Hey, Kids! Meet The Beatles!
Let them take us down....
Yesterday marked the long-awaited release of a box set containing every commercial LP and single made by the lads from Liverpool 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 - To tell you the truth, I never dreamed that was possible.
To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person in Orange County to purchase the set. I was there bright and early at the FYE store in Middletown, NY. They were ten minutes late in opening and I'm afraid my impatience got the better of me. You should have seen me, rattling the closed gate, yelling only half in jest, "I WANT MY BEATLES, DAMMIT!!!" Nothing worked; not even when I threatened to write a letter to my congressman in protest would they budge an inch. Fortunately, the people who run the place are all-too-familiar with my little eccentricities and did not feel threatened enough to phone the authorities. Their restraint was truly impressive.
After purchasing the package, I wandered aimlessly on the back roads that separate the mall from where I live, listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - from beginning to climactic end. The songs have a clarity that is indescribable. The miracle of recorded sound will be bought home once again in the next few weeks to the millions of people who purchase any of these recordings. Those incredible voices, eternally young, forever alive, resonate across the decades. Close your eyes. You're back in Studio Two at the Abbey Road Studios, sitting in with the lads on a long-ago recording session. In the classic song, Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon told us that nothing is real. I would beg to differ. The sounds emanating from these new mixes are very real.
To most people over the age of fifty, the Beatles have a special place in our hearts. Fellow Baby Boomers: Can you even IMAGINE your childhood without the Beatles? Not me! There had never been a band like them before. The likes of the Fab Four are not likely to pass this way again. They arrived on our shores at just the right moment - two-and-a-half months after the assassination of a beloved president. We were not only ready for the Beatles in February of 1964, we needed them like a tonic.
We all have our personal memories of the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. I remember the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember seeing A Hard Day's Night at the movie theater around the corner from where I grew up. I remember being at my cousin Mike Cullen's home when I first saw the Sgt. Pepper cover ("Mike! They're wearing mustaches! What's that all about???") I remember exactly where I was standing in the summer of 1968 when I happened upon a girl from the neighborhood who was listening to the new Beatles record, Hey Jude, on a small transistor radio. I remember my reaction to the news that they had broken up. It wouldn't last, I thought. Someday they'll Get Back to where they once belonged. I really believed it - for an entire decade I believed it. You may say I'm a dreamer. That dream ended forever on a horrible night in December of 1980 when John Lennon was forever taken from us due to an insane act of cold-blooded murder.
"Nothing to do to save his life, call his wife in."
"I read the news today, oh boy!"
"The dream is over."
Two years ago, on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the landmark Sgt. Pepper LP, I wrote a piece on this site called, Why the Beatles Still Matter:
"Late one night, not very long ago, I had a dream that the Beatles were still among us, making us laugh and sing in the same way they did when they were the undisputed princes of the Planet Earth all those years ago. That's what was so wonderful about the Fab Four; they not only sang like the scruffy angels they were, but they were so damned funny! All one has to do is view the films, A Hard Day's Night and Help, and you're once again reminded that they were a great comedy team - one of the greatest. When I awoke from that dream - thinking it had been real - the blunt realization that the Beatles are gone forever was too depressing to even contemplate.
"In 1995, the night the video Free As a Bird premiered on national television (the first "new" Beatles song in over a quarter-of-a-century) I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again - Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long-dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away - was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, "Oh, Tom! What's the big deal?" I told her that no one who did not live through that turbulent era could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation."
Music industry officials are now predicting that by the end of 2010, the Beatles will prove to be the best-selling band of the first decade of the twenty-first century. People who should know better are blaming the utter implosion of the record business on downloading and bootlegging. This is not a laughing matter, they're telling us. Oh really? Tell that to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Tell that to the heirs of John Lennon and George Harrison. They're laughing all the way to the bank, baby! Maybe - just maybe - there is a certain creativity that is somewhat lacking today. That's just a harmless little theory of mine. Pay no attention to it.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known
There's nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
All you need is love....
All you need is love. I believed it then; I believe it still. It's a fairly safe bet that in the next week or so, I'm going to be just a tad distracted by the magic and mystery of John, Paul, George and Ringo. When I'm done writing this latest screed of mine, I have a long drive to take. En route, I plan on listening to the new mix of Abbey Road in its entirety. Last night before I retired for the evening, I had a glass of wine and listened to Harrison's Here Comes the Sun. Beautiful! In the words of another one of his songs, "It's all too much for me to take". If your budget precludes you from buying the entire package (Times are tough, I know) you can purchase each album separately. It really is an incredible listening experience. The Beatles are back.
Unlike so many today, the Beatles stood for something. Decades of biographical scholarship now tells us that they were four very flawed and imperfect men - "a bit like you and me". But the recorded legacy they left the human race is incalculable. 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....
by Phillip Norman
by Bob Spitz
EMI has also digitally remastered the Beatles original mono mixes which I have recently obtained. For you purists out there, these really should be listened to - particularly the Sgt. Pepper mix. To quote John Lennon, "You haven't heard Pepper until you've heard it in mono."
When I wrote this piece on September 10, 2009, I never dreamed that eight months, one week and one day later, I would be standing inside Studio Two at the Abbey Road Studios in merrie olde England. I still can't believe it actually happened.
We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the doors of the Abbey Road Studios. A splendid time was guaranteed for all, and the nice folks there delivered - BIG TIME.
To read more recent pieces from this site, please go here:
"The Rant" by Tom Degan
Having been some time in preparation a splendid time is guaranteed for all!