad of John & Yoko,” “Old Brown Shoe,” & “Let It Be.” Why weren’t they included on the mono compilation? Because they were never mixed in mono.
These songs are on the Mono Masters set but not on the Past Masters set: “Only a Northern Song,” “All Together Now,” “Hey Bulldog,” “It’s All Too Much.” Why? Because these songs are on the Yellow Submarine album which was included in the stereo box set but not in the mono box set.
What’s most interesting about those four mono mixes of the Yellow Submarine songs is that they are previously unreleased because the Yellow Submarine album was originally only released in stereo which means the mono mixes never saw the light of day before. These are the only songs in the box sets which have never been released before in any format (LP or CD) in any country. (On a side note, The Beatles In Mono is also the first time that The White Album has ever been released in mono in the US because in 1968 only the stereo version of the album was released in the states, while both mono & stereo mixes were released in the UK.)
Both sets also include “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” & “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number.”)