On the Beatles iTunes Deal

The Beatles may finally be coming to iTunes.

It’s been rumored for a long while. The Beatles were one of the hold-outs on putting their music online. The solo catalogs are, I believe, largely available on iTunes, but songs like “Hey Jude,” “Yesterday,” and “Revolution”? Not as John, Paul, George, and Ringo created them.

Not having an iPod — or any portable mp3 player, for that matter — I should be indifferent. And I already own the entire Beatles catalog. Plus a number of bootlegs, from their Hamburg days through the final session for “I Me Mine.”

But!

The iPod release of the Beatles catalog has been long-rumored to also see a release of the complete catalog, remastered for the digital age.

Because let’s be honest. The 1987 CD mixes just aren’t that good.

They sound murky. They’re not lively. Listen to LOVE, the soundtrack for the Cirque de Soleil show, and then listen to similar tracks from the original releases. Or listen to the Yellow Submarine Songbook, released to coincide with the DVD release of Yellow Submarine in 1999, and compare those tracks to what was originally released on albums from Rubber Soul through Yellow Submarine. Or compare The Capitol Albums collections to the 1987 releases of the early Beatles in the UK configurations.

Even the Anthology albums sound better. (I’ll keep my thoughts on Let It Be… Naked to myself, though. It does sound better than Let It Be. But it’s not what I wanted.)

Quite simply, the Beatles back catalog needs a remastering.

I’ll have to rebuy my Beatles collection.

If Capitol Records were smart, to bring the Beatles to a whole new generation, a whole new market, price these remastered CDs at ten dollars each. Or less.

What about the rumored release of “Now and Then,” the John Lennon demo that McCartney, Harrison, and Starr worked on briefly in 1995? Might that see release when the iTunes release happens? We can hope.

To be honest, I had never really liked John’s demo of “Now and Then.” I found it tuneless, and the incomplete lyrics, with John just making up sounds as he went, didn’t really endear it to me. And the obvious audio defects in the demo were off-putting.

Then I found this fan-created video, that puts a backing track and instrumentals over Lennon’s demo. The fan mash-up forced me to see the song in an entirely different light. I stripped an mp3 audio track out of the video, and listened to, on its own, “Now and Then” is an eerie, mesmerizing, haunting piece of work.

I’m not sure where all the sound samples came from. (The only one I can identify positively is the lyric of “Sun King” becomes a backing vocal in “Now and Then.” Many of the samples may not necessary be Beatles-derived.) It doesn’t matter where they came from; somehow, this thing that shouldn’t work absolutely does work together, as a piece.

I’m amazed by it. It’s remarkable.

If this song is finished by McCartney and Starr, no doubt I’ll find myself comparing it to this version. A version which I already prefer to John’s demo.

Even if “Now and Then” isn’t released, having a remastered Beatles catalog can only be a good thing. Well, except for having to rebuy the Beatles catalog that is.

And who knows? Maybe if there’s a special Beatles iPod, I might break down and finally enter the portable mp3 player world.

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