December 1, 2003

This September, the 2004 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced: Prince, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, ZZ Top, the Dells, the Stooges, and Traffic were amongst those to be considered for induction to the hall next year. Back again for another go at the honor are the Sex Pistols, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gram Parsons, and Patti Smith. Also nominated this year is George Harrison. Already included as a member of the Beatles, Harrison would be the third Beatle to be inducted twice. Considering that Sabbath hasn’t even gotten in once yet, Harrison’s nomination might seem a little excessive, but it does remind you that the Beatles really are the best band to have ever existed. This is clearly evidenced by the group’s amazing ability to stay in the news, despite having broken up more than 30 years ago.

Amongst the recent Beatlemania is the upcoming re-release of Let it Be…Naked [EMI]—a remix of the “last” Beatles album. Removed from the recording—which was the Beatles final release, though it was recorded before Abbey Road—are the orchestral overdubs added by Phil Spector (who, famously, absconded with the master tapes and added the “Spector Sound” in private). The whole Phil Spector thing was, apparently, John Lennon’s idea, and the results did not greatly impress the other members—particularly Paul McCartney (who hated the string arrangements). So, after many years, justice is finally served—and just in time for the holiday season!

Also newsworthy is the recent announcement that the Beatles record label, Apple Corps—owned by McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the widows of Lennon and Harrison—is, once again, suing Apple Computers over issues of trademark. It seems that, back in 1991, the two Apples (the latter of which was actually named after the former—Apple Computers’ founder and CEO, Steve Jobs is a huge Beatles fan) came to an agreement that the computer company could keep its name and logo as long as they stayed away from the music business. Well, they really haven’t. With the introduction of the iTunes music store and the hubbub over iPods, they are making a concerted effort to align themselves with all things music. Hell, their ad campaign consists of a nice big shot of a Gibson ES-345! Apple Corps is allegedly looking for an unspecified amount in “damages.” Both Apples have a fairly large overlap in fans, so the hope is that somehow—even through all the litigation—they end up making the Beatles catalog available at the iTunes store. As of yet, Apple Corps has not made online deals with anyone, and it’s impossible to find
legal Beatles downloads anywhere.

But just because you can’t download original Beatles tunes, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing Beatle-centric on the Web. A couple of musicians who call themselves Jaymz and Krk have launched How better to cover Beatles songs than in the style of Metallica? Tunes available for free on the site include “Sgt. Hetfield’s Motorbreath Pub Band,” “…And Justice for All My Loving,” and “A Garage Day’s Night.” They’ve actually executed an amazingly accurate portrayal, and there’s the promise of more songs to come. It’s all sort of ironic, considering Metallica’s well-publicized anti-download stance. You can’t get the Beatles or Metallica online, but you can get Beatallica! Brilliant.

Also brilliant—and definitely deserving of some applause—is Universal Music Group’s decision to slash wholesale CD prices. This means that the retail prices of the label’s most pricey titles are going from $18.98 down to $12.98. This is a huge move, considering the massive breadth of Universal’s titles on subsidiaries such as Geffen, Interscope, Island/Def Jam, Lost Highway, Mercury Nashville, MCA Nashville, Motown, Roadrunner, and Verve. It’s about time someone in the industry realized that maybe music lovers aren’t actually criminals, they just can’t justify throwing down 17 bucks for Britney Spears. Very, very cool!

—Emily Fasten

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