Beatles finally on iTunes

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Beatles

Here’s a post I wrote for my friend Stan’s wonderful blog, The Ignorant Immigrant:

It’s been quite the long and winding road when it comes to the Beatles and iTunes. Since the online music store was launched seven years ago, it has tried to strike a deal with the Beatles and their legal representatives which would allow the storied catalog to finally be purchased from your personal computer.

What does it all mean?

Despite having broken up 40 years ago, the Beatles remain one of the highest grossing acts in the world. Just last year, their entire catalog was digitally remastered and reissued to glowing reviews and strong sales (a noteworthy feat in this day and age, as CDs appear to be heading down the path of extinction, where they will join their forefathers Angelo Album, Abe Eight Track, Corey Cassette and Frankie 45.)

I was skeptical about how well the Beatles would do on iTunes, given so many people already own the CDs and have ripped them on to their computers or have simply downloaded their songs from now defunct file sharing centers like Napster and Limewire.

It appears the Beatles, as they always do, are thriving on iTunes. Three of their albums (Abbey Road, The White Album and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) are in the top 10 of the iTunes album chart, while several individual songs are in the top 50, led by Here Comes the Sun at No. 20.

Why did it take so long?

For one, the Beatles have always had a contentious relationship with Apple Computers, dating back to a late 70s copyright infringement lawsuit (the Beatles’ own Apple Corps. was formed a decade earlier). Since then, the two sides have sniped back and forth on various issues over the years.

I’m sure the two sides couldn’t agree on the price tag, with the Beatles holding the leverage as iTunes seemed to need them more than the other way around.
Also, the legendary group probably didn’t see an overwhelming need to make their music available digitally, as it continued to sell very well in the CD medium.
The merging of the two “Apples” doesn’t impact me very much, as I’m stuck in the stone age and don’t have an iPod, but there’s one thing the Beatles could have done to give this news more sizzle. Like I stated before, many people already have the Fab Four’s music on their computers.

So why not sweeten the pot for those consumers? Offering previously unreleased tracks would have been an outstanding way of appealing to more people. The Beatles issued a ton of unissued material in the mid ’90s on the three double-disc Anthology albums.

However, there are still interesting tracks available in the vault. How about the nearly 14-minute avant garde track “Carnival of Light,” only heard in an early 1967 art exhibition. Paul McCartney has often lauded this track and tried to get it issued on Anthology 2, but the late George Harrison protested and referred to avant garde music as “avant garde a clue.” There’s also the eight-minute jam “Dig It”, heard in a 40-second snippet on the Beatles’ swan song Let it Be.

If they thought eight minutes was too long, there was a pared down four-minute version which would have been included on the early version of the album (when it was known as Get Back), but that album was rejected and later reworked by Phil Spector. A nearly 10-minute take of “Revolution 1” appeared on the Internet last year which was very interesting, showing the early gestation of Revolution 9 (which was recorded over the instrumental bed of Revolution 1, although you can’t hear that on the album version).

The White Album acoustic demos recorded at Harrison’s estate in 1968 are outstanding. A few of them saw release on Anthology 3, but there were nearly 30 songs, including Harrison’s “Sour Milk Sea,” which would later be given to Apple label-mate Jackie Lomax, as well as “Child of Nature,” the beautiful song which later became “Jealous Guy” on John Lennon’s 1971 solo effort, “Imagine”. Live tracks from the Hollywood Bowl and Shea Stadium concerts would be of great interest. I’m holding out hope this stuff sees the light of day in the future, and it would have made this week’s news into a much bigger event.

To visit Stan’s site, go to http://stanyann.tumblr.com/

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Comments
  1. Willis says:

    Long live John, Paul, George and Ringoooooooo!!! The Beatles rule!

  2. Andrew Sodergren says:

    And long live Willis Wachuleski Wilburtson and Andrew Soderpleckenstein.

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