Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions Box Set Variations Breakdown

Since my article which broke down the versions of The Rolling Stones Exile on Mainstreet was so popular, I thought it would be cool to do one for another essential release campaign– this time for the legendary Beach Boys SMiLE which is getting a massive box set treatment as well as a standard CD and vinyl release tentatively slated for November 1st if you believe Amazon.com.

When news broke earlier this year that Capitol and the remaining members of the Beach Boys gave the long-awaited green light to dig into the Capitol Vaults to finally release the great lost SMiLE album from the original sessions, all of the Beach Boys aficionados, vinyl freaks and collectors started heating up the various boards on the internet. My favorite navel-gazing crowd of record collectors is the Kevin Hoffman Boards, which has already spawned seven very active threads on the topic with experts and Smile-ologists chiming in with track speculation and session history dating back to the missed release in 1967. A good place to start is the Wikipedia article on the topic. However, a quick synopsis for the uninformed:

Brian Wilson stepped into the role as leader of the Beach Boys around the time of the brilliant and revolutionary Pet Sounds. Tired of touring, Brian wanted to focus more on studio efforts. The often-told story goes that Paul McCartney hearing preliminary tracks from Pet Sounds was motivated to create Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. So influential was Pet Sounds, that Brian wanted to up the ante and create an even more involved creation.

So, work began on the follow-up– originally to be called Dumb Angel— in early 1966. Wilson brought in the best session people in L.A. at the time– the Wrecking Crew– and also elicited help from his friend Van Dyke Parks to assist with the writing. The album was centered around some basic concepts– the elements– which allowed the two of them to try to craft a very American epic. Between April and September of 1966 many hours of writing and recording happened for the album, but by November of 1966 it was clear that the stresses from depression, drug abuse, and maybe the prospects of trying to achieve such a lofty goal– a “symphony to God” caused the project to end somewhat abruptly in early 1967 over disagreements over the direction of the album. A kind of salvaging of the album work appeared in the very stripped-down Smiley Smile release that September.

And, that might have been the last anyone ever heard about the album– just a footnote in an impressive career. However, leaked recordings from the sessions started appearing in the late 1980’s as a result of Capitol’s interest in remastering and reissuing the catalog. That, plus the inclusion of Smile sessions in the 1993 Good Vibrations box set sparked an avalanche of interest resulting in more session tapes showing up on the Sea of Tunes bootlegs in astonishing quality which resulted in the cottage industry of attempts by fans in creating the “definitive” SMiLE based on speculation and history gathered. The most famous of these– the “Purple Chick Presents” series was one that most fans stand behind (at least the ones I know do). The advent of easy digital editing by consumer computer hardware made this a relatively easy task compared to the work that would have had to be done to the original tapes. And, when Wilson himself decided it was time to finally release SMiLE in 2004, he did it as a completely new recording based on what he and Van Dyke Parks recalled about the compositions and likely even listening to fan reconstructions, actually. Everyone was excited for the release, and it gave a kind of “definitive” version of the track listing. The Purple Chick made a new version based on this “Brian Wilson Presents” version. I wasn’t as excited about this release as most fans were because it really didn’t sound like the original Beach Boys. Wilson’s voice has changed over the years, and the Wondermints who were the backing band on it weren’t the Beach Boys.

In February of this year the announcement was made by The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Capitol across many outlets that they were going to release a massive box set of SMiLE. Titled The Smile Sessions, it would have as accurate a reconstruction of what Smile should have been as would be achievable from the tapes they had. It’s important to remember that Smile was never finished. Lots of studio backing tracks were recorded as well as a lot of vocal takes from the Boys, but many of them were never assembled– so there were lots of studio trickery needed to make things line up. The first releases from these sessions were a Record Store Day “Good Vibrations” single in the form of a 78 RPM record. The next release was a bonus clear yellow 7″ that was included in the UK magazine Mojo of “Cabin Essence” and “Wonderful” in a special “Mojo 60’s” magazine with interviews from the members of the band. Lots of chatter ensued– it wasn’t clear how fans could get copies of this issue– although stores like Barnes & Noble carried Mojo, they didn’t tend to carry the special issues. I spent a lot of time calling around trying to figure out if stores were carrying it. In the end, I ended up getting three issues– one from Parasol Records in Champaign, IL, and two copies from Prairie Lights in Iowa City (one of these was for a friend who is as big a Smile fan as I am).


