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November 30, 1995 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-30

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6B - The Michigan Daily - Wue.i , 4. - Thursday, November 30, 1995

I

Beatlemania hits area stores again
Local fans have mixed feelirgs about new material

Photo curtos
The Beatles (George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) in one of their lighter moments.

ABC's Anthology' series lacks depth

By Heather Phares
Daily Arts Editor
How do you stage a comeback for a
band that never went away? The
Beatles are one of the most culturally
and musically important and influen-
tial groups of all time. All the media
hype and commercial overkill around
"The Beatles Anthology" rings hol-
low in light of how classic the group
sounds decades later, and how mag-
netic their appeal as personalities re-
mains.
The fact that the Beatles (as a group
and as individuals) never really left the
spotlight after they first exploded into
popularity in 1963 makes new revela-
tions or discoveries about the group
difficult to come by. Add to that the
numerous filims, books and documenta-
ries already existing about the band and
it begs the question "Why 'The Beatles
,,Anthology'?"
Arguably, the reason behind this new
documentary was for John Lennon, Paul
McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo
Starr to explain the Beatles phenom-
enon in their own words. And while it
was interesting to hear about
Beatlemania and just how impossible
touring became for the group from the
inside, the addition of a narrator would
have added a focus that the sprawling
six-hour program lacked.
Instead, the Beatles' own commen-
tary on this part of their lives worked
unpredictably; none of them remem-
bered details about that time in quite the
same way. Sometimes this shifting defi-
nition of the truth was telling: Very
little was said about the group's rela-
tions with the prostitutes and strippers
in Hamburg's red-light district, other
than that there was the occasional "girl-
friend that happened to be a stripper."
The amount of hard and psychedelic
drugs that the group took was also
downplayed-the Beatles remembered
these details in the way that they want to

remember them, from the viewpoint of
well-respected, middle-agedrock icons.
Other times, the differing viewpoints
and memories of the group were just
confusing. Their concert at New York's
Shea Stadium, for example, had as few
as 40,000 people in attendance or as
many as 70,000 depending on which of
the Fab Four was asked. No clear figure
was given as to how many actually
were at the concert-that it was left out
eitier assumes t fat the audience knows
how many went to the show, or that in
the scheme of things it isn't important
how many were at the concert as long as

r
1 ill Y.

The Beatles
Anthology
20, 23 and 24, 9 p.m.
ABC

ments of the special certain albums and
time periods were glossed over. "Rub-
ber Soul" and "Revolver," two of the
group's very finest works, get lumped
together and were dismissed quickly.
"Abbey Road" was also skimmed over
in favor of increased coverage of "Let it
Be," which was also a great album but
best remembered for the group's disso-
lution while recording it.
However, "The Beatles Anthology"
wasn''t a complete fetdown. Bits ofrare
footage made it worthwhile, especially
the film of Lennon reading the story
"The Wrestling Dog" on aTV show and
the group's triumphant performance at
Shea Stadium - so good it should be
released on its own video.
All of the concert footage showed
just how dynamic the Beatles were as
performers, something that younger fans
don't have firsthand knowledge of.
Whether they played to thousands at
Shea Stadium, millions on "The Ed
Sullivan Show" or just to passersby on
the roof of Abbey Road, their presence
and performance came through even
after three decades. And the movies the
Beatles did for songs like "Strawberry
Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" as
well as the musical parts of "Magical
Mystery Tour" (such as "I Am the Wal-
rus") are not only entertaining and in-
novative in their own right, but also
point towards the development of mu-
sic videos.
The Beatles' recollections about their
time together also added a nostalgic
sparkle to the storytelling. Learning why
Ringo Starr looked so sad during "A
Hard Day's Night" (a bad hangover),
how George Harrison got into Indian
music and what Paul McCartney thinks
about the group's move from leather-
clad teddy boys in the earliest stage of
their career to a well-suited pop combo
were only a few of the moments that
elevate "The Beatles Anthology" into a
memorable, if uneven, TV event.

they were crying and screaming their
heads off.
Since this documentary was the
Beatles' version of their own story, it
was doubly disappointing that there
was very little rare or unreleased vi-
sual material; the overwhelming ma-
jority of film footage and photos have
already been used in specials and
documentaries on the group, most
notably in "The Compleat Beatles"
(which in two hours seems to capture
more of the fact and fantasy that makes
the Beatles so special), the documen-
tary that PBS runs the sprockets off at
pledge time. For longtime fans of the
group, it was a letdown.
Also disappointing was the amount
of time allotted to some parts of the
Beatles' history. While their rise from
Liverpool's Cavern Club to starring in
their own movies in less than three
years is certainly important and given a
fair amount of time, in the later install-

