Original UK-Pressung, rel. November 1967 Verve VLP 9184 (Mono) Verve SVLP 9184 (Stereo)
Most of us have known this album for decades.It was released in 1967 in the USA in a gatefold cover with a banana on the front, designed by none other than Andy Warhol. Not only can this banana be peeled off easily, but the artist explicitly encourages this by including the line “peel slowly and see” to the right of the banana. Therefore, an “unpeeled” copy is extremely rare and correspondingly expensive. The German first pressing on Verve appeared in an imported US gatefold cover. Only a small paper sticker with the German catalogue number, affixed to the spine of the cover, indicates the German edition. Apparently no printer in West Germany could produce such a cover at reasonable cost. Interestingly, the American record company also exported a rare, uncensored cover version to Germany (the so-called “torso cover”). Therefore, the German first edition exists in both the censored and the uncensored cover. Discogs does distinguish between these two editions for the American first pressings, but not for the German first pressings. And so it happens that German first editions with the uncensored original cover are bought from the market for comparatively little money (approx. 300-500 EUR) by “shoppers” in order to replace the censored cover as a re-import on the American market. They then go for a whopping 2000 EUR upwards over the counter. A hefty profit.
Both mixes sound bone dry and very direct, typical of UK editions of the 60s. While the stereo mix presents the singer on one channel and the guitar on the other, the vocals and guitar of the mono mix are centred and clearly louder. Vocals and guitar are emotionally very present and seem to jump directly at the listener. When I heard the mono mix for the first time, all my hair stood up due to a strong adrenaline rush, an almost unbelievable presence came out of the speakers. You have to hear it!
Apparently, to avoid the problems of cover production, this album was released in the UK in November 1967 only in a single sleeve with the typical UK “flip-backs” in both mono and stereo. The back of the American gatefold cover mutated into a front cover. The back cover was completely redesigned. Not only is the cover unique in the truest sense of the word, the sound of the British editions is also something very special: the mono mix differs almost dramatically from the stereo mix.
The listener experiences something similar when he listens to the original UK single by Pink Floyd entitled “Careful With That Axe Eugene”, which was released on Columbia in 1968. Roger Waters’ scream goes through your spine, simply absolute mono madness!