Thursday, 17 September 2015

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.

Seventies
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.

Eighties
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.

Nineties
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.

Naughts
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.

16 comments:

James Percival said...

Roger, I am almost exactly the same age as you and became a Beatles fan in the mid 70s too.

I think that you provide some really interesting analysis. The trouble is that terms such as interest are very difficult to measure (newspaper or tv articles?), and data on new fans also difficult to record.

The only really reliable way would be to look at record sales. More data is now available but I do question the reliability of some of it. Nevertheless, in the outline that you provided two events really stand out:

1- the death of John Lennon which resulted in a massive wave of interest. I have come across a figure of 60m album sales in the early 80s which is a colossal amount if true.

2- the Anthology project which also resulted in huge sales figures. These sales were also extended by hte earlier success of the BBC recordings with big world wide sales, and, as you mentioned, the colossal sales for 1. Thus the second half of the 90s was a huge time for the Beatles and was reflected in many of the end of millennium polls which demonstrated the ongoing appeal of the Beatles (and Elvis).

Since then things have gone quieter and I think we ought to accept that as the baby boomer generation grows older they won't necessarily keep on buying the same products again and again. Besides, do we have figures for world wide streaming sales? Album sales will probably never be as high as the peak years of the 80s and 90s for any artists.

Finally, this 1 project really excites me and I look forward to the remixes. I thought that the YS soundtrack was a big improvement and I was disappointed with the 2009 remasters (although I still bought them all!)

Unknown said...

Dear Roger,
I have a question regarding the Beatles 1 & 1+ Blu Ray bonus disc. The description mentions that the 1st disc of 27 tracks has been remixed in stereo & 5.1 surround. Does that mean i should assume the Bonus disc of 23 tracks will be treated the same with new stereo & 5.1 surround mixes as well?
Thank you
Tony LoGuecio

Gabor Peterdi said...

Well I think The Beatles will slowly become a calssical composer type of thing. Everybody will be able to whistle some of their tunes and there will be scolars scrutinizing every detail, but the average Joe will have not much idea about them. Those first generational fans will soon die and the mantra of 'we were there so it's our music' will fade out with them. They'll turn into history but that's how it is. All Things Must Pass.

PS. But we the fans will stay loyal until our dying day, will be buried with those songs inprinted in our cells, wearing our T-shirts and Beatles belt buckles and attend their every show in the afterlife. John and George are already tuning...

Edward Russell said...

What about the impact of Beatles Rockband. Got my kids hooked and now word perfect on fab songs. Also the Vegas show.

Martin said...

In the 90s a lot of new Beatles fans came through Oasis. No, I am not saying Oasis are as good as The Beatles, but through Noel and Liam's open love of The Beatles and their influence many younger fans got into the Fab Four. I recall a large poster in Manchester city centre around 1995. It featured Liam Gallagher with a beard and the words 'The Beatles 1967-1970' Painted in blue on the palm of his open hand. Can't remember what the poster was for, but the Oasis/Beatles thing was big at the time....

A similar thing was Paul Weller and The Small Faces. In his 90s renaissance, Weller sang the praises of Steve Marriott and Co. Weller also never made a secret of his love for The Beatles.

James Peet said...

I became a fan of the Beatles in November 1982, after hearing Love Me Do (then in the charts following a re-release for its 20th anniversary). I was 11. Now, I have just about everything, a few nice rarities, a lot of books and general "stuff". I think that these newly polished videos will help keep the Beatles popular, as their sound recordings still gather new fans. Whether this continues long-term, I'm not sure. We are getting nearer the time when (sadly) the Beatles will be deceased and this may mean them slipping quietly into the background or it could spur on yet more fans and new Beatles product. Who knows? I'll die a Beatles fan and that's the only thing I can predict!

joey anthony said...

what got me into the beatles was seeing the complete beatles on tv in 83 or 84.it's a great documentary on the group.it was made in 82.so many kids today are into dubstep and rap and hiphop and techno.and it's just awful.they are not into the beatles.

James Percival said...

In terms of record sales the first cds in 1987 must also have led to a massive increase in numbers given that it was a well-known phenomenon that music fans tended to buy their favourite vinyl albums on cd. In that respect both the high price of Beatles cds compared to comparable artists such as the Stones and Zeppelin, and the long delay before the remasters came out, probably hurt further sales a bit.

As I mentioned new fans are difficult to measure. I became a fan aged 11 due to a music teacher at school who played us a lot of songs off the red and blue albums. I had a friend at school who became even more obsessive than me, and several other more casual fans. My formative years were during punk and heavy metal but 'underground' there was still a lot of interest in the Beatles. My own children, aged 9 and 7 hear Beatles songs at school, but don't really have much interest as yet. It may well be the case that fewer and fewer new fans will emerge, but there will always be some.

