Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beatles Bootleg Gold Mine

Holy mother of God. If you are a Beatles fan, block off a few WEEKS to get through this.

Rolling Stone posted a very small blurb a few issues ago that read:

The Beatles' albums came out on CD in 1987, but fans have long complained that the early digital technology used to remaster the recordings left them sounding hollow and thin — and that the official remasters are way overdue. That's where Purple Chick comes in — a secretive fan (or group of fans) who has been quietly remastering classic discs like Revolver and A Hard Day's Night, and releasing the digital files for free online. How is this possible? The Beatles' CDs sound so bad that carefully digitized tracks from pristine vinyl copies are noticeably better — with crisper highs, a fuller soundstage, and more realistic reproduction of instruments and voices. And the Purple Chick editions are superior to the originals in other ways, too: The Sgt. Pepper collection contains the original record in mono and stereo, and four discs' worth of studio outtakes; the White Album comes in a whopping twelve-disc version, including alternate takes, studio chatter, demos and fascinating jams. So how do you get this stuff? Google is your friend: Try searching "purple chick and megaupload" to get started.

So I did.

It took a lot of hunting but I found a great source for some of these boots - essentially a chat forum that has links to the various CDs in MP3 format, complete with artwork that loads to iTunes. Some are in FLAC format, which is a supposedly cleaner form of compression but requires a special player (I think - haven't got that far yet).

You download all of this through a service called Rapidshare that is free but I'd suggest signing up for the short term full access program so you can download many CDs at a time (I had 20 going at once and it was fast). You'll also need a couple of Plug Ins to unbundle what you are downloading but just Google the name of the software and make sure you are downloading it from reputable sites.

There are a few dead links. For example, not all the Beatles for Sale links work and only a couple of the many White Album links work. But you will be able to get almost everything from Please Please Me through Magical Mystery Tour. That is more than 25 discs worth of Beatles bootlegs and remasters.

I have barely listened to what I have downloaded, but here are a few observations:

--The first two discs of each set for the most part are the re-masters - in mono and stereo. Remember, from Geoff Emerick's book, they paid little attention to the stereo mixes and mono is what you want if you want to hear how these songs were best mixed. I have yet to compare the re-masters with the 80s CDs, but Rolling Stone did it for you here.

--The area I am most interested in are the outtakes and studio run throughs. Some of them are from the Anthology series (so you have heard them before) but the depth of this collection is unrivalled. If your idea of a good time is to hear 15 versions of Strawberry Fields as the band works out the arrangement, you are in for a treat. You want to hear George Martin solo the vocal track on Sgt Pepper? OK, that's here too, from some TV show (Anthology maybe?). You want to hear the band rip through Day Tripper, with no vocals? Check.

--Make sure to download The Threetles - which is the three surviving Beatles (at the time) creating Free As A Bird and Real Love for the Anthology series. And, all of the music from the DVD version of Anthology is here as well. So, the jam McCartney, Harrison and Starr do in the studio on the DVD bonus material is here. As are the original Lennon versions of Free As A Bird and Real Love, so you can hear what they had to work with (which wasn't much!).

--Lots of fucking around and fucking up (and laughing). They polish turds into masterpieces before your ears.

I could go on and on and on. And I have barely checked any of this out. Tell me what you think.

The place that will get you going is here (click through all seven pages of the chat to get the various links).

1 comment:

Chris said...

Wow. The phrase "labor of love" comes to mind, doesn't it?