By Elan Stavros
Daily Arts Writer
Picture it: Rumors of security
guards standing watch over CDs in a
factory to prevent anyone from smug-
gling them out before the release date.
Now all we need are girls fainting.
That hasn't happened since ... well,
since 1964. Accompanying the
Beatles "reunion"-a new song, two
more double albums to come and a
biographical TV special-the hoopla
surroundingthe Fab Four has returned.
Borders Books and Music even held
a release party Nov. 20 to allow cus-
tomers to buy "The Beatles Anthol-
ogy Volume 1" at exactly 12 a.m. on
its release date of Tuesday Nov. 21.
The store stayed open late for fans,
playing the anthology early and giv-
ing out prizes with refreshments.
"Release parties were a worldwide
phenomenon," said Borders music
clerk and Beatles fan Steve Leggett.
"And we're selling a lot of their older
albums."
Kathy Franklin, Schoolkids
Records store manager, said the an-
thology was their second-biggest
seller during a first week of release.
"It's nice for the Beatles junkies to
have something new."
The anthologies are made up of two
brand-new songs by the "reunited"
Beatles using an old John Lennon vocal
track, early versions, alternate takes
and other rarities. The first anthology
(with "Free as a bird" as the new single)
chronologically follows the first install-
ment of the TV special aired last week
on ABC, or "A Beatles C" as they have
recently dubbed themselves.
Volume II will be released in Feb-
ruary (with the second new release
"Real Love") and volume III is set for
later in 1996. Extra footage of the TV
special will be released next fall in a
video and CD box set. "The promo-
tional stuff is kind of ridiculous," LSA
junior Scott Kagan said. "But at least
everyone could watch the TV show
for free."
"This whole business of new songs
is garbage," he said. "With so much
hype, the new songs were such a let-
down. I swear I've heard one of them
before."
Leggett compared the Anthologies
to the similar "Live at the BBC" al-
bum, which covers the same time pe-
riod as volume 1. Released late last
year with the same format, "BBC"
included obscure interviews, outtakes
and cover songs. Perhaps to help an-
thology sales along, "BBC" is no
longer in stores, Franklin said.
"Aitremendous fresh energy comes
through (on volume I)," Leggett said.
"It's almost 'BBC II.' Their
songwriting shows more in the later
songs. A lot of this stuff was on boot-
legs, now being officially released."
Many fans find it interesting to hear
how earlier songs evolved into their
final versions on volume I, which will
be out on vinyl this Tuesday.
Others say it's a waste of time to
listen to the same old songs and don't
care for the cover pieces. "The staff
here generally feels that the sound
quality is uneven," Franklin said.
"You can tell which songs are older."
"It's nice to have the old unreleased
gems on the anthology for the older
fans that appeals to," Kagan said.
Critics are quick to point out that
the remaining Beatles recorded
Lennon's songs to make money and
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that the new releases hae been artifi-
cially hyped. Some say *nnon would
not approve of such treunion and
fans are simply holdingn to the past.
"The cynic can say Bey did it to
make money, and the tw song isn't
that great," Leggett <id. "But the
Beatles were such a fonative part of
people growing up."
Dennis McWhinny.technical op-
erations coordinator -the Graduate
Library, has been a fasince the band
first released "Please lease Me" in
1963. He claims to ha. 1800 Beatles
items, most precious) him being all
of the original vinyl cordings.
"I was browsingrn the Beatles
newsgroup on the V'rld Wide Web
and they're all wacid out about the
anthology," he said. l added that some
people get too obsesd with the group.
Given the varied access of the re-
maining Beatles' so" careers, it seems
likely that this projct was a sure thing
for revenue. "(Sok( they were pretty
spotty. There was aAt of good and a lot
of bad," McWhinn said. "They need
each other. "
Baby-boomers .re realizing that
they're sharing thr music with their
kids - the newer,ounger fans. "They
were unique bando straddle two gen-
erations-today 'u can look back and
forward on their cteers," Leggett said.
"Money is pt of it," Franklin
agreed. "But thfe's nothing wrong
with looking bak on something re-
ally great."
Rumor has it tat George Harrison,
Ringo Starr and aul McCartney were
also offered $10 million to go on a

