It's been forty years since The Beatles broke up, but the immense talent within the group generated a cultural momentum that is still relevant today. When asked in interviews if they saw themselves as leaders of cultural trends, they often said that they were following the times along with everyone else. In the years leading up to their meeting with manager, Brian Epstein, in 1961, they were still fashioned in leathers and covering "old" rock standards by Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins- tunes that sparked them to rock out as kids and that were kept on set-lists throughout early recordings and performances. John Lennon said that their outfits made them look like four Gene Vincents. The Beatles may have found inspiration in their heroes, but from early on, they also aspired to become great songwriters themselves.
As we've seen from our studies of the era, the group pushed their craft and grew as artists. In the mid-1960s, their writing and personal interests became more visibly contemporary. As early adopters of new ideas and sounds, they did help shape the culture of the decade. These were the years of Dylan, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Pepper, and their development as recording artists. Their push to create, to explore and collaborate with other cutting-edge artists, and to express themselves personally and politically remains the high-standard for artists today. The band continues to ignite the collective imagination. This year, fans will see two docu-dramas about the life of John Lennon released (Nowhere Boy and Lennon Naked), as well as new books that examine their experience. Here is a checklist of some of the top current and upcoming releases:
JOHN LENNON: 70th BIRTHDAY CAMPAIGN
In celebration of John Lennon's 70th birthday on October 9th, Yoko Ono has been working with EMI and her producers to launch a special event dubbed the "Gimme Some Truth" campaign. Although many of Lennon's albums have been remastered (standard/2000-2005, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2003-2006), there are some reasons to look forward to these new releases set for October 4th (Oct 5th in the US).
Perhaps the most exciting is the stripped-down remastered version of Lennon's final album, Double Fantasy. Much like McCartney's effort to release Let it Be-Naked, a version closer to the band's intentions and liberated from Phil Spector's adornments, the new Double Fantasy has been remastered to bring Lennon's voice out into a more intimate space in the sound stage and free of some instrumentation.
There are many different products coming out for the campaign, here is more info from the John Lennon website to help Spy Vibers keep track. You can read more about the behind-the-scenes of the project on Yoko Ono's website.
• A hits compilation in two editions titled Power To The People: The Hits
• A 4CD set of themed discs titled Gimme Some Truth
• A deluxe 11CD collectors box with the remastered albums, rarities, and
non-album singles, titled the John Lennon Signature Box
All of the remastered albums and collections will be available on CD and for download purchase from all major digital service providers.
YOKO ONO said: “In this very special year, which would have seen my husband and life partner John reach the age of 70, I hope that this remastering / reissue programme will help bring his incredible music to a whole new audience. By remastering 121 tracks spanning his solo career, I hope also that those who are already familiar with John’s work will find renewed inspiration from his incredible gifts as a songwriter, musician and vocalist and from his power as a commentator on the human condition. His lyrics are as relevant today as they were when they were first written and I can think of no more apposite title for this campaign than those simple yet direct words 'Gimme Some Truth'.”
The albums have been digitally remastered from Lennon’s original mixes by Yoko Ono and a team of engineers led by Allan Rouse at EMI Music’s Abbey Road Studios in London and by George Marino at Avatar Studios in New York. All of the remastered titles will be packaged in digisleeves with replicated original album art and booklets with photos and new liner notes by noted British music journalist Paul Du Noyer.
The albums to be reissued are:
• John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
• Imagine (1971)
• Some Time In New York City (1972)
• Mind Games (1973)
• Walls and Bridges (1974)
• Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975)
• Double Fantasy Stripped Down (2010) / Double Fantasy (1980)
• Milk and Honey (1984)
The 1980’s GRAMMY Award winner for Album of the Year, will be presented in a newly remixed 'Stripped Down' version remixed and produced by Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas, co-producers of the original mix with John Lennon. The new stripped down version of the album comes in an expanded 2CD and digital edition pairing the new version with Lennon’s original mix, remastered.
YOKO ONO added: “Double Fantasy Stripped Down really allows us to focus our attention on John’s amazing vocals. Technology has advanced so much that, conversely, I wanted to use new techniques to really frame these amazing songs and John's voice as simply as possible. By stripping down some of the instrumentation the power of the songs shines through with an enhanced clarity. Double Fantasy Stripped Down will be complemented by the original album in the 2CD format. It was whilst working on the new version of this album that I was hit hardest emotionally, as this was the last album John released before his passing."
Power To The People: The Hits gathers 15 of Lennon’s most popular songs, and will be available as a 15-track single-disc and digital package, and as an Experience Edition with additional content. Both versions will be packaged in digisleeves with booklets including a new liner note essay by Du Noyer.
Gimme Some Truth, to be packaged in a slipcase with rare photos and a new liner notes essays by respected American music journalist and author, Anthony DeCurtis, presents 72 of Lennon’s solo recordings on four themed CDs:
• ‘Roots’ – John’s rock ‘n’ roll roots and influences
• ‘Working Class Hero’ – John’s socio-political songs
• ‘Woman’ – John’s love songs
• ‘Borrowed Time’ – John’s songs about life
The John Lennon Signature Box is a deluxe 11CD and digital collection of the eight remastered albums, a disc of rare and previously unreleased recordings, and an EP of Lennon’s non-album singles. The CDs will be housed in digisleeves within a deluxe box including a collectible limited edition John Lennon art print and a hardbound book featuring rare photos, artwork, collages, poetry, and new liner notes by DeCurtis.
