July 14, 2024

In case you’re wondering why boomers everywhere have been simultaneously smiling and tearing up since November third, it’s because a massive piece of our childhood’s foundation has come roaring back to life. First, there was the unexpected resurrection via modern technology of a poignant John Lennon song with contributions well after the fact from the then three remaining Beatles. Duke spoke from the heart about it earlier:

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That damn British invasion from 1964 is still rippling almost 59 years after The Beatles hit the American shores, dropping onto the Ed Sullivan Show in February of that year.

They took over a country that was reeling from the assassination of our 35th President in November of 1963 and helped lighten the mood for people who were shocked and saddened by a senseless act. I don’t want to wax too sentimental here, but this little diddy of a story hits me right in the feels when I have articles like this I have written lately, The Writing Is on the Wall: America Likely to Be Hit Because of the Invasion From Mexico, and it reminds me of that time way back when.

The song’s video, superbly assembled by Peter Jackson, has induced many a lacrimal gland secretion.

The song has become a Number One hit in England. In America, where the charts are far more fragmented, the song reached Number One on the digital sales chart. Impressive in and of itself, but there is more to the story.

The Beatles debuting “Now and Then” at No. 1 on the Digital Song Sales chart is incredibly impressive for a number of reasons, perhaps most of all because the track was only out for a few hours in the past tracking period. The band released the tune mid-day on Thursday, November 2, and the tracking frame wraps each week as Thursday turns to Friday. So, that means that The Beatles outsold everyone else in America after only about half a day.

All of this has served as a precursor to the rerelease of The Beatles collections from 1973, namely “1962-1966” and “1967-1970.” Each hit the shelves on November 10, and each is a revelation.

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Giles Martin, son of the late Sir George Martin, who produced all of The Beatles’ recordings, has spent years lovingly remixing his father’s work, using the latest studio technology not to autotune or embellish that which needs neither but rather to bring the music an audio sheen of stunning presence and warmth. Tracks previously available only in mono or early gimmicky stereo now naturally breathe, causing the listener on so little as a halfway-decent sound system to constantly peek behind the speakers to make sure John, Paul, Ringo, and George aren’t secretly camped out back there performing live. Yes, the sound is that good.

The “1962-1966” set benefits the most sonically from this treatment. It additionally takes full advantage of the expanded room available on CD and makes the vinyl a three-disc set. Added to the original track listing are 12 songs, including multiple cover songs and George Harrison originals left off the original release. The result is a far more satisfactory listen, covering the four lads from Liverpool’s growth from fresh-faced generators of irresistible rocking classics to more introspective, textured staples such as “Yesterday” that reached the rarefied air of popular music perfection.

“1967-1970” adds eight songs left off the original, plus “Now and Then.” A mix (no pun intended) of new mixes plus those done in recent years for deluxe rereleases of albums from the era, the collection reminds us how superbly innovative and fiercely creative The Beatles were during this period. No one sounded like them, and they seldom sounded like themselves from song to song as they simultaneously invented and perfected power pop and psychedelia while reintroducing dance hall stylings to a new generation. Throughout it all, their impeccable melodies and fresh chordal structures made The Beatles creators of a songbook the likes of which have not been approached before or since.

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It’s difficult to remember in today’s, to paraphrase The Who’s Pete Townshend, tweenage wasteland that there was once a time when giants roamed the earth, and we foolishly assumed this would always be the case. Perhaps there is another Beatles out there somewhere, a band currently practicing in a garage, annoying the neighbors with their racket that one day will shake the world. Perhaps. But we still have The Beatles, and the decades have in no fashion dimmed the luster of their magnificent gift.

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