Treats for the Geeks

(Part 3 of a series; part 1 here, part 2 here.)

I have three different studio versions of Free’s “All Right Now” in my library, and sometime in 2009, I found myself confused about exactly what they were, and which one, if any, was the original radio single from 1970. Yah Shure, the Sage of Minnesota, put together for me a comparison of various versions and explained their provenance. I’m including it here because it’s a fine illustration of how complicated it can become to determine whether you’ve got the “right” version of a particular record, or even to track down the “right version” in the first place.

Are the three versions you have in your library all from vinyl? The reason I ask is because there are some CDs that have used the LP version edited in the same manner as the 45(s) but are not the *actual* 45 versions.

I dug through my vinyl library and put together some intro clips in the following order:

1. A&M 1206, 1970 mono DJ 45, labeled as 2:70. [Editor’s note: 2:70 is correct.]

2. A&M 1206, 1970 commercial 45, CSG-processed, labeled as 4:14. (Shorter sample than the others.) [Editor’s note: CSG processing was used in the late 60s and early 70s to make stereo records sound better in mono.]

3. A&M 1720, 1975 current line issue promoting the Best Of Free LP, labeled as 3:30 (plays 3:44).

4. A&M 8550, early ’70s “Forget Me Nots” reissue series 45, labeled as 4:14. (Brown label with blue “specs” logo.  This was the first reissue of the original 45.)

5. A&M LP 4268, Fire And Water, promo copy, labeled as 5:32.

A few notes:

The first four samples are all from the same take. The CSG processing on #2 sounds thinner and a bit more phasey than #3 and #4. Note the guitars, and the cowbell in the left channel on the stereo samples.

#3 and #4 sound the same. Again, from the same single take.

#5 is the LP version. Completely different backing track. Different guitars, no cowbell on the left.

The vocals sound the same here, so it very well could be that the same vocal track was used, at least in some parts. If you detect different vocals in spots, I certainly wouldn’t doubt you. Who knows what kinds of snips and trims went into these records?

There was also a commercial 45—probably #1206—that was labeled as 2:70 like the short promo, but ran the same as the 4:14 commercial 45, in CSG stereo. The initial A&M 1206 DJ 45 was 4:14 stereo/4:14 mono, although I don’t have a copy of it.

Over the course of the years, through several pressing runs, label designs, and even reissue-series name changes, the reissue 45 of “All Right Now” has morphed into an edit of the LP version. What had begun as the “Forget Me Nots” reissue of the original 45 version has since become an edit of the LP version on the more recent “A & M Memories” 45 series, according to reports on Pat Downey’s [chat] board. I can confirm that at least the first two “Forget Me Nots” label variations (early ’70s brown/blue “specs” and the 1977 string-tied-around-finger, green/orange striped design) had the correct 45 version.

Okay, now tell me again why you were confused. ;)

From more recent correspondence, jumping off from the point in part 1 about lyrics being revised after somebody objected to the original:

Who doesn’t know Roy Orbison’s signature hit, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” inside and out? As familiar as the recording is to most folks, one intriguing anomaly goes unnoticed, save for those with trained ears. The stereo LP mix heard far and wide over the last several decades differs from the mono single that scaled the charts in 1964, due to a one-word lyrical difference. Someone thought a potential problem with the original lyrics could be easily rectified with one slight revision for the 45 release. Time, of course, has proven that no one would think twice about this line in the years which followed, but no one wanted to risk the record’s chances at grabbing airplay at the time.

Speaking of differences: a new collection of the purported mono 45 mixes of Orbison’s Monument Records A & B sides was released this week, and already there has been some discussion on the Pat Downey board over some discrepancies between some of its tracks and the original vinyl singles.

Our teachers had us dissecting the wrong critters in the science classroom.

Thanks again to Yah Shure for sharing his wisdom, which illustrates the adage (and if it isn’t an adage, it ought to be) that the more you learn about a subject, the more you find there is to know.

“All Right Now” (45s vs. LP comparison)
“Oh Pretty Woman” (mono 45 vs. stereo LP/one word difference)


One response

  1. There’s another 45/LP difference of which I’ve just been made aware. The 45 version of John Lennon’s “Stand By Me” has a string overdub during the intro which is AWOL from the ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ album track. Or so I’ve been told by those with better hearing than mine. The pitch of the added string runs up in the 8-10 kilohertz range, which was also well above the upper frequency response of most 1975 AM radios.

    Maybe the dogs loved it.

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