I think the analogy with classical composers is a good one, Gabor, but how about parallels with the jazz greats? Although I am a Beatlemaniac, I do have very broad and deep musical interests and in my early 20s I really got into bebop and big band artists such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. Their records never sold in anything like the numbers of the Beatles, but they still sell and interest in collecting all their recordings is probably greater than ever. I am sure that a deep interest in the Beatles will continue for decades long after all the band members are dead; and as a cultural phenomenon this is only really starting. Already several university departments worldwide are offering courses in the Beatles.

Alan Brooks said...

It will still be relevant. Why? Because music doesn't develop as quickly as it did before. Look at the music scene early 60's and again end of the 60's. We came such a long way. The Beatles career was really 63-69. Most band take that amount out of time to release the second album. In 77 punk came and the hippies were so old hat, why they were only 10 years old. Look back to 2005. Kids still listen to that, it's as relevant today and it's 10 years old Glam rock came in the 70's but was just a rehash of rock n roll. Disco was interesting but punk made it embarrassing to be a Beatle fan, yet years later we find out they were all closet beatles fans anyway. So we all went underground until oasis. Two cool lads who said bollocks to the lot of you, the Beatles were cool and still are. The great thing about the Beatles is they did everything. Mods in suits, dressing up, hippies, long hair short hair, ballads, rock n roll, heavy metal, everything I listen to now I can trace some influence there. My kids hear something and say that's a bit beatley!! Hip hop and rap are the only things that is new but that's become repetitive so what's next? Back to basics guitar bass n drums and who will the kids look to for influence? They go back to the excitement of rock n roll which leads them to the next development The Beatles and a whole new generation will do what the Beatles did, Nick a few chords a few melodies and so the cycle continues. There are only 8 notes. There is only so much you can do!

Martin said...

Great piece there, Alan. I recall The Stone Roses at the time of their iconic debut album in 89 showing their love for The Beatles. John Squire said his favourite album of all time was 'Revolver' and Mani was praised in the music press for his 'Beatles inspired basslines'. Squire also saw The Beatles as the yardstick, the ultimate inspiration. Squire said, 'I don't understand all these bands that say they are influenced by unknown and obscure artists, just to appear cool. We (The Roses) want to be as good as The Beatles or The Byrds, and why not? There's no point in aiming low.'

Ian Brown also said of the Roses classic debut album, 'It is a great album, but it is nowhere near the five best Beatles albums. I would have loved us to go into Abbey Road with George Martin for six months and see what we could have done...'

Martin said...

Happy Mondays also loved The Beatles. Their early track 'Desmond' is a nod to 'Obla-Di-Obla-Da'(Shaun Ryder's favourite Beatles track) and the single 'Lazyitis (The One Armed Boxer)' contains lines based on 'Ticket To Ride.'

Mondays drummer, Gary Whelan, was even known throughout Manchester as Ringo Starr. Such was his admiration for Richie and his drumming...

Oasis did get a lot of younger people into The Beatles, but Manchester bands doffed their caps to the Fab Four long before Definitely Maybe...

Terence Daniel Collier said...

anyone want to see a brief clip of the amazing Two of Us video https://vimeo.com/9727284

Martin said...

Cheers for that,Terry.
Is Bob still suffering with Thelma?

Terence Daniel Collier said...

As always! I'll take him down the pub tonight for a few pints to cheer him up! :-)

Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Internotional Times said...

The Beatles may have become a religion/obsession for a large body of the ageing and well-heeled earlier generations of fans but there's a hideous 'ownership' aspect with artefacts of authoritarianism which really doesn't belong in Beatledom or any other fan community.

Some might say this authoritarianism is perhaps just a subset of 'social media empowerment of audiences and public but it's a little more than that. A lot more than that.

There's a desire to worship of one hand and a desire to usurp on the other.
It's of the order of 'The Beatles are great but if I can get into their vault by any means, I'll do it'.
It's a kind of 'survivalist Beatledom'. Its most vocal and arrogant figures have their own radio shows and wax forth their declarations of whether what Apple is doing business-wise is cool or not.
We just witnessed a few of these figures almost being caught with their fat asses exposed when their warm-up to another bout of Apple-bashing (as per the hysterical scenes surrounding some commentary on 'The US Albums') was quickly wrong-footed by general and ecstatically favourable opinion on the 1+ sets forthcoming.

I think it's time these would-be 'leaders' of opinion were shunned. Boycott their shows and let them know their opinion is to be challenged.


I present this as an example of what's needed.

Am I kowtowing to official Apple/Universal propaganda?
Since there hasn't been any, NO.
Apple's motives and operations are always OPINIONS in these people's heads (and sadly in their readers and listeners too) not facts, not research.

I've just had enough of aging Beatlemaniac bullshit, from condemning ignorance in their grandchildren's generation and other forms of downright NASTY zealotry.

It's time to tell a few fatboys to STFU