Friday, December 12, 2008

Beatles 19: Rock ‘N’ Roll Music and Love Songs

While the Beatles’ individual recording contracts expired in 1976, EMI retained the rights to the band’s recordings, and so began the next wave of sporadic catalog raidings. But now they had the added marketing challenge of getting fans to buy songs they had already. So each of the original singles—which had never been deleted—got a shiny new picture sleeve, and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Music collection came out just in time to cash in on the Helter Skelter TV movie about the Manson trials. In a year where Paul was defending his tendency toward silly love songs all the way to #1, here was a two-record set designed to prove that the boys could rock. Funnily enough, the bulk of the songs come from 1963 and 1964, when they were considered a “pop combo”, with a handful of much “heavier” songs on side four coming from the later years. Moreover, many of the songs were covers. For collectors, only a few songs were repeated from the Red and Blue albums, plus this was the very first LP appearance of “I’m Down”. Purists cried foul at the contemporary mix by George Martin, while the artwork leaned too close to ‘50s Happy Days nostalgia. John had supposedly offered to do a cover, yet Capitol declined, which is a shame. (The album was later split up into two budget LPs with new but nearly identical covers, and sold pretty well in the wake of John’s murder.)

Another two-record rehash appeared in 1977, and just in time for Christmas too. Love Songs was to serve as the other side to the rock ‘n roll, but the novelty was starting to wane. Eight out of 25 tracks were on the Red or Blue albums, and come to think of it, picking out specific Beatles songs as examples of love songs is about as logical as picking rock ‘n roll songs. The packaging had a faux-leather motif, and a thick book with all the lyrics in calligraphy added to the candy bar/photo album idea that had been beaten into the ground already by Chicago. The famous Richard Avedon photo on the emblem, gatefold and poster was retouched so Paul’s head is bigger than the others (he being the only Beatle still signed to EMI in 1977).

Both albums garner a satisfactory rating solely on the basis of the music within. Neither of these collections has been retooled for CD and probably never will be. Nor should they be.

The Beatles Rock ‘N’ Roll Music (1976)—3
Current CD equivalent: none
The Beatles Love Songs (1977)—3
Current CD equivalent: none

1 comment:

  1. Are you sure the photo was retouched? By 1977, hadn't Paul's head grown bigger than the others' all on its own?

    -Vance

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