The Beatles Still Exert a Pull On the Hearts (and Wallets) Of Rock-and-Roll Fans

The group lives on in books, recordings, and digital reunion

Renata Greene remembers back to 1963: She was in third grade and her grandmother sent her and her sisters a record called ``Meet the Beatles.''

``We wore that record out,'' she says with a grin. ``I still have it. Now, my nine-year-old son loves the Beatles.''

Ms. Greene is one of scores of longtime Beatles fans who have gathered here at the Hard Rock Cafe's Cavern Club to celebrate the Fab Four's newly released ``Live at the BBC.''

The album has struck the tuning fork of Beatlemania.

Thirty years after the group's famed appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, renewed interest has people humming familiar tunes of ``Yesterday.''

Helping to remind them:

* A slew of new Beatles books have come out, including a comprehensive encyclopedia, ``ultimate recording guide,'' photographic history, ``lost'' interviews, and even a travel guide for the Beatles' London.

* Beatles conventions held in Stamford, Conn. (Dec. 2-4) and Los Angeles (Nov. 25-27) drew thousands of fans.

* The first Beatles record to be played live on radio - ``Love Me Do'' - fetched a world-record price of $17,200 a few weeks ago at a London auction.

* Beatles cover bands are emerging, notably in New England where Brad Delp, former lead singer of the arena-rock band ``Boston,'' has formed ``Beatle Juice.''

* The film ``Backbeat,'' now on video, has sparked interest in early-Beatles intrigue.

So it goes that the Beatles are not only still popular, they are still profitable.

``The Beatles: Live at the BBC'' is the first Beatles release in 24 years. The record has also opened the starting gate for a spate of ``new'' never-released Beatles material to come.

``People have waited so long for an authorized Beatles release. I'm pretty excited about it,'' says Tom Tiger, a longtime Beatles fan and a talent scout for Warner Brothers Records. ``The Beatles are the ultimate pop masters. You can still hear their influence everywhere.''

What can you expect from ``Live at the BBC''? Basically a taste of the Fab Four as a young band from 1962 to `65. The double album features 56 songs recorded during BBC radio appearances.

Thirty of the songs were never recorded for albums, such as ``Too Much Monkey Business,'' ``Lucille,'' and ``Don't Ever Change.'' Most of the others are cover songs, such as Chuck Berry's ``Johnny B. Goode,'' Buddy Holly's ``Crying, Waiting, Hoping,'' and Ray Charles's ``I Got a Woman.'' As Greene notes, ``The Beatles have influenced so many musicians; this collection shows that they were influenced too.'' Also included are bits and pieces of dialogue. The album was put together by George Martin, who produced all the Beatles' studio recordings for EMI Records.

While this ``authorized'' release is new, hardcore Beatles fans have already heard most of it.

``Much of the material has been widely bootlegged,'' says Bill King, publisher of Beatlefan magazine.

``For years, the Beatles were against putting such things out,'' explains Mr. King, likening the move to an artist releasing his sketches, notes, and unfinished work. ``But they finally realized that money was being made and said, `We might as well make it, and we might as well do it our way.'''

Geoffrey Giuliano, author of ``The Lost Beatles Interviews'' and a dozen other books on the Beatles, considers the hoopla a bit overblown. ``This album has its place, but to me it's really little more than a curiosity.... In all fairness to the Beatles, they were kids when they recorded these,'' he says. ``Live at the BBC'' is just an appetizer, Giuliano suggests, ``a Triscuit with Cheese Whiz. The main course is coming.''

Giuliano is referring to the Beatles' ``Anthology,'' a multipart TV and video series reportedly coming next fall, accompanied by several albums of unreleased material. According to King, we'll see rare footage, such as home movies, and hear outtakes, practice sessions, demos, and the like. ``It will essentially be their autobiography.''

In addition to the anthology, expect a genuine new Beatles record, Beatles authorities say. It will be a Beatles reunion, albeit digitally manipulated: John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, gave the remaining Beatles digital copies of his unfinished songs. They lifted Lennon's vocals, added instrumentation and background vocals, and finished the song ``Free As a Bird.'' (A similar process allowed Natalie Cole to sing with her dad, Nat ``King'' Cole, on ``Unforgettable.'')

``People who have heard it say it is very Beatle-y,'' publisher King says, adding that it will probably be part of the anthology and be released as a single.

Many wonder if we'll be hearing more from the studio reunion. Bob Walsh, a buyer for Tower Records in Boston, sums up fans' sentiment: ``Everybody hopes, but no one knows for sure.''

Why all this now? ``As the [surviving] Beatles get older, they get introspective,'' Mr. Walsh muses. ``They're thinking about their legacy a little bit more and probably feel the need to get their own version out.''

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