In 2003, my father used the CD-RW burner on his computer to make me an MP3 disc of all 217 songs in The Beatles formal canon. “That’s right,” I remember telling my friends, “200 songs, one CD.” I took a distinct pride in my amalgamated collection of the Fab Four’s recordings, scoffing at those who only had, say, The Beatles’ greatest hits album “One.” I have distinct and pleasurable memories of hitting SHUFFLE on my Memorex CD player, and waiting for a moment while the device quietly warbled for a moment, the disc spun, and “Taxman” – whose lyrics I would only come to appreciate years later – would fill my earbuds. I felt myself a link in a technological and musical chain, continuing in digital format what had begun in analog. Never mind that the sound was mono, and you could only hear one-half the song while sitting in the passenger seat. That was part of the experience.
In 2006, when I got my first iPod, the Beatles tunes made their way onto my 160GB hard drive, occupying, by far, more space than any other artist.
In 2009, Chuck Klosterman wrote a brilliant review of The Beatles’ remastered CD collection for the AV Club. (Seriously, it’s brilliant. Read it now). Klosterman approached the review as though he was a musical naïf, and the result was a profoundly funny and insightful recap of The Beatles’ storied career:
Like most people, I was initially confused by EMI’s decision to release remastered versions of all 13 albums by the Liverpool pop group Beatles, a 1960s band so obscure that their music is not even available on iTunes. The entire proposition seems like a boondoggle. I mean, who is interested in old music? And who would want to listen to anything so inconveniently delivered on massive four-inch metal discs with sharp, dangerous edges? The answer: no one. When the box arrived in the mail, I briefly considered smashing the entire unopened collection with a ball-peen hammer and throwing it into the mouth of a lion. But then, against my better judgment, I arbitrarily decided to give this hippie shit an informal listen. And I gotta admit—I’m impressed. This band was mad prolific.
A year after Klosterman’s re-review, in 2010, the remaining Beatles agreed to put their music on iTunes, a long-awaited coup for Apple. But it would take until last week – a full five years – for the Beatles to become available on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. And in so doing, the British Invasion of streaming services is complete, with the Fab Four having joined The Kinks, The Who, and The Rolling Stones on streaming playlists everywhere.
For those of us who took a sort pride in the absence of The Beatles on streaming platforms – like mono sound, the inconvenience of needing to cache Beatles mp3s on one’s iPhone felt like a rarified labor of love – and there is a funny sort of feeling in getting emails from Spotify that are clearly aimed at introducing The Beatles to Millenials, while tacitly acknowledging their place in the canon.
And it’s perhaps because there hasn’t been a new Beatles album in nearly fifty years that their entry into streaming feels like a vindication of the platform, as well as of the Beatles’ relevance to contemporary music listeners. I felt a sense of pride for the Fab Four when I checked their Spotify Stats page.
It’s been a long and winding legal road, but those 217 songs are finally home on streaming. Now, to find “Taxman.”