What is it with the Beatles and nines?
As my colleague Caroline McCarthy pointed out in March when the launch date (September 9, 2009) for The Beatles: Rock Band was announced, the band's song "Revolution 9" ends with the words, "number nine, number nine, number nine."
So clearly, the date 09/09/09 has at least some symbolic significance for the band. And now, in addition to that date being the launch of the Rock Band title, it was announced Tuesday that on that same day, the Beatles will release a CD box set of their entire catalog, digitally re-mastered for the first time, re-confirming reports from months ago.
At the same time, many people have been talking about the high likelihood of an all-music-related Apple event around some unknown product announcement on September 9. So, with all these facts--and some informed speculation--in hand, one has to think seriously that we may get a star-studded event with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (who, you may remember, showed up at Microsoft's E3 press conference to promote The Beatles: Rock Band) and, of course, Steve Jobs, to announce the availability of that same digitally re-mastered catalog on iTunes.
If that were to come to pass, it would seem to me an entertainment perfect storm. Of course, as is always the case with these things, we have to temper our enthusiasm because the most exciting speculation could well turn out not to be true. But if it does happen like this, well, it would easily be worth the price of admission.
As for today's news, EMI Music and Apple Corps--the Beatles' publishers--said that it took engineers at the famed Abbey Road Studios four full years "of utilizing state of the art recording technology, alongside vintage studio equipment, to create these amazing re-masters."
Having talked to the folks behind both The Beatles: Rock Band and the Cirque du Soleil's Beatle-themed "Love" about the re-mastering processes, I know that this is something that those involved with the band have been putting a lot of effort into over the last few years. And assuming that there will be a digital distribution element to this whole 09/09/09 thing, it's nice that after being very strict for years and years about how their music got out into the world, the band may finally have agreed to loosen the reins a little bit.
Of course, it's not altruism. There will no doubt be massive amounts of money flowing into the coffers of everyone financially involved with the band. And that's because even for people like me who already own the entire catalog on old mono CDs or records, there may be a few extra dollars available for legitimate digital copies of songs like "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," and "A day in the life."
But, of course, as of today, we don't know anything for certain about the Beatles and iTunes. What we do know is that The Beatles: Rock Band will have 45 songs, and that the digitally re-mastered CD collection will comprise all 12 Beatles studio albums--in stereo, no less--as well as "Magical Mystery Tour" and a combined "Past Masters Volume I and II," for a total of 14 titles on 16 CDs. The whole thing will be available, along with a DVD set of Beatles documentaries in one--presumably pricey--stereo boxed set.