Tuesday, December 08, 2009

...another look back to this date in 1980...

Brrrr. It's that time of year. Last Summer is far away, as is next Summer. This is that part of year that just drags on and on and on. And on. Rainy days are warmer, but they're rainy, so that's no fun. Clear days when the Sun's out are c-c-c-cold, shiver, brrrrr. This is also the time of year that a lot of us music fans don't really want to face. Yeah, this is another blog about The Beatles. On November 29th, George Harrison passed away back in 2001, and now a week and a half later, TODAY, December 8th, we mark the 29th anniversary of the date John Lennon was ripped out of his life, and our lives. Can it be 29 years, really? This is the part of the blog that's always hard to write, for it's difficult to find new angles and insights; they've all been debated ad nauseam, but the facts are: Number one, Lennon's Dead. Number two, That means he's gone forever. And three, "That's it". I find it highly ironic that the relentlessly cynical and acerbic John was the first to depart this planet; can't you imagine how much more interesting the world would be if he were still alive?

Except that it isn't "it". John Lennon and George Harrison keep springing back to life, and, well, that's good, I suppose. The Beatles' Apple Organization keeps finding new ways to market the group. Innovative ways, even. The only 'rub' is, there's no way to update the catalogue, and with two members dead, a 'reunion' is impossible. The closest that came to happening is when George and John played on "I'm The Greatest", a song on Ringo's "Ringo" album, released in 1973. Fast forward to 1995, and the "Threetles" (three surviving Beatles) did their level best to incorporate two unfinished John Lennon songs onto finished records. The songs, "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" are too little too late. Sure, both songs were interesting, and rabid record collectors such as I raced out to get 'em. But, Lennon's voice was recorded into one of those cheap little cassette recorders, and no much you try to improve the sound of an inferior recording, there's only so much you can do with it. It's nice to have those songs, but I've always thot the use of a Dead Guy to back up his Live Bandmates is, well, kinda creepy. I'm not sure I really consider those to be Beatles songs. But at the time, it was one heck of a marketing idea. The Fabs were back on TV! Unreleased tracks were being released! Two New Songs featuring Lennon's exhumed voice! Buy 'em now, kids!

In 2003, Paul McCartney re-worked the "Let It Be" album, removing current inmate Phil Spector's production touches. And, Paul included John's "Don't Let Me Down" in the strangely titled "Let It Be Naked" album, which was only fitting, because although the song had been featured numerous times in the movie, it was never put on the original "Let It Be" album. So although I didn't like the New Album's title, a good job was done on that one. It even included a separate disc of rehearsals and (brief) out-takes. That, plus achingly crystal-clear sound on the re-produced tracks gave the project a certain legitimacy. Although why did they have to use the word "Naked"? I think we're all still trying to forget the fact that John and Yoko posed nude on an album cover long, long ago. Those weren't exactly the two best-looking bodies in the Universe.

In 2001, Apple decided to re-release all the Beatles' songs that reached #1 somewhere, anywhere in the world. That ploy sold tons of albums then, and it still sells today. In fact, "The Beatles 1" is the biggest-selling album of the Decade Of The "00's". (Can this decade be over already? Gosh, how time flies.) And, finally, The Beatles (well, 2 of them along with Yoko and Olivia--George's wife) decided to Release The Whole Beatles Catalog All Over Again, but only this time, make them sound better than they ever have, so that old collectors like me will wanna toss away the Beatles' older-version albums and buy the New Versions! For me, The Beatles' Remasters discs sound just like the original CD's that came out in the 1990's, only turned up a bit. And, now there's this whole "Rock Band" thing. There's a TV commercial depicting members of a family playing "Beatles Rock Band" and whose face is on the screen but John Lennon singing away during Beatlemania. Don't the dead get respect anymore? Imagine when the kids in the family find out John Lennon is Dead. I'll bet their parents don't know that, either. This is the stuff that sells these days, though, and I suppose I can't begrudge people who try to make a buck off something or other.

Now, 'Beatles.com' wants me to shell out ninety bucks for a special Beatles "Box of Vision" which is specially designed to contain All The Beatles' Remasters Discs. You would have to have bought them all separately, because, elsewhere, I can pay another special price and get All Of The Beatles' Remastered Discs all packaged up nicely inside a Special Box of its own, and from what I've seen, the 'Box of Vision' won't hold the Box that the special Boxed Set comes in. (I'm serious about this!) Yeah, the 'Box of Vision' features tons of photos and commentary, but gosh...doesn't it stop somewhere? I guess not. When You Are a Beatle, You can have Eternal Life, I guess. Bypass the church completely. I bought the big 'Beatles Anthology' book back in 1999; I've bought almost all of the books on Beatles' Records issued by Bruce Spizer (they're all fantastic!), and wonder of wonders, whilst shopping at Goodwill a couple weeks ago, I came across "The Beatles", a 500-page biography by Bob Spitz (it came out in 2005), and I'm wondering what I'll find there that's not in Bruce Norman's "Shout! The Beatles in their generation" which came out in 1981, and was updated in the mid-'90s. (And yeah, I bought that updated version, foole that I am...)

The way The Beatles have been marketed down through the years simply amazes me. It leaves me quite dumbfounded, actually. The songs are timeless, the music holds up, and it still sounds great on the radio. So the Beatles still live on, if only on the "Rock Band" game. Now, the Rolling Stones have a different strategy when it comes to longevity...they are just gonna stay together forever, no matter how old they get. Don't break a hip onstage, Mick! As long as Keith Richards can keep his balance, I 'spose the Stones are Viable as a unit, although, if Richards is still alive is debatable...maybe what you see in concert is a puppet, with earnest Stones employees manipulating Richards' body from above with clear plastic strings attached to "Keith". I have a 2001 Rolling Stones' Madison Square Garden concert, and I swear, Keith Richards is bent over for 2/3's of the show. Of course we all remember his vacation when he fell out of a tropical tree, landed on his head and nothing happened. Life goes on, even for a Rolling Stone.

I've been in a strange head-space lately. This is my first blogpost in over a week. I'm going to have to try and find out why I am too busy to blog. So what do I do? I overcompensate for the errors of my ways by making my entries (when I do post) waaaay too long. So, next time you visit my blog, bring a sack lunch. It could take a while for ya to get through. Now, I'll stop before I bore myself. 'Bye now...y'all come back now, y'hear?


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