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Shelf Assessment: The Beatles

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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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52 responses to Shelf Assessment: The Beatles

  1. Richard Royston says:

    Many thanks for answering the one question I thought was too stupid for me to ask on the US Albums Q & A – about how the size of the box compared with what’s already out there.
    Now no-one will ever know I had such a stupid question in the first place.

  2. Richie says:

    Shelving! I`m rapidly running out of room.
    For the mono and stereo collections I took them out of the box(s) before putting them on the shelves, same with the Capitol albums.
    Box sets do create a problem, I have too many to count and yesterday took possession of the Beach Boys `Smile Deluxe` box, as you no doubt are aware Paul it`s bloody massive, I don`t know where it`s final resting place will be.
    Good luck with the shop!!!

  3. Alan says:

    Oh just wait til you come to the travesty of all the Bowie special editions. Individuality is definty the key there!!

    • rare glam says:

      Thanks Paul, I meant to ask about the dimensions of the US box as well. It really looks great next to the mono box. I have a shelf full of Jap mini LP CD box sets that all have the same height with the AC/DC 18 x Jap mini LP CD long box set in the flight case design promo box resting on top of them. It’s fine in terms of storage, but you have to be careful about piling these boxes up or your shelves start to take on the appearance of the inside of a storage locker or a junk shop! I already have several small CD box sets resting atop the big David Bowie box (with the Jap mini LP CD 3 x 6 CD boxes inside) that makes extracting the Bowie set a bit of a chore. In 10 days time I’m going to have try and accommodate the LP sized Small Faces box set as well. So much great stuff, so little space, I need Dr Who’s Tardis!

  4. Michael Fortin says:

    Glad to see someone else worries about these things other than me :)

  5. Stevie Dal says:

    I’m in the process of re-vamping the spare room a.k.a Disgracelands. New shelfs are a priority !

  6. David says:

    Nice article. Would be good to have more like this, which address the many issues confronting the obsessive, pedantic (and often skint) hardcore music collector. Lots of scope for discussion there.

  7. bob says:

    Those 2 Beatles boxes look great together, you are right Paul, the black box looks stupid and oversized.
    I hate it when an artist has several box sets and all have different sizes and packaging. I am thinking particularly of T.rex/Marc Bolan in this instance. Four box sets in less than 2 years and every one of them different to the others.
    For me, I would buy more box sets if they came packaged in nice neat shelf friendly boxes like the Beatles ones pictured.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Agree with you. With Bolan / T Rex part of it is down to different labels. Obviously that excuse doesn’t exist for The Beatles.

  8. Andy says:

    You are not alone! I really enjoyed the Exile on Main Street reissue vinyl plus cd plus DVD boxset and was looking forward to the Some Girls version. Instead they opted for a ridiculously large boxset with CD plus DVD plus only 7″ vinyl. Pretty disappointing really and I don’t have a shelf large enough for it. They went for the same outsize package with the Grrr release too… disappointing. As you say, consistency and practicality is key!

    I agree with you about the stereo Beatles box too – would have been great if it was more like the superb presentation of the Mono package…

  9. Alex Pullan says:

    Ah! So I’m not the only saddo. I had the bright idea of putting all my Beatles CDs – including all the HMV boxes from the 80s – in a large wooden ottoman. They fit fine but of course I tend to put other stuff on the top of it. Hence I tend not to play Beatles as often as I should!

  10. Wazza says:

    Great article , great to see I’m not alone with regards to this sort if stuff , I can cancel my visits to the shrink now , one question with regards to deluxe editions , why do they no longer come in the plastic slip case ? That is very annoying

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Cost cutting! Although for some reason the ABBA deluxes DO still come with the slipcases. The power and influence of Benny & Bjorn, perhaps?!

  11. Derek says:

    What? No Anthology discs or LIB.. naked?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Yes, probably should have pointed out, that isn’t the entirety of the Beatles collection… got most things!

  12. Simon says:

    Great article. It is comforting to now know I am not alone in the world.

    CDs and boxed sets took over our house years ago. The answer… we bought a beach house. Guess what happened to that. No we’re not buying another house. We need the money to buy more boxed sets.

