The Beatles

I’ve never been a Beatles fanatic. I like a lot of their music, but I’ve never owned a single track. I’m not completely sure why this is, though I could go into each music-buying phase of my life and come up with reasons. Lately, the biggest reason is that I primarily purchase individual tracks and The Beatles weren’t sold that way. Until now.

As is presumably widely known, as of this past Tuesday, The Beatles has come to iTunes. I was happy that this had finely happened as I’ve been paying attention during the long process that led up to this moment. When The Beatles Box Set came out last September, I had fully expected it to be on iTunes as well. I was disappointed when that didn’t happen. Now, 14 months later, it has.

While I was tempted to purchase the box set last year, or at least put it on my wish list, the value just wasn’t strong enough for me. I really wanted to be able to pick-and-choose the songs I wanted. Now that I have that option, it’s somewhat comical how tempted I was to simply click the “BUY ALBUM” button for the entire box set. I resisted this impulse and I’m glad I did. It turns out that it would have been a mistake for several reasons.

First, it’s overpriced. The physical version, which has the technical advantage of higher quality (though I doubt I’d ever notice) along with the ease of having backups for the ripped music rather than having to burn backups of the downloaded music, is $20 cheaper.

Second, the mono versions of the songs are not included in the iTunes box set. In fact, they aren’t available at all on iTunes. I’m not going to go into the details, but many people strongly prefer the mono versions of the early Beatles songs over the stereo versions.

Third, and perhaps most significant, is that the whole reason I was waiting for The Beatles to be available digitally was so that I could buy just the songs I wanted. To give up that flexibility on impulse would be silly.

So, now what? Many readers may not be surprised that the answer involves a spreadsheet. I went through the entire song listing for the box set, by album, and rated each track as either “Yes”, “Maybe”, “Meh”, “No” or “Dup”. “Yes” means that I’d buy the song for iTunes $1.29 price. “Maybe” means that I wouldn’t buy the individual song, but I’d appreciate it on an album. “Meh” means that I don’t really care, but there is some chance that getting the song on an album and listening to it repeatedly would result in it growing on me. “No” is obvious and “Dup” means that the song was on an earlier album in what I think is a mostly similar version.

Building this spreadsheet took a while as it included listening to at least some portion of the 30-second preview for a majority of the songs. But it’s done. The rest is just math. Here’s the data:

Album Yes Maybe Meh No Dup
Magical Mystery Tour 7 2 2

Let It Be 5 5 2

A Hard Day’s Night 5 6 2

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 11 2

Yellow Submarine
3 8
Beatles For Sale 2 6 6

Help! 5 8 1

Please Please Me 6 2 5 1
Revolver 4 6 3 1
Rubber Soul 8 3 3

With The Beatles 4 7 3

Abbey Road 9 5 3

The Beatles (White Album) 5 15 10

Past Masters 9 14 5

The first thing that jumps out at me is that I clearly have a bias in favor of Sgt. Pepper. I have a theory that my father played this album a lot when I was at a particular age. Now, at $1.29 per “Yes” song and half price per “Maybe” song, the only albums that are definitely worth (to me) their (iTunes) cost are Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, with Rubber Soul being “close enough”. On the other hand, the entire collection comes close to being worthwhile. Switch to the $130 physical media price and it’s a done deal.


There’s still the issue of mono versus stereo. Investigating the mono version of the box set a bit further and it turns out that it doesn’t include Abbey Road or Let It Be. Instead, it includes both mono and stereo versions of Help! and Rubber Soul. I find this a bit odd, but what can you do? (Note that it’s also missing Yellow Submarine, though all of the songs are actually present on other albums, just not the musical score from the movie.)

Taking away my computed value of Abbey Road and Let It Be leaves the total just $13.50 short of Amazon’s price for the mono box set. Close enough, particularly including the fact that the mono versions aren’t available individually.

That’s it, then. Get the mono box set, plus Abbey Road, plus the 5 Let It Be songs I want. For the supremely curious, the 5 “Maybe” songs on Let It Be that I’ll be missing out on in order to save $6.54 are Two of Us, Dig a Pony, Maggie Mae, I’ve Got a Feeling, and For You Blue.

Of course, I really feel like I should leave the mono box set on my wish list until after Christmas. So, for now, I guess I’ll just buy Abbey Road for now. Oh, wait… would you look at that. Abbey Road and Let It Be are both available on Amazon for $7.99. That makes Let It Be worthwhile. I guess it’s Amazon all the way.