After much speculation from the many experts and critics on the internet boards, a likely mock up of the box set showed up. This is the picture at the top of the article, followed quickly by entries on Amazon’s website for preordering the three versions of the release– a massive box set and two “album” releases (CD and LP). The original release was likely slated to only be one LP, but there was enough completed sketches that it easily fills out two LPs, plus, Wilson himself did not limit himself to the 45-minute barrier for his 2004 version, so that becomes the template. In fact, it really becomes a three-sided release for the CD and LP versions with the fourth side being “bonus” material in the form of some stereo versions and session chatter.

The definitive version of SMiLE has always been a MONO one. Wilson had hearing loss in one ear and thus stereo production was never a priority for him. So, we are presented SMiLE in mono, the way it was meant to be.

Here are the details on the big Smile Sessions Box which includes 2 LP’s, and 5 CD’s of music, 2 7″ singles, a hardcover book, a poster and a reproduction of the photo booklet that was supposed to be in the original release. (From Amazon.com) As of 8/28 it is at $149 (up from $110 on Friday?)

  •  5 CDs / 2LPs / 2 7″ singles
  • Three-dimensional shadow box lid featuring the original artwork of Frank Holmes.
  • The Box Set measures 13″ x 13″ x 2.5″
  • 60 page case bound book features liner notes by:
    – Brian Wilson
    – Mike Love
    – Al Jardine
    – Bruce Johnston
    – Frank Holmes
    – Peter Reum
    – Tom Nolan
    – Dominic Priore
    Anecdotes
    by:
    – Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford
    – Diane Rovell
    – Dean Torrence
    – Mark Volman
    – Michael Vosse
    – David Anderle
    – Danny Hutton
    Timeline
    Sessionography
    Lyrics
    Frank Holmes drawings
    Producer’s Notes
    More than 60 previously unreleased photos

Box also contains:
6 panel folder holding 5 CDs and singles. Features photos of original session tape boxes.
7″ vinyl singles
“Heroes and Villians” in sleeve art
Vega-Tables” in sleeve art
Gatefold 2 LPs
Features full tracklisting of proposed unfinished album +
Stereo mixes and session highlights (not available on CDs)
12″ x 12″ booklet created for original release features:
Photos by Guy Webster
Drawings by Frank Holmes
24″ x 36″ poster of Frank Holmes cover art

Track Listing for the Full Box Set (from Amazon.com)

