Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Baby, you're a rich man

By Carl

It's 09.09.09, and that means one thing will dominate the news cycle: The Beatles.

EMI is re-releasing the entire Beatles catalogue in two versions: as recorded (meaning the earliest albums are in monoaural) and one digitally remastered in stereo.
Nearly every fawning review has mentioned the beauty of the new recordings.

In addition, The Beatles: Rock Band videogame is being released. Again,
the reviews are almost saccharine.

Now, I love The Beatles. When Sir Paul was at Citifield in July, I sat second row. I mourn every December 8 and November 29, despite the proximity of the dates. And Ringo is Ringo.

I have all the albums on vinyl and all the original releases of the CDs.

So please don't take the tone of this column as being curmudgeonly, altho I am certainly known for that. This is not about hating The Beatles.

This is about hating the money-making machine around them and the dilution of the artistry that is The Beatles.

According to the press releases and reviews, the intent of the dual-release was to capture a whole new market of fans for Beatles music: Millenials who might not have known Beatles' music. The idea is, play the game, buy the catalogue.

The catalogue has been remastered and from all accounts, the sound has been sharpened and honed to a finer edge.

And there's my beef.

Those original "records" were played by kids on "turntables" that were barely moving at 45 rpm (the speed of a single for you youngsters out there), with "needles"...yes, they touched the "record"...usually weighed down with a nickle (or a few pence for my Brit readers). Or we'd listen on an "AM radio" in monoaural with all kinds of static and cross-signal interference, and would lose the station in a car passing under a bridge.

My point being, the way we heard these records was not in soaped-up distinct digital form, but in sloppy ugly tinny crappy boxes and cans.

And we went nuts! I remember standing in front of a mirror for hours, mimicking Paul and John's playing style, and George's solos, trying to get John's singing posture...a turtle on his hind legs is the closest short description...or Paul's goofy smile and whipping of his head and hair just right.

I knew the lyrics to every Beatle song from With The Beatles to Revolver within a week of getting my hands on the album. After that, I was so blown away by the artistry of Sgt. Pepper's or Magical Mystery Tour or The White Album that it took a little longer.

All on crappy Denon turntables and Tandy cassette players and Westinghouse radios!

To release these albums completely remastered without that part of the experience, actually trying to hear the music, work out the chords, follow the baseline, is to deprive the listener of the thrill of discovery. Yes, maybe that squeak of the piano seat at the end of
A Day In The Life now blasts thru the earbuds at full volume with so much detail you hear the farts of McCartney, but that treat on the vinyl was buried in the track that signaled the record player to pick up the needle! What a joy it was to find!

And I don't need to hear Paul's fingers slide down the neck of his Hohner to appreciate the baseline in

This event, this stunt, speaks to me more of milking a cash cow, like the Anthology release of twelve or so years ago, than of bringing this music to a whole new audience. Which, by the way, was represented very nicely at the concert in July. At least the Anthology had the charm of bringing us two new Beatles songs, albeit in a really creepy fashion.

But this, this is pure piracy on the part of EMI.

So I guess I have to go buy it. But not Rock Band. I don't have room for a four-piece band...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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  • Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and say that you're a bit off here. I know that this is just about making money for the record companies, why wouldn't it be? They're giving true fans and audiophiles alike what they've been asking for by delivering remastered versions of their favorite band. If you're a recording musician, then you can appreciate that what this project entails and what it means for us. I'm a musician and when I go into the studio, and want to record the best sounding audio as possible. The Beatles did the same but because the technology of the time, mixing boards, record players & AM, put limitations on what the intended audio was capable of doing. Now, 40 years+ later, we can now tap into the sound that the Beatles wanted.

    I'm older too and grew up hearing the same. I have all of the LP's, 8 tracks, tapes, & discs but this is what I've long wanted, and it sounds even more amazing then before. I know that the heart of a song is what matters in the end and not the quality but this takes that to another level.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 AM  

  • I realize that the times we live in are just too damned weird to focus any degree of attention on a rock 'n' roll band that released its final recording forty-years-ago last month - two of whose members are gone from our midst. Think about it. In 1969, at the height of all that was going on then, any columnist who would have devoted a entire page to the greatness of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra would have been laughed out of the business. But this isn't just any band we're talking about here. With the exception of the President's address to a joint session of Congress last night, I didn't spend much time yesterday focusing on affairs of state. September 9, 2009 belonged to the Beatles.

    Yesterday marked the long-awaited release of a box set containing all fourteen albums recorded by the Fab Four between the years 1962 and 1970. What makes this package different from what has previously been available is the fact that the engineers at EMI (the studio in London where they did most of their work) have digitally remastered the recordings from the original multi-track tapes. It was like listening to them for the first time all over again. The Beatles have never sounded better - I didn't even think that was possible!

    Let me attempt the impossible and sum up the Beatles' message in one sentence: We are the makers of our own dreams. That works for me.

    Dream. Dream away.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

    By Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant, at 12:13 PM  

  • Actually,Paul's fingers would have been sliding down the neck of a Hofner,not a Hohner.Sorry to be picking a nit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:41 AM  

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