Year Over, but
What's Next for The Beatles?
A look back at the Beatle year that
by Tom Frangione
And while truly new and rare Beatle bootleg material has
been scarce in recent years, 2009 kicked off with headlines
of a newly circulated 11-minute recording of "Revolution
#1", complete with many of
the bits and sound effects that would be used for the "Revolution
#9" audio collage (after all these years, John's explanation
that there were three "Revolutions" now made sense,
In addition to producer
Phil Spector being sent to jail for murder, we said goodbye
to Allen Klein (one time Apple manager), Michael Jackson
(Paul's estranged collaborator who famously owned their
publishing), Lucy Vodden (nee O'Donnell, the inspiration
for Julian's "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" painting,
which inspired the song), Julian
scored a hit with his new tribute song "Lucy".
Guitar pioneer Les Paul, former Capitol Records president
Allan Livingston, Delaney Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie,
with whom George did his first solo tour) and Gordon Waller
of Peter & Gordon fame.
It is a bit sketchy, but we do know a new Ringo
album is coming in January, slated to be followed by what
may be Ringo's final All Starr Band tour.
Paul is rumored (only rumored) to be continuing his
live dates as well.
John's 70th birthday coincides with the 30th anniversary
of his death, so we might see some type of commemorative
release on that front.
The Harrison camp remains
a mystery, with two catalog albums all that's left to be
remastered & reissued.
As for group releases, it'd be
tough to top the hoopla with which we were blessed in 2009,
but I'm sure folks already have next year's Christmas lists
started (the Christmas album, "Let It Be" on DVD,
Shea, Hollywood Bowl, the cartoons on DVD .....)
have believed that back in 2000, the release of seemingly the
most unimaginative compilation (The Beatles' "1") would
go on to be the biggest selling CD of the ensuing decade? Surely
that's fodder for a piece on the state of the music business for
another time, but more tellingly, it showed that thirty to forty
years on, there's no sign of the Beatles star fading away. For
the record, I'm OK with that.
up the "00's" was a year that Beatle fans had abundant
reason to celebrate. Certainly September 9th (forever etched in
our minds as "9-09-09") was a banner day, with the long
overdue release of the Remastered catalog albums on CD.
Issued as a complete box set with a
bonus DVD, individually, and even in a deluxe mono box for collectors,
the releases showed that the CD market still had some life left
in it. While some still moaned about not having 2-on-1's, bonus
tracks and the like, it's clear that Apple looked at this to be
the catalog presentation for the long run (real or perceived)
and did it smartly, leaving the albums to stand on their own,
with the singles collected on "Past Masters" as with
the previous catalog issued in 1987-88. And while entrée
into the world of iTunes is no closer to fruition (think about
it - why make the music available for download when you're trying
to sell CD's? Besides, the newly enhanced sound would have to
be compressed for the digital download format, nullifying the
real value here), an Apple-shaped USB drive with all the albums
was issued shortly after the discs.
On the same
day the remasters were released, the Fabs entered the video game
arena with the much-hyped appearance of The Beatles Rock Band.
While I demo-d the game at the Chicago Fest For Beatles Fans in
August, I have to confess, I just don't get it. Not because I
sucked at it (I actually scored pretty high), not because of any
snobbery as a real musician ("real" in this case is
defined as a "legend in my own room") nor because of
any techno-phobia. I just don't get the thrill of pressing buttons
in time with flashing notes on a screen. At the risk of sounding
too much like my dad, if these young kids spent half the time
learning to play REAL music on REAL instruments as they do on
this game .... Anyway, even old time purists like me found something
of value in the audio tracks as remixed by Giles Martin, which
can also be found in collectors circles as the game components
have been, er, "de-engineered" (come on - you KNEW that
was gonna happen ....).