Disc: 1
1. Our Prayer
2. Gee
3. Heroes And Villains
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
5. I’m In Great Shape
6. Barnyard
7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine)
8. Cabin Essence
9. Wonderful
10. Look (Song For Children)
11. Child Is Father Of The Man
12. Surf’s Up
13. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
14. Vega-Tables
15. Holidays
16. Wind Chimes
17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)
18. Love To Say Dada
19. Good Vibrations
20. You’re Welcome (Bonus Track)
21. Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
22. Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
23. Vega-Tables Demo (Bonus Track)
24. He Gives Speeches (Bonus Track)
25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage (Bonus Track)
26. Surf’s Up 1967 (Solo version) (Bonus Track)
27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Piano (Bonus Track)
Disc: 2
1. Our Prayer “Dialog” 9/19/66
2. Our Prayer 10/4/66
3. Heroes And Villains: Verse (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Session: 10/20/66]
4. Heroes And Villains: Barnyard (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Session: 10/20/66]
5. Heroes And Villains: I’m In Great Shape 10/27/66
6. Heroes and Villains Intro (Early Version) circa 12/66
7. Heroes And Villains: Do A Lot [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
8. Heroes And Villains: Bag Of Tricks [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
9. Heroes And Villains: Mission Pak [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
10. Heroes And Villains: Bridge To Indians [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
11. Heroes And Villains: Part 1 Tag [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
12. Heroes And Villains: Pickup To 3rd Verse [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/3/67]
13. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
14. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (Cantina track) [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
15. Heroes And Villains: Whistling Bridge [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
16. Heroes And Villains: Cantina [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
17. Heroes And Villains: All Day [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
18. Heroes And Villains: Verse Edit Experiment [Heroes And Villains Session: 1/27/67]
19. Heroes And Villains: Prelude To Fade [Heroes And Villains Session: 2/15/67]
20. Heroes And Villains: Piano Theme [Heroes And Villains Session: 2/15/67]
21. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
22. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (Gee) (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
23. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 Revised [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
24. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 Revised (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
25. Heroes And Villains: Part 3 (Animals) (Master Take) [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
26. Heroes And Villains: Part 4 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/20/67]
27. Heroes And Villains: Part Two (Master Take) 2/27/67 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/27/67]
28. Heroes And Villains: Fade 2/28/67 [Heroes And Villains Sesssion: 2/27/67]
29. Heroes And Villains: Verse remake [Heroes And Villains Session: 3/1/67]
30. Heroes And Villains: Organ Waltz / Intro [Heroes And Villains Session: 3/1/67]
31. Heroes And Villains: Chorus Vocals [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
32. Heroes And Villains: Barbershop [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
33. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Remake) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
34. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Master Take Overdubs Mix 1) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
35. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (Master Take A Capella) [Heroes And Villains Session: 6/14/67]
36. Heroes And Villains Piano Demo (incorporating “I’m In Great Shape” and “Barnyard”) Brian with Van Dyke Parks and “Humble Harve” Miller, KHJ Radio 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
37. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Microphone 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
38. Psycodelic Sounds: Moaning Laughing 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
Disc: 3
1. Do You Like Worms: Part 1 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
2. Do You Like Worms: Part 2 (Bicycle Rider) [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
3. Do You Like Worms: Part 3 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
4. Do You Like Worms: Part 4 (Bicycle Rider) [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
5. Do You Like Worms: Bicycle Rider Overdubs (Heroes And Villains Part 2) 1/5/67 [DO YOU LIKE WORMS (ROLL PLYMOUTH ROCK) Session: 10/18/66]
6. My Only Sunshine: Parts 1 & 2 11/14/66 [MY ONLY SUNSHINE (THE OLD MASTER PAINTER / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE)]
7. My Only Sunshine: Part 2 (Master Take With Vocal Overdubs) 2/10/67 [MY ONLY SUNSHINE (THE OLD MASTER PAINTER / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE)]
8. Cabin Essence: Verse [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
9. Cabin Essence: Chorus [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
10. Cabin Essence: Tag [Cabin Essence Session: 10/3/66]
11. Wonderful (Version 1) 8/25/66
12. Wonderful (Version 2) [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
13. Wonderful (Version 2 Tag) [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
14. Wonderful (Version 3) 4/10/67 ? [Wonderful (Version 2 “Rock With Me Henry”) Session: 1/9/67]
15. Look 8/12/66 [LOOK (SONG FOR CHILDREN)]
16. Child Is Father Of The Man (Version 1) 10/7/66
