As a consumer, viewer, and overall commentator of pop culture, I find myself looking for those dreaded paradigm shifts, those touchstone moments where I can say, “This is the moment everything changed.” After all, that gives me something to write about. In September, one of those possibly pivotal moments could occur: The entire Beatles catalog gets a remastering and deluxe re-release.
Where Elvis Presley could be considered the start of youth culture as an economic force, the Beatles are arguably the lynchpin of youth culture gaining political and cultural power. Their voice became louder than the establishment and their actions could create real change, versus the symbolism of previous movements. They were the frontline for the Flower Children as well as pop music in general, and as such, positioned themselves as the Baby Boomer generation’s social icons.
No surprise, then, that in 2009, those Boomers probably already own all the Beatles albums on CD. While some are genuinely excited that these remasters are coming, it’s easy to make a case that the same Boomers are post-double-dip, having already “upgraded” from vinyl and (ha-ha!) 8-track, and to steal a quote from Pete Townshend, they “won’t get fooled again.”
That leaves the new generation, some of which are just as ardent admirers of the Fab Four, that have learned of new ways to get their music, shiny aluminum discs be damned. For some, their copy of The Beatles Rock Band video game will be enough, while for others, those remasters need to hit iTunes or else risk complete irrelevance. For still others, the interwebs and bittorrents will give them whatever they want for the unreasonable price of $0.00. So, if a fraction of the first wave of fans bothers to buy into the upgrade, and the most recent converts have forsaken the CD format and the concept of paying for music, what does that mean?
Likely, it means that for the first time in almost a half century, the Beatles will not be the reliable cash cows they’ve always been, and the incredible force that had been Baby Boomer buying power will need to cede control to Generation Net. It’s a big statement to make, even in the face of the success of The Love Album, the Cirque Du Soleil soundtrack that mashed up the best of Bug Music, sold way above expectation and helped set the stage for this massive refurbishment.Â Remember that album was, in part, based upon the mash-up novelty and was, in a way, a new entity. These remasters aren’t. To hazard a guess, I’d expect the diehards are going to cherrypick what they choose to replace, further reducing the impact of the Beatles Armada.
But again, none of us win the horse races 100% of the time. I could be dead wrong and we could be ushering in yet one more massive win for Team John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s a long, long, long time to September, but one thing’s for sure. Either way, we’ll have a lot to write about.