Fab Four poised for new chart invasion

Some 45 years after the first wave of Beatlemania, retailers are preparing for the biggest chart invasion ever seen by the Fab Four from tomorrow.

Not only are the album charts expected to be swamped with 14 revamped albums by the band by this weekend, but the group are also expected to top the video game charts with the newly developed 'Beatles Rock Band'.

The new thrust is due to the release of remastered copies of their studio recordings – refined with months of painstaking work – to be released tomorrow on what is being dubbed Beatles Day.

Bookies are already predicting that John, Paul, George and Ringo will top the album charts once again with 'Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band' favourite to be the biggest seller, according to bookmaker William Hill. The next most fancied is 'Revolver', then 'Abbey Road'.

Online retailer Amazon.co.uk said today that a box set version of the band’s stereo albums – priced at €194 – is topping its bestseller list on pre-orders alone. It is thought to be the most expensive item ever to head the chart.

Each of the band’s original albums plus the soundtrack to 'Yellow Submarine', 'the Magical Mystery Tour' EP and the 'Past Masters' collection of singles which were not included on albums have all been reworked and repackaged.

The sets are being issued in two versions – as well as the stereo mixes of each album, which are being sold boxed or individually, and a collector’s box of the band’s recordings in mono.

Experts have polished the sound and enhanced the quality of the original recordings which have been processed digitally.

One track – 'Only A Northern Song' on the 'Yellow Submarine' album – has even been overhauled to turn it back into a mono recording, for the first time to give it a truer sound.

Due to the relatively primitive studio techniques around when it was first issued in 1969, it has only ever been heard as a crudely created artificial stereo version.

It is the first time the releases have been tweaked since they were first issued on CD in 1987.

And with the increasing move to digital downloads for music sales – downloads now account for 98% of all singles sales – this may well be the last gasp for such a bold repackaging of a classic back catalogue.

The remasters are designed to appeal to not only those who want to upgrade their collections, but also potential younger fans whose interest has been sparked by classics from their parents’ – or grandparents’ – albums, or from bands who have name-dropped their influence.

Even music magazine NME, which is aimed at the younger end of the market, is being issued in 13 special Beatles-themed covers this week.

And to keep up with changing technological tastes, the band’s company Apple Corps has moved into the computer games market for the first time with the release of 'Beatles Rock Band'.

Gennaro Castaldo, of retailer HMV, said: “The combined release of 'The Beatles Rock Band' game and the fully remastered Beatles catalogue on CD is likely to prove one of the cultural highlights of the year.

“Its main significance lies in the fact that it will help introduce a whole, new generation of fans worldwide to The Beatles’ music, while also extending the enduring appeal of the band and the mythology that exists around them.

“One massive by-product of the re-issued albums and the renewed interest in The Beatles’ music is that they are likely to dominate the album charts over the next few weeks, and set a new record in the process for the most of albums in the charts by the same artist at any one time.

“I guess we’re effectively looking at the most definitive Beatles survey ever, which will prove beyond doubt which is the most popular Beatles album among the public.”

One area which the band is still to enter is the download market. Despite ongoing discussions with computer giant Apple, The Beatles’ music is still not available to buy from iTunes which means fans will have to buy the albums, rather than buy songs on a track-by-track basis.

However internet rumours continue to circulate that a deal will soon be completed.

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