17. Child Is Father Of The Man (Version 2) 10/11/66
18. Surf’s Up: 1ST Movement 11/4/66
19. Surf’s Up: Talking Horns 11/7/66
20. Surf’s Up: Piano Demo (Master Take) 12/15/66
21. I Wanna Be Around 11/29/66 [I WANNA BE AROUND / WORKSHOP (FRIDAY NIGHT)]
22. Vegetables: Verse (Master Take Track) 4/4 – 4/11/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
23. Vegetables: Sleep A Lot (Chorus) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
24. Vegetables: Chorus 1 (Master Take) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
25. Vegetables: 2nd Chorus (Master Take Track And Backing Vocals) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
26. Vegetables: Insert (Part 4) (Master Take) [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) Sessions: 4/4-4/11/67]
Disc: 4
1. Vegetables: Fade 4/12/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) (continued)]
2. Vegetables: Ballad Insert 4/14/67 [VEGA-TABLES (VEGETABLES) (continued)]
3. Holidays 9/8/66
4. Wind Chimes (Version 1) 8/3/66
5. Wind Chimes (Version 2) [Wind Chimes (Version 2) Session: 10/5/66]
6. Wind Chimes (Version 2 Tag) [Wind Chimes (Version 2) Session: 10/5/66]
7. The Elements: Fire 11/28/66 [THE ELEMENTS: FIRE (MRS. O’LEARY’S COW)]
8. Da Da (Taped Piano Strings) [LOVE TO SAY DADA / COOL, COOL WATER; Da Da Session: 12/22/66]
9. Da Da (Fender Rhodes) [LOVE TO SAY DADA / COOL, COOL WATER; Da Da Session: 12/22/66]
10. Love To Say Dada: Part 1 5/16/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
11. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 5/17/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
12. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 (Master Take) 5/17/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
13. Love To Say Dada: Part 2 (Second Day) 5/18/67 [Love To Say Dada Sessions: 5/16-5/18/67]
14. Cool, Cool Water (Version 1) 6/7/67
15. Cool, Cool Water (Version 2) 10/26/67 & 10/29/67
16. You’re Welcome 12/15/66 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
17. You’re With Me Tonight 6/6-6/7/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
18. Tune X (Carl Wilson) 3/3/67-3/31/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
19. I Don’t Know (Dennis Wilson) 1/12/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
20. Three Blind Mice 10/15/65 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
21. Teeter Totter Love (Jasper Dailey) 1/25/67 & 2/9/67 [SMILE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS]
22. Psycodelic Sounds – Underwater Chant 11/4/66 (Bonus Track)
23. Hal Blaine Vega-Tables Promo Session 11/11/66 (Bonus Track)
24. Heroes And Villains: Early Version Outtake Sections 1/67 – 2/67 (Bonus Track)
Disc: 5
1. Good Vibrations: Gold Star 2/18/66 (The Pet Sounds Session)
2. Good Vibrations: Gold Star 4/9/66
3. Good Vibrations: Western 5/4/66 (First Chorus)
4. Good Vibrations: Western 5/4/66 (Second Chorus & Fade)
5. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Part 1)
6. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Parts 2 & 3)
7. Good Vibrations: Sunset Sound 5/24/66 (Part 4)
8. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Part C)
9. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Chorus)
10. Good Vibrations: Western 5/27/66 (Fade Sequence)
11. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 1)
12. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 3)
13. Good Vibrations (Inspiration): Western 6/2/66 (Part 4)
14. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 1)
15. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 2 & verse)
16. Good Vibrations: Western 6/16/66 (Part 2 continued)
17. Good Vibrations: Western 6/18/66 (Part 1)
18. Good Vibrations: Western 6/18/66 (Part 2)
19. Good Vibrations (Persuasion): Western 9/1/66
20. Good Vibrations: Western 9/1/66 (new bridge)
21. Good Vibrations: Session Masters
22. Good Vibrations single version stereo track
23. Good Good Good Vibrations (first version with overdubs) 3/66
24. Good Vibrations: Alternate Edit 8/24/66
Disc: 6
1. Our Prayer (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
2. Gee (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
3. Heroes and Villains (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock) (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
5. I’m In Great Shape (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
6. Barnyard (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
7. The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
8. Cabin Essence (Side One) [LP Vinyl]
9. Wonderful (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
10. Look (Song for Children) (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
11. Child Is Father of the Man (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
12. Surf’s Up (Side Two) [LP Vinyl]
Disc: 7
1. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
2. Vega-Tables (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
3. Holidays (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
4. Wind Chimes (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
5. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (Fire) (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
6. Love to Say Dada (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
7. Good Vibrations (Side Three) [LP Vinyl]
8. Your Welcome – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
9. Vega-Tables – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
10. Wind Chimes – Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
11. Cabin Essence – Session Highlights and Stereo Backing Track (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
12. Surf’s Up – Session Excerpt and Stereo Mix (Side Four) [LP Vinyl]
Disc: 8
1. A side: HEROES AND VILLAINS Part One [Vinyl 45]
2. B side: HEROES AND VILLANS Part Two [Vinyl 45]
Disc: 9
1. A side: VEGA-TABLES [Vinyl 45]
2. B Side: SURF’S UP [Vinyl 45]

