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Editorial: Beatles tax price to pay for maintaining collection


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Hey, Beatles fans, looking for that perfect Christmas gift? As this paper’s self-appointed, unofficial Beatles archivist, I offer to you this shopping season two items of Fab Four interest.

Recently, The Fame Bureau, a London auction house, announced it would be putting up for sale an early master tape of the band. The 10-track demo tape might be one of the most legendary recordings in Beatles lore. Manager Brian Epstein arranged for a meeting at Decca Records on New Year’s Day in 1962 with the intent of landing the group a recording contract. Decca executive Dick Rowe was not impressed and, in one of the worst business decisions ever, turned him down.

“Guitar groups are on the way out,” Rowe told Epstein and added the group “had no future in show business.” (If Rowe were an executive in today’s business climate, he likely would walk away with a big bonus.)

Epstein took the master tape to EMI, which signed the group that soon went on to dominate not only the world of popular music but popular culture across the planet. To Rowe’s credit, he did manage to sign the Rolling Stones soon after that little lapse in judgment. I wonder if he got a bonus for that?

An executive for Capitol Records (EMI’s subsidiary in the U.S.) wound up with the tape and sold it to the current owner, a buyer for the Hard Rock Cafe chain, who bought it for his own personal collection. The tape is marked “Silver Beatles,” which was the name of the group at the time. It comes with a handwritten track list and a black-and-white picture of the group wearing leather jackets, which was to be used as the album cover photo. The entire package is expected to sell for at least $30,000 at auction.

If you are Beatles shopping in a less pricy range, or if you can’t make it to London for the auction, you can get the newest in the perpetual line of Beatle reissues. Just in time for the holidays, all 12 of the Beatles original British albums have been released on vinyl in a big box set. Not only do the British albums contain more songs than the American versions, but the songs are arranged as the Beatles originally planned.

My theory of why this is so is who some executive at Capitol Records — maybe the same guy that owned the Silver Beatles master tape — decided if they put fewer songs on the albums, after two or three releases there would be enough unused songs to make another album, which they then could sell to eager American fans. That guy probably got a big bonus for that idea.

The records have been pressed on 180-gram vinyl, which is what all hip audiophiles want in a record these days. My old Beatles records are between 120 and 140 grams, which was standard back in the day. Apparently, the thicker vinyl keeps one side of the pressing from “bleeding” onto the other side ,thereby producing a higher fidelity sound quality. Also, the thicker vinyl helps avoid warping. The box set comes with a big coffee-table book. Of course, it would help to have a turntable, as well. The price is — well, if you are a Beatles fan, does it really matter?

My friend Randy introduced me to the theory of the “Star Wars Tax.” He is a collector of all things connected to that particular movie franchise and takes it as a given that, every so often, the company that owns the rights will come out with some new item that collectors happily will buy.

I told him there was a similar “Beatles Tax” in operation. I am sure that deep in the belly of some huge conglomerate, a big executive decided that a periodic release of Beatles memorabilia would be a cash cow. And I’ll bet that executive got a big bonus for the idea.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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