John Lennon: In His Life
Publishing September 7, 21010 by John Blaney. This photo-biography, with a preface by his wife, Yoko Ono Lennon, takes a look back at the enigmatic legend, and a life marked by restless exploration-into art and music, consciousness and spirituality, politics and protest, love and peace. Featuring family photos and reproductions of documents that bear witness to momentous events and the origins of his “Imaginative” songs, this compilation, like no other, sheds light on his relationships with Paul, George, and Ringo; his attitudes toward mind-expanding drugs, social revolution, and the Vietnam War; the cataclysmic breakup of the Beatles; and the tenderness of his love for Yoko Ono and their only child Sean. Available at Amazon.
You Never Give Me Your Money
A new biography about The Beatles' breakup by Mojo and Q writer Peter Doggert. Although I prefer to focus on the band's creative process rather than their inner-politics and drama, some readers may be curious to see this side of the history. Published June 8, 2010. Available from Amazon.
Beatles Fact and Fiction 1960-1962
This book by Erik Krasker promises to be the most in-dept, historically accurate record of The Beatles' early years. More info here.
A very cool, limited edition book by Yoko Ono coming out on July 31, 2010. New work by one of the most creative artists in The Beatles circle. Ono is often misunderstood, I think, because fans tend to view her through the lens of traditional rock n roll. But if you take the raw emotion, politics, and pure expression of rock and add healthy doses of Japanese poetry, avant-garde daring, Buddhist philosophy, and the power of playful imagination- as both concept art and political/spiritual activism- then Ono begins to make sense as an important artist. Her new book, its title a reference to past projects called Fly, is a wonderful and interactive concept piece that literally helps her wishes for the world to take flight.
From Amazon: Sky people, that's what we are, Yoko Ono sang, in the 1985 song "Sky People"; "One day we'll fly and leap through the sky/To look for a good land hand in hand." Now, through the auspices of Ecstatic Peace Library, Yoko Ono has fulfilled these words and devised a book to fly in her stead. Published as a limited edition, Fly Me is a handbound book that unfolds to become a kite featuring seven pages of individual messages or instructions composed by Ono. These messages are designed to be read by all, in the sky on a windy day. You simply unfold the page you wish to fly and attach the paper to the bamboo frame included to construct a massive (30 x 36 inch) diamond-shaped kite. Including such characteristic Ono advice as "Imagine Peace" and "Fly," these messages are printed with soy-based inks on 100% recycled paper. The kite frame itself is made of hand-carved oak from a sustainable forest in New York state. A marvelous addition to Ono's already classic oeuvre of innovative bookmaking, Fly Me is published in a limited edition of 2,500 copies, and is without doubt an instant collector's gem.
Hans Ulrich Obrist & Yoko Ono: The Conversation Series
An excellent book published March 31st, 2010. In-depth interviews with Yoko Ono reveal her ideas and process as an artist. From Amazon: In this volume, Hans Ulrich Obrist elicits from New York art veteran Yoko Ono a portrait of her life and career that is unprecedented in detail. Across five interview sessions, Obrist quizzes Ono about her earliest works in visual art and music in Japan, her musical development in New York, her friendship with John Cage, her Fluxus days, the founding of the new state of Nutopia with John Lennon and her ongoing campaigns for world peace and human rights. Ono also recounts here the genesis of her installations and performances, so many of which have since become classics of their genre. Throughout these discussions with Obrist, in which architects and artists such as Rem Koolhaas and Gustav Metzger also participate, this icon of twentieth-century culture shows herself to be a generous and smart personality, and a multifaceted artist of enormous influence.
The Complete Beatles Chronicle
The holy grail reference guide to The Beatles' daily projects by Mark Lewisohn is coming back into print in a revised edition on October 1st, 2010. From Amazon: In 1979, Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn set about establishing a complete list of the group’s live appearances from 1957 through 1966, when they stopped giving concerts; the research took seven long years and was published as the book The Beatles Live! Shortly thereafter, EMI Records invited Lewisohn to be the only person outside of the Beatles and their production staff to go into Abbey Road and listen to the entire collection of Beatles session tapes and to interview practically everyone involved in their making. The result was published in 1988 as The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, and sold over 150,000 copies.
This book artfully combines and updates all the vital material in Lewisohn’s earlier two books with his definitive account of the Beatles’ work in radio, television, film, and video to create a complete day-by-day summary of the group’s entire oeuvre. First published in 1992, The Complete Beatles Chronicle has become the Beatles Bible, the one book no fan can live without, and a perfect companion to the bestselling Beatles Anthology, which recounted their story in their own words.
The Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles
For North Americans, Beatlemania really sparked when the group appeared on a series of Ed Sullivan shows to promote their first tour of the States in 1964. These episodes will come back into print on September 7th, 2010. The DVDs will contain the complete programs with unreleased segments, including Sullivan's interviews with each of the band members. I love seeing these shows because they are such a window into the changing culture of 1964. Although The Beatles seem tame by today's standards, it's clear that they were not an act in the style of the older generation that was otherwise featured so prominently on the program. We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of this event, folks! Available for pre-order on Amazon.
- Ringo Starr is on tour through August
- Paul McCartney is on tour
- Martin Scorsese is making a film about George Harrison
- Klaus Voormann at Fest for Beatles, Chicago, August 13-15
- My film for Yoko Ono is screening at festivals & events.
- Spy Vibe's Paul McCartney birthday tribute here
- Spy Vibe's fab archive: BeatleVibe
Spy Vibers who are interested in keeping up with The Beatles should check out the daily news website here.