  13. Mychael says:

    Life is a lot easier when you just throw away the box and display the mini sleeves as God (Alex Steinweiss) intended (just like your vinyl LPs). I also binned those flimsy plastic inner bags and put the discs in the paper sleeves where they belong. (…and yes, I did the same with the Mono Box.)
    ;-)

  14. jo says:

    Consume, consume. Why buying al these boxes if you already have the original vinyl in your record collection?t If your a hi-fi freak i can understand your buying these boxes but what if you only like the music you can stream it these days?When the Cd’s come with the original artwork in papersleeves it is ok for me as a collector !!!But why an Apple logo on the sleeves? Why not the orginal artwork? I would buy all remastered boxes if the sleeves would come in original artwork. Take the Eagles orginal album box. Hotel California was orginally in a gatefold sleeve, but not in this box ????From every album there is a jubilee edition coming out with bonus tracks these days. Why no bonus tracks on the 1st remastered editions? You don’t need all these alternate versions etc etc. Stay with the music the bands originaly recorded in the studio. What made an album a great album in the past was the 10 or 12 tracks on it and the track order not all these extra’s. So no boxes for me when not in orginal album artwork.

    THE WORD OF 2014 for me is already SHELFIE (pictures of your own record or cd shelf)

    • Eric says:

      Hey jo (sorry!)…………….I coined the term SHELFIE last month…..on Popjustice….so please make your royalty cheques payable to………..

      ;)

  15. Lenny says:

    All these years of adding shelves floor to ceiling, locating every available corner and nook, finding better and more creative strategies for space utilization in order to maximize shelf storage capacities. I’ve become an expert on putting up shelves, assessing load capacities, and knowing the best hardware to reinforce shelf mounting brackets. Music collecting does cause people to acquire new skills and talents! I’m so relieved to hear I’m not alone! This blog is turning into a support group! Thanks everyone!

  16. Herb k says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one worrying about such a topic. My only complaint is that they are not in the order of release. I would start with the Capitol release to the left, go to mono, stereo set, bbc 1 and 2, then the us set. I noticed you are missing the singles set as well as the ep collection from the 90’s.

  17. trash says:

    Loved the article.
    A couple of comments –
    Really hate the long boxes – the Eurythmics and Beatles boxed sets spring to mind – however the idea of throwing the boxes away does not resonate at all :-)
    Also throwing away the plastic inners that come with the mini-vinyl replica CDs strikes me as bad idea also – Some of paper sleeves have been known to damage the CDs.

    Final point – I’m glad that, so far, the McCartney archive collections have at least maintained a consistent height and material (although they seem to be getting wider… :-)

  18. PAC says:

    This is why I love this site.. And Lenny, I might have to seek your wisdom & experience some day !!!

  19. Galley says:

    I’ve got an entire wall of IKEA bookcases that I use to hold my boxed sets (well over 100).

  20. Don says:

    Great article! There’s nothing better than seeing a nice row of CDs all lined up on the shelf…

  21. Jeremy says:

    You are certainly not alone! There must be loads of us crazies out there who lose sleep (not to mention money) over these things. What I find frustrating is that CD suppliers (Amazon in particular) so often do not give you the kind of details provided here. Even a simple piece of information like jewel case or digipak is usually missing. Is it a 5×5 box or a 12×12 box? I don’t know why suppliers can’t provide this basic information. Of course (thank goodness) there’s always this site!

  22. Bob says:

    I was so glad that you brought this subject up. The inconsistency with height and labelling has always been a bone of contention with me too. I am not buying the Beatles US box, but I do have the mono and remaster boxes. I have two purchased CD shelving units and limited space and I switched to Jazzloft plastic sleeves for all of my standard jewel cases. It changed my life. They are not perfect, and you can’t always read the spines, depending how tight they are pressed together, but I now have eliminated the CDs I had in overflow spaces, boxes and bookshelves – they are at least in two humble spaces where I can get at them. Plus it was fun converting the discs – going through my collection from start to finish was very interesting!

  23. Dan says:

    While we’re talking about storing box sets, can I please bring the conversation round to CD storage within its cardboard digipack. In some instances, the diameter of the CD (12cm) is the same as the slot into which it sits. Is it me or is someone at the record companies fast asleep? The slots need to be at least 1 or 2mm larger – durrrrr. Simple and basic engineering! And why oh why can’t they include an inner transparent sleeve, (like the Japanese releases) so that you don’t need to pull the CD by the edges to extract it by force from its location, thereby leaving a bloody great fingerprint on it. Anyone else feel the same as me? There it is – I’ve had my say now and feel a whole lot better for it! Thank you.

    • LedMan says:

      I agree with you Dan and now make sure I always have a stack of transparent sleeves. I’m now storing the cardboard digipack releases in plastic containers.

  24. Yes, I agree, it´s some kind of annoying to store all those different sets of boxes – especially very annoying is the fact that some of those [Lennon, Harrison, Ono] are open on the bottom meaning if you take the box out of its place, the box will fall down and you have an empty top shelf in your hands … gratulation to those who develop such boxes !!! They presumingly never bought any of these boxes, otherwise they´d know about the problem.