Track Listing for the “Basic” SMiLE Vinyl ($18.57 as of 8/27 (from Amazon.com)

Disc: 1
1. Our Prayer (Side One)
2. Gee (Side One)
3. Heroes and Villains (Side One)
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock) (Side One)
5. I’m In Great Shape (Side One)
6. Barnyard (Side One)
7. The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine (Side One)
8. Cabin Essence (Side One)
9. Wonderful (Side Two)
10. Look (Song for Children) (Side Two)
11. Child Is Father of the Man (Side Two)
12. Surf’s Up (Side Two)
Disc: 2
1. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop (Side Three)
2. Vega-Tables (Side Three)
3. Holidays (Side Three)
4. Wind Chimes (Side Three)
5. Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (Fire) (Side Three)
6. Love to Say Dada (Side Three)
7. Good Vibrations (Side Three)
8. Your Welcome – Stereo Mix (Side Four)
9. Vega-Tables – Stereo Mix (Side Four)
10. Wind Chimes – Stereo Mix (Side Four)
11. Cabin Essence – Session Highlights and Stereo Backing Track (Side Four)
12. Surf’s Up – Session Excerpt and Stereo Mix (Side Four)

The CD edition is a little more expansive having a special box and will include more content on 2 CD’s. Priced at $24.5 on 8/27, it has the following content (from Amazon.com):

Disc: 1
1. Our Prayer
2. Gee
3. Heroes And Villains
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
5. I’m In Great Shape
6. Barnyard
7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine)
8. Cabin Essence
9. Wonderful
10. Look (Song For Children)
11. Child Is Father Of The Man
12. Surf’s Up
13. I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
14. Vega-Tables
15. Holidays
16. Wind Chimes
17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)
18. Love To Say Dada
19. Good Vibrations
20. You’re Welcome (Bonus Track)
21. Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
22. Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix) (Bonus Track)
23. Vega-Tables Demo (Bonus Track)
24. He Gives Speeches (Bonus Track)
25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage (Bonus Track)
26. Surf’s Up 1967 (Solo version) (Bonus Track)
27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Piano (Bonus Track)
Disc: 2
1. Our Prayer “Dialog” (9/19/66) 3:02
2. Heroes and Villains (Part 1) 3:08
3. Heroes and Villains (Part 2) 4:18
4. Heroes and Villains: Children Were Raised (1/27/67) 2:07
5. Heroes and Villains: Prelude to Fade (2/15/67) 3:42
6. My Only Sunshine (11/14/66) 6:52
7. Cabin Essence (10/3/66) 5:19
8. Surf’s Up: 1st Movement (11/4/66) 4:55
9. Surf’s Up Piano Demo (12/15/66) 3:53
10. Vegetables Fade (4/12/67) 5:25
11. The Elements: Fire session (11/28/66) 8:27
12. Cool Cool Water version 2 (10/26-10/29/67) 3:32
13. Good Vibrations Session Highlights 8:20
14. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Microphone (11/4/66) 1:10 (Hidden Track)

So, Capitol has done a good job of giving a variety of releases to suit any level of fandom or commitment. As we get more information about the release, I will update this article.

