2012 marked a number of musical events, including the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ debut single “Love Me Do.” The limited-edition anniversary “Love Me Do” single represents just one of many Fab Four-related products released this past year.
The following is an overview of some of the best 2012 releases in CDs, books, DVDs, and general collectibles; any of these items are sure to please any Beatles fan on your gift list. All prices are from Amazon unless otherwise noted.
Give these picks to friends, or give some to yourself! …
The John Lennon Letters, by John Lennon and Hunter Davis ($19.79): Heavily hyped upon its release, this collection of Lennon’s correspondence sheds more light on his multifaceted personality. From humor to anger, his emotions are on display through his writing, all annotated by Beatles biographer Davies.
Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Robert Rodriguez ($13.59): Arguably one of the best Beatles books of 2012, the text guides readers through virtually every aspect of this landmark album. From the recording sessions to the songwriting to cultural impact, Rodriguez’ tome covers the gamut. The book raises issues about Revolver that will remain with you long after you finish reading. Think you know everything about the album? Think again.
Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off-the-Record with The Beatles, Bowie, Elton, and So Much More, by Ken Scott ($16.49): Ever want to be a fly on the wall during Beatles recording sessions? Other than Geoff Emerick’s Here, There, and Everywhere, this memoir may serve as the next best thing. The Beatles’ longtime engineer describes his odyssey working on Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album. In addition to these tales, he reminisces about producing David Bowie, Elton John and Pink Floyd, just to name a few. It’s an absorbing read written by an intelligent and humorous narrator.
George Harrison – Early Takes Volume 1: Music From The Martin Scorsese Picture Living In The Material World ($9.99): Although many of its tracks have been previously available via bootlegs, the collection of Harrison outtakes and demos lends even deeper significance to familiar songs. Listening to sparse arrangements of delicate tracks like “I’d Have You Anytime” and “All Things Must Pass” reminds listeners of Harrison’s gift for singing and lyrical interpretation. Let’s hope Volume 2 will be released sometime in 2013.
Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom ($9.65): Don’t think of McCartney’s homage to the standards as simply Rod Stewart, Volume 3. Instead, McCartney takes a quiet, intimate approach, wisely surrounding himself with jazz and pop artists at the top of their game. Led mostly by Diana Krall, McCartney croons classics such as “Glory of Love” and “More I Cannot Wish You” with his unique style. For the ultimate McCartney experience, opt for the new Complete Kisses edition, available only through iTunes. In addition to the original album, this version includes his cover of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” a previously unreleased version of “My Valentine,” and the complete Capitol Studios concert ($13.99).
Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney – Ram ($12.99): The latest release from the Paul McCartney Archive Collection showcases what he calls their “hippie period,” and today it retains its unique, homespun charms. Similar to McCartney, Ram sounds homemade, lacking studio effects and not overproduced. “Heart of the Country” and “3 Legs” tell of their country life, while tracks like “Monkberry Moon Delight” and “Ram On” still rock. As with other Archive releases, Ram comes in various flavors: the basic CD, the Special Edition (original album plus an extra CD filled with singles and unreleased mixes, $14.99), and the Vinyl Deluxe Edition (also including the rare Thrillington album and a DVD filled with rare footage, $99.99).
Ringo Starr – Ringo 2012 ($14.08): Starr’s 17th studio album may not be groundbreaking, but it’s a fun listen that ranges from covers (“Rock Island Line”) to remakes of two past tracks (“Wings” and “Step Lightly”). The usual suspects such as Don Was, Edgar Winter, Joe Walsh, and Dave Stewart drop by to lend a hand.
Live Kisses ($24.88): Released as a companion to McCartney’s CD Kisses on the Bottom, this special features a concert held at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Guests Diana Krall, John Pizzarelli, and Joe Walsh join the singer as he performs standards largely from the Great American Songbook. Interviews with McCartney, producer Tony LiPuma, and other musicians such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder flesh out the making of this project. The DVD presents an overall intimate picture of the legend that we see all too infrequently.
Living in the Material World ($17.79): Martin Scorsese’s celebration of Harrison’s life finally arrived on home video in the U.S. Fans may debate whether the film presents a well-rounded picture of the Beatle–Scorcese often focuses more on Harrison’s spiritual life than his music–but it still stands as an affectionate tribute. Rarely seen home video and candid interviews with McCartney, Starr, first wife Patti Boyd, Olivia Harrison, and son Dhani make Living in the Material World an entertaining and touching viewing experience. Hardcore Harrison enthusiasts will definitely love the box set, which includes the DVD, Blu-ray, the CD Early Takes Volume 1, and a 96-page book ($69.99).
Magical Mystery Tour ($16.99): While the film may be an acquired taste, the soundtrack remains a classic. Either way, fans will appreciate the crystal-clear film restoration, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews McCartney, Ringo Starr, and others involved in the unusual and still controversial movie. For a splurge, buy the deluxe version, which also includes the DVD and Blu-ray versions, a 60-page book, photographs, and a reproduction of the original 1967 vinyl EP ($89.86)
Produced by George Martin ($14.98): This favorable portrait of the Beatles’ producer spotlights his entire career, from his days producing comedy recordings to his subsequent success with groups such as America. The charming storyteller provides anecdotes about his Beatles days and conflicts with John Lennon, and shows him revisiting his AIR Studios in Montserrat, now a pile of rubble after a massive hurricane. While not an objective view of his life, Produced by George Martin is a must-view for anyone wanting to learn more about a true “Fifth Beatle.”
Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records ($11.98): While difficult to track down, this in-depth look at The Beatles’ great experiment in establishing a record label is well worth the effort. The surprisingly thorough film provides a fascinating history of the label, discussing the successes and failures during the band’s short venture.
Yellow Submarine ($17.99): The 1968 animated film has been digitally remastered and is packed with extras such as commentary, interviews, storyboard sequences, and behind-the-scenes photos. A 16-page booklet, stickers, and reproductions of individual film cels also make this irresistible for any Beatles collector.
Beatles Collector’s Edition Scrabble ($23.26): The Scrabble and Beatles fan on any Christmas list will love their two worlds coming together in this special edition game. Form words that are Beatles-related with fun additions such as “Help!” cards.
The Beatles in Stereo Vinyl Box Set ($319.00): Beatlemaniacs will be forever grateful to receive this special set of albums, all remastered on 180-gram, audiophile quality vinyl. All LPs come in replicas of the original sleeves and inserts (posters, Sgt. Pepper cutouts). A 252-page hardcover book and storage case completes the set, which includes all the original British releases and Past Masters Vols. 1 and 2. The albums are also available individually for $17.49 each.
The Guitar Collection: George Harrison app (for iPad, $9.99): Guitar scholars as well as Harrison enthusiasts will absolutely love this fascinating app, which takes viewers on a tour of selections from his guitar collection. Videos and sound clips of Harrison playing the instrument, interviews with Dhani, Ben Harper, and Mike Campbell, and fully interactive photos allowing you to examine every aspect of the instruments are just a few of the app’s features. Future updates promise even more beloved guitars from Harrison’s famous collection.
“Love Me Do” 7” vinyl single ($12.99): To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark single’s release, a limited edition of the original 45 (with the B-side “P.S. I Love You”) was issued earlier this year. A reproduction of the original Parlophone single, it serves as a fun collectible for any diehard fan.