Maybe the world's ending next year, and the Beatles' organization knows, and the rest of us don't. Nothing else - apart from blatant exploitation of the various Lennon anniversaries - can explain the quite phenomenal (and indeed ridiculous) profusion of Beatles product that's been aimed in our direction over the past month, and the month yet to come.
I don't expect any sympathy for a second, but for more than 20 years, I was in the very fortunate position of being a journalist who was sent almost all Beatles-related product for free. I tried very hard back then to think myself into the position of being an Ordinary Person who had to pay for their music, but it's difficult until it happens to you.
Which it did, to me, a few years back, and now I get nothing for free, and I only get to hear new Beatles releases if I pay for them. So like everyone else, I'm having to be very choosy about what I buy, and what I don't buy. I've already given you my pre-release reaction to the new Lennon packages in a previous post. Here's how I'm feeling about the rest . . .
LENNON BOX OF VISION: I missed this last time, and I'm missing the point of it now. It's more than £100, and it's like a conceptual box, to put things in, and it has a book with pictures of the albums that I bought in the 70s, and still have on the shelves. No, still don't get it.
BAND ON THE RUN: Four different versions of this on 1st November: the single-album digipak (pointless); the 2-CD/1-DVD edition (only £1 more than the basic version on Amazon); the 2-LP vinyl edition; and the 3-CD/1-DVD super deluxe edition. The 2-CD/1-DVD set has the original album, a shortish CD of 'rarities' (singles plus tracks from the One Hand Clapping film), and a DVD with promo footage and, so it seems, One Hand Clapping in full. That's £15.99 from UK Amazon; whereas for £71.99 (NOT a misprint), you can buy the same set in enlarged packaging with an extra CD carrying an audio documentary about the making of the album. Er - didn't you offer us that last time you reissued this album, Paul? And what's with the price differential? Madness. I might treat myself to the £15.99 edition, though.
1962-1966/1967-1970: Remastered, but what's really striking is the price. These double-sets sell for £8.95 each on Amazon, but they used to cost about £22 each for the unremastered editions. And that tells you everything you need to know about the current state of the music business. If you're really rich, you can buy the two compilations as a box set - which actually costs several pounds MORE than buying the two sets individually. Very strange.
APPLE REISSUES: I already have almost all of the 1991 CDs, so do I really want to buy the new editions for a handful of bonus tracks? Probably not, though I'm enough of a James Taylor fan to want the four extra songs, so I might splash out on that one. I'm much more interested in the Best Of Apple 2-CD set, though I'm devastated by the fact that it doesn't include one of the greatest singles ever issued by anybody, ever - 'Road To Nowhere' by Trash. It's like reissuing Sgt. Pepper and leaving 'A Day In The Life' off. I see that we will shortly be able to buy all of these reissues in (what else?) a box set, though I haven't yet managed to discover whether we'll get anything extra if we do (apart from a box, that is).
RAVI SHANKAR's COLLABORATIONS: Collaborations with George Harrison, that is, including the two albums the sitar genius made for Dark Horse Records, the lovely Chants Of India set from the late 90s, and a DVD of the 1974 concert by the Ravi Shankar Music Festival. I have to admit that this appeals to me. But . . . it's almost £50, and realistically, how often would I play it? Twice? Once? Or would I actually look at the packaging, think 'That's lovely' and not actually play it at all?
Without duplicating different versions of the same releases, fans could end up paying £125+ for the Lennon Signature Box, £100+ for the Box Of Vision, £21 for the Beatles compilation box, £50 for the Harrison/Shankar, £150-odd for the Apple box - and don't forget that bargain offer from Paul, the £71.99 edition of Band On The Run. Pause for some mental arithmetic . . . I make that more than £500 in total. In return, you'd get the bonus CD of Lennon rarities, two discs of McCartney bonuses, the Shankar DVD, and some bonus tracks by non-Beatles - plus lots of music that you've already bought on at least one occasion, maybe many times over. And in the middle of a recession?
There's simply no way that the market can stand this much new Beatles product condensed into such a short space of time, so I predict that sales for most of these items are going to fall way below corporate expectations. As someone who wants to hear new music rather than fill my shelves with duplicates, I'll buy the Stripped Down version of Double Fantasy, the most reasonable of the McCartney sets, and probably the Best Of Apple. The rest? It's Christmas, it's marketing, and as a great man once said, it's all too much for me to take. I want to be a fan and buy new Beatles albums, honest, but sometimes they just make it too hard.