Thanks for nothing, Apple.


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  1. #1 by Dave2 on November 18, 2010 - 12:52 pm

    The three final albums were released ONLY in stereo were not included in the Mono Box Set because there were no mono versions to include.

    For me, no spreadsheet was necessary. Having listened to both the mono and stereo versions, I coveted the mono tracks. In many cases, they are vastly superior to the bizarre stereo separation counterparts. The problem is that I could not afford the $300 for the Mono Box Set (and they were being resold second-market for as much as $500 because the set production was limited).

    Once I saw that iTunes was only offering the stereo versions, I was in a panic. That’s when I went to Amazon and saw that the Limited Edition Mono Set was not only still available… but only $130! SCORE! I’m glad you managed to get the set as well, and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

    On a final note… The Beatles were absolute masters at crafting albums that were complete experiences. The songs were arranged in an order that MEANT something, and listening to the songs one-after-the-other on each side of the LP is how they were intended to be heard. Sure, the individual songs are fantastic, but when heard as a complete album, they’re even more amazing. Another reason I am so very happy you went for the set! Enjoy it!


    • #2 by Ren on November 18, 2010 - 1:42 pm

      Well, I haven’t gotten it yet. I added the mono box set, Abbey Road and Let It Be to my Amazon wish list.


      • #3 by Dave2 on November 18, 2010 - 4:03 pm

        Ah. I misunderstood then.

        After receiving the set this morning, I can say it’s well-worth the money. Each of the CDs are packaged just like the LP albums… including the plastic sleeves, paper sleeves, and any interior goodies (like photos and posters and such)… but all at mini CD size! Cute as hell. 🙂

        The sound is, as expected, absolutely brilliant.


  2. #4 by Poppy on November 18, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    That was the least climactic announcement that Apple has ever made. I didn’t even know they didn’t have The Beatles because I didn’t care. And quite honestly, there is no artist they could make a Big Announcement about to make me think the announcement was announcement-worthy. It’s like when CNN uses Breaking News announcements to tell me the score of the 3rd game of the NBA playoffs. … … … Is anyone gonna win from that? no.


    • #5 by Dave2 on November 18, 2010 - 4:03 pm

      I totally agree, and I am a massive Beatles fan! 🙂


    • #6 by Ren on November 18, 2010 - 4:14 pm

      I totally get that, but with two caveats.

      First, when I originally saw Apple’s tease, I didn’t think there was really anything they could do that would live up to it, so I was well prepared to be disappointed. Particularly with only a single day’s notice.

      Second, the very first time I heard the rumor that the announcement would be The Beatles, I had an ah-ha moment of “Yup, I bet that’s it.”

      Certainly Apple over-hyped it, but a single day teaser isn’t really much hype, even if it includes the obvious hyperbole, “That you’ll never forget.”


      • #7 by Poppy on November 18, 2010 - 4:19 pm

        I think my biggest disappointment is that adding “that you’ll never forget” makes me think of Lennon being shot. Comparing the announcement that The Beatles catalog is now on iTunes by using phrasing associated with the death of one of its members is crass at best for me.

        And I’d heard the announcement a full day before so every time someone else found out about it early and was trying to brag about it I wanted to say “welcome to the last to know club, yo”.

        But clearly I am just being a curmudgeon about this. 🙂


      • #8 by Ren on November 18, 2010 - 4:28 pm

        I hadn’t made that connection; that does put things in a different light.


  3. #9 by martymankins on November 18, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    Nice to know someone else made the same conclusion on the CD versions of the Abbey Road and Let It Be from Amazon for $7.99 each.

    I’ve looked at the mono set and can agree it’s a great set, and it’s a lot cheaper to pull the purchase trigger, even though again, like yourself, it’s just on my wish list for now.


    • #10 by Ren on November 19, 2010 - 9:39 pm

      It takes a bit of will power for me to leave it on my wish list rather than buying it, but that’s the right thing to do this time of the year.


      • #11 by Dave2 on November 19, 2010 - 9:42 pm

        I just hope that it doesn’t sell out as all the Beatles fans who can’t buy the mono tracks rush to purchase the Mono Box Set! 🙂


  4. #12 by LeSombre on November 19, 2010 - 9:44 am

    And to think people call me crazy when I yell “To the spreadsheet!”

    Spreadsheets. Is there anything they can’t solve? 🙂


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