The Beatles Again Solve Your Christmas Giving Challenges
As each year passes, it seems unlikely that the Fab Four would maintain their relevance across the generations. Without too much sleuthing, you can confirm again that in 2010 you can solve nearly all your gift-giving dilemmas with something Beatle-related.
Beatles Go Digital
The big news is that Apple Corps and Apple Inc finally overcame their long-running issues, making the Beatles’ canon available legitimately and digitally for the first time. The Beatles have had their issues with Capitol and EMI over the years, so it is gratifying that one of the last significant musical holdouts has joined the digital era. For the kid on your list who knows or cares little for holding an album [CD or vinyl], do him a favor and ensure he has at least a couple Beatles’ albums in his iTunes collection. The “Red” or “Blue” compilations are a logical overview. If you are ambitious, you can design your own Beatles playlist, but I’d avoid paying $1.29 for that last track from Abbey Road, it lasts only a few seconds and hardly seems reasonable value compared to all the other crucial songs from the Beatles library. It is gratifying to note that the biggest selling digital Beatles track is “Here Comes the Sun,” which evidences the growing appreciation of George Harrison.
West Coast Seattle Boy, Jimi Hendrix (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)
What does this 4CD/1 DVD box set have to do with the Beatles? It is not too far a stretch when you realize that after gigging across America on the chitlin circuit, Hendrix decamped to London where he was championed by the likes of McCartney and other members of British rock royalty. Indeed, Hendrix was gigging at a club a few doors away from the Indica Gallery where Lennon met Yoko. For the classic rock fan on your list, or for the teenager who thinks he already knows everything about Hendrix, this stunning collection will raise eyebrows. With 45 previously unreleased tracks, the career-spanning collection offers both live and studio tracks. Hendrix started as a sideman for the Isley Brothers, Little Richard (one of McCartney’s heroes) and King Curtis, and various singles on disc one begin to shed some light on a sizzling guitarist emerging from the shadows. Disc two explores his early solo sessions in 1967, with 17 previously unreleased tracks. Dylan’s “Tears of Rage” is fascinating. Disc three moves into 1969, with “Shame Shame Shame” a particular highlight. The fourth disc shifts into 1970 when Hendrix was in full fiery command.
The accompanying 90 minute DVD was directed by Bob Smeaton, who did fabulous work creating… guess what… Beatles Anthology. The documentary takes an autobiographical approach, told in Hendrix’s own words, whether directly through interviews or his letters read by Bootsy Collins. Some of the concert footage and previously unseen photographs are priceless. His 13 months in the Army as a Screaming Eagle paratrooper is an intriguing footnote. While blazing through a version of “Sgt. Pepper” Hendrix confirms that it was McCartney who got Hendrix on the bill at Monterey, a pivotal launching pad for Hendrix on his favorite coast.
John Lennon – solo reissues
One of the lovely byproducts of Lennon’s recent 70th birthday was the reissue of his solo albums. The remastering was overseen by Yoko, and the twin jewels of the reissue series are dual disc packages. Power to the People collects 15 songs and presents them in audio and video form. Also accessible via an included code is some scrappy online material. This is a great overview for the Lennon newbie, and a solid alternative to prior compilations. The Grammy winning Double Fantasy comes with a stripped down version, which provides a gorgeous glimpse into the nearly baked versions of this comeback album. Give this to your lover. An 11-CD box set pulls all the Lennon solo work including obscurios into one door stop collection. I noticed that the cover of 1974’s Walls and Bridges sports Lennon’s soccer painting from age 11, which is eerily echoed by a football painting from a childhood Hendrix seen in the aforementioned documentary.
Guide to the Beatles’ London by Richard Porter (Falkland Press)
In His Own Write & A Spaniard in the Works by John Lennon (Simon & Schuster)
For the traveler on your list, Guide is a great introduction to the series of delightful walking tours Porter offers. With his home base around the corner from Abbey Road, Porter runs a compleat Beatles shop. He has poured his encyclopedic knowledge into the tours and this book condenses all the intriguing landmarks around London. The omnibus edition of Lennon’s poetry, prose and drawings is a delight for teenagers who will admire the Liverpudlian’s anarchic way with language. This handsome hardcover features introductions by Yoko and Paul, and deserves a spot on most coffee tables.
Lionel Trains Beatles Boxcar
Clearly one of the most eclectic Beatles items I discovered is from Lionel Trains. The company (which once had financial and creative involvement by Neil Young) offer two boxcars to add to your train collection. These standard O gauge cars feature artwork from the quartet’s third and fourth US releases. I like the color of “A Hard Day’s Night” better than “Something New.” Both feature metal frames, opening doors and die-cast metal sprung trucks and operating couplers. Get either boxcar for your rockin’ grandpa with the old school train set.