A new Beatles generation?

Time Magazine

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”.

Front Cover
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.

21 Responses

  1. Mikko Suhonen says:

    Hi, what about 09.09.09. The buzz was evident and the remasters sold well. I believe that many of them were bought by the new generation Beatles fans.

  2. Nighthawk says:

    "Rock 'N' Roll Music" got all the way up to #2 on the Billboard chart. The album that stopped it from hitting #1? "Wings At The Speed Of Sound". "Rock 'N' Roll Music" also propelled the single from it, "Got To Get You Into My Life", into the top 10 on the singles chart, peaking at #7 that summer, just after "Silly Love Songs" was dropping and "Let 'Em In" was rising.

  3. Lance T. Osborne says:

    Anthology kid here – yep, Anthology 1 was my first Beatles record.
    I'm in my 30s now, passing the love of the group's music to my own kids. This post is a good reminder to get them into the hype around the anniversary.

  4. Mike Bastoli says:

    At times it does seem as if younger people are discovering the music, but then again, I'm 25 (my first album was '1') and I don't personally know anyone in my age group who could even remotely be called a fan, never mind a completist like myself.

    I've encountered people who have never heard of Paul McCartney or Abbey Road Studios. Frustrating.

    Speaking of P.M., I had someone (middle aged) half-jokingly tell me that I was 'digging my social grave' by telling people I listen to his solo material and that I went to see him live. There's a perception that the 'The Beatles are for old people'. Screw that!

  5. maikel ariel says:

    the access through internet to the beatles and information about them is another factor of this moment. there are many facebook and twitter groups with a lot of teens talking about them. they have plenty of pics of young beatles on their profiles and it's really fun to read that young girls find the beatles "so cute, so good looking" as if they were talking about actual teen idols, when indeed the surviving beatles are at their 70's

  6. James Peet says:

    I went through the 80s as a teenager. I felt like an outcast and there was an attitude of my having a liking for "old" music, as though that was a terrible thing.

    I remember being asked why I didn't listen to something modern, like Simple Minds and Aha! I laughed then and I laugh harder now! I hope that kids get into the Fabs but also find their own music or music will never move on. There's room for everything and having a love for the Beatles is a great thing and has taught me a lot. So long as you enjoy the Beatles yourself, that's the important thing.

  7. Unknown says:

    I'm a "1" gen fan, 26 yrs old. My mom had a cassette copy of the album and for some reason I can't remember, I asked to borrow it and never gave it back…and never looked back from there…been a hardcore fan for nearly 15 years now. Luckily most of my friends are fans of the Beatles to some degree, but none really as hardcore as me.

    Also, I don't think its fair or accurate to state interest in Beatles music has waned based on sales of the bbc albums and others in the last few years. Sure nothing has sold nearly half as well as 1 did… but -nobody- is selling these days. Bruce Springsteen is no 1 on Billboard this week with 99,000 copies sold of his new solo album. The fact that a double cd from a band that hasn't recorded new music in over 40 years,consisting of mostly covers and live recordings in varying audio quality made the top 10 is a testament to their popularity and quality of the music.

  8. Ole M. Olsen says:

    I don't know about "recruiting new generations", but I remember that even MTV played a lot of Beatles videos at the time "the red" and "the blue" compilations were released on CD in 1994. (For you younger people: This took place at a time when MTV actually played music. Imagine that!).

    Then of course, as has been mentioned, there was a lot of hoopla with the 090909 remasters (and even the Rock Band game).

    As for myself, since we're reminiscing: I actually discovered the Beatles by myself in the early 80s when there were no particular releases or "waves" going on. My mum had a cassette copy of "the red", and I dug my way from that.

    Man, it's been some digging!

  9. wogew says:

    Of course, I'm not implying that "new generation" fans will be in any kind of majority. As someone who became a fan in the late seventies, I was a "lone wolf" too. All my class mates were fans of more contemporary groups artists, and that's how things will be. Still, the ones who become Beatles fans will find each other and in this "global village" era of the internet, that's easier than it ever was. These days, I also find that people who become enchanted by the Beatles' music will also be enamoured by other, often British, artists and groups of the sixties. The Kinks, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and maybe, just maybe the Rolling Stones, are likely to be other artists and groups they like. Comes with the territory, I guess. The first generationers may also like Elvis Presley, newer Beatles generations in general are not into him at all, but may enjoy the music of people like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. I also have a theory that the ones who become Beatles fans are more into music in general, music plays a bigger part in their lives than their friends who are mainly listening to contemporary artists. I may be wrong but that's how it seems to be to me.

