Beatles - Why only 2 mics?

Why did John, Paul, and George only use two microphones? I’ve been watching live videos of their performances, and I can’t figure this out for the life of me. Could it have had something to do with their harmonies, and they didn’t have any monitors?


Could you clarify the question? Are you asking why Ringo and George didn’t have any mikes? Or do you think that John and Paul should each have had several?

I believe that the poster is referring to the fact that during live performances, two Beatles often shared a vocal mic while singing harmony. It may have had something to do with making it easier to hear each other.Here is an example.

Paul and John each had one but George had to share Paul’s when he sang. I assume that most live sound was mixed through 8 channel desks. With 3 for the guitars and 3 for the kit that only left 2 vocals. It seems a pretty standard setup back then.

It was a bit of both. True, the old 8 channel boards had limited inputs but it also made it easier for them to hear and adjust their own harmonies, pitches and volume without a guy at the board. This wasn’t unique to The Beatles either, I believe most bands used a similar mike arrangement at the time.
I was always amazed how they could play at all with all the crowd noise and screaming they used to endure.
One of my early bands bought a four track mixer/recorder, which we thought was great until we tried to fit everything into 4 tracks. :frowning:

electrons were much more expensive in the old days.

In all honesty I can’t imagine that they had any idea how they were harmonizing. They had virtually no foldback and without it no-one on stage can hear what they, or anyone else sounds like, in front of 3 guitar amps and a drum kit.

I mixed live sound in the late 70s and early 80s and I can’t believe that those acts managed to pull good live sound at all. By the time I was doing it we had separate mixing desks just for the foldback.

I imagine it was pretty tough. By their own admission they didn’t play well under those circumstances.

How could one tell whether they were really playing, or whether they were just going through the motions? :dubious: And did anyone care? :eek:

Protons too.

and neutrons hadn’t been invented yet

Don’t know if it holds for the Beatles, but some people have such a good sense of pitch and the physical sense of singing, that they’re almost spot on without any foldback, feedback, or whatever the terms are that refer to hearing one’s self.

Harmony is the main reason, but then it also became part of their stage shtick. The picture linked about shows them on Sullivan, and obviously Ed could have given them another mic if they wanted.

It is interesting to see in that pic that there are chords coming out of the guitars and Paul’s bass running off stage. To get an idea what they were dealing with at the time, take a look at some images on google of Beatles at Shea Some of them show the entire backline of amps.

Here’s an old clip of the Kinks doing “You Really Got Me” that shows Dave and Pete sharing a mike. And clips of the Beach Boys from that era show Carl and Al sharing a microphone (Mike and Brian each have their own).

Also, Brian Epstein loved it when they did the “oooh!” thing whilst standing close together.

Watch the Anthology episode about Shea Stadium and you’ll see John playing keyboard with his elbow and George laughing his head off at it. The reason for goofing around like that was because it really didn’t make any difference because no one could hear them anyway.

A big part of the reason the quit touring after 1966 was that they were tired of playing like shit.

And, dagnabit, we *liked *it that way!

Exactly - and the audience didn’t care either. In the Anthology book there is a discussion about the very underpowered amps used in the first stadium concerts.

Going back even earlier, there was only one mike, I think. On the CD of the Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert, you can hear a laugh from the audience during Teddy Wilson’s piano solo in Sing, Sing, Sing. The liner notes say that this was when Goodman moved the mike closer to the piano.

Just a nitpick- it was Jess Stacy, not Teddy Wilson who played the piano solo.

Wasn’t it also an expression of the pecking order within the band at the time? By sharing his mic, Paul is acknowledging that John, who doesn’t have to share, is the alpha, but it is clearly Paul’s mic (he is behind it all the time, even when not singing, and George has to squeeze up to him to use it), showing that he is of higher status than George.

BTW, neutrons were invented in the 1930s, people! Let’s not be spreading ignorance.