Some People Just Can't Let It Be
A friend (and regular reader of Pajama Guy) just sent me an email about how much he enjoys Let It Be...Naked, the rawer version of the original Beatles' album. It was released a decade ago and supposedly comes closer to their original intentions. Here's my reply (and just by chance I'd been listening to a lot of Beatles outtakes and the like on YouTube recently, so I'd been thinking about this album):
Anthology series, or their BBC stuff. First, it was only an updated version of what might be their weakest album (though weakest for the Beatles is still better than most--in fact, there was a time "Two Of Us" was my favorite song of theirs, and I actually performed it with a friend at my high school talent show, though I never understood how two people could be "standing solo"), not to mention by this point, much of their studio work was now widely available one way or another.
It's ironic that it took several years after their breakup for Capitol to release a greatest hits album, and then only because, as I understand it, too many bootleg greatest hits collections were out there. Since then, the company has realized the Beatles catalogue is the wonder of the music industry, and has been systematically strip-mining it without ever really destroying the band's reputation or commercial potential.
Much more exciting to me was alternate takes of earlier songs that were finally available, not to mention even a few original songs they never officially released--including one great one. The later years of the Beatles always had the most bootlegs available, because that was when they spent so much time noodling around in the studio (and perhaps people realized how valuable anything they did was), but that music was generally sloppier and less interesting.
The idea behind the original Let It Be (or Get Back) album was to strip down the sound and get back to basics. Not a bad idea, but really, their earliest stuff had a rawer feel because that's what they honestly sounded like, whereas the idea of a simpler new album by then was a bit self-conscious. (Actually, many cuts from the recently released White Album were "raw" in that they were kept fairly simple, though they weren't always straightforward rock.) The trouble, from the start, was the songs weren't quite as good as usual. It didn't help that the Beatles weren't organized and were breaking apart and didn't feel like making the album (or the concurrent movie), but that was less important than the songs themselves.
By the way, I never feel guilty about listening to music for free on YouTube. Well, not too guilty. First, YouTube has licensing agreements with most big record companies, so this is how they make money now. (No one buys CDs any more.) Plus I've bought the Beatles' music in so many formats for so many years, I don't see why I can't listen to them at my convenience now while I'm on the computer.