The endurance of Beatlemania: How the Beatles keep fresh (and profitable) after 40 years

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Forty years ago this September, John Lennon told his bandmates he’d had enough, and the Beatles split.

The world didn’t know this until the following April, when Paul McCartney issued media copies of his eponymous first album with an interview with himself, announcing that the party had ended. Let It Be, released in May 1970, was the band’s final studio album, although it primarily contained material recorded the previous year. In December 1970, John Lennon’s song “God” spoke the final words on the matter: “The dream is over.”

Some would say, though, that the dream never ended. That despite the breakup, and the respective deaths of John and George Harrison in 1980 and 2001, the Beatles live on. There is an energy in their 1962-70 catalog that refuses to subside, that bleeds from generation to generation.

Much of that power is embodied by Paul himself. While at 67 he’s obviously getting up there in years, when Paul grabs that guitar and winds up those vocal pipes, he may as well be 27 again. This was clear July 15 when he blasted The Beatles’ 1968 classic “Helter Skelter” from the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, a nod to a frigid January day 40 years ago when he, John, George and Ringo performed their final live concert on the roof of the Apple Records building in London.

I was born too late to ever see the Beatles in concert, and sadly I’ve never seen any of them perform solo. That will change next month, though, when I attend Paul’s concert at Fenway Park. I’m still waiting for him to invite me to dinner beforehand.

Since the Beatles’ catalog was first issued on CD in 1987, rabid fans have been clamoring for updated, remastered versions. Those gems will finally be re-released with modern polish on Sept. 9, a date which also reads as 9/9/9. And that same day will see the marriage of The Beatles with the video game world when the Fabs’ own version of Rock Band will be released. The game controllers are meant to resemble The Beatles’ own instruments, such as Paul’s Hofner bass and Ringo’s Ludwig drums.

Finally, a video game I can play with my parents!

At 30, I’ve been a diehard Beatles fan for nearly half my life. Despite the fact that I started writing songs of my own and playing guitar at 21, I didn’t actually buy any CDs at all until just four years sooner. Since I’d grown up listening to my dad’s radio station – WWMJ 95.7 FM, at the time with Mighty John Marshall – my favorite songs were not the contemporary hits of the ’90s but the classics of the ’60s, and The Beatles topped that list. Watching the Beatles movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on TV also spurred my interest.

My first CD of theirs was the “Red Album,” which packaged their greatest hits from 1962 to 1966, and from there my collection and enthusiasm grew. By the time I started college my CD collection consisted of all Beatles-related albums, including all of John and Paul’s solo records; the one exception was a Gin Blossoms CD which I’ve always joked upset the “purity” of the Beatles collection.

Thankfully I’ve branched out a bit since then; there’s even a rap CD in there that someone gave me.

I think 2009 will be a repeat of 1995 in Beatles lore. It was in 1995 that I became a major Beatles fan, prompted especially by the airing that November of The Beatles Anthology on ABC, which exposed me and many others to not only classic Beatles music beyond the typical greatest hits, but also two new songs – “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” – which were late ’70s songs of John’s completed in the studio by his three former bandmates.

Beatlemania seemed to resurface that year, and I can see it happening again this year. I can’t begin to imagine how much money the Beatles empire will reap from the hoards of people like myself re-buying the CDs they already purchased years ago; in mono as well as stereo this time. Plus there’ll be the people buying The Beatles: Rock Band on either Playstation 3, Wii, or Xbox 360.

Since the last video game console I bought was Sega Genesis, before I’d even bought my first CD, I guess it’s time to upgrade. And when given the choice between the regular version of this game and the deluxe, you know which version I’ll opt for. If credit cards could cry, there’d be a trail of tears leading from my wallet to the slider machine.

That is, though, the plight of the Beatlemaniac. Grab that limited edition version now, or you’ll have to sell a kidney or at worst your firstborn child on eBay to afford it later.

“I’m that %**#^&^ who spent $125 on the Help deluxe version DVD,” a friend and fellow Beatles fan told me yesterday.

“Well, from one %**#^&^ to another, I salute you,” I told him.

The dream lives on.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.