The Return of Doc Ebbetts
So the much publicised retirement of Doctor Ebbetts was not to last. Two new "needledrops" have been released - free of charge - to his best customers. The two CD's depicted above - a copy of a first pressing of the stereo Please Please Me album, and ditto of a first pressing mono Revolver, featuring that unique mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows", which was only available on that particular first pressing of the UK album.
The art of "needledropping" (using a mint copy of a gramophone record as source to make a new master) was actually first used on a Beatles record as early as on the official Capitol album "Rarities" from 1980. Because the original master tape of the Ringo-version of "Love Me Do" (The Beatles' first 45 r.p.m. single for EMI) had disappeared, a mint copy of the single was used as source for that track on the album. The same was done for the end of "Penny Lane" on the same album.
This practice has continued, and also the "Mono Masters" CD in the remastered "The Beatles in Mono" from 2009 uses a needledrop as source for "Love Me Do", this time from an even cleaner single 45 r.p.m. disc.
As digital technology progressed since the CD releases of The Beatles' studio albums in 1987, audiophiles became increasingly disappointed with the sound quality of the official CDs. Several bootleggers undertook their own remasterings of the entire Beatles catalogue, of both mono and stereo original releases, typically using premium vinyl pressings played and digitised with high-end audio equipment.
Two widely distributed collections made in this fashion are the Millennium Remasters series and the series by the bootlegger known as "Dr. Ebbetts". The latter's needledrops of the USA album releases is said to have prompted the release of the official Capitol Albums boxed sets.
As reported in this blog, there was an announcement from Dr Ebbetts last year, where he said that he was so impressed with the official remasters, that he didn't want to continue his Beatles needledrop series.
Doc is back
Nevertheless, these two new releases proves that he is back. The stereo Please Please Me and the mono Revolver is the start of a new series, entitled ARCHIVE SERIES.
So, what's here that's not on the official remasters? As you'll remember from last year, the team at Abbey Road worked from the original stereo and mono masters. Some of their tasks were repairing bad tape splices, as well as pops, clicks, drop-outs etc. On needledrops, these errors are still there. Also, on the original "Please Please Me" stereo album, the songs that were represented by mono recordings, "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" was mixed in "mock" stereo. On the remastered "Please Please Me" in stereo, they were left in mono. Doc Ebbetts new release brings back the fake stereo on those songs.
By mistake, the original first mono pressing of "Revolver" in the UK contained the wrong mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows". It is extremely rare, and is believed to have been manufactured on only the first day of the UK pressing. Most copies have matrix 606-2 or 606-3 on side B (the small writing near the center of the vinyl surface, before the label), and are the standard version heard on all copies of other countries' pressings. The "Revolver" LP with matrix 606-1 on side B is mono remix 11 while the standard version is remix 8. In the rare mix, the vocal is louder and clearer over the effects, the fade is slightly longer and has more piano, and the effects are faded up quite differently. And that's the mix you get here. The remastered Revolver from The Beatles in Mono uses the more familiar remix 8.
Word is also that the doctor has invested in some new, stellar equipment for his new and upcoming releases. His audience is made up of people who are very fuzzy about sound, many of them have expensive systems at home to play back CD's. His packaging has also received a lot of praise from his customers, they are crisp detailed reproductions of the album’s artwork and the discs themselves replicating the Parlophone label and font with track listings that comes in new style jewel cases. Unlike the remasters who came as cardboard digipacks (stereo) or miniature LP sleeves (mono).
Where do I stand in this? Well, I've never been too fuzzy about these things. I'm listening to mp3's and FLAC's on my computer, mp3's and radio on my portable player and in my car - but when I sit down at home to indulge in some serious listening, I usually end up playing those old vinyl records. I just bought a new stylus for my gramophone pick-up and I'm enjoying it a lot. By accident, upon closer inspection, my mono UK Revolver album actually turned out to be a first pressing, so I can also listen to that elusive remix 11 of "Tomorrow Never Knows"!