B-Sides in the Bins #53 – Rubber Soul Restoration

IMG_1670

Over Christmas I took on a project– the restoration of a Mono Beatles Rubber Soul.

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law Sarah gave me a stack of LP’s that she picked up at a thrift store in the Twin Cities. The stack was a colorful collection of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s pop, tropicalia, hair metal and Phil Collins. I pulled out the records that I thought I’d want to keep and got ready to carry the lot of discards to Half-Price Books. Thankfully, I looked closer at the Firefall sleeve in the pile as it had The Beatles Rubber Soul on rainbow Capitol label in it! As happy as I was to find this treasure, I was saddened that it was missing its jacket. I found a paper sleeve and put it in a crate with other records that I don’t store with my main collection.

In December I was doing some work in the room where we have our furnace and storage and happened to notice the record. I picked it up and looked closer at it and realized that it was not just a 60’s Capitol Beatles release, but it was also a MONO!

The reason why the monaural release is desirable, is that it is generally accepted in the collector’s circles that the Capitol monaural versions of the Beatles catalog are superior to the stereo releases. To explain why, there is some history to cover.

The Beatles had kind of a shaky start in the US as far as record labels were concerned. They were signed to EMI/Parlophone in the UK and when EMI’s US counterpart Capitol was initially approached to release the Beatles albums, they declined– thinking that the US teenagers were more interested in the clean-cut portrait of The Beach Boys (on Capitol) than they would be with the shaggy snapshot of the Beatles. The center of the mess was a man named Dave Dexter, Jr. who is quite possibly the most controversial person in the history of the Beatles recorded output. Dexter’s job was managing EMI’s releases in the US for Capitol and was  the guy who was in charge of screening the releases, and ultimately made decisions about everything from cover art, to production and mastering to what tracks were included on a given release.

Incidently, Dexter was also the guy who made the decision that initially squashed releasing the Beatles on Capitol. This is why the first Beatles album released in the US was handled by a typically R&B label out of Chicago called Vee-Jay (which is a whole other story). Eventually, Capitol couldn’t ignore the force of the Beatles and signed them in November, 1963.

Capitol and Dexter felt that the way EMI was releasing the albums in the UK was not what their customers wanted and changed almost every packaging of Beatles material up until Sgt. Pepper’s when the Beatles renewed their contract and blocked this practice. Capitol changed track lists, generated new “greatest hits” collections and the most egregious aspect of all was the remixing of the music that George Martin and his engineers so masterfully recorded at Abbey Road. EMI/Parlophone would release singles and LP’s in the UK and then tapes would be shipped to the US for packaging and release by Capitol.

When the Beatles would finally make it to compact disc in 1987, it established that the standard for their catalog would be the UK EMI/Parlophone/Apple versions. Well, and stereo for those releases that were in stereo.

Rubber Soul ends up being the poster child for Capitol’s changes to the Beatles releases with a dramatically different track listing than the UK version in sequence and in content!

The “proper” UK version of Rubber Soul tracklisting (from Wikipedia):

No. Title Length
1. Drive My Car 2:25
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 2:01
3. You Won’t See Me 3:18
4. Nowhere Man 2:40
5. Think for Yourself(George Harrison) 2:16
6. The Word 2:41
7. Michelle 2:40
Side two
No. Title Length
1. What Goes On(Lennon/McCartney/Starkey) 2:47
2. Girl 2:30
3. I’m Looking Through You 2:23
4. In My Life 2:24
5. Wait 2:12
6. If I Needed Someone(George Harrison) 2:20
7. Run for Your Life 2:18

So, this brings us to my copy of Rubber Soul, which as I stated, is a Capitol mono original pressing from 1965 (Catalog number T-2442).