Ringo is honing in on 70, and Paul soon to follow, the surviving
Beatles seemed to enjoy a bit more quality time together this
year. Besides appearing at a gaming convention to promote
the Rock Band game, a couple of studio recordings emerged with
both Paul & Ringo as well. The first was "I'm In Love
Again" on longtime crony Klaus Voormann's album "A Sideman's
Journey", followed by the Xmas week release of "Walk
With You", the lead single from Ringo's forthcoming album
"Y Not" on which McCartney duets.
the two historically reunited on stage in New York as part of
the concert to benefit the David Lynch Foundation for Transcendental
Meditation. Following a three song set by Ringo, Paul and
his band did an abbreviated set culminating with the return of
"Billy Shears" to perform "With A Little Help From
My Friends". The performance was surreal on many levels -
seeing Paul and Ringo together tops that list, of course, but
also the dynamic of Paul serving as a "backing" musician
(when's the last time you saw that?), and knocking it out of the
park with his response vocal and patented bass lines. Following
an encore of the never-performed-live "Cosmically Conscious"
(quite appropriate, given the cause), Starr and McCartney left
no doubt about who rock's best rhythm section was, tearing through
"I Saw Her Standing There".
appearance was just one of several trips to the New York stage
for Sir Paul this year. Following his guest appearance to close
Shea Stadium in 2008, he returned to the new Citi Field in July
to christen the new park where Shea once stood, as part of a summer
tour. The three night stand was captured on the excellent "Good
Evening New York City" CD/DVD set. The deluxe edition, issued
only at Best Buy, contained a bonus disc with his appearance atop
the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, recorded the same week
as the Citi Field shows. The traffic-stopping set recalled not
only the Beatles appearance at the hallowed venue, but also the
famous rooftop concert captured in the movie "Let It Be".
Paul returned to New York for one more stage appearance in October,
at the Actors Guild benefit on Broadway, to perform "On A
Slow Boat To China" in tribute to composer Frank Loesser.
year, Paul brought his tour to Europe, and dusted off a
couple of songs he'd never done in concert, "Obladi-Oblada",
"And I Love Her" (ok, he did that one in the"Unplugged"
special) and his brand new song "(I Want To) Come Home"
from the film "Everybody's Fine". For good measure,
he revisited the holiday classic "Wonderful Christmastime"
which he had not performed live since the final Wings tour in
it was seemingly quiet in the Lennon and Harrison camps,
both were honored in high fashion - John with the superb exhibition
at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York, and George
on the other coast with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
was celebrated with the release of the "Let It Roll"
multi-label retrospective, which incited a goodly amount of debate
about the repertoire, as certain hits were omitted, and once again
Beatles titles (though recordings of George in concert) were included.
In any event, the iTunes incarnation of the collection included
a previously unreleased demo of "Isn't It A Pity" that
is well worth seeking out.
While there were no new discs from the Lennon vaults, we did get
new albums from both Yoko and Sean, and a year end single marking
Julian's return to recording.
we did not get a new album from Paul, there was a deluxe edition
of his excellent "Electric Arguments" album issued,
with bonus tracks and a DVD. Paul's "Fireman" project
was also celebrated in a month-long satellite radio spotlight
"Fireman Radio" which featured scores of unreleased,
live and rare recordings. In addition, we got a CD release of
the recent "Amoeba's Secret" EP (timed with its Grammy
nomination), and the release of "The Family Way" on
DVD, featuring Paul's film score.
"Soundstage" concert from 2005 saw two reissues this
year, one as a CD/DVD set, and one as a standalone DVD.
Also on DVD, TimeLife released a 9-disc set of Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame induction ceremony and performance highlights, featuring
the Beatles induction, and Paul's terrific rendition of "Blue
Suede Shoes" from his 1999 induction.
Both Paul and Ringo found time to guest
star on friends recordings, too. Paul can be heard with Yusuf
Islam (aka Cat Stevens) on Yusuf's "Boots and Sand",
while Ringo can be heard with former partner Mark Hudson on a
remake of "So You Are A Star" on Hudson's recent solo