Beatlemania is Back

2009-10-01 12:10
Beatlemania is Back!
That's right. 14 Beatles albums are now available in brand new deluxe packaging, boasting added photographs and booklets with detailed historical and recording notes. For a limited time, each CD also comes embedded with a mini documentary film about that album. (Or, if your bank balance allows - you can buy the boxed set and get a separate DVD). Wait up, in our age of digital downloads and 'free file sharing', releasing an actual compact disc surely doesn't mean too much, does it?

Think again. The release of their digitally re-mastered catalogue has shattered multiple chart records around the world. In North America, Japan and the UK, punters purchased more than 2.25m copies of The Beatles' re-mastered albums, both individually and in two multiple-CD boxed sets, one in stereo and one in mono, during the first five days of release  alone (excluding those non-traditional retail outlets whose sales are not tracked by the chart compilers). On the American Billboard Comprehensive Albums chart, which includes current and catalogue titles, The Beatles set a new record for the most simultaneous titles by a single artist (18), including five of the top 10 and nine of the Top 20.

And before you shout 'sales pitch!', or 'stop the hype', just consider this little footnote. Forty three years after John Lennon controversially claimed that The Beatles were 'more popular than Jesus', it finally came to pass. Yep, for a week in early September, amid the excitement spawned by the remastered CDs and the Rock Band console game, 'The Beatles' finally overtook 'Jesus' as a search term, according to Google Trends. Aptly enough JC returned to the top of the charts seven days later, but Beatlemania is definitely back!

Whether you're a Beatles collector, or simply a casual convert wondering what all the fuss is about, the reissue of these 14 albums is a welcome opportunity to buy another ticket to ride on the Fab Four's magical musical mystery tour. Enjoy!

SA Exclusive: watch The Beatles videos
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" 'Making of' documentary video
  "One After 909" video live on the roof of Apple Records
  "Let it Be" 'Making Of' documentary video

The Fab Four's blueprint: imagine Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly trading licks while discussing Tin Pan Alley tunes and girl group vocal interplay and you’ll know exactly where this effervescent cocktail of pop ("P.S. I Love You"), doo-wop ("Do You Want to Know a Secret"), and rhythm 'n blues ("Boys") is on the rock 'n' roll map.
Trivia tidbit: 10 of the 14 tracks were recorded in one marathon 12 hour session with producer George Martin.
iPod essentials: "Love Me Do," "Please Please Me"
Classic cover: John's tonsil-toasted "Twist and Shout".
Classic Quote: "We'd had a Top 30 entry with Love Me Do and we really thought we were on top of the world. Then came Please Please Me - and wham! We tried to make it as simple as possible. Some of the stuff we've written in the past has been a bit way-out, but we aimed this one straight at the hit parade." – John, 1963
Orig. Sales: 1 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 2/4

Recorded a mere four months after their debut – unfortunately it shows. Paul’s "All My Loving" is a pristine 2 minute pop swoon, and George's debut "Don't Bother Me" is a moody minor gem, but it's really only the John-sung Motown covers that raise the roof ("Please Mister Postman", "Money").
Trivia tidbit: The album was released on 22 November 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
iPod essentials: Paul's "All My Loving"
Classic cover: John's soulful take on Smokey Robinson's "You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me"
Classic quote: "The first album was really a recital of their repertoire; With the Beatles was the first songbook so to speak." – producer George Martin.
"It’s about the nearest it could get to knowing what we sounded like before we became the clever Beatles." – John
Orig. Sales: 925 000. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 1/4

Their soundtrack to the Richard Lester film is the first album comprised entirely of Lennon-McCartney originals. There are beautiful ballads (Paul’s "And I Love Her", John's "If I Fell"), some rockabilly bravado (Paul's "Can't Buy Me Love") and who can forget that heroic Grammy-winning title track anthem?
Trivia tidbit: The album was recorded in one day. It’s the Fab Four's first on four-track tape for stereo mix.
iPod essentials: "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night"
Classic Quote: "We often could rely on Ringo for titles cos Ringo had this happy knack of getting things wrong, little malapropisms and it was always better than the real one. Someone said to him you know, you look a bit tired today, he said yeah I’ve had a hard day’s night you know. He meant it and we all went, Hard Day’s Night, that’s great!" – Paul.
Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 4.4 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 3/4

