Saturday, September 12, 2009

Twelve Dollar Impulse Purchase

What do you spend on groceries each week? $50? $100? $150? In that range, buying one of those tempting extra little things at the checkout doesn't seem extravagant. A pack of gum, for example. Or the latest Inquirer.

A tempting extra little thing got my attention a few days ago at Starbucks. And I yielded to the temptation. Along with my cup of coffee I bought … are you ready for this? … the re-mastered Beatles CD "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

A $12 impulse purchase with my $1.85 cup of coffee.



The release of the re-mastered Beatles CDs this week made news. That tells me Boomers still rule; or at least we have some influence on the media.

OK, what it really tells me is that the Beatles are still influential. Part of the mystique of this re-release is that they were technologically ahead of their time through much of their recording career. They began to experiment with sound recording techniques such as compression, distortion, microphones directly in instruments, tape running backwards, multi-tracking and overdubbing. All of that came together on this album.

But on some songs they also used some of the quirkiness of early stereo recordings, such as vocals in one channel and most of the instruments in the other. The engineers who re-mastered these CDs tried to retain the original mixes, preserving the intent of the group, while at the same time brightening some of the instrumentation that sounds a bit muffled in the originals.

One reason I chose this particular CD is that Sgt. Pepper is the first album I ever bought. I might even still have that vinyl version somewhere. So this was a sentimental impulse purchase.

I listened to it on the way home from work the day I bought it. Do the songs stand the test of time? Not especially. But this CD does provide a pristine vehicle for a trip back to my youth. And where else can you travel that far for twelve dollars?

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