Rebuttal to "Shiny New Beatles"
Of course Rusty couldn’t write an article monkeying with The Beatles’ catalogue without my own rebuttal of sorts. This is not to say that Rusty is out of line with his suggestions; The Beatles’ catalogue is in major need of overhaul. Bands like The Monkees are treated with the reverence of Miles Davis while the greatest pop catalogue has been sitting on record store shelves for over twenty years virtually unchanged. Granted the CDs were pretty special upon their release, but the times have changed and our beloved Fabs are due some respect.
For those that still collect records and care, without further ado, here is my suggestion (take note, EMI):
I’m not going to go album for album and song for song, but I will point out my own problems with Rusty’s suggestion. (Of course, he is free to respond just as I did.) While I appreciate Rusty’s need to put the songs into their original contexts, I do have a problem with revising the albums as they originally appeared. Not that they are so sacred or anything, but it seems that you're more likely to just piss people off. I say, let the albums be what they were (in their original British configurations).
My point of reference to the reissues are the Rhino series of Elvis Costello’s catalogue. If you are not familiar, here’s how they did them: They released each record as a two-disc edition, complete with liner notes by Elvis himself. The first disc was the original album, all remastered and cleaned up for CD. The second disc consisted of B-sides, outtakes, alternate takes, live cuts, and demos. Basically, they just made everything available from that period. The real kicker was the price tag. They were sold at regular retail. You can get them on an average of $17.99. Not bad for a double-set, huh?
Another point of reference would be Rhino’s (again) recent releases of the first four Monkees albums. This is where I’m going with The Beatles. Those are also double sets complete with pretty books full of notes and pictures. The first discs are stereo/mono twofers of the albums while the seconds disc is rounded out by all the outtakes and alternates.
I know this has probably been suggested a thousand times by people on the internet, but this is my article and I’m too lazy to look this info up. There’s too much already out there about The Beatles, so sue me.
The Beatles albums should be released the same way as The Monkees/Elvis Costello sets: as deluxe edition two-disc collections. The first disc would be the original British album presented in mono followed by the stereo program. Those early albums are short enough that the songs could be fit onto a single disc with no problem. Plus, no one can say that anybody is toying with the “history,” i.e. running order. It also appeases every fan that likes to nitpick over the differences and subtleties of each mix. If you don’t care, then just listen to your preferred version, be it stereo or mono.
The second disc would consist of singles, B-sides, non-album tracks, outtakes, live versions, and whatever else. This would essentially do away with the Anthologies of the late 90s as well as the Past Masters sets, but it would also add perspective to the original records. “From Me To You” probably belongs alongside Please Please Me as an album, but I don’t really think it belongs on the record itself. (You can see why I’m not even going to try and make a track listing, but there’s tons of stuff out there.)
It goes without saying that each CD would come with a booklet containing all kinds of track info and notes. Just cram the things full of whatever you’ve got. People can discern if they want to read it.
Of course, the later albums pose a different concern. Especially after Rubber Soul. Still, there’s enough material that one could make small variations on the idea of stereo/mono twofers coupled with outtakes. Maybe three-disc sets? It could still be done. They’re deluxe editions for crying out loud! Throw in the kitchen sink.
I think you all see where I am going with this. Before you get carried away, the last stereo/mono mix will be Magical Mystery Tour. I’m not too carried away with that detail. Yes, "The White Album" could be four-discs, but you’re already paying double for it anyway. If these editions are priced the same way Elvis Costello was, it would still be about as cheap as you would pay for it now. Thirty dollars is okay for "The White Album." It’s "The White Album," after all. It’s supposed to be epic.
The Yellow Submarine tracks can be included on the bonus discs to whatever release they go to. For example: “It’s Only A Northern Song” goes with Pepper’s. You get the idea.
Forget Let It Be. Make it Get Back and really present it. Give us Naked and Spector. They can get along. Lord knows there’s enough outtakes there to give people volumes of this stuff. We don’t need it. Most of it is crap, but it’s there all the same.
And following Rusty suggestion (he’s always had a problem with this, I think), make Abbey Road the last proper album. Put Get Back into context. Although some of the Let It Be material was recorded after Abbey Road, let The Beatles catalogue close with “The End."
This leaves us with the BBC material and the “reunion” tracks of 1995. I really don’t know where to put those. Maybe just let the BBC stuff be what it is. Give us a another volume of it. There’s plenty to share. Besides, we’ll pay for it. Maybe release a greatest hits package and bait it with the new cuts? Give the people (and the suckers like myself) a reason to shell out more bucks.
As Rusty said, no one will listen to these ideas, but if they do: We want credit and free stuff! May we never have to buy another Beatles product for as long as we live. We’ve paid our dues, Mr. McCartney.
Copyright © 29 Jul 2008
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