On New (To Me, Anyway) Beatles Variations

The Collector’s Choice Music catalog arrived in the mail two weeks ago. I’ve received this catalog for years, though I seriously doubt I’ve ever bought anything from it. Sometimes I’ll look through it, but mostly I pitch it in the trash can, unopened and unwanted. This latest catalog, though, received some attention and for no particular reason. After a thorough perusal, I decided to buy two CDs, both Beatles related.

The first, Josh Rifkin’s The Baroque Beatles Book, I’d heard of years ago, but it has been long out of print. Released in 1965, The Baroque Beatles Book takes classic Beatles songs — “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Help!” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and a half-dozen others — and recasts them in a baroque classical style complete with orchestra and vocal arias. I’ve collected a number of orchestral renditions of the Beatles, but none are quite like The Baroque Beatles Book. This, quite honestly, sounds like something you’d hear on a classical music program on NPR.

The other CD I bought from Collector’s Choice Music was Beatlemanics!!! The World of Beatles Novelty Records. It’s an oddball collection of Beatles covers, songs inspired by the Beatles, and songs about the Beatles, all produced during the height of Beatlemania in the early- to mid-1960s. There are girl groups trying to sound like the Beatles, there are country-flavored ballads about the Beatles, there are songs about the Beatle haircut, songs about Ringo, Paul, and even John’s “Bigger than Jesus” controversy. And yes, there’s even a jazzy pop instrumental cover of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me.” A strange album no matter how you cut it, I think of this album as a snapshot of how the music industry responded to the Beatles during their early years by trying to capture the look, the feel, and the sound of the Fab Four, to capture the same wave.

Both albums are for collectors and hard-core Beatles fans. Neither would appeal to the casual buyer as the markets these albums are aimed at are too niche. But for people who like this sort of thing — like myself — these would be interesting to have around.

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