The Beatles Again Solve Your Christmas Gift Giving Dilemmas
An annual delight is looking at how The Beatles have been able to provide gift-giving solutions. This year is no exception, with a slew of products sure to fit the bill for everyone on Santa’s list. In fact, the first two items would work for almost anyone on your list.
The Beatles Rock Band
The apogee of collapsing barriers between the generations is evident in The Beatles Rock Band. This game was designed from the ground up, and required untold input from a variety of sources. The opening sequence is priceless; it sketches the history of the band in a glorious couple minutes. Although Beatles-specific instruments are also available, the software itself works with the standard equipment. Our Wii version is on heavy rotation, with our daughters beating us every time.
Remasters (Apple Corps/EMI)
The date of 09-09-09 was a big day for Beatles fans; not only was Rock Band released on that day but the Holy Grail was also delivered: the remastered catalog. A team of engineers at EMI pored over the master tapes for four years, and the result is evident in the sound and the vision of these reissues. The tracklistings comport with the original British releases, rather than the somewhat choppy American releases in the early years. Mini-documentaries accompany each release, as well as new packaging with hefty booklets detailing the recording history. The catalogue is available as separate CDs, a stereo box set or a mono box set. The generous packaging is the digital age’s version of immersing oneself in the album, with data beyond the music.
Box of Vision
For the afficiando on your list, this mammoth box set includes everything but the music. It is something I feared would be too much even for the hardcore Beatlemaniac. It is an exquisitely designed presentation album for storing the Beatles CD catalogue. Sleeves of heavy gauge vinyl are configured for each CD release, with sufficient space for the disc, the booklet and even the inlay tray card. I had some trepidation about pulling apart and setting aside the jewel cases, but of course handling the stuff is often what collecting is all about.
I was soon able to put all my original CD releases in the Box of Vision, leaving intact the cool box set I needed to buy for the remastered collection. Both the mono and stereo remastered collections will fit into the Box of Vision, but purists will know about a few minor gaps. I had a couple tiny complaints: the Let It be…Naked slot did not account for the bonus CD packaged in early releases of the reissue. And if like me you use the jewel case [especially the double disc cases] as neat storage for the odd McCartney or Starr or LOVE ticket stub, you’ll need to fit that memorabilia in somewhere. And I did. Of course, the controversial releases (such as Polydor’s Early Tapes of The Beatles) have no place in this sanctioned Box of Vision.
But the creator of this lovely presentation box is working on a companion piece that can be customized to store another 48 discs such as future releases, DVDs, and dare I say bootlegs? (It should be ready for Valentine’s Day, and I will keep you apprised). Two beautiful publications are included with the current Box of Vision: a softcover and a luxurious clothbound reproduction of all the album artwork.
Given that your vinyl versions of these albums are either long gone, in deep storage or in bad shape, the full size graphics recreate the glorious days of yore, when absorbing the album artwork and the music was a devoted project (unlike the multitasking protocol of today’s digital age). In fact, the size and design of Box of Vision is a perfect homage to the original vinyl releases, right down to the faux album spines that you will recall from the front part of your alphabetically stored by artist record album collection.
I Met The Walrus by Jerry Levitan (Collins)
When 14 year old Levitan was able to secure an interview with John and Yoko during their May 1969 ‘Bed-In for Peace’ it set the stage for a remarkable journey. The Toronto hotel room was the scene for the meeting, and Levitan’s reel to reel tape recorder captured the visit. While understandably starry-eyed, Levitan provides fine historical context as well. The book comes with a DVD, bringing to life exclusive video footage and the interview. Give this to the budding journalist on your gift list.
Corn Flakes With John Lennon by Robert Hilburn (Rodale)
Love him or hate him, the eminence grise of LA rock journalists has had significant one on one face time with many artists. The blurbs on the dust jacket from Elton, Bono and Yoko attest to Hilburn’s prominence. In addition to getting to know Lennon during the Liverpudlian’s ‘lost weekend’ in LA, Hilburn has also spent time with Dylan, Springsteen and a host of others. Another gift for your favorite budding journalist or lover of LA cultural history.
Miss O’Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the Women They Loved by Chris O’Dell (Touchstone)
The subtitle makes it sound like a groupie’s kiss-and-tell-all, but this Oklahoman was one of the first female tour managers in the music business. She sat on the roof with Yoko and Maureen Starkey, with a front row seat to The Beatles final concert. She was part of a love triangle with Ringo and Maureen, yet became a confidante of Maureen and named Ringo as the godfather of her child. She lived at Friar Park, George’s mansion and straddled Pattie Boyd’s relationship with George and then Eric Clapton. Give this to your entrepreneurial daughter old enough to see through the potential murkiness.
Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out! (Abkco)
While not strictly a Beatles item, this deluxe reissue of the classic live Rolling Stone album comes 40 years after the Madison Square Garden show. Four discs are packed into the box set: the remastered ten original tracks, an additional 5 previously unreleased tracks, 12 live tracks from concert openers BB King and Ike & Tina Turner and a DVD documentary (by the wonderful Maysles brothers) of the five unreleased songs, the album cover shoot and backstage shenanigans. The sound throughout is gorgeous, and one drowns in the 56 page booklet. Get this for your baby boomer uncle.
Good Evening New York City – Paul McCartney (Hear Music)
Paul's three-night June 2009 christening of New York's Citi Field is chronicled in an expansive three-disc CD/DVD package that gathers a set list from all phases of his career. Get this collection for the Gen X or Gen Y person who was wowed by Macca’s 3 hour set at Coachella and is beginning to realize that being over 64 doesn’t mean you can’t rock.
Just Imagine (NoHo Arts Center, North Hollywood)
If you are in LA for the next couple months, get tickets to this wonderful ‘what if’ live production, which ably presents a magical mystery of what Lennon’s last concert would be like if he were giving it today. The musicianship is superb, and the evening is splendid. Bring anyone on your list who is Scrooge-like when it comes to tribute bands.
John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band Live In Toronto ’69 (Shout! Factory)
Or get a DVD of this concert film. On the release of Abbey Road, John and Yoko gathered a few fellow travelers (Clapton and Klaus Voormann from Lennon’s Hamburg days) and headed north of the border to join a vintage rock show. With many of Lennon’s heroes on the bill (Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard), he roared through a set of classic covers and a few originals from his nascent solo career. A bonus interview with Yoko two decades later casts some historical perspective.
The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge (Abrams)
Although Aldridge made his mark as a design maven for The Beatles, he has worked steadily through the decades. His album covers for Hendrix, Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Elton John cement his place in rock history. Current acolytes range from Sting to the Kings of Leon. Get this book for anyone with an eye for design and its subtly powerful effect on culture.