    These longsize boxes have also to be stored at a different place [perhaps with books] and therefor are out of chronology – but even more: in the past half of these boxes were even empty, as the CD enclosed only needed half of the space, but the devoted collector of course doesn´t throw them away, instead he´ll keep them, resulting in a problem how to store them properly.

    By the way: does anybody know of an USA issue of the Capitol Albums Volume 1 in a SHORT box [looking like the BBC Collection Box] with the 4 cardboard sleeves in one half, and the booklet in another shelf in the other half of that short sized box ??

  25. Joey d'Entremont says:

    Although I don’t post here often, I am an avid music collector with a very large collection of CDs and LPs numbering in the thousands, including about a hundred box sets. I share your frustration on how best to store my collection. I have various shelves to store the many different set shapes and sizes. I used to have everything arranged alphabetically A-Z but that was when all CD’s came in jewel cases. I had built shelves specifically to fit these, but then along came, well…. everything. You can’t eat your cake and have it too, so having everything by The Beatles for example in one place no longer works. I now arrange my CD’s and digipaks together and alphabetically by artist (last name or group). All other sets and non-standard packaging in arranged on shelves according to package size, shape and type. All 12 x 12 box sets on one shelf (ie: Elton John – To Be Continued, Electric Light Orchestra – Afterglow). All 12 x 6 boxes on the next (ie: Citizen Steely Dan, The Band – Across The Great Divide). All ‘book-type” box sets (2 discs per page) sit together (Police – Message In A Box, The Cure – Join The Dots, ELO – Flashback). The newer “pozzoli” type book sets and grouped (Amy Winehouse – Frank & Back To Black Deluxe Editions box set, Joy Division – Heart and Soul). The newest type of box set, the complete album collections conveniently sit together on a regular CD-sized shelf (Leonard Cohen Collection, Nina Simone RCA Albums Collection, The Kansas, Chicago, Harry Nilsson, and ELO album collections). The remaining box sets are odd-sized or special packaging and don’t really fit with anything. This is both frustrating when it comes to storage and interesting for it’s uniquieness and collectability. The sets that fall into this group are: Jethro Tull – 25 Anniversary Box Set (the cigar box), The Beatles Stereo Box Set (both CD and vinyl editions), Nina Simone – An Eclectic Colletion (a wooden box), Pink Floyd Discovery box, The Eurythmics – Box Set (as mentioned by another poster), Chris Rea – Blue Guitars, John Mellencamp – On The Rural Route 7609, John Lennon – Signature Box, Eric Clapton – Slowhand (Super Deluxe Edition) and Tori Amos – A Piano. My vote for the best/worst/most awkward/ most interesting/all around unique packaging for a CD box set goes to The Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime. Try fitting this one on your CD shelf. Mine just sits on top of other stuff. The Slowhand Super Deluxe box does run a close 2nd place in this category. Cheers!

  26. Paul Brown says:

    Brilliant post, I’ve had to change my strict alphabetical listing due to box sizes, very frustrating but nice to know. I’m not alone in my pedantry!

  27. Lenny says:

    Joey d’Entremont’s post describes the problem incredibly well, and amazingly I use the exact same system for many of the formats and shapes of box sets he has listed, even down to the specific titles he mentioned! Joey, I’m delighted we both arrived at so many of the same solutions!! And yes, that Talking heads package is a son of a bitch to find a proper location for, and in that same voting category honourable mention should be given to the recent enormous Dusty Springfield and Rolling Stones deluxe box sets whose packaging is so large and awkward, you almost need a degree in engineering to figure our a way to fit and present these on your shelves.

  28. bob says:

    Great post Joey, and spot on. It is we’ll know that people are living in smaller spaces these days, and therefore less space to sore and display stuff. Yet record companies release product in stupid unpractical packaging.
    That Dust Springfield box you mentioned is hideous. A great huge ugly pink box. Who would want that thing displayed in their living room? Even if I am a huge fan, of an artist, I no longer buy their box set if I cannot display it properly and neatly.
    The Bob Dylan Complete albums box is fantastic . Great size and very good packaging. That Talking Heads box set is just plain daft, as is the Eurythmics one.
    I would guess that most people who buy an artists box set already have the product on previous issues. Therefore we are mostly just buying the nice packaging. The least they can do is make it attractive to look at and easy to display.

  29. pete says:

    Great article.

    The box set that iritates me is Wings Over America. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great package but it doesn’t match the previous 4 releases as far as box design. Also doesn’t have the same linen texture. Just hope this is because it a live album and that Venus And Mars and Speed Of Sound revert back to the original releases.

