Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Here, There, Everywhere

Artists: The Beatles; John Lennon
Albums: Help!, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Beatles); Plastic Ono Band (Lennon)
Source: Bought new

Well, this is a little embarrassing. After all these years insisting that I am Mr. Music Man, here I find myself with a paltry sprinkling of Beatles (and/or Beatles-related) recordings. I mean, this is the band that is more or less universally recognized as Patient Zero in the ongoing infection of the modern rock & roll virus, and I've got a smattering of their achievements. Isn't this some of the basic stuff that anyone, everyone - not just the music geeks - should be expected to own?

Which probably (partially) explains the dearth of The Beatles in The Beast. Really, how hard is it to hear songs by The Beatles, Wings/McCartney, Lennon, or any of the other tangents springing from the Fab Four core? Heck, even The Traveling Wilburys has a Beatle, and Ringo's got his All-Starr Band on the road in perpetuity.

These songs are here, there and everywhere. They are embedded in the culture, staples on radio and/or public music broadcasts, lyrics that are ready-to-quote, and are often go-to cover songs for bands who want the instant audience connection that comes with familiarity. You know them. I know them. My parents know them. Some young kid just discovering the transporting effects of the music knows them. And in the rush towards the next big technological change in music delivery and consumption, the central question is, over and over, "When will The Beatles be on iTunes?" Tomorrow may never know, yesterday may seem so far away, but there's a fairly good bet that there's a Beatles song playing somewhere right now. Just listen.

All of which means it can seem entirely reasonable to skip buying the music. If I want to hear songs from The Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society, I'm best off owning a copy (which I do), since the album is nearly perfect and entirely hit-less. But if I want to hear something from The White Album? I can either drop $23.99 (the list price on Amazon), or I can hear "Ob-la-Di Ob-la-Da" on the radio, "Blackbird" at some local open-mic, "Revolution" on a Nike commercial, "Helter Skelter" during a documentary about Manson, or "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"...well, I feel like I can just hear that one out there, in the common ether that seeps into the collective musical consciousness.

Which is a shame. Revolver is a great, great album, worth listening to often and all the way through. It's got fan faves ("Yellow Submarine," "Here, There and Everywhere"), great pop nuggets ("And Your Bird Can Sing," "Got to Get You Into My Life"), experimental wonders ("She Said, She Said," "Tomorrow Never Knows") and even "Eleanor Rigby," which is arguably all of the above. And that's only about half of the too-brief disc.

Much of the rest of the catalogue is just as rich, sometimes a little more so (or maybe a little less, like Let It Be) and always, every time, richly crafted and entirely captivating. There's a damn good reason that each new repackaging of the old songs moves off the shelves with startling speed and force, and it's not just Baby-Boomer nostalgia: discs like the 1 collection and the Love mash-up recirculate wonderful songs in new(ish) ways that can't help but hit the ear and tickle the pleasure centers.

Don't tell Eileen: This is another case of an artist for which I'm not only keeping it all, but I'm really gonna have to buy a whole heck of a lot more down the road. Do I really not own Rubber Soul, The White Album or Abbey Road? And wouldn't at least a best/greatest collection of Lennon's solo work be in order? There's talk that The Beatles, Inc. is readying sonically punched-up remasters of the whole catalogue, and while it pains me to spend too much of my modern-day music budget on oft-heard historical records, it may be time to beef up my wafer-thin slice of The Beatles' canon.


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