One after 9/09

Today the surviving Beatles and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, as well as the financial and marketing entities that represent the interests of the former Fab Four, have reissued the Beatles catalog in remastered mono and stereo and have released a version of the videogame “Rockband” featuring the group’s music.

This means that, four decades after the seminal group of the 1960s broke up, The Beatles are still raking in cash from a perpetually reimagined catalog.

Not only that, but a campaign to package the constantly evolving Liverpool lads that began when each was alive and that capitalized on their own whims – mop tops, impishness, psychedelia, Indian music, peace – has also updated the group for contemporary consumption, and created myths only vaguely connected to the source material.

Maybe because they were so iconoclastic in life, and perhaps even more so because they’re dead, John Lennon and George Harrison have been the major beneficiaries of mythmaking marketing. On the new Beatles website (http://www.beatles.com), a group of travelers is seen trekking across Abbey Road, interacting with a Lennon who is beatific and Christlike.

Anyone who has watched the great anti-date movie “Let It Be,” a film that documents the Beatles’ unraveling, knows that Lennon at the time was more into the crucifixion downside of being bigger than Jesus. His joyful wonderment at “Rockband”‘s release seems out of character.

It was Harrison’s experimentation with Eastern religion in general and Indian music in particular that proved such a Godheadsend in the 60’s, as the Beatles’ marketing machine finally knew what to do with him. To Paul (cute), John (sarcastic), Ringo (pathetic but lovable), could now be added George (mysterious).

So in an animated “Come Together” video released in 2000, we see a cheerful, Jerry Garcia-like John, an eight-armed George, and an along-for-the-ride Paul and Ringo, waiting only for their deaths before they could be reinvented as The Walrus and Snuffleupagus, respectively.

The Beatles have been a financial sacred cash cow in each of the decades since they disbanded. In the past 15 years alone they have released their B-sides “Anthology” containing group versions of two John Lennon songs (“Free As A Bird” and “Real Love,” with a posthumous Lennon lead vocal, were the “Unforgettable” of the late 90s), the Beatles’ BBC sessions, a rerelease of their Number One hits that itself reached Number One, and Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” soundtrack, an elegant Beatles mashup produced by Sir George Martin and his son, Giles.

Clearly there is something equally elegant about the choice of 9/09/09 for this major product launch (adding the numbers together, we get 27, and 2 + 7 is also 9; four numbers greater than the sum of their parts, much like the four individual Beatles’ solo careers – it is unlikely that Ringo will issue a major retrospective on 12/12/12) but, to quote an early Lennon/McCartney song released on “Let It Be,” what can we expect “after 909”?

  • Following resolution of Apple Corps’ copyright infringement suit against Apple Computer, Beatles-branded MacBooks
  • Phil Spector’s jailhouse remixes of “Yellow Submarine” and “Sgt. Pepper” (with Billy Preston)
  • Wings and Plastic Ono Band reunion on a charity cover version of “Valotte”
  • McCartney successfully sues for partial credit on “Pet Sounds” and “At Her Satanic Majesty’s Request.” Mono and stereo versions re-released
  • George Harrison lyrics shoehorned into “Quadrophenia.” Mono and stereo versions re-released
  • NASA resuscitates Space Shuttle program, somehow involving payments to Yoko
  • Celebrity cover band versions of Beatles catalogue includes The Police (“Revolver”), “Rubber Soul Coughing,” “Yo La Tengo Submarine,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Dave Matthews Band” (with J. Geils)
  • Monkees start a rumor that Peter Tork is dead to boost sales, but Peter Tork actually dies
  • U2 and Van Halen collaborate on “Let It BU2.” Bono and stereo versions released
  • Corporate naming rights sold for selected properties, such as “Being for the Benefit of Bank of America,” “Across the Universal Studios,” and “I Want to Hold Your Spam”
  • And, as usual, the Kinks get nothing

It is said that the Beatles will make more money this month than they did in the year 1965. Credit counselors suggest that completists have got to hide their wallets away.

See also: The Beatles

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