7 August 2020
What differences were there if any in terms of mixing/live sound when The Beatles played in the US? I know it's generally accepted that American music engineering was a step ahead of British and the Beatles were constantly trying to emulate American sounds back home. Do you hear any differences from their more prestigious live performances? Also, as a thought experiment, how different do you think an American Beatles album might have sounded if that could've happened in the mid sixties - better stereo mixing I guess, but any other notable differences - who would they have sounded like etc?
17 December 2012
There was no real difference between their live sound in the UK and US for the reason that their touring years were pre-live mixing desks. Mixing desks being used to mix the live sound did not start to come in until the very end of '60s/early '70s. Until then acts were pretty much running just plugging in their amps and mics to the venue's PA system, no mixer in between. The Beatles didn't even have foldback monitors so that could hear themselves above the screaming.
They were the first band to break into playing stadiums and the equipment suppliers spent the mid-'60s running to catch-up with the demands that larger venues and screaming audiences put on live sound. The Beatles didn't even get 100-watt amps until the 1965 European tour; now a 100-watt amp is often regarded as a practise amp.
Shea Stadium was probably the first concert a live mix was done of as they played using a studio mixer, but the live mix was done for the soundtrack of the film and was not played through the stadium PA, which instead used the straight feed from the stage and played it back through the stadium speakers and many Electro-Voice LR4 column speakers arranged around the field and facing the screaming thousands.
Describing the live sound at Shea compared to what we hear on the film soundtrack, live mixer Bill Hanley has said, "The delay, combining those field speakers and the screaming house speakers, would have been atrocious; it would have been a horror show."
By starting the era of stadium rock they were too early for the innovations needed to make it sound good.
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The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966