Digital Beatles? Has a Nice Ring to it (but not Ringtone)

Sometime in 2008, the band that revolutionized pop music upon their first vinyl release in 1962 will finally offer its music digitally, a move that will open up their classic songs to a whole new generation. Perhaps as exciting for music lovers is the prospective release of a new Beatles song.

In 1994, Yoko Ono presented Paul McCartney with three unfinished John Lennon vocal demo tracks. Two of those were recorded by the remaining band members and released as part of the group’s “Anthology” project, including “Free as a Bird.” A third, “Now and Then,” was never finished. To complete the tune, guitar elements from the late George Harrison will be added to the final work of McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr.

As a lover of music and its history, I am hopeful that both their new song and catalogue will be appreciated by a demographic more attuned to how a snippet of a tune sounds as a cell phone ringtone. After all, Lennon-McCartney’s cynicism-optimism was communicated to their audience via the lyrical dichotomy in many of their songs. Can a ringtone, for example, of Lennon’s verse: “Try to see it my way…” from “We Can Work It Out,” really work without McCartney’s: “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”?

I also hope radio and fans embrace “Now and Then.” Though “Free as a Bird” charted, it was not widely played and was criticized by many. Yet, If those critical would listen closely to “Free” and the lyrics McCartney added long after Lennon’s death, they would realize it was/is more than a mere song, it a final celebration of both their philosophical differences and incredible collaborations, communicated subtly but beautifully (see below and at Thankfully, we have “Now” to look forward to.

Free As A Bird,
It’s the next best thing to be
Free as a bird.
Home and dry
Like a homing bird I fly,
As a bird on wing.

Whatever happened to the life that we once knew
Can we really live without each other?
Where did we lose the touch
That seemed to mean so much?
It always made me feel so…free…