The Beatles have arrived on music streaming services. So the first job of the year for our music supremo Liz Buckley was to make us a playlist.
I admit at first I scoffed to myself at this seemingly overblown announcement, “Oh yeah,” I thought. “At last we will get to hear what they sound like.” But I was actually far too quick to dismiss how monumental this news really was.
Firstly, I say this because of a conversation I had a few days later with a very young, newly hired major label record company employee. He was confessing to me, unprompted, in a very honest yet apologetic way, that he had never really heard any Beatles.
While I tried to make my eyes less wide and keep at least one eyebrow under some sort of control, he explained that, as neither of his parents were fans of the band and as you also couldn’t stream their music, there was actually a slim chance of him having heard the records in a domestic setting.
It’s not something I’d previously considered and I immediately saw his point: how would you get to hear older records without seeking them out deliberately? Even if they were as famous as Jesus. (Fun fact: both Lennon and McCartney owned cats called Jesus. So they were definitely factually correct when they claimed they were bigger than Jesus, Bible belters.)
We all make daily choices about when to go the extra distance, and The Beatles just weren’t a band this young guy had managed to do that for yet. I reassured him I completely understood and suddenly the excitement about them being online seemed a little clearer to this old lady from a bygone generation.
Our conversation then moved on to The Stooges and he hadn’t heard them either and I thought, “Oh fuck off” and “How did you ever get a job here?” But initially I had understood, and that was the point.
Even more important than the issue of basic access, though, is the sheer joy which having readily available Beatles records has spread among my friends and music buyers in general. Of the 13 remastered albums and four compilations which joined the streaming services, a whopping 11 of these also joined the Spotify Top 200 overnight; music lovers absolutely lit up for Christmas and well… with a love like that that, you know you should be glad.
Now that a few weeks have passed since the initial fanfare online, as well as everyone just generally being pleased to see them we can also take a step back and look at what this all bloody means. Apart from say, 23-year-olds being able to easily hear Hey Jude sung somewhere other than by a drunk in a pissy sidestreet. A drunk who apparently is DEFINITELY NOT either of his parents; he was very clear on that, I noticed.
Spotify tell us that 1, a Beatles compilation from 2000, is far more popular than the original albums-proper, but that may well be because it is listed first so 1 being the most popular becomes a self-fulfilling/perpetuating result.
“Fun fact: both Lennon and McCartney owned cats called Jesus. So they were definitely factually correct when they claimed they were bigger than Jesus, Bible belters.”
More interesting and unexpected maybe is that ‘difficult double album’ The Beatles (aka The White Album) is in second place – an album rightly or wrongly seen as harder work than say, Sgt Pepper’s, a record for the duration of which they are entirely off their nut and experimenting with everything across all of space and time, at least within arm’s reach.
It’s a bizarre side effect of time passing that challenging things become seen as mainstream and perfectly accessible things are seen as odd. The White Album is, however, my personal favourite, so well done Team Liz (Worldwide branch).
Moreover, the stats also provide the breakdown that New Yorkers apparently prefer the band’s more melancholy tracks, with While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Norwegian Wood coming out as the most played in the boroughs over the reflective festive season. Which is actually a bit of a worry. Are you OK New York? Ring us.
Hand-wringing Beatles purists and completists will want to know why the anthologies, the BBC albums, the mono masters and more are not up for streaming. This latter point is particularly important as The Beatles’ albums were mostly mixed for a mono audience with George Martin at the helm, the unlovingly put together stereo versions in many cases losing a lot of the detail and intention of the original releases.
Anyone who has latterly heard the mono version of Sgt Pepper after growing up with the stereo release will feel entirely hoodwinked by the stark differences; we were short-changed from birth. But good things come to those who wait and I’m sure these additions to the streaming services will be made.
The Beatles have a history of not joining in with new technology until they are certain of their position, only having their first material appear on CD in 1987 – by which time the format was already a staple – and only allowing iTunes to sell downloads as late as 2010. That said, they had a bit of history with a stolen Apple brand name to work through.
Many artists have spoken bitterly (and personally I believe, correctly) about the poor royalty payments from streaming, so The Beatles joining Spotify et al is seen as a huge confirmation of the service. And it is important that all bands should experience the real thrill of being paid badly. Welcome to the terrible present, you bright young things. We missed you. Or missed out on you, depending on your age.
In rival to the Beatles compilation 1, here is the newly compiled playlist for 2016, which I’m calling 7 – my seven wonders of the fab four. But in fairness there isn’t a single song by them in existence you shouldn’t hear, so you could also just try ‘Play all’.3517 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.