Beatles fans around the globe will be lining up on September 9 to get the new digitally re-mastered collection of Beatles music and the Beatles' Rock Band video game. Engineers have spent four years cleaning up the original recordings in what could be the biggest music re-release in history.
It's rehearsal night for Abbey Road, a Beatles tribute band in Charlottesville Virginia. Life-long Beatles fans, they are looking forward to their next gig (concert).
They'll perform at a local record store in honor of the release of the new digitally re-mastered Beatles catalogue, the complete Beatles collection. Tribute band founding member Paul Olko says anticipating the release brings back childhood memories of the Beatles' first U.S. tours.
"I remember them of course coming on the Ed Sullivan show," he recalls. "I remember the endless girls screaming. I remember their unusual personalities and their relaxed way of handling the media. And the constant humor that they were bringing into the forefront of their interviews."
Four years ago, after legal papers were signed by the catalogue's owners, engineers started cleaning up all twelve albums using state of the art equipment. The remastered CDs will give listeners the choice of mono and stereo and will also contain original art work and mini documentaries about how each album was made.
Early reviews indicate a dramatic improvement in sound quality
Music critic Alan Light has written for Rolling Stone and is co-founder of Vibemagazine.
"The decision was made to do it as best would serve the recording as they were made. There was nothing that was altered," Light said. "There was nothing in the mixing that was changed."
A Beatles Rock Band video game will also be released. It allows up to six people to play 45 Beatles songs using controllers that mimic instruments.
Today, profits from video games far outpace music and Hollywood movies. Industry analysts say the video game is a clever way to boost profits and market Beatles music to a younger audience.
Joey Ballard, son of Abbey Road drummer Billy Ballard, says the Rock Band games do influence the kind of music his generation listens to.
"Pride And Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughn. That song didn't really get that much from the teenagers. But, when it came out on Rock Band, it made it really big all of a sudden," he said.
For the older generation, it's all about the music. Bass player Barry Willard says the Beatles are the reason he started playing an instrument. "So, when the Beatles came out, something just touched me and I picked up the guitar and started playing. And of course just really got into the Beatles and it started from there," he said.
Keyboard player Mike Dantoni is a music teacher. He considers the Beatles right up there with classical masters like Schubert, Bach, and Beethoven.
"It is that good," Dantoni asserts. "When I was learning how to play guitar and piano and everything I wanted to figure out their songs. They were three chords in the beginning, maybe they were very simple, but their music is very rich. Melodically it is very beautiful."
The one remaining question is whether the Beatles catalogue will be sold through the Web. Apple computers has scheduled a news conference on the day of the catalogue release, fueling rumors of a deal for iTunes.
Alan Light says the Beatles still have no agreement for Web release.
"My understanding is this is much more a dispute between the record company and the Beatles share holders, than it is between the Beatles and iTunes and the Beatles and any other digital company," Light said.
The music industry trade magazine Billboard is predicting brisk early sales. For the tribute band Abbey Road, September 9 will be one more chance to relive their own rock and roll fantasy.