  10. Anonymous says:

    There were two 1978 things that sparked a lot of Beatle fandom amongst myself and other kids:
    one was The Rutles which caught boys and the other was the Robert Zemeckis movie 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' which caught girls.
    The latter is almost an official film as what other movie has so many actual beatle records in it? I just watched it again and am amazed, now that I know a lot more about The Beatles, how technically accurate it is and how it relates to Zemeckis' Back to the Future in that kind of diligence.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Also want to note that the current generation discovering The Beatles are doing so via YouTube as a look at what's available there and comments will attest. A few years ago, you'd find the clips posted by the VHS tapers, then the deeper cuts (bootlegs) atarted to appear and now the full albums (including all variations) are in ascendancy and you can see kids educating amongst themselves in the comments as if it were the equivalent of 'behind the bike sheds at school'.

    I remember many of their misconceptions, rumours, legends and myths myself!

  12. andyloflin says:

    I funnily enough discovered the Beatles through a TV commercial in the 80’s; the Nike Air commercial with “Revolution” on it. I loved the music and my mom said “You know, that is a real song” as she put the Hey Jude LP on to show me, that is where it all started. I was a casual fan until Anthology 1 came out, that was MY first Beatles album. Many of the songs in the series I only knew in their Anthology state making their eventual discovery on the official LPs like listening to outtakes. It is funny how people discover music and connect with it and change because of it.

  13. Unknown says:

    I'd like to think that I provoked this post because when I registered a few weeks ago I emailed Roger to ask if he had any knowledge of declining sales since recent albums haven't charted all that well.

    Even 09.09.09 was initially reported as world wide sales of 3 million, which hardly compares with the 60-100 million album sales claimed the year after John's death.

    I'm a 51 year old British male, and I became a Beatles fan in 1974 when the Beatles were in their most unhip phase. That said, there were always a lot of casual fans alongside a couple of other fanatics when I was in my teens.

    For me John's death was the true relaunch, followed by the cds in 1987 and the Anthology project in the mid 1990s. It's impossible to say how many new fans have been gained over the years, but it stands to reason that as the original baby-boomer fans grow old they won't necessarily want to buy the same albums time and time again; it's just the large number of Beatle fanatics like us that are probably keeping this industry going.

    I think Roger is right to say that the reaction to George's death was muted, but there have been a raft of books about him in recent years, so there is a lot of interest in his life. Maybe it came so soon after the anthology and 1 that a lot of fans didn't want to purchase yet more stuff? Who knows?

  14. Ole M. Olsen says:

    Roger, you seem to be almost scarily right on the money with your "assumptions", at least when it comes to me: Not too big a fan of neither Elvis nor the Stones, like/love all the other artists and group you mentioned (and a lot of others), with a particular fondness for Buddy Holly. Music is vitally important to me, and I've spent a lot of time in bands… 🙂

  15. wogew says:

    Loved "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", but I didn't get that film until around 1984, courtesy of a British TV screening. Finally got it on DVD in 2005, first time I visited New York. Also absolutely a fan of "Back To The Future" trilogy, went to the cinema every time. I remember the Rutles in a big window display in 1978, but here in Norway, Wings' "London Town" was huge, you could hear a song from that album every time you passed someone's open window.

  16. Unknown says:

    In terms of other music Roger is fairly close with me. After discovering the Beatles in 1974 I developed an interest in many other 60s and 70s bands like the Stones, Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. I became a sad case of a jazz snob in my early 20s and discarded most of my rock records (apart from the Beatles of course). From 16 onwards I also developed a strong interest in classical music, especially choral and early music, and this continues today. Later I got back into rock via the singer songwriter tradition, and this led me to folk music. I was already a big fan of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, but I would now say that Joni Mitchell is my main interest after the Beatles, along with Hendrix. I was never particularly interested in 60s rock, but I do like the Who, Kinks and Small Faces. I am listening to more 60s soul music too. Out of sentimentality I have started to re-buy some of the Stones and Pink Floyd albums again, but I really detest Zeppelin now because of their consistent plagiarism and the fact that they took themselves so seriously. One of the things I really admired about the Beatles was their modesty and debunking of the mythology. It is entertainment after all!!

