Producer Glyn Johns Talks ‘Rolling Stones in Mono’ Box
At the start of the clip, Johns looks back on the dawn of the album era — a time when it was much more common for an artist to release singles, and full-length records were frequently little more than de facto hits packages cobbled together as an afterthought. "Back in the early '60s, recording was done in three-hour increments with a very small budget," he explained. "In those three hours, you were expected to record at least three tunes, maybe four. Not many people got to make albums in those days — you only got to make an album if you'd had a successful career prior to that, selling singles and EPs. You got to make an EP if you had hit singles."
Those recordings, as Johns points out, were made in mono — largely because that's what the record companies believed the market wanted. "Everything was done in mono. There was no demand for stereo at all," he added. Explaining that only classical music was recorded in stereo at first, he recalled the period in which the market expanded to the point that "we ... had to start making stereo mixes of what we were doing. But all of the effort and time and production went into the mono recording."
As stereo started working its way into the marketplace, it forced engineers to come up with stereo mixes after the fact — often leaving them, as Johns laughs in the clip, "pretty screwed." From his perspective, "Once it became apparent and became important enough because there was enough demand for stereo, we obviously had to plan more carefully about how we used whatever tracks were available to us. It didn't always work out in the stereo mix's favor."
Ultimately, as Johns sees it, the Rolling Stones in Mono box offers a crucial sonic corrective for hardcore Stones fans. "If you want to get a really true representation of what the early Rolling Stones stuff is, then you have to listen to it in mono," he argues. "That was the way it was intended to be."
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