Hardcore Beatles fans are waiting for the the ninth day, of the ninth month, of the ninth year, of this new millennium for the remastered Beatles catalog to be released. It’s been 22 years since the last reissue of the Beatles, when their LPs first came out on CD, when many audiophiles claimed those productions were botched.
Could this be the stimulus package that the music industry needs to get people to buy CDs again? My wife and I have been buying Beatles CDs again for the last year, getting them all except A Hard Day’s Night, so now we have to decide if we want to go and buy them yet again. Of course we both bought all the LPs in our separate teenage lives in the 1960s. And if we want, we can even buy the remastered CDs again immediately because they are also releasing a special second box set in mono.
Will modern kids who live and die by the iPod be anxious to buy sonically superior versions of the Beatles’ songs? Especially considering that their collections are probably stolen now? I can’t Help! but believe that EMI is expecting us Baby Boomers to pay the tab. And will we? Susan and I have opted not to get the box set immediately, but I plan to at least get A Hard Day’s Night. I want to see just how good these remastered songs sound.
The real question is: How many people still listen to CDs on a stereo system? I do, and a few of my old fogey friends, but I think the number is dwindling. I was one of the gullible who bought into the SACD (Super Audio CD) technology when it came out, just about the time the rest of the world was turning to MP3 music. To really appreciate the quality of the new CDs, they need to be heard on a good stereo, or at least a good car CD player.
I know who will buy these new Beatles CDs, the same 3,000 folks Susan and I saw when we went to see Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles last June, a Beatles cover band. The hall was full of Baby Boomers and their kids and grand kids, all seeking the perfect illusion of being at a Beatles concert, and damn if Rain didn’t bring a deep kind of nostalgic catharsis. I recently saw Rain on PBS, and the illusion doesn’t work with TV. I always thought it was a joke that people loved Elvis imitators, but now I know different.
In the 09/03/09 Rolling Stone magazine, they get Paul’s response to one of the recording engineers talking about the new digital production, “McCartney judges the reissues by an even higher standard, ‘It sounds like it did in the room when you recorded it.’” The magazine even says the recording engineers on the project claim, “the digital version is indistinguishable from the masters.” These new discs will be the closest we can get to time traveling back to the 1960s.
However, they also quote Paul as saying, “I can listen to a record on the radio on the beach and it sounds OK to me.” He goes on to explain that he and John were never audiophiles, and they originally recorded most of the songs in mono and let technicians make the stereo mixes. But at the end of the piece they quote Paul again,
Now I hear John and think,’There he is,’ he says, Like, you can almost close your eyes and you can kind of see him, because the quality is so real. So I like that about it.
Fans who don’t buy the remastered CDs won’t get that close if they listen to these new songs as MP3 downloads, but the quality still might be noticeably better. I’m anxious for the Beatles’ catalog to appear on streaming music services like Lala and Rhapsody, so I can add their songs to my playlists.
I’ve been listening to my ripped Beatles albums at work and while I write on my blog this last couple of weeks trying to decide which of the remastered albums I will buy first. Here are their albums in the order of their original British release.
- Please Please Me
- With the Beatles
- A Hard Day’s Night
- Beatles for Sale
- Rubber Soul
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Magical Mystery Tour
- The Beatles (The White Album)
- Abbey Road
- Let It Be
- Past Masters
- Yellow Submarine
Strangely, I’ve learned that my taste in Beatles’ songs have changed over the years. I used to think the later albums were their masterpieces, because of their studio sophistication and the kids had grown into mature artists, but now I’m wondering if The Fab Four were more creative when they were younger, and their songs were silly love songs. My current favorite Beatles song is “I’m a Loser” from Beatles for Sale. However, I can click anywhere in my 253 Beatles’ song collection and find tremendous creativity. My friend Janis interrupted this writing with a phone call, and we chatted for a long time about the Beatles and I played the beginning of dozens of songs for her. She could hear the beginning of the music, remember the words, and start singing the songs, which made me envious of her talent, because I can never remember words to any song but “Happy, Birthday,” and I sometimes stumble on its lines. Susan also has perfect memory of words and melody. I’m so jealous.
The Beatles are considered the musical giants of 1960s music, but there are so many songs from the 1960s that I love much more than any particular song the Beatles created, like “Downtown,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Eve of Destruction,” and so on. Their collective catalog overwhelms, but they were mostly competing with one-hit wonders. Look at their competition: 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969.
I wish some record company would remaster the hits of 1960s on month-by-month CD collections, with each set capturing the top 100 songs for that month. Wouldn’t it be great to buy February 1964 and hear The Beatles invade the American music charts again, and hear their songs in context to their competition and inspiration.
Recently I finished listening to The Beatles by Bob Spitz, unfortunately an abridged audio book of a great Beatles biography, that has rekindled my Beatles-mania. I plan to read the full version of the book someday and try to list and listen to all the songs mentioned that inspired the Beatles. They loved the popular music of the 1950s, and they even named their band after Buddy Holly’s, The Crickets. Bob Spitz must have interviewed hundreds of people for the biography, and I was most taken with the musical influences that create The Beatles. An idea of what I’m talking about can be found on John Lennon’s Juke Box.
Another way to discover The Beatles is through The Beatles Anthology, an 8 part documentary from 1995. Once you start learning about their history it becomes addictive. I have no idea if young people have much of an idea of who the Beatles were. An old joke twenty years ago was about a young women asking an older man, “Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”
With the release of The Beatles Rockband game and the remastered catalog of albums, will there be a new wave of Beatle-mania this September. I hope so. Ask yourself and your friends, “What are your favorite Beatles songs?” I was surprised with what my friend Janis answered. She remembered songs that I never think of, but when I listened to them, I thought, wow, I need to concentrate on these tunes for awhile. It’s so easy to forget.
Maybe people don’t listen to CDs anymore, but they still listen to songs, so lets hope these reissues get the world to go nuts over the Beatles again.
JWH – 8/31/9