Monday, August 15, 2011

Beatles: "1" After 9/09

I have a tendency to surf a few of the more populated music discussion boards over my morning caffeine jolt.  I do this for two reasons: first, it’s a good way to find out what is either coming out or may have already been released that I need to keep an eye on the torrent trackers…um, I mean record stores for.  True, we’re talking strictly about mainstream and heritage rock and nothing else: if you want to, say, pre-orderthe forthcoming Samiam LP, or see if that Leatherface live album has finally made it into distribution here in the states, you’re outta luck, kid.  I don’t participate in these forums, mind you: honestly, I have nothing to add to a twenty page thread about the Bay City Rollers or the Monkees or whoever, but I do occasionally glean some useful information from them.

The second reason I read them is a bit more nefarious: they can be inadvertently hysterical.  I swear to you on every $2 vinyl LP in this room, dear readers, that I have never seen a group of people who seem to hate their chosen hobby more than the type of aging boomer-hipster doofi that hang out on internet music forums.  The second something is announced for reissue/re-release/re-packaging/reiteration, said item is met with a level of hand-wringing rarely seen outside of sweaty-palmed teenagers wondering if the pretty girl at the other end of the lunchroom might wanna go to Dairy Queen on Saturday or something.  They can’t believe that Album X is being re-released; don’t these stupid labels know that it just came out in SuperDuperPolymer format in Japan last month?  Besides, this version will probably be mastered poorly, all bright and screechy and brick-walled and whatever other no-good-meanie things engineers do to recordings these days to make them sound good as MP3s.  MP3s, incidentally, are digital Satan, not to be enjoyed by anybody other than THE DAMNED KIDS THESE DAYS, WHAT WITH THEIR LADY GAGA AND EVERYTHINGEverything – and I do mean everything – was better in the olden days, folks.  Like it or lump it.

Personally, I do neither.  I point and laugh at it, and thank god or whoever might be roaming around the sky for putting such entertaining shut-ins on the planet, and then giving me a window into which I might peer and gawk.  Let’s think about who we’ve got here, folks: music geeks – a group to which I admittedly belong and generally feel sympathetic toward – but in this case ones who feel that their prime has left them sitting lonely on the sidewalk, while the cool kid drives away with their best girl.  Jilted, they trudge on in, sit down at the computer, and commence being bitter.  The rest of the music crowd is busy somewhere being vibrant: seeing a show, hitting the bar, getting laid, generally following their personal course of misadventure to the end of the evening…or maybe doing something as simple as taking a walk on a gorgeous summer night with their iPod on blare.  Anything but ranting about the old days on the interweb; honestly, the plight of these folks who populate most of the music forums would be sad if they didn’t obviously sort of like it this way.  The image of the last-man-with-standards, alone in his darkened room, obviously appeals to these guys in some romantic way that I’m grateful eludes my comprehension.

Enough with the armchair psychology, and back to the cheap yuks.  Nothing gets these folks going quite like the Beatles.  Like clockwork, the announcement that Beatles 1, the 2000 hits compilation that introduced the fab four to a new generation eleven years ago, will see remastered reissue this September has been met with no small amount of consternation.  To wit, some of the most commonly cited dilemmas, and Armchair Psychiatrist Will’s handy helpful hints for coping with them successfully.  Folks, I don’t have a statue of Lucy Van Pelt on my desk for nothing. 

The above statement was not mere hyperbole.

“Why do I need this?  The 2000 CD sounds just fine to me.”  If that’s the case, then you don’t, in fact, need this at all and can spend your money on something else instead.  May I suggest the forthcoming Samiam LP or the Leatherface live album, or maybe just a good meal that doesn’t come from the Wendy’s drive-thru?

“Why would they even reissue this so soon?”  Simple: re-branding.  Beginning two years ago, with the 9/9/09 remasters, the Beatles catalog was brought into focus via attractive, well-designed, matching packaging and consistent sound quality.  This is nothing more than EMI’s move to bring the one mega-popular item missing from that product overhaul in line with the rest of it.

“I can just compile this from the remasters I already own.”  Indeed, you probably can.  An hour or two spent with a hobby you enjoy is always a good way to kill time on a rainy weekend afternoon.  I’d advise you to go for it.

“Who does EMI expect to buy this, anyway?”  The same people who’ve always bought Beatles 1: those looking for a simple, relatively complete single-disc greatest hits collection by the most popular rock band of all time.  Sorry, collector-friends, but you are not – and have never been – the target audience for this one.  A lot of people simply want a batch of the most beloved Beatles tunes in one place: no fuss, no muss, no catalog to delve through, and no mono boxed sets.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.  The short answer to your question, then: not you.

“Why all the re-hashes?  Why not put out some unreleased material?”  Try to follow the bouncing ball here: EMI is a for-profit corporation, one that is having trouble staying afloat in a particularly volatile field.  Given the choice between refreshing a perennially popular item, or dumping a whole bunch of money into a niche release, the financially correct option is pretty clear.

“I’m a completist.  I simply must have this, and it will make me extremely happy to add another piece to my Beatles collection.”  Good for you, my friend.  Enjoy.

“I’m a completist.  I simply must have this, and I am MAD AS HELL about having to buy the same things over and over.”  I’d like you to seriously consider the following: the reason corporations continue to revamp popular products is that people are willing to buy them again and again.  Should said products decline in popularity, the corporations that produce them will begin to explore other potential profit streams.  In other words: you say you want a revolution?  Vote with your wallet.

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