A new Beatles generation?
It’s busy days for Beatles fans and collectors, trying to keep up with all the magazines, TV-shows, record releases and online material that is showing up. Did you all get the CBS coverage?
And Paul and Ringo are keeping high profiles to back it all up. The widows, Yoko and Olivia were also just announced as presenters of the upcoming Grammy awards.
I’ve been thinking, perhaps all this hoopla will recruit a new Beatles generation? In the past, big Beatles news and releases have attracted new generations to the Beatles and their music. I think the first time was when they released the “red” and “blue” albums in 1973. I can’t tell, but what I remember is that there was a revival of sorts with the 1976 release of the “Rock’n’Roll Music album.
|Rock’n’Roll Music – 1976|
The album collected the rockier Beatles songs as a double album, and brought a new Beatles wave across the world. A friend of mine had been visiting relatives in the USA and brought back with him a shiny album with a silver finish. He could report that there was a new kind of Beatles fever stateside because of the release, and radio stations were playing Beatles music en masse. The British release had a duller, matt green hue instead of the silver one from USA. But there, the “green series” of Beatles singles had already sparked a revival. Of course, Wings’ successful tour of 1975/76 at the time also helped a lot. Teenagers were discovering Wings and, like me, also dug their way back to McCartney’s earlier career as a Beatle.
Although Capitol and Parlophone went on to release further compilation albums with the Beatles, none had the same effect as “Rock’n’Roll Music”.
|The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl – Capitol 1977|
When they released “The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl” the year after, alongside the grey market “Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, 1962”, the market was already opened by “Rock’n’Roll Music”, and the teenagers bought the new release.
John Lennon’s senseless death in late 1980 had that same effect. Beatles music was again played a lot on the radio, and the shops sold out their stock of Beatles albums. The record companies had to start repressing albums to keep up with the demand, even Vee Jay albums were repressed during 1981.
|Introducing The Beatles – Vee Jay|
Then when the Beatles albums finally made it to compact discs in 1987-88, a new revival came. I happened to be in the USA for the first time of my life during this campaign, and I remember the same phenomenon as my friend remarked upon back in 1976: you could hear a Beatles song on the radio all the time. When one song finished, you could just dial around and pick up a new Beatles song from another station.
The next time new Beatles material was released, was in the form of the radio recordings finally appearing on an official album with “Live at the BBC” in 1994. However, I can’t really say that this release prompted recruitment of another new generation of fans. It seemed that the ones who bought this album were already fans. However, this changed when the Beatles Anthology hit TV screens around the world. It was impossible to escape. A workmate of mine remarked that there was too much Beatles on the TV. Here in Norway you would have them both on the Norwegian TV channel as well as on the Swedish one. And a new generation was captured, remarkably their first Beatles album was “Anthology 1”.
Then in 2000, the album “1” became a big hit and to date this seems to be the Beatles’ biggest selling album. For many, this was their first Beatles encounter. I was in a position where I could observe this, because I was in the Norwegian Beatles fan club “Norwegian Wood” and the young boys and girls started to come to our meetings.
In 2001, the music industry clearly expected the death of George Harrison to have the same effect on the sales of Beatles albums as the death of John Lennon had. They were wrong. It didn’t happen. And in the following years, it seems the interest in Beatles music has waned. They are not as strong sellers as before, which you can see by the performance of last year’s releases of “Live at the BBC” remastered, “Live at the BBC Vol. 2” and “Bootleg Recordings 1963”.
Word is, the new “US Albums” boxed set is performing better than expected. Add to that the media frenzy surrounding the Beatles’ 50th anniversary in the USA, and we may just get a new crowd of Beatles fans.