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Apple to Apple: Beatles finally show up on iTunes today

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No doubt motivated by the distressing news that -- due to online sales -- the cast of "Glee" has now charted more songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart than they have, the Beatles have finally thrown in with Apple Inc. and posted their music catalog on the iTunes store.

Beginning today, 13 of the Fab Four's studio albums, as well as the two double-LP collections ("Past Masters" plus the "Red" and "Blue" round-ups), are finally available via the popular digital music outlet. Individual songs are priced at $1.29, with single albums at $12.99 and double-discs like "The White Album" at $19.99. There's also a "box set" of all the music and some extras for $149.

"I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes," Ringo Starr said in a statement. "At last, if you want it -- you can get it now."

Indeed, and Apple's chief and master of understatement Steve Jobs said it's been "a long and winding road to get here." Apple and the Beatles have wrestled in courtrooms for years, largely over a pretty silly copyright fuss. The Beatles' record label was Apple Records -- if you're over 40, you might remember the sliced Granny Smith LP labels going round and round -- and apparently Sir Paul and others thought we'd confuse the two. (Ironically, this lil' empire once also included an "Apple store" -- a posh London shop called the Apple Boutique that sold Beatles and Apple Records merchandise. It closed in 1968; see some cool photos here.) That was settled in 2007, but that and other legal wrangling has kept the band as one of the most significant hold-outs from iTunes.

Other hold-outs without music available through iTunes include AC/DC, Bob Seger and Kid Rock.

Solo recordings by the various Beatles have previously been on sale through iTunes.

The Beatles went some other digital routes first. EMI, the current music company in control of the Beatles catalog, last year sold apple-shaped USB drives that contained the Beatles catalog as digital files. In September 2009, the classic hits showed up in a special Beatles edition of the "Rock Band" video game.

Beatles tunes still sell well. Since the Anthology series in 1997, six Beatles collections have been top-10 sellers, including the Cirque du Soliel collaboration ("Love") and the greatest-hits set "1."

Fans and newcomers alike will enjoy the video iTunes has posted today as part of the pomp and circumstance of the band's arrival -- it's complete footage of the Beatles' first-ever concert in the United States, a show they played in Washington, D.C., two days after their landmark TV debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964. Watching the young legends haul their own equipment is pretty funny, and George Harrison starts singing "Roll Over Beethoven" into the wrong microphone. The fans are, of course, hysterical.

If you're even a moderate fan, though, no doubt you already possess -- and have digitized -- a fair amount of their music. So who will start scarfing up Beatles tunes today? It's a great opportunity to fill in some gaps. (I never have fit "Beatles for Sale" into my playlists; might as well now.) But there are a lot of people out there who ask with all honesty, "Paul who?" Here's a suggested playlist for anyone who's new to the Beatles -- a sampling that should give you a taste as to what all the fuss has been about for half a freakin' century now, and it'll just set you back $19.35:

  1. "Tomorrow Never Knows" -- Gotta open with instructions: "Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream." At the end of "Revolver," in the middle of their creative career, this was the clue that everything was about to change.
  2. "I Want to Tell You" -- They've got time. They'll wait forever. An urgent matter expressed through woozy harmonies and sleepy piano.
  3. "I Saw Her Standing There" -- The real beginning. That guitar still sounds so great.
  4. "Drive My Car" -- Beep-beep, beep-beep, woo! (And dig Paul's bass.)
  5. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" -- This title is truth in advertising.
  6. "And Your Bird Can Sing" -- Then the guitar snaps out of it and careens up and down the scale, beautifully.
  7. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" -- The experience of this is only really complete with someone screaming into your ear while it plays.
  8. "Eleanor Rigby" -- Poetic character studies. A friend of mine refers to this and others as "Paul's granny music."
  9. "In My Life" -- A beautiful, contemplative summation of time on earth.
  10. "Strawberry Fields Forever" -- The best psychedelic rock song ever?
  11. "Something" -- The best one from George.
  12. "Here Comes the Sun" -- The second best one from George. He was hot on "Abbey Road."
  13. "Revolution" -- Exorcise the song's commercial associations. Such a tight package of social statement and absolution.
  14. "Hey Jude" -- The epic closer, part 1.
  15. "A Day in the Life" -- The epic closer, part 2.

What tracks would YOU recommend to Beatles newbies?

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Very decent list, Thomas. Btw, Paul's "granny music" was actually coined by John Lennon regarding some of the more vintage-sounding cuts on the White Album (Martha My Dear, Honey Pie).

Actually, the quote from "Drive My Car" is "beep-beep-mm-beep-beep-yeah," not "woo." At least you didn't say they were Mopheads from Manchester.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on November 16, 2010 12:00 PM.

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