As we prepare to say good-bye to 2012, we look back at the year’s biggest Beatles headlines and take stock of their growing relevance. The Beatles are still making history, despite being disbanded for over forty years.
Throughout 2012 their 50th anniversary was celebrated with historic re-releases of their music and films onto new formats. The two remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, kept busy with their solo careers, especially McCartney, who just finished up his latest tour and participated in a number of appearances all year long. John Lennon and George Harrison are still being honored at gatherings on their birthdays and anniversaries of their deaths. Lennon and McCartney were even strategically represented in London’s Olympic opening and closing ceremonies this summer. There have also been new books, websites, and documentaries released, making it clear that the Beatles at 50 are just as popular as ever, perhaps more so as social networking and popular new formats have expanded their fan base. Here are some of the biggest headlines and stories from the year:
Release of catalog on vinyl was historic but not perfect
Their entire catalog of albums was re-released on vinyl this year in November, getting the Beatles’ music “back to where they once belonged.” It was a major release, accompanied by a beautiful 252-page hardbound book. Despite the excitement, there have been complaints about quality, from the source used, (they used the 2009 remastered digital recordings instead of the original analog tapes), to widely inconsistent pressing quality. But when fans in L.A. and New York saw the Beatles Mobile Bus roll into town in November in promotion of the historic release, full of Beatles stuff to buy, it was Beatlemania all over again.
Films Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour releases came to take us away
Two films were re-released this year after being remastered, Yellow Submarine in May, and Magical Mystery Tour in October, with special screenings around the U.S. and in the UK. Magical Mystery Tour was also released on iTunes, with some new ringtones. Another special iTunes release was a collection of iconic Beatles songs called Tomorrow Never Knows. The fourteen songs on this release were chosen based on the legendary impact or messaging of the song, such as Revolution, Tomorrow Never Knows, and Helter Skelter. And in a special nod to the 50th anniversary of the band, their first hit, “Love Me Do” was released in commemorative 7-inch single.
Paul McCartney gave us Kisses on the Bottom while On the Run, ends the year reuniting Nirvana
In February, in time for Valentine’s Day, Paul McCartney released an historic album of his favorite standards (think “Great American Songbook”) called Kisses on the Bottom. He included two original songs, including the beautiful tune for his new wife Nancy, called “My Valentine.” (See our article, which includes a history of each of the songs he covered.) On February 9 he performed the album at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live. The DVD of this performance (with bonus goodies) was released with a special book, called “Live Kisses.” (See Paul’s website for all the details.)
In May he re-released Ram, in a number of configurations, including a 5-disc deluxe box set. Meanwhile, Paul just finished his “On the Run” tour, which has been en-force since mid-2011, ending in Edmonton, Canada at the end of November. He also performed at the London Olympic Games opening ceremonies at the end of July.
With the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused in New York and New Jersey, the fundraising concert that ensued included many major rock stars, including Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Billy Joel, and Paul. It was called the 12-12-12 concert for Hurricane Sandy relief, and an iTunes release of that entire four-hour-plus show is now available.
No one in their right mind would have predicted that Nirvana would have been reunited by Paul McCartney. But indeed, the biggest wow of the evening was Paul’s performance with ex-Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novaselic, and Pat Smear with a Nirvana-ish song that Kurt Cobain would have approved of, called “Cut Me Some Slack,” (written with Grohl.) (See video at bottom of article) It proves without a doubt that Paul at 70 is still embracing current music with gusto, and not quite ready to retire into an easy chair any time soon.
Ringo Starr did his 13th All-Starr tour this summer with Steve Lukather (Toto), Gregg Rolie (Journey, Santana), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera and Gregg Bissonette. The All-Starr band will tour the Pacific Rim in 2013 with the same line-up.
Fans gathered at George Harrison’s Hollywood Star to honor the 11th anniversary of his death. (see story here) On the heels of the 2011 documentary, Living in the Material World, an “Early Takes” CD was released in May.
John Lennon was immortalized at the closing ceremonies of London’s Olympic Games August 12, as a gigantic puzzle formed into the image of his face, while the song ‘Imagine’ played. A goose-bumpy tear-jerking moment for sure, especially considering that Paul had sang at the opening ceremonies. There were celebrations on his 72nd birthday from coast to coast, and a special gathering at his Hollywood Star on December 8.
On September 21 the Lennon Bermuda Tribute took place. Many artists participated and Graham Foster created a sculpture in John’s honor at the Botanical Gardens where John and Yoko had visited in 1980. It was at this garden where John found the freesia called “Double Fantasy” and how he named his last album that contained the music he wrote there.
2012 releases of Beatles books, documentaries, and art:
Many different artistic endeavors were done this year to honor the Beatles. Two significant new books about John Lennon were released this year, most notably “The John Lennon Letters”, compiled by Hunter Davies, featuring letters John wrote from the time he was little, until just before his death. The other is “The Dream is Over” by personal assistant to the Lennons, Dan Richter. Our four-part interview with Dan, called “Life with the Lennons” sheds much light on the decade he lived with and worked for the Lennons.
The documentary called “Beatles Stories” by Seth Swirsky is an amazing one-man effort to interview many notable celebrities that actually met the Beatles during their Beatlemania days, and is quite stunning. (Read our review here) In addition, this year the in-progress documentary by Freda Kelly called “Good Ol’ Freda” received some prestigious awards. The movie, reveals many previously untold stories about Freda’s close working association with the band.
Jude Southerland Kessler, author of the John Lennon Series, started the “John Lennon Hour” radio show in which she tells the story of John’s life with flair and compassion. And author Judith Kristen has just published a children’s book about the Beatles called “Once Upon a Time in Liverpool”. The illustrations are done by Beatles artist Eric Cash.
See our interview with Eric in this article, “Eric Cash paints the Beatles.” We also interviewed Chris Sileo about his “photorealistic art” done on computer, a new technology that is allowing Chris to recreate famous Beatles scenes that were never actually photographed, including John Lennon’s home at Kenwood.
Dublin even paid tribute to the Beatles’ 50th anniversary with three plays called “The Beatles Show.” David Bedford’s launch of the Beatles Social Network has blossomed this year. Check it out if you haven’t already (check out our in-depth interview here). This is now a Grand Central on-line meeting place for Beatles fans all over the world.
There can be no doubt that in 2012 the Beatles are still as iconic and relevant as they were when they were writing music together in the 60s. Not only are they keeping up with latest formats to keep their music out there with new generations of fans, two of them are still touring and performing. And artists, musicians and writers are expressing their love of the Fab Four in every way imaginable, in fascinating ways that illuminate the magic they have created.
The John Lennon Examiner sincerely wishes you a wonderful and Happy New Year in 2013. In the words of John Lennon, “let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”
Copyright notice-©Shelley Germeaux 2012: This article and photos are subject to copyright restrictions and may not be reproduced without the author’s permission. Excerpts with link to original article are welcomed. Please subscribe to the John Lennon Examiner for instant notifications of future articles. Also see our facebook page, John Lennon News and Biography, and follow us on Twitter at LennonNews.