Beatlemania all over again?
|November 25, 1965: The Beatles recorded ten music videos, 8 of which are due on Beatles 1+.
Photo:Apple Corps Ltd.
In October, I am going to be part of a panel discussion at the Norwegian Beatles Festival. The discussion will have the subject “What will the status of the Beatles be 20 years from now?”
Over the decades since The Beatles ceased to be, we have had some resurgence of the band’s popularity, which have won them new fans in younger generations. Myself, I’m a one and a half generationer, having been alive during the Beatles’ career as a touring band and actively recording and releasing records. However, since I was just a young child and didn’t get into music until the seventies, I’m no first generationer.
The first time The Beatles experienced a revival was in 1973 with the release of the red and blue album collections. This wave of success continued with the release of the singles collections in Britain and elsewhere, in 1976 new fans were recruited by the “Rock and Roll Music” 2LP and culminating with the 1977 release of “The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl” live album. Further collections released by EMI/Capitol went by rather unnoticed by the general public.
1981 was another big Beatles year, because of the revived sales figures of Beatles albums spurred by the tragic death of John Lennon. 1982 saw the “twenty years ago today” wave of U.K. Beatles singles, repackaged, but these records were mainly purchased by people who were already fans.
In 1987, The Beatles’ records finally came to the CD medium, which fuelled another wave of recruitment.
Not much happened for the rest of the decade, and the nineties came along. 1993 saw the first release of the red and blue albums on CD. This wouldn’t have accounted for much, but Apple Corps released a bunch of music videos to television stations in order to promote the collections. Exposure on TV was free, care of the new music TV channels spearheaded by MTV, and this again lead to new generations discovering the Beatles.
Free of the old contract with EMI and lawsuits to get a better deal, “The Beatles Live at the BBC” was released in 1995 and became an instant hit, this lead to a revival kept alive for the next couple of years by the release of the Anthology TV series and albums.
The rest of the decade was relatively quiet, the 1999 release of a restored “Yellow Submarine” film with accompanying album featuring remixed songs from the film and an accompanying brand new “Hey Bulldog” music video didn’t make much of a dent in music history. It was for people who were hooked already.
2000 started the new millennium with a bang, though – that year’s “Beatles 1” single disc compilation of The Beatles’ biggest hits was a phenomenal success. The album wasn’t just 2000’s best selling album, it went on to become the bestseller of the 2000-2009 decade and won over new generations.
But since then, we’ve seen a lot of releases which haven’t lived up to the success of that album, even though they have offered new, unreleased material, like the 2007 “Love” mashup album and the “On Air” new compilation of radio performances, not to mention the iTunes only “Bootleg recordings 1963” release. As for video, new and enhanced versions of films which had been out on video cassettes have cropped up on DVD and Blu-ray discs, with much hoo-haw among Beatles fans, but not so much in the eye of the general public.
It has been said that the new “Beatles 1” CD will now replace the previous 2009 remastered CD, which again replaced the original 2000 CD. This is new. This didn’t happen with the first remixed Beatles albums, 1999’s “Yellow Submarine Songtrack” didn’t replace the “Yellow Submarine” album of the sixties and 2003’s “Let It Be…Naked” didn’t replace the 1970 “Let It Be“, they exist alongside each other. But since “Beatles 1” isn’t one of the original Beatles albums but a modern compilation, it isn’t treated with the same reverence. This may be good news for further releases by the combined forces of Apple Corps Ltd and Universal Music Group. With the release of “The Beatles 1+”, we will already be able to put together our own, remixed full “Magical Mystery Tour” album:
“Magical Mystery Tour” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“Fool On the Hill” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“Flying” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“Blue Jay Way” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“Your Mother Should Know” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“I Am The Walrus” (from the MMT Blu-ray)
“Hello Goodbye” (from the Anthology DVD and now 1)
“Strawberry Fields Forever” (from 1+)
“Penny Lane” (from the Anthology DVD and now 1)
“Baby You’re a Rich Man” (from the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album)
“All You Need Is Love” (from the Anthology DVD and now 1)
In Norway, a band who call themselves “The Beatles Project” are touring with a show comprising all the Beatles songs over a period of seven years. In 2013 it was the 1963 songs, in 2014 the 1964 songs and last week-end saw the debut of their 1965 show. The show has been a huge success, gaining favourable reviews everywhere they have played, and filling concert halls. I’ve been to a few of their performances, and I can report that the main part of their audiences are not young people, but there are a lot of first generationers there. This in contrast to the Paul McCartney concert I went to in July, where there were more younger fans.
Will the new releases of “Beatles 1” and “Beatles 1+” generate a new audience for the Beatles? It is a long-awaited release for us veterans, both for the visually oriented (the music videos) and the audio oriented (new stereo mixes, surround sound for the first time on several tracks) ones. But will the plethora of previously rare music videos, commercials and media reports recruit a new generation of fans? I doubt it. The era of music television is over, and MTV is split up in several channels specialising in the various new music genres. TV on demand is the new way of watching, which makes people select the type of entertainment they are already used to, and people don’t experiment much. No doubt, some new fans will be recruited among the young generation, but they won’t be the coolest kids in school.