The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations

Version 2
compiled by Joseph Brennan

The Films and Videos

The mixes used in the Beatles' films and videos differ from the albums in some cases. I don't have the material to do a variations analysis of them but do report in the notes under certain songs some things I could verify or have read.

The original film prints of "A Hard Day's Night", "Help!", "Magical Mystery Tour" (a TV film), "Yellow Submarine" and "Let It Be" were all mono. The home videos, except for very early releases I hear about and can't get information on, are in stereo.

The MPI home videos of "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" were deleted in late 1994, although copies remained in stores for some time after, and then they reappeared in late 1995 with extra material (trailers, etc) but still with the stereo sound. Truly restored versions of both, with the original mono soundtrack, were made by Paul Rutan for the American Film Institute and premiered in July 1996 on the AMC cable network in the US. These should replace the stereo versions on home video in perhaps 1997.

"A Hard Day's Night" on MPI stereo video sounds like the usual records, except for a version of "I should have known better", used in one of its two appearances, that has the harmonica intro problem "fixed"; this does appear on record, the "Reel Music" LP. Ron Furmanek supervised new stereo mixes in 1994, but they were not used for the 1995 MPI home video reissue, and so far they have turned up only for song segments in the broadcast special and home video "The Making of a Hard Day's Night", 1995.

The AFI-restored mono soundtrack had to be recreated because an original magnetic soundtrack could not be found. It is said that they used the track from a 1981 print, which had the mono sound slightly processed to simulate stereo, and possibly also a "music and sound effects" track as used for dubbing to other languages. The song A Hard Day's Night has screams over it not in the original, for one thing, so the restoration should not be relied on as being exactly the original. Nonetheless it is a great job and the film looks and sounds better than any version in memory.

A variation of sorts on "A Hard Day's Night" is that the songs are slow and sound about a half-step lower in pitch than on record. Richard Lester is on record (someplace!) as saying he shot at 25 frames per second, rather than standard 24, so as to match the scan rate of the PAL (European standard) TV monitors that are seen clearly in the studio scenes. If so, playing it back at 24 fps would slow down everything by 4 per cent. But in a 1994 interview, Ron Furmanek, who was making the restored soundtrack, claims that the film uses the recordings at the right speed, and that all the mixes for records were sped up to sound more lively-- something no one else has commented on, and about which I am therefore pretty skeptical.

"Help!" on MPI stereo video sounds like the records. Steve Shorten in "The 910" says it has new mixes although he offers no differences. The AFI-restored mono version is believed to be faithful to the original musical sound, and the color improvement is astonishing.

New stereo mixes were definitely made for "Magical Mystery Tour" MPI home video in 1988 and it says so in a credit screen on the tape. Comments appear here under each song. The new mixes have not appeared on disk or cassette.

"Yellow Submarine" on video, like "Help!", has been reported as new mixes but sounds like the LP mixes. It was withdrawn from the market in 1993 and when it reappears the soundtrack should be checked.

"Let It Be" uses relatively little musical material in common with the album and has never appeared with a stereo mix. The Twickenham sessions and some of the Apple sessions exist only on the mono filmmakers tapes, but the main performances exist on 8-track. There was once a home video release with the original soundtrack. An improved version made from the original film negatives, and with stereo sound for those songs recorded on 8-track equipment, was made around 1992 but is being held from release by Apple. In late 1994, it was said to be due in 1995, although by May 1995, MPI announced there is no plan to release it. Clips showing vast improvement appeared in the Anthology video shown on television in November 1995.

A list of the Beatles' film clips (what would today be music videos) is included in Ed Chen's "Beatles on Video" available as one of the rmb FAQs. The soundtracks to the clips vary in interest. Some are just the records, and some have new vocal tracks or other material accompanying instrumental tracks from the records. So far the clips have not been made available for sale (legally!) other than excerpts in "The Compleat Beatles", an early video history of the group that is still on the market. Many appeared in part in the Anthology shown on television, in improved picture quality, but often with a stereo soundtrack dubbed in, and with changes including insertion of outtake footage and colorization. These variations are not listed here.

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