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Reference Library: Beatles Cassette Tapes

From: (EgwEimi)
Subject: Beatles on Cassette (US)
Date: 18 Feb 1995 17:07:33 -0500

A History of Beatles Cassettes--Winner of the Tape War

The technology for the cassette (or compact cassette) is based on the simplest premise: make the reel to reel tape smaller. The cassette was introduced to the Capitol records buying market after the four track, eight track, and Playtape, but the format was being developed simultaneously to the others. The Philips company is chiefly responsible for the cassette tape, meant as competition with the other formats.

The four track and eight track were directed at music to be played in automobiles, replacing the nasty "singles player" and reel tape player. But the cassette was at first deemed unsuitable for music, due to its slow speed of 1 7/8 inches per second. No reel to reel tapes featuring music were issued at 1 7/8 ips, and the cassette had a smaller bandwidth. But it came into use for voice recording. The microcassettes still used today for dictation were once a leading purpose of the cassette tape.

As the sixties progressed, strides were made to make the cassette "listenable." By 1967, some companies were issuing cassettes as an alternative to four tracks and eight tracks. By 1968, most major record companies, including Capitol, were buying in. Capitol seems to have been somewhat tentative at first, making only 25 of its best-selling titles available on cassette. Nat King Cole, the Beach Boys, and of course, The Beatles were among the artists selected to indroduce the public to Capitol cassettes. Within a year, the cassette was beginning to establish itself.

While it is often true that early pressings of albums have better sound quality than reissues, the early cassettes were recorded at lower volumes (meaning greater tape hiss) and apparently did not have as long a life as the cassettes we have today. The advent of noise reduction (Dolby A, B, C) and the use of Chrome and Iron ("metal") bases allowed the tapes to increase their dynamic range, to the point where eventually the cassette overtook the l.p. in sales. By 1983, the cassette was the only tape format available to retail consumers. In approximately twenty years, the cassette had gone from being "unlistenable" to being the only remaining tape format out of all those introduced in the fifties and sixties.

What follows is a listing of original Beatles/solo cassettes issued up to the time of Let It Be.

Family Way Soundtrack (P)     London LKX 57136  (1967)
     snap-open plastic box with "cover" affixed
Sgt. Pepper's LHCB            Capitol 4XT 2653
Rubber Soul                   Capitol 4XT 2442
Revolver                      Capitol 4XT 2576
     The above three Capitol cassettes were three of the first 25
     cassettes issued by Capitol.  The cover/inserts state merely 
     "cassette" under the Capitol logo.  In order to avoid confusion 
     (since mono was still an option), future issues and reissues of  
     these tapes read "Stereo Cassette" on the front cover.  The first 
     issue cover/inserts also list all 25 of Capitol's available 
Hard Day's Night              United Artists K-9006
     white shell; label features boxed UA logo.  Cassette comes in 
     slide-out box.  The UA cassettes contain an extended version of
     the title song.
Meet the Beatles              Capitol 4XT 2047
Two Virgins (J)               Apple/Tetragrammaton TNX-55001
     paper "covers" affixed to snap-open box
The Beatles     Apple 4XWB 101  (4XW 160 and 161)
     The two tape set was packaged so that each cassette was individually
     sealed with a black sticker.  The inserts list other Beatles 
     cassettes and sport a large Capitol logo.
Wonderwall Music (G)          Apple 4XT 3350
Magical Mystery Tour          Capitol 4XT 2835
     As always, three songs are in rechanneled stereo on this cassette
     and on all reissues of it.
Yesterday and Today     Capitol 4XT 2553
     All the songs are in true stereo on this cassette.
Beatles Deluxe Three Pack     Capitol 4X3T 358
     Features Meet the Beatles, MMT, and Y & T in a 12" box.
     This set was apparently planned for release in order to promote 
     the cassettes in 1969.  For some reason, perhaps the Beatles heard
     and objected, this item was withdrawn, as was the eight track issue
     of the same item.  Although l.p.'s exist of "three packs" for 
     Capitol's other artists, no known Beatles Deluxe Three Pack exists 
     on l.p.. The cassette is extremely rare, with fewer than three 
     known copies.
Second Album                  Capitol 4XT 2080
Something New                 Capitol 4XT 2108
Yellow Submarine              Capitol 4XW 153
     Like the second issue reel tape and the eight track, this
     release is on Capitol, not Apple.
Beatles '65                   Capitol 4XT 2228
Early Beatles                 Capitol 4XT 2309
Beatles VI                    Capitol 4XT 2358
Help!                         Capitol 4XT 2386

Electronic Sound Zapple 4XT 3357 Life With the Lions Zapple 4XT 3358 Abbey Road Apple 4XT 383 does not list "Her Majesty" on the paper label. Wedding Album Apple 4AX 3361 12" boxed set with inserts, as the l.p. The cassette inside is numbered 4XM 3361. The cassette can also be found by itself, without the box.

All of the preceding Capitol/Apple tapes have paper labels glued to the cassette shells. There are some minor differences between those tapes made in '68 and those made in '69. In addition, some cassettes (and eight tracks) were available through the Capitol record club. These have additional catalog numbers as well. The tapes come in the standard flip-out box, similar to what we have today, unless otherwise specified.

Live Peace In Toronto (J)     Apple 4XT 3362
     The cassette rests in a tray, which slides into the cover/box.
Hey Jude!                     Apple 4XT 385
     The cassette rests in a tray, which slides into the cover/box.
     This cassette was only available until 1974.
In the Beginning, Circa 1960  Polydor 4504
     white shell.
McCartney (P)                 Apple 4XT 3363
     The cassette rests in a tray, which slides into the cover/box.
Let It Be                     Apple ART 2001
     The cassette rests in a tray, which slides into the cover/box.

All Capitol/Apple cassettes featured paper labels until after the release of the Concert For Bangla Desh. From about that time onward, the cassette shells were tan or white, and the Capitol/Apple logo appeared directly on the cassette shell. Like the 8 track, the cassette carried a warrenty until 1975. For a time in 1977, paper labels were used again, sparsely, but these do not resemble the originals. The round logo appears on cassettes until 1977, being replaced by the dome logo afterward. From 1986 onward, the cassette shells have been clear, rather than white or tan.

From meagre beginnings, the cassette rose to dominate the market. As always, the Beatles were involved when Capitol introduced its new format.

Values: most original paper label cassettes of the Beatles go for ca. $15-$25. The White Album is $35-$40. The Wedding album also falls within that range, sometimes selling for more. The Beatles Deluxe Three Pack, a rare item indeed, would sell for $800-$1200 if you could find a copy.

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