Side one
No. Title Length
1. I’ve Just Seen a Face 2:07
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 2:05
3. You Won’t See Me 3:22
4. Think for Yourself(George Harrison) 2:19
5. The Word 2:43
6. Michelle 2:42
Side two
No. Title Length
1. It’s Only Love 1:55
2. Girl 2:33
3. I’m Looking Through You 2:31
4. In My Life 2:27
5. Wait 2:16
6. Run for Your Life 2:18

You can see from these two track listings that the UK and US releases are substantially different! According to sources, the US release was deliberately resequenced to make Rubber Soul more of a “folk rock” album in hopes of cashing in on the emerging genre which included popular releases from bands like the Byrds and Dylan which were both having an effect on the Beatles new– and I think– more mature writing style. As a result, the more upbeat, and likely representative of the “Rubber Soul” moniker– songs were removed from the track listing and would be released on the following US-only compilation Yesterday… and Today. These songs “Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man” which are considered notable songs in the Beatles canon, as well as “What Goes On” and “If I Needed Someone.” These songs were replaced with two songs removed from the UK version of Help! (the US version of Help! was also different in the US where it served more as a soundtrack to the movie and included score music)– “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love.” The result drops the album to just under 30 minutes in total.

There is a debate that continues over whether the Capitol changes actually improve the album. One side of the argument is that it does. The replacement of the pumping piano kickoff of “Drive My Car” on the UK version with the acoustic guitar-driven immediacy of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is a vote for a more balanced release. The counter-argument is that it varies too much from the UK release in favor of an album that seems to clumsily try to pander to the US market. For me, the differences are more of an interesting curiosity. My first exposure to Rubber Soul was with the 1987 CD releases, so my experience is a stereo UK version for all intents and purposes.
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After I stumbled across the lone sleeveless copy of Rubber Soul in my basement and realized what it was, I thought that it would be nice to find a cover for it. It was a gift, and it was in pretty good shape for a 44-year old record– some slight scuffing, but otherwise the vinyl had a really nice black luster to it. On play, it has some slight crackle, but the recording itself is loud enough to hide it.

It was as if the universe wanted this record to have a new jacket. The first search I made for a Capitol Rubber Soul jacket turned up ONE eBay auction from a seller in Arizona whose ID was “scampy”– it was for a mono, too! It was a Buy-it-Now for $39.95 plus $4 shipping. It was kind of expensive, but if the condition was good, then it would be worth it because the record plus the jacket would have a greater value than either alone. The seller and I exchanged a couple of messages and he pointed out that mono sleeves were rare and that this sleeve was in very good shape. I was sold, but I also wanted a period-correct inner paper sleeve.  On a whim, I asked him if he had a correct inner sleeve. He responded that he thought he did. He quickly responded that he had one!

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I found the correct one, it lists albums up through the #2355. It is in real nice shape except a small split at the bottom that is hardly noticeable, it also has the pitch to upgrade your old albums to the new stereo discs that was only put on the mono ones. I will include it at no charge.”

Wow! That was a lucky coincidence! He quickly shipped the package to me and I had it in my hands within the week– it was in amazing shape with very little ringwear. I was able to assemble the record, sleeve and jacket to a set that I was very happy with!
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It is noted in the Wiki article on Rubber Soul, that the sleeve colors in the US were a variation on the UK sleeves due to some color saturation differences, resulting in the title logo being more of a brown or gold than the UK orange logo. I like the color of the sleeve I got a lot– maybe more than an orange one.

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According to the Spitzer book on the Beatles on Capitol, the “5” in the lower right indicates that the record sleeve was printed by Modern Album in Terre Haute, IN.

Overall, this was a very satisfying project for me. Maybe the word “restoration” overstates the effort, but that is what is really is, I think. I have a small vinyl Beatles collection that was started for me by my aunts back in the early 80’s– on purple Capitol label but didn’t include Rubber Soul, so this sits proudly next to those releases, but a mono Yesterday… and Today I picked up on Black Friday last year.

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