Shelf Assessment: The Beatles


Unlike MP3s which can float above your head in a ‘cloud’, or can be buried deep in the recesses of your computer’s hard drive, physical product needs a physical place to live. For most of us that means the humble shelf.

It’s certainly true that no one has really come up with a better idea than ‘shelves’ when it comes to CDs, but the music box set has sometimes proved a troublesome companion in terms of storage. Try putting your Complete Smiths box (the big one) on a shelf and you’ll see what we mean. The other things shelves do is expose inconsistency with presentation. The text on spines should read top down, not the other way around. Why is it so annoying in a series of CD reissues when something bucks the trend? A logo which sits five millimetres higher than all the other logos, a typeface that doesn’t conform. That kind of thing can drive you to distraction. Sure, there are more important things to worry about, but whoever said collecting special edition music releases and re-buying product you probably already own was a pastime governed by logic?

So having recently acquired The Beatles’ U.S. Albums box set, it’s time for a little Fab Four Shelf Assessment. The good news is – as you can see from the photo above – Apple and Universal have done a grand job at matching the new box with the 2009 Mono Box. The Beatles’ ‘logo’ sits in exactly the same position and is the same size. The boxes are the same height depth and all is good in the world. To the right of the Mono Box is the limited edition Italian-only box which was given away by La Repubblica newspaper with the stereo CD reissue of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band in October 2012. Okay, this doesn’t match the size and dimensions of the other boxes, but it was technically ‘free’ and it’s a helluva lot better than the stupid oversized black box that the official stereo set came in. That was a travesty. In fact now we have the US Albums – like the Mono albums – boxed as wonderful vinyl replica CDs, it’s regrettable that at the time EMI/Apple didn’t offer this treatment for the standard stereo albums. Three matching boxes and three sets of mini-LP CDs would have been a superb way of having (more or less) ‘everything’ you need.

To the right of the Italian box is volume one of the Capitol Albums, the 2004 set which saw the debut of the US Albums on CD. This packaging was just as annoying as the 2009 stereo set. It came flat in a ‘long box’ and within that an inner box folded in half for shelf storage. You’re were then left with an empty long box to store somewhere else.

The recent Beatles at the BBC collection completes the display. The spine of the box reads from the bottom up (annoying) so it’s been turned around to show off the CD spines which do read correctly.

That brings us to the end of the inaugural ‘edition’ of Shelf Assessment. Perhaps I’m a mentalist and no one else cares about this stuff…. do let me know!

The Beatles US Albums box set is out next week. More on this here.

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