First Take: Little Steven Van Zandt Page 5
The Beatles are a prime example of a band whose recorded output defines the conflict between vinyl and CD mixes. Well, they have another very serious problem that's not about to get fixed. How can I say this? First of all, let me say something positive: the Capitol people have decided to re-release the Beatles records in mono and stereo.
But they messed them up! Both Beatles VI and Rubber Soul in the Capitol Albums Vol. 2 box have mistakes on them. "I'm Looking Through You" has the false beginning on both the mono and stereo versions, which is wrong. They are fixing that, right? [Yes, in future pressings.] All I know is that Apple, tragically, is planning to re-release all of the Beatles albums in stereo. I'm telling you right now - and everybody knows this, including everybody at Apple - those records were meant to be heard in mono. The Beatles spent almost all of their time mixing in mono, and then they'd take the last 5 minutes of a session to do the stereo mix. Half the time George Martin wouldn't even be there! It's just a tragedy. The difference is remarkable. And right now, with the exception of those first eight albums, you can't buy a Beatles album in its correct form in the way the artists and producers meant for them to be heard. How big a tragedy is that? If we can't get the Beatles records right, what can we do? Someday the Capitol guys will release the albums correctly, but I don't know why they're not doing it now.
Do you play only the mono mixes on your channel, then? Oh yeah, that's all I play. In fact, I try to get the mono versions of everything I play. Every single from the '60s is better in mono.
Would you ever record and put out something in mono? Well, as I've said, you have to make certain concessions to expectations and the way peoples' ears have been, you know, mutated [both laugh], so the compromise I make is that I try to keep things as mono as possible, because to the untrained ear, that kind of mix can sound smaller and more centered than the wide stereo you're used to hearing. So I try to keep it as wide, but at the same time I try to match what's on the left and right as much as I can but fool the ear. You get the best of both worlds.
What's your philosophy about live recording? I don't like it. I never have liked it. I think out of the 2,300 records in our playbook, maybe three are live. Those are necessities - the Tuff Darts on the Live at CBGB's album, only because it doesn't exist in another format. And I play a live version of the Rolling Stones doing "Route 66," the one from December's Children (and Everybody's) that has that exciting beginning. And one of Springsteen's latest things that was only released live - "Code of Silence" [a 2000 recording that's on Essential Bruce Springsteen].
Rock and roll should be seen live, and the studio versions of the records are the ones that should be heard.