Beatlemania burnout? Given their blank countenances on the cover and their eight originals plus six covers songbook you'd think so. We get gloomy poet John channeling Bob Dylan ("I’m A Loser"), Paul actually sounding existential ("I'll Follow the Sun") and a six pack of MOR pub rock 'n' roll covers of Berry, Perkins and Holly. Not their best. But thanks to the working class singlaong "Eight Days a Week" not all bad either.
Trivia tidbit: Only six days separated the last full band session for A Hard Day's Night and the first for Beatles for Sale. It was their 4th album in two years.
iPod essentials: "Eight Days A Week," "Ill Follow the Sun"
Classic Quote: "They were rather war-weary during Beatles for Sale. One must remember that they'd been battered like mad throughout '64, and much of '63. Success is a wonderful thing, but it is very, very tiring." – producer George Martin
Chart: 1. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 2/4

HELP! (1965)
Cover filler aside, this is where the Beatles get their Mojo back. We meet big piano ballad Paul ("Yesterday"), lovelorn George ("I Need You"), and alternately narcissistic ("Help!"), soulful ("Ticket to Ride"), sensitive "You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away" and playboy ("You're Going to Lose That Girl") John - all varnished with George Martin's slick production sheen.
Trivia tidbit: The semaphore signals on the front cover do not actually spell out 'Help!'
iPod essentials: "Yesterday," "Ticket To Ride"
Classic Quote: "I remember Paul playing to me Yesterday and he called it Scrambled Egg it wasn’t until he got the lyric together that we decided to record it, so he went down and sat on a high stool with his acoustic guitar and sang Yesterday." – producer George Martin. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 3/4

The Beatles at their love ballad best: from sexy French chanson ("Michelle") and brooding introspective identity crises ("Nowhere Man") to progressive Anglo-Eastern pop fusions about infidelity ("Norwegian Wood") and Lennon and McCartney’s last bona fide colab ("In My Life").
Trivia tidbit: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" is the first pop recording to use an actual sitar.
iPod essentials: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," "Michelle"
Classic Quote: "The title Rubber Soul was kind of hey man it's got soul it’s a lot of soul, a lot of soul that music, it was a spoof on that you know. Seemed nice and amusing very us, you know very whacky."
Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 6.5 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 3/4

Bye, bye Merseybeat pop Mop tops and hello rock rebels. Gone are the clean-cuts lads from Liverpool and their cute teen pop singalongs. In their place are hairy acid rock rebels ("She Said She Said"), nightmarish drug diaries ("Tomorrow Never Knows"), and uncompromisingly challenging compositions that take in chamber pop ("For No One"), raga ("Love You To"), and rhythm and blues ("Got to Get You Into My Life").
Trivia tidbit: The cover illustration was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann.
iPod essentials: "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Here, There, and Everywhere"
Classic Quote: "That’s the first record with backwards music on it, before Hendrix, before the Who, before any f**ker." – John
Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 5 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 4/4

Commercial pop become conceptual Art on this psychedelic soundtrack to the Summer of Love. The fab four had stopped touring which meant they had loads of time to play in the studio. Paul gave us loads of cute ‘n conceited melodies ("When I'm 64"), John dropped "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and producer George Martin glued Paul’s obsession with overdubs together with some nifty knob twiddling to create a massively influential Brit-pop blueprint that Times critic Kenneth Tynan hailed as "a decisive moment in the history of Western civilization".
Trivia tidbit: the album scooped won four Grammy awards in 1968.
iPod essentials: "With A Little Help From My Friends", “Within You Without You"
Classic Quote: "for me it’s a fine album, it’s a fine album but I did learn to play chess on it." – Ringo
Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 11 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 4/4

One seriously fab soundtrack to a slapstick one-hour made for TV movie. John does hippie ("All You Need Is Love"), dippy ("I Am the Walrus") and trippy ("Strawberry Fields Forever"). Paul is at his bittersweet sappy pop best ("The Fool on the Hill," "Your Mother Should Know," "Penny Lane"). George heads off a-haunting on "Blue Jay Way".
Trivia tidbit: The movie's soundtrack was far more favourably received than the film. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for best album in 1968.
iPod essentials: "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever" Classic Quote: "what does it really mean, I am the egg man? You know it could have been the pudding basin for all I care, just tongue in cheek. It’s not that serious." - John
Chart: 1 (US). Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 4/4

All four sides of The Beatles at their best: there's pristine pop (Paul’s "Blackbird"), brooding acoustic ballads ("Dear Prudence"), experimental art rockers (“Revolution 9”, "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"), novelty song singalongs ("Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da"), and in George’s chord-bleeding “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” the best song Lennon and McCartney never wrote.
Trivia tidbit: the songs were mostly written on acoustic guitars while on retreat in Rishikesh, India.
iPod essentials: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Helter Skelter"
Classic Quote: "Helter Skelter is just a track we did in total madness and hysterics in the studio you know sometimes you’ve just go shake out the jam." - John Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 9.5 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 4/4

