Decades Later, Beatles Hits Continue to Draw New Fans

JEFFREY BROWN: And more now from Tim Riley. He's a contributing music critic for NPR, journalist in residence at Emerson College in Boston, and he's the author of the book, "Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary."

Tim, start with the new recordings. What does it mean to re-master these old albums? And why is that such a big deal in the case of the Beatles?

TIM RILEY, National Public Radio: Well, with this digital re-mastering, what you're talking about is a major refurbishing of one of the essential milestones in the rock music catalog. And, you know, over the past half-century, we've watched as popular culture has gotten a lot more scholarly interest than it ever had before.

So the analogies would be, like, you know, if we're dealing with a new version of something by Charlie Chaplin, say "City Lights" or a new print of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane," the Beatle catalog really does have that kind of central prominence in rock music history.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well…

TIM RILEY: And, of course, the other thing we're talking about — I'm sorry.

JEFFREY BROWN: No, no, go ahead.

TIM RILEY: The other thing we're talking about, it's a period in music history in the 1960s when the Beatles are actually bridging an era between live performance of this music and the recorded art.

And part of what the Beatles do is they bring us into the recording era so that, by the end — they're doing more than composing songs. They're actually composing records. And that becomes very, very clear with this new digital re-master.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you know, you talk about the interest for scholars. What about the rest of us? I mean, I was reading today that, over time, worldwide, Beatles albums have sold something like 600 million copies. Everybody watching this has heard the Beatles. Most of us could sing many of their songs. What do we hear? What do we actually hear in the new recordings?

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