  30. Phil Wilson says:

    Gerard, if you get the long box version, when you take off the outer box, the inner part folds over, so the CDs are on one side and the booklet on the other. You have to be careful not to let them slide out when handling it though. It is not the best / most robust of boxes but I am pleased with it as I can compare it to the new box. Picked it up new and sealed on ebay for only £19.90 as well, from a UK seller

  31. Craig says:

    With regards to the Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime box set, the shape was deliberate so it wouldn’t sit in a collection, thereby making the statement that Talking Heads don’t fit in with other bands/music. I think it states that in the notes in the book.
    The box for The Beatles stereo Cds has always made me think of a coffin. It’s the worst designed Beatles product ever. I always wondered if EMI had done it deliberately to get us to buy the Box of Vision.

  32. Mike Bushell says:

    This is wonderfully anorak and is a relief that there are people like me who worry about these things. I have to say I like the fashion for mini-boxes with all the sleeve as facsimilies of the original 12″ vinyl covers as the don’t take up as much room as jewel cases.

    Best packaging: the new Dylan complete box

  33. Ken says:

    So what do you do with the Motown 50th Anniversary 3cd sets from The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops and Martha Reeves? Each is housed in a 21 x 18 cm package that fits absolutely nowhere!

  34. Chris says:

    I would like to see the Beatles stereo box set released as mini-lps.

  35. Joey d'Entremont says:

    I agree with the comments regarding the new Bob Dylan box. The sturdy box, the velvet-feel finish, and the hard-bound book are all nice touches. The gatefold covers were replicated as they should be (shame on whoever designed the new Eagles vinyl box), and there is room in the box for future Bob Dylan releases. Hopefully they will issue future CD’s in the same packaging to allow for this. The music: Well that speaks for itself. All around, a beautiful box set. And it fits nicely on my “complete album collections” shelf!

  36. LE BARON says:

    I thought I was the only one.

    About Mike Oldfield’s Deluxe editions reissues (8 Deluxe CD’s so far):

    I feel so desperate Universal ceased selling Deluxe editions with a slipcase. Now you have to get rid of this horrible ‘Deluxe Edition’ sticker before playing the CD’s.
    Don’t tell my wife but I feel so frustrated about that, that I started buying second hands ”old” Deluxe editions of artists I don’t specially like…but which comes with THE plastic slipcase, just to be able to store my latest Oldfield Deluxe editions in these plastic slipcases.
    Spines for Spines’ sake !
    :)
    Btw: I love this blog !!

  37. susan smith says:

    This is just what I need to make my day, thanks for the comp

  38. Paul Everett says:

    ‘no longer in slip-cases’ there is an idea for you web-store: sell slip cases for those special editions released without them. I think they would sell well and I know I would order some for my Saint Etienne Deluxe Editions.

  39. Runicen says:

    It’s a perk when box sets actually line up graphically, but I’ve been collecting them long enough that I’ve got the long “book” boxes from back when alongside the more compact “cubes” that are on offer most frequently now. I’ve long since given up on any kind of design compatibility in my box sets and they reside on their own shelves.

    I will say that I do have a distinct pet peeve (and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one) when individual re-releases don’t conform to a sensible design scheme. Metal re-releases seem to be the key offenders here, but I’d be curious to know if there are any others. The recent U.D.O. catalog re-release combines to create a picture of Udo Dirkschneider’s face (I’m not sure why one would WANT that staring at you, but anyway…), however, the last two pieces are a live album and a greatest hits which has NO otherwise unreleased tracks included on it. That burned a little.

    For an utter WTF moment though, I direct your attention to the recent Savatage reissues on Ear Music. The spines form the Savatage logo, but only when the albums are filed vastly out of order. Not in reversed order, but in some random order that made sense only to… Well, I can only assume hallucinogenic drugs were involved. Their 8th album is followed by the 3rd, which is followed by the 4th and then the 1st and 2nd.. Yeah, it’s weird. And, true to form, the final component of the logo wasn’t released along with the others, so it was perpetually unfinished until they offered a SECOND reissue of one of the already reissued albums – albeit in an extended cut. Now if you want to talk about feeling a bit hosed…

  40. bob says:

    Lol
    I think this thread should be a sticky as I am sure it still has a lot of mileage left in it. I love reading these posts.

  41. Mark says:

    I have just purchased the 2004 Capitol Vol1 set (new). They sent me the Japanese version instead of the USA version. I was wondering if I should get it exchanged. I have not been able to find anyone complaining about the CCCP copy protection used for the J-release of the box or if there is any content differences (e.g. Euro versions vs. Capitol). I do plan on ripping them to get them onto my iPod

    Suggestions? Thoughts?

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