November 23, 2010
"I read the news today, oh boy!"— John Lennon
As one who has never been the loftiest wedge in the bag, I came to both The Beatles and iTunes later than most. At the time American radio began programming the band from Liverpool on a "tight rotation," as they used to say in the radio biz, I had most of my musical eggs in the Miles, Monk, and Mose baskets.
And as far as my history of riding the latest playback-technology waves, it bordered on the Neanderthal. I was the kind of guy who kept updating his 8-track player while amassing quite possibly the largest 8-track tape collection ever smuggled into Utah over the Beaver Dam Mountains.
This eccentric behavior continued long after the smaller and much more user-friendly "cassette" had, for all intents and purposes, nudged the relatively unwieldy 8-track toward its well-deserved oblivion. LPs were also in play, of course, going back to my first, a late-’50s Annette Funicello compilation a misplaced hormonal decision, if I ever heard of one.
Eventually, I did come around to both The Beatles (Apple Corps Ltd.) and, much later, iTunes (Apple Inc.). Early on, although I found the Fab-Four-Mop-Top bunch to be more interesting than most of their contemporaries on the basic "teeny boppper" pop charts, I just didn’t have the space within my music window to pay them much heed.
That all changed, however, with the mid-’60s release of "Rubber Soul." Clearing space became an imperative. Well conceived and brilliantly executed tracks like "Norwegian Wood," "Nowhere Man," "Michelle" and, most importantly, the multi-leveled and transcendental "In My Life," turned my head, as it were. I was onboard for the duration a card-carrying Beatlemaniac.
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Then, a ways back, my son Smokey, totally ignoring the old axiom about old dogs and new tricks, bought me an iPod with enough memory to house either "The Complete Works of Henry Miller" or "O.D. McGee’s Greatest Hits." Maybe both! All of a sudden my days were filled with uploading songs and audio books into iTunes and then downloading them into my iPod.
Well, for years now, word has had it that, despite their nearly identical corporate monikers, Apple Corps (punningly pronounced "apple core") and Apple Inc. were actually apples and oranges.
But, lo and behold, over time they somehow resolved their issues, leading to the intergalactic proclamation last week that one can now access The Beatles complete library on iTunes. At least until sometime in 2011, their contractual game remains afoot!
The Beatles were first out of the chute, of course, with their "Apple" dating back to 1968 and the formation of their own record label of the same name. Steve Jobs, co-founder and once-again CEO of Apple Inc., has always maintained that they originally named their computer company "Apple" so it would be in front of "Atari," then an industry leader, in the phone book.
Apple Corps didn’t buy it, of course, and sued Apple Inc. over copyright infringement. The resultant settlement featured an agreement whereby they would share the disputed trademark name usually associated with the round edible fruit of a small tree within the rose family as long as "Corps" remained in the music biz and "Inc." in the computer biz.
Well, of course, with the advent of iTunes, "Inc." found itself on the other side of the litigated line. "Corps" dragged "Inc." back into court where another agreement, this one not made public, was added to the ever-simmering gumbo. By 2007, according to anonymous sources close to the orchard, the two apples had settled under the tree in a somewhat harmonious fashion.
This opened the door to The Beatles entire catalog finally becoming available on iTunes as of last week. Much ado about nothing or a major cultural milestone? Kind of depends on whether or not you were a Beatles buff, I suppose.
For myself, the media hubbub surrounding the announcement brought back memories of quite-intriguing tribal gatherings to listen to each succeeding album as it was released. I recall having to step over gas masks at one early "tea" party affair during campus upheavals in the Bay Area to hear "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" for the first time. A politics-heavy smoke-filled back room, as I recall.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.