Aptly trippy collection of psychedelic pop ditties to accompany their animated movie: Ringo's Revolver reprise gets top billing, George's distorted guitar raga "It’s All Too Much" is a prog rock road map. But John’s hippie chamber pop jam, "All You Need is Love" steals the show. Trivia tidbit: The last half of the album features George Martin’s symphonic film score instrumentals.
iPod essentials: "All You Need Is Love"
Classic Quote: "I want you to get out of your seats and swim." – John
Chart: 3 (UK), 2 (US). Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 2/4

Their final studio recordings became the blueprint for the 90s Brit-pop ressrrection: John rocks hard ("Come Together", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)") and hallucinogenic ("Because"); George does cosmic ("Here Comes the Sun") and classic ballad ("Something"). Hell, even Ringo pens a quirky kiddie song ("Octopus's Garden"). And Paul? A conceptual "pop symphony" ("Golden Slumbers," "Sun King," and "The End") and some infectious slaptick ("Maxwell's Silver Hammer").
Trivia tidbit: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" was the last time all four members were together in the studio they made famous.
 iPod essentials: "Come Together," "Something"
Classic Quote: "I think before the Abbey Road sessions it was like we should put down the boxing gloves and try and just get it together and really make a very special album." - Paul
Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 12 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 4/4

LET IT BE (1970)
Back to blues rock jam basics may have been the mantra, but thanks to Phil Spector's epic pop production, Let it Be is less a snapshot of a band about to split (it was actually recorded before Abbey Road) than the sound of four blokes not really willing to let go of their egos. Nonetheless, in hindsight McCartney’s meditative ballads "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let it Be", Lennon’s cosmic crooner "Across The Universe" and Harrison’s soaring "I Me Mine" suggest that their pop paths were never as divergent as critics insisted.
Trivia tidbit: an alternate version of the album, Let It Be…Naked – sans much of Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ - was released in 2003.
iPod essentials: "Get Back," "Let It Be"
Classic Quote: "I think it shows on the record that when we were excited the track’s exciting. It doesn’t matter what we’re going through as individuals, you know on a bullshit level when it gets to the music you know when you can see that it’s really cool, we’ve all put in a thousand percent." – Ringo. Chart: 1
Orig. Sales: 4 million. Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 3/4

Casual fans might not need a 2 disc compilation of non-album tracks, but these mono mixes, B-sides and oddities are a must-have for completist collectors. the string of superb singles "We Can Work It Out," "Paperback Writer," "Lady Madonna," "Hey Jude," "Revolution," "Don't Let Me Down" are are worth the price of readmission alone. But it's the Long Tall Sally EP rock 'n roll blast from their early past, and Lennon's controversial "Ballad of John & Yoko" single that really spark. Unfortunately the German sung renditions of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" ("Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand") and "She Loves You" ("Sie Liebt Dich") are simply lost in pub rock translation.
Trivia tidbit: This was the final Beatles album released as a gramophone record before the recording industry stopped manufacturing them in large quantities.
iPod essentials: "Day Tripper", "Rain", "Ballad of John & Yoko". Buy the CD
Fab Four Rating: 3/4
Twenty two years after the Beatles songbook first made its digital debut, the Fab Four's catalogue has finally received the deluxe, remastered reissue treatement it deserves.

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goda 2009/10/01 12:10 PM
I'm a huge fan. My favourite albums are quite different from each other, though: Rubber Soul and Abby Road. Although Sgt Pepper's is also a must-have. Just wish they were available digitally. Way too many bits of plastic in my lounge as it is.
Shelly 2009/10/01 1:40 PM
WHERE can I get my hands on this in SA??? And how much is it? I've asked everywhere in the last two weeks, and the salespeople look at me vacantly or shake their heads disappointedly... Did I miss something?
dave 2009/10/01 2:08 PM
click the buy buttons, Shelly - kalahari services South Africa.
JB 2009/10/01 3:07 PM
Yep, Shelly, Kalahari has them at a pretty good price too. R121 or something. And most of them are also on 24-hour delivery. I love ordering online. It's like getting a present when the delivery arrives.
Shelly 2009/10/01 3:19 PM
Right, okay.. Having a pretty blonde day... LOL Thanks for that!
Neil 2009/10/01 3:47 PM
Absolutely brilliant!!!! There will never be an album like Abbey Road ever again.....
Geoff 2009/10/01 5:57 PM
Hey! Gottem all in vinyl and cd format. Fashions always re-cycle! or are the coffers empty!
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