tour often cities across Europe and/or
the U.S.
Kagan scoffed at the idea of a tour,
saying it wouldn't make sense. "The
Beatles had to do with vocal harmo-
nies - without John it's not really the
Beatles."
"Some of it is artificially hyped,
But there was definitely a push
throughout the years for new re-
leases," he pointed out. McWhinny
said the video anthology was actually
begun and put on hold in 1970.
Franklin said Lennon's wife Yoko
Ono released the rights to "Free as a
Bird" and supports the reunion.
"Knowing John, he probably would
not have (reunited)," McWhinny specu-
lated. "He was grouchy." He noted
though that near the end of his life,
Lennon had "mellowed out. Who
knows?"

New songs don't honor
Lennon or the Beatles

Kagan pointed to the third episode
of the video anthology, quoting
Lennon: "It's just a band. Life goes,
on; it's over." He added that maybe
by now the band would have become
friends again and Lennon would have
joined a new recording session. "But
the sound of the four, plus George
Martin producing, was definitely
lost."
"And I have to say, what would
have happened if John were alive?"
Leggett said. "They probably would
have reunited; they grew up together.
But someone had to take him away
from us, and kept that from the world."
"Remember," Kagan stressed, "In
a lot of people's minds, they were the
best band that ever was."

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By Jennifer Buckk
Daily Weekend Editor
Did you hear vat happens when
you play the "nh" Beatles song,
"Free as a Bird,'backwards? You
hear Paul McCart~y's voice saying,
"We're in the moty! I hope we find
more of these!"
That's a joke, c course, but what
the surviving mercers of the Beatles
have done to two dnos John Lennon
recorded in 1977$ not. For their
expensive three-sesix-dise"Anthol-
ogy" (each set ringin at about $25),
McCartney, Geor Harrison and
Ringo Starr have eracted Lennon's
original vocals froirough demos of
"Free as a Bird" anc Real Love" and
added shiny, new acmpaniment and
slick, modern produion. The results
are predictably shod, (especially on
the dismal "Free as Bird"), but the
implications of theirttions are even
less admirable.
Music - especiallrock music -
is made in an historic moment, and
it carries the weight ohat moment in
every line, every chd. When Bob
Dylan sang, "Well, geut of the new
(road) if you can't let your hand,"
his times were a' chagin', and we
remember that as we tbw his newly
remastered, digitized rordings into
our CD players. That;ong and its
message are firmly enenched (and
best remembered) in thera they came
from. "The Times hey Are A
Changin"' belongs on e soundtrack
of the late 1960s, baclround music
forthe riots, sit-ins, lov-ins, marches
and militancy.
"Real Love" and "Fe as a Bird"
may not carry the sae social and
political weight as Dyn's song. It
doesn't matter. Lennon corded those
rough, crackling demc in 1977 -
before punk, before Nv Wave, be-
fore grunge - and they long to that
time.

These songs are not covers, inter-
pretations, or completions of unfin-
ished texts. Literary critics wouldn't
have been amused had Nora Joyce
finished "Finnegan's Wake" because
she figured she knew what happened
next. For the same reasons, music
critics and fans won't be satisfied
with the "new" Beatles songs.
If Lennon were alive to record with
the Beatles, the new songs (and this
article) would be a different story. He
would have brought his vocals, his
lyrics, his songs into the musical
present. What innovations and indus-
try trends of the past 15 years would.
he have embraced? Would "Free as a
Bird" have mutated into a U2-style
anthem or "Real Love" a thrash-metal
epic? I have no idea. But neither does
Paul McCartney, and he should have,
had the sense to realize it. But maybe
that's asking too much . Remember
the "Liverpool Oratorio"?
He simply can't have known
Lennon's intentions for these post-
Beatles demo tracks. Paul can't play
John and get away with it, because a)
John married a real musician, and b)
the Beatles' greatest strength was that
Paul wasn't John. The tension be-
tween the sappy, good-natured,
McCartney and the wistful, contem-
plative Lennon produced such mas-
terful pop songs as "A Day in the
Life," a perfect example of sweet and
sour songcraft.
But "Free as a Bird" and "Real
Love" are not the product of any
Beatles reunion. They don't pay hom-
age to the surviving ex-Beatles or
John Lennon. The songs certainly
don't honor Lennon's memory-they
appropriate it, distort it, force it into a
musical context Lennon never in-
tended or probably even imagined.
For these songs, Paul, George and
Ringo should have taken their own
advice and just let it be.

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