The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations

Version 2
compiled by Joseph Brennan


The title of the guide was chosen because it was a product of discussions on the Usenet newsgroup in 1993. The newsgroup brought me into contact with many people who encouraged me to compile a list and who assisted with contributions great and small. I sincerely thank them for flinging me into the most collaborative project I had ever worked on. Above all thanks to saki, for always improving the level of writing on the newsgroup and for pointedly suggesting I do this. It was fun.

One of the ground rules was not to take one person's word for something. We wanted at least two people known to be reliable to be able to hear the variation. It's not a question of honesty as much as the human susceptibility to suggestion. One of the strengths of the newsgroup was the ease of finding people who owned this or that pressing of a record. Nearly always, we could find somebody somewhere in the world who owned a copy and would listen to something for us.

Almost all the variations shown here have been listened to and certified real by me and Frank Daniels, and some more by Tom Bowers (once of Bruce Dumes contributed important information from his record collection, and so did Frank Daniels's friend Don Leighty from their earlier work on this subject. If you'd think listening to the records would go without saying, it's not always evident on the part of some writers who've slavishly copied things from previous publications!

The following folks have also contributed useful information: Mark W of Logica, Dan Kozak, Scott Galuska, Bob Clements, Ed Michalak, Michael Persick, Jamesa Willer, Dave Haber, Michael Shoshani, Bob Stahley, Jeff Mills, Melvoid on AOL, Victor Munoz, Steve Espinola, Edward of Sim, Keith Olive, Neal Katz, Randall Rhea, Allan Kozinn, John Larrabee, J D Mack, Steve Benson, Danny Caccavo, Mark Easter, Chris Kelly, Nick Piercey, "JWB", Luke Pacholski, John Parris, Mark Bozen... thanks! Your cooperation has made this work far better than I could have done alone. I felt more an editor than a writer at times.

A list of "anomalies" by Michael Weiss and M J Brown, posted on rmb, was also consulted for possible variations (but not all of their anomalies are variations, so it's a different list).

If you know of a variation that isn't here, or have a correction, please let me know.

The following printed sources proved more useful than most. The writers have all proved to be human: that is, they have made mistakes (and so have I, I am sure). I disagree with some of the variations they report, after using the books as listening guides. Note that some of the variations in our present list are in none of these items. I'd like to thank especially the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, part of the New York Public Library's Music Division, for collecting some of these and other items that I consulted.

  • The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (US title: The Beatles Recording Sessions), by Mark Lewisohn, Hamlyn/Octopus (US: Harmony), 1988. This is "the book", the essential work. Every fan needs a copy. I cannot praise Mark's research and reporting skills enough. Even where his interpretations might be wrong, his facts can be relied upon. This is as close as we get to a primary source, based on his listening to the tapes and examining studio documentation. I've stolen a lot from this book, and yet it's just a fraction of what's in it.

  • The Complete Beatles Chronicle, by Mark Lewisohn, Pyramid/Octopus (US: Harmony), 1992. The "Chronicle" is a condensation of three earlier books by the author, including Recording Sessions, plus new topics and updates and corrections. A very worthwhile companion to the "Recording Sessions" book despite the overlap (whole paragraphs are repeated).

  • The Beatles: From Cavern to Star-Club, by Hans Olof Gottfridsson, Premium Publishing (Sweden), 1997. This well researched book finally documents the non-EMI Beatles recordings in Lewisohn style, with reproductions of paperwork and interviews with those present, and also details their complicated release history. To top it off, an included EP is the only stereo release of "Sweet Georgia Brown" with the original lyrics.

  • Every Little Thing, by William McCoy and Mitchell McGeary, Popular Culture Ink, 1990. A controversial book, "Every Little Thing" is two sincere fans' overblown guide to variations and oddities, marred by a slightly odd arrangement and silly errors. Read with caution. Despite the publication date, it's a pre-Lewisohn work from 1986 that the publisher should never have let out without revisions. Yes, I've checked everything they list. They assume too much that there is just one mono and one stereo mix, and the explanations, while a valiant effort, too often contradict what Mark Lewisohn documented in print 2 years earlier. In a few cases they even list original records I've become convinced they did not have. Despite it all, no one interested in the topic can ignore this book. Check your library.

  • Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image, by Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt, the 910, 1994. No other source even comes close as a chronicle of the "Get Back" sessions of January 1969, and this is based not on official sources but a close analysis of whatever films and sound tapes have become more or less available. Besides establishing the dates of the recordings, "Drugs, Divorce..." also forms a moving narrative of why the Beatles were about to break up, based solidly on references to the source material.

  • Listening to the Beatles, vol. 1, by David Schwartz, Popular Culture Ink, 1990. "Listening to the Beatles" is a curious work, ranking the sound quality of the vinyl singles that were in print in the late 1980's, mainly for the US, UK, Japan and Australia. It looks like another long-delayed publication like "Every little thing". The reports are detailed enough to identify variant mixes, a subject that the author shows no sign of recognizing. He has nothing to say about CD singles either.

  • Die Beatles: ihre Karriere, ihre Musik, ihre Erfolge, by Rainer Moers, Wolfgang Neumann, and Hans Rombeck, Gustav Luebbe Verlag, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany, 1988. "Die Beatles" is a 500-page paperback containing mainly a chronology of recordings, with extensive German discography information. It is a pre-Lewisohn source with all the errors that implies, and their sources of dates and original pressings in Germany can be shown wrong in places. It is still well worth attention if you can read a bit of German. I corrected some information using Der Grosse Deutsche Schallplatten Katalog for 1964 to 1966 (mid-1963 to mid-1965).

  • "The Tony Sheridan sessions" by Doug Sulpy in Illegal Beatles no. 14, 1988. This update contains a few interesting facts and opinions not seen elsewhere.

  • "Fixing some holes" by Tom Bowers in The 910, vol 1 no 1, 1991. Some of the "unused" mixes as Lewisohn calls them are identified. This article is based largely on contributions by Tom and me, although I no longer agree with some of it-- actually Tom may feel the same way.

  • "We can work it out" by Steve Shorten in The 910, vol 1 no 2 and no 4, 1991, and vol 2 no 4, 1993. This is the only attempt I've seen to not only list variations but explain them based on Lewisohn's reports. It includes a few not reported elsewhere, and the descriptions are well stated. Mr Shorten may take a bow. See also 3 pages of followup letters in v 1 no 3.

  • The Beatles / The Ultimate Recording Guide, by Allen Wiener, Bob Adams Inc, 1994 (and two earlier editions, 1986 and 1992). Despite its better availablity in the shops than most of the books cited here, the "Ultimate Recording Guide" is a distinctly secondary source compiled mainly out of other books, and padded by repeating the same chronology five times with variations. A section called "Alternate Versions" trots out some variations for the Beatles and the later recordings by the four, but with scant attention to why they should vary, quite pre-Lewisohn in flavor.

  • The Beatles Album File and Complete Discography (US title: The Beatles on Record), by J P Russell, Scribner's, 1982. Pages 188-196 list some of the better known oddities. The book is a nice summary of UK and US releases to 1982, reflecting the state of knowledge of that time about the recordings. His comments on who plays what go well beyond what anyone knew, but reflect what was believed then by some people.

  • The Beatles Forever, by Nicholas Schaffner, McGraw-Hill, 1977. Schaffner's good, selected international discography on pages 206-213 lists most of the foreign compilation albums needed to get all the rare mixes, although he does not actually list variations. This particular discography has turned up in other books, not always credited.

Introduction | Notes on US Releases | Notes on CD Releases | Notes on Films | Version and Copyright | Format of entries | Variations Guide