Category Archives: beatles

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The Beatles come to Apple iTunes

Apple made an extraordinary fuss about the arrival of Beatles music on its iTunes download store – even allowing the news to take over its home page for a day or two.

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Why? I can think of a few reasons. Because Steve Jobs was born in 1955 and this is the music of his teen years. Because it is the finale in a long battle between Apple Computer and Apple Corps Ltd. And because the Beatles are arguably the pinnacle of popular music, regularly topping lists like the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In fact, Beatles albums occupy four of the top ten slots.

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It follows that the Beatles coming to iTunes is a landmark moment for Apple (computer) and shows the extent to which it now dominates music delivery.

That said, some observers were bewildered. Beatles fans already have the music, and have ripped their CDs to music servers and iPods so that iTunes availability will make no difference to them; and people born from a decade or two later than Steve Jobs mostly do not revere the band in the same way.

Speaking personally, those four albums are not in my top ten all-time favourites, good though they are, and I am more likely to put on Lennon’s cathartic Plastic Ono Band album than Sergeant Pepper.

I also wonder how long iTunes can sustain its position. To my mind, the streaming model of Spotify, where you pay a subscription and can listen to anything you want, makes more sense than the download model of iTunes.

But you want to own the music? Well, you cannot; even a CD or LP only sells you a licence. An iTunes purchase is more ephemeral than a CD, because it is a personal licence with no resale value, and comes with no physical container that you can put on the shelf. It is also, in the case of the Beatles albums and many others,  more expensive to buy the iTunes download than the CD, so you are paying a premium for the convenience of near-instant digital delivery.

It follows that iTunes offers rather poor value in an absolute sense. It is best to think of it as a service; and Apple does a nice job of making music easy to find and enjoy.

Final note: even if you have no interest in buying, it is worth running up iTunes and playing the hitherto unavailable video Live at the Washington Coliseum, 1964, which you can stream for free for an introductory period.

The Beatles, iTunes, and 09 09 09

Apple (computer) held a press event yesterday, one that had been buzzed extensively ahead of time. The date was 9th September 2009, or 09/09/09, and the same date as the worldwide release of the Beatles remasters. The date ties in with a song on Let it Be, One after 909, and a song on the White Album called Revolution 9.

Despite the enduring popularity of the band, the Beatles music is not available on iTunes … yet. Naturally, the pundits foresaw a Beatlish announcement.

It seemed obvious; but doubts were raised when the official invitations went out. The invitations bore a lyric not from Lennon and/or McCartney, but rather from the Rolling Stones: It’s only rock and roll, but we like it.

As it turned out, Apple (computer) announced new iPods and an update to iTunes, but there was nothing about the Beatles.

What goes on? It’s now clear that the remastered Beatles were headed for iTunes – and probably still are – but whatever deal was in place fell through. The first evidence was a rapidly withdrawn comment from Yoko Ono shortly before the press event. Now we have confirmation from Bob Smeaton, who created mini-documentaries that are included with the new CDs:

Originally what happened was, the albums were going to be released on iTunes but that deal, you know, fell through for whatever reason. Some sort of political reason. So we actually set about creating a mini-documentary for each of the albums, so that when you bought the albums on iTunes, if you bought the whole album, because on iTunes you can pick like one song, right, if you bought the whole album, as an incentive to buy the whole album rather than just to cherry-pick songs, you would get this mini-documentary.

Indeed, this idea of bonus non-musical content that you get when purchasing an entire album from iTunes was announced yesterday. The concept is imaginatively called the iTunes LP – but only a few examples are available so far, just six according to Cult of Mac – Dylan’s Highway 61, The Doors 40th anniversary hits, American Beauty by the Grateful Dead, and albums by the Dave Matthews Band, Tyrese Gibson and Norah Jones. Pretty unexciting, especially when compared to a might-have-been announcement of all the Beatles albums appearing on iTunes for the first time and in the snazzy new format.

Of course you can have the Beatles in iTunes if you want to. Just buy the CDs and import them; and I’ve heard tell of other methods that fall foul of copyright.

Still, it seems Apple (computer) vs Apple (corps) is not quite over yet. No wonder Steve Jobs chose a lyric from that other Sixties band to launch the iTunes LP.

Lennon and McCartney, Yin and Yang

There’s a discussion over at the Hoffman forums on the value of the post-Beatles solo efforts.

There is a touch of magic in the Beatles’ work though I am not really a diehard fan. Generally I find the solo albums less satisfactory with a couple of exceptions. The reason I think is to do with yin and yang, a Chinese philosophy of complementary opposites. Exactly how Lennon and McCartney differ is going to be hard to put into words, but it is to to with light and dark, where McCartney is content mainly to stay in the light, and Lennon is driven to explore the dark. In the solo work, McCartney is always in danger of descending to nursery rhyme, while Lennon is always in danger of descending to primal scream. They are better together.
Personally I tend toward introspection so my preference is for Lennon, and in particular Plastic Ono Band I regard as a work of genius, dark though it is. As for McCartney, I love Band on the Run though it is lightweight, and Flowers in the Dirt where Elvis Costello seemed to play Lennon’s role to some extent, giving the music an edge that McCartney’s work often lacks.