This past September 9 was a big day for Beatle fans. It marked the long-awaited release of the digitally remastered Beatles portfolio. (The date sticks because Vintage Vinyl on Euclid put them on sale that day – 09/09/09 – for $9.99 each. I bought a bunch of them.) These were the English albums – most with 14 tracks – as opposed to the jerry-rigged USA albums that were cut down to 11 or so tracks, or re-rigged as uniquely USA albums (Beatles '65, Yesterday and Today) in order to generate more unit sales.
I was fortunate to be able to grow up with their music, tracking their artistic growth as well as their personal and social evolution. They had a profound impact on me and aspects of my growth and aesthetic concerns. (I've always felt that it was their influence that I was more comfortable and productive within a group of like-minded artists – a la part of a theatre company – as opposed to a one-man gang or freelancer.)
As such, I know their music very well, and have listened to it from original LP releases played on tiny rebop machines and beyond.
But these new releases, these remastered albums, were a gentle revelation for me. The live presence of the boys – the clarity of their physical singing and playing – brought them back to earth for me, but once again established them on a pedestal of achievement.
The new editions give you an immediate feel of them playing the songs, underscoring their individual musical talents and their accomplishments as perhaps the best band in history, as well as a truly intimate proximity of their vocals.
But more so, they astonish as you realize the taste, the innovation, the joy, the hard work, and the sheer artistry of their body of work.
Besides the pleasure I've had in just relistening, these remastered Beatles albums were also a life-saver for me in my latest theatre project.
This is being written in the middle of the run of OnSite's site-specific production of ONE EXTRAORDINARY DARKNESS. As we moved into a hard-core rehearsal schedule, the show had a lot of things going for it. An interesting, unique new script, a good company of actors, and a very good director, Bill Whitaker, albeit one who put the hard in hard-core. He works his casts very hard to get everything possible out of a script. It's good, productive work, certainly my preferred way of operating, but still an effort.
Battling some personal and business issues that have been dragging me down, I didn't always have the best attitudes or the reserves of endurance needed for helping to create a show like this.
But every night driving to rehearsal, I would stick one of the remastered Beatles on my car's CD player, and, nightly, would gain inspiration, hope and encouragement from them. It wasn't a case of a musical pick-me-up. It was a stark recognition that good work takes patience, courage and determination. I loved what the boys had done, consistently striving to expand their craft and output. And I wanted to make no less of an effort.