Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'Beatlemania' on horizon, again

This is how their appearance on the Ed Sullivan
Show will be depicted in "The Beatles: Rock Band" music
Video game which will be released Sept. 9. In addition,
the original Beatles albums have been remastered for the
first time since 1987 and will be released on the same day,
promising improved sound quality for fans of the legendary


Get ready for the re-appearance of Beatlemania.

Although massive public excitement over the Beatles first erupted in the United States more than 45 years ago, their digitally remastered music catalog should cause some renewed frenzy when it's issued on Sept. 9.

On the same date, the Beatles will take aim at a new generation of fans with the release of their own "Rock Band" video game.

Virtually every major act was established in the new digital format before the Beatles and their catalog finally made the leap in 1987. Since then, digital technology has advanced significantly while EMI/ Capitol Records has done nothing to upgrade the sound of those early CDs.

The British band's 13 albums have been re-mastered at London's Abbey Road Studios over the last four years. A dedicated team of engineers did the work using "state of the art recording technology alongside vintage audio equipment, carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analog recordings," according to a press release from Apple Corps. In addition, various singles contained on the "Past Masters, Vol. 1 and 2" will be released as a single disc.

Each CD will come with the original British cover art and liner notes, plus newly written liner notes and period photographs of the group. In addition, the CDs will contain a brief documentary DVD about each album. The documentaries contain archival footage, rare photographs and in-studio chat from the Beatles' recording sessions.

The 14 albums, including the first four in stereo for the first time, will be available separately and in a box set. Since the "White Album" comprised two discs, the set will contain 15 pieces.

A second box set will present the collection in monophonic sound. The mono mixes made of the Beatles albums during the 1960s were often significantly different than the stereo mixes and today are sought-after by collectors.

The digital remasters include all the singles and albums the band released from "Please Please Me" in 1963 through "Let It Be" in 1970.

Although the Beatles enjoyed tremendous success in the mid 1990s with their six-disc "Anthology" collection of out-takes and unreleased tracks, no bonus material will be included.

Even the release date (9-9-09) has been creating a buzz among collectors. Some see a connection to the Beatles song "One After 909," while others point to "Revolution 9," the avant- garde sound collage from 1968 which includes the words "number nine" repeated over and over. Certainly either reference could be used in a promotional campaign for the new product.

While older fans will be excited by the release of the reinvigorated Beatles CDs, younger ones may be enticed by the simultaneous release of the band's music-based video game. The highly-anticipated game will be available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii.

The music video game was developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts.

Featuring 45 songs by the Beatles, the Rock Band title will allow fans to use guitar, bass, microphone and drums to take a journey through the group's legendary career. Game players may use instruments modeled after those played by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

The four instruments are Lennon's Rickenbacker 325 guitar, McCartney's Hofner bass, Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet guitar and Starr's Ludwig drum kit.

The game includes virtual depictions of the Beatles playing at the Cavern Club, Ed Sullivan show set, Shea Stadium, Budokan, Abbey Road Studios, the rooftop of Apple Records and elsewhere. For "Octopus' Garden," they play underwater-- something only the Beatles could do. Some "dreamscape" venues were inspired by the Beatles/ Cirque du Soleil show now running in Las Vegas, called "Love."

Tracks contained in the game include "Get Back," "Here Comes the Sun," "Back in the USSR," "I Am the Walrus," "Taxman," "Day Tripper," "I Feel Fine," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," and "I Saw Her Standing There." Early word is that "Twist and Shout," "Hard Day's Night" and "Paperback Writer" are also included.

The song "All You Need Is Love" will be available as downloadable content, with proceeds being donated to the charitable group, Doctors Without Borders. In addition, the entire "Abbey Road" album will be available as downloadable content to gamers.

Rated "T" for teen, the video game will carry a $59.98 pricetag.

Harrison's son Dhani played an integral part in suggesting such a project to the gaming industry and convincing McCartney, Starr and Yoko Ono Lennon to support it.

The young Harrison was also involved in the recent release on compact disc of "Let It Roll: Songs of George Harrison." The disc contains all four of Harrison's chart toppers, as well as many other hits and will presumably serve as an introduction to Harrison's solo catalog for new fans just discovering his music through the Beatles video game. The CD includes live versions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," three of Harrison's greatest Beatles compositions.

Harrison was just 20 years old when the Beatles began their invasion of America with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964 to a raucous response soon tagged "Beatlemania" by the news media. In less than six years they sold millions of albums and racked up 21 number one singles in the United States, a feat unmatched to this day.

When the Beatles broke up in 1970, interest in the band and their music only intensified. Lennon's assassination in 1980 by a crazed fan and Harrison's untimely cancer-related passing in 2001 brought renewed attention to the world's greatest rock and roll band.

Their "1" disc, containing 27 chart-topping American and British singles has been a mega-seller around the world since its release in 2000.

For those wishing to legally download Beatles songs from iTunes, that wait is not yet over. Although the Beatles have been negotiating for years with iTunes, Dhani Harrison has suggested the group may offer songs at its own standalone site instead.

With those upcoming remastered CDs and Rock Band video game, it seems the Beatles continue to fascinate us. Full-fledged Beatlemania can't be far behind.

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