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The return of Beatlemania

Once again, it's the boys from Liverpool

November 7, 1995
Web posted at: 9:40 a.m. EST

From Entertainment Correspondent Mark Scheerer

Beatles singing

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A little under 31 years ago, four young men from Liverpool, England, appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They performed five songs, and were watched by 73 million television viewers. Later this month, the Beatles will be seen on U.S. television again, as they tell, in their own words, the story of how the Beatles conquered the world ... and changed it.

It's a documentary called "The Beatles Anthology," and a series of CDs -- and two new songs re-united the voices of the three living Beatles with the late John Lennon's voice.

That prompts the question: will all this trigger "Beatlemania" all over again?

Ringo Starr

"That was a great time," recalls drummer Ringo Starr. "I was in my 20s, had lots of energy. I have great memories of it." (88K AIFF sound or 88K WAV sound)

Ringo's memories -- and Paul's and George's and John's (from archive footage) -- have been assembled in a 10-hour documentary produced by their company, Apple Corps. It mixes rare and never-before-seen film and tape with new interviews done with the surviving Beatles over the past three years. George Harrison says it was fun.

George Harrison

"Y'know, kind of, the Beatles had gone away and we'd all had enough time to breathe and I think it's much easier to look at it now from a distance," he says. (104K AIFF sound or 104K WAV sound)

Also due out this month, the first of three double-CD sets of studio outtakes from the vaults at Abbey Road.

"Some of the bootleg collectors have heard some of it," says Mark Hertsgaard, author of "A Day in the Life" and one of the few outsiders granted access to Abbey Road's vaults. "But even they are going to be hearing things that they've never been able to get their hands on."

And at least two new songs built on tapes of John Lennon singing and playing piano will be unveiled. Producer Jeff Lynne brought the other three Beatles into the studio to finish the songs.

"It took us a week and we turned it into something and it's really beautiful," Starr says.

"Free as a Bird," the first of the new songs, will premiere Nov. 19 on ABC-TV, which has paid a multi-million dollar sum to air six hours of "The Beatles Anthology" over three nights. The network is hoping the Thanksgiving holiday will serve up a cross-generational viewing audience.

"I got a sense that it's the kind of music that transcends the generation that was initially exposed to it," says Robert Iger, president and chief operation officer of Capitol Cities/ABC.

On computer

CD-ROM press kits are part of what Iger says is the most extensive marketing of any single program ABC has aired.

"The network has even resurrected a slogan once used by its flagship radio station in New York. At the height of the first Beatles invasion, they used to call themselves "W-A- Beatle-C." (48K AIFF sound or 144K WAV sound)

While ABC is hoping for big ratings, the debate in some quarters is over whether big bucks are the overriding reason behind this vigorously promoted multi-media trip down the long and winding road.

Hysterical fans

"For 30 years the press has been after the Beatles for every last detail about their lives and demanding to know when they're going to get back together," says author Hertsgaard. "Now that it's finally happening, people are saying 'Oh, you're doing it for the money.' I don't think that's really why."

No one is expecting the sort of hysteria that marked the first coming of the Beatles, but powerful forces are at work on bringing about a latter-day form of Beatlemania, one that addresses the lingering urge to "Get Back."

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