  17. Unknown says:

    The US Capitol albums, was a smart move commercially, to some young fans, but I think largely to baby boomers who remember those Capitol releases. Some of them were good. The Beatles 2nd album, mostly comprises tunes, not available on any other album, Mystery Tour, US Capitol version, has become in effect the canon album, as opposed to the UK EP. On the other hand they destroyed Revolver, at the least they should have added Rain and Paperback writer to the USA Revolver, when they created Yesterday and Today, someone should look at the USA Capitol albums, the UK albums, and the Past Masters set, and redo the whole thing into something that makes sense.The coolest thing about the USA albums, besides nostalgia, is that you end up with more albums, who doesn't want 18 studio albums instead of 13! 5 extra lps! the Hey Jude Lp sounds great, but makes no sense otherwise.They should redo the UK albums, adding all the singles and B sides, and the better Anthology outtakes, streamlining the catalogue

  18. Wellieman says:

    Hi Folks, I was born in 63 so was too young to experience them at the time. For me, being in the UK, it was the 1976 singles reissues (in the green sleeves) that hooked me. All of a sudden in the UK Top 30 were four songs by this 'new' group The Beatles! Yesterday, Hey Jude, Paperback Writer and Get Back were all aired on Top Of The Pops and were head and shoulders above everything else at the time, it being post-Glam and pre-New Wave. The BBC followed up by showing all of the films including one of only two UK showings to this day of Let It Be (to my knowledge). (The other time was 1982 when I managed to persuade my brother to record it on his shiny, new VHS recorder!?

  19. Unknown says:

    Hi Wellieman

    There is a good site listing all the Beatles film broadcasts on TV. The festival of films was Christmas 1979 and I managed to watch them all apart from A Hard Day's Night when the rest of the family finally put their collective foot down (one TV in the house!. We are a similar age and that was shown on my 17th Birthday (and yes, I did play 'I saw her standing there' as I recall). Your are right about 1982 being the second (and last) British terrestrial showing of LIB. It was Easter 1982; I was at university and I watched it in the halls of residence.

    The 1976 releases is an interesting one. I posted above that the Beatles were at their most unhip in the 70s, but of course the fans hadn't disappeared and their albums still dominated the critics' lists. The thing that sticks in my mind was the TV advertising campaign for 'Hollywood Bowl' in the summer of 1977. They used clips from silent horror films for some bizarre reason. Although this rarely gets mentioned, it topped the UK album chart for a week or so. Neither converted me because I became interested in 1974, but they certainly were visible events.

    Finally, having read all the posts about the re-released US albums, I must admit it has taken me a while to understand which masters they are using, but I am quite interested because I missed out on the Mono box set (and the amount of counterfeits puts me off ebay, etc). So I am tempted to get my hands on the mono mixes from the early albums.

  20. Infidelity says:

    Born in '65, I had a vague awareness of the Beatles as a small boy (Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, Get Back, Let it Be), but it was the daily re-runs of the Beatles cartoons on Australian television in the early 70s that got me hooked. My first Beatles album was, in fact, Rock'n'Roll Music, which was heavily advertised on TV here around the time of my 11th birthday. I can still remember where and when I bought it (with my mother in tow), and being (a) overjoyed at having so many songs with which I had become familiar, but (b) fascinated by the songs on side 4 that were from an era beyond the reach of the cartoons. It was the latter that led me on a campaign of album acquisitions each birthday and Christmas for the following years, starting with 'Hey Jude' – which I'm now very happy to finally see in CD format, if only for nostalgic reasons.

  21. senormedia says:

    Born in 62. I think Rock and Roll Music was the Beatles gateway for me. Prior to that I was really into the Four Seasons, Three Dog Night, The Guess Who, and the Mary Poppins soundtrack. Weirdly, if I ever actually owned it I don't now. Someone must have loaned it to me.

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