Eighteen years after their breakup, the Beatles are still good business. Last year, of course, was the year of the Beatles CD reissues (and, with a lot less fanfare, assorted Lennon and McCartney solo CDs) as well as the resurgence of George Harrison via a No. 1 single and a Top Five album. Responding to consumer complaints that its Beatles CDs left out many of the singles, B sides and nonalbum songs, Capitol/EMI will release "Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2" in March. The two volumes, in CD only, will contain 33 tracks. Meanwhile, a dozen new Beatles bootlegs are released each year, including eight volumes (so far) of "The Beatles at the Beeb," a very high-quality series drawn from broadcasts on the BBC.
And if, perchance, you didn't like the Beatles' music but always admired their album covers, you can now get 24-by-36-inch art prints of the 12 British EMI/Parlophone covers via Washington-based Target Communications. The prints, $19.95 each, were created by Tom Klueful, former head of graphic design at New York's Museum of Modern Art. There's also an anthology print, and each print contains a list of the songs on the album. Incidentally, this is the first time Apple Corps., the Beatles' ongoing business arm, has licensed a Beatles product since the band's breakup. To order, call (800) 453-9200, ext. 100.
The Fab Four -- or, more specifically, their songs -- will also be making a comeback on the video front. Al Brodax, who made the still-delightful "Yellow Submarine," is planning an animated musical called "Strawberry Fields Forever," while Michael Jackson, who owns the Beatles publishing catalogue, is reportedly contemplating feature-length films inspired by "The Fool on the Hill" and "Eleanor Rigby." And Steve Binder is working on a CBS series for next fall dramatizing assorted songs in 30-minute shots. It probably won't be called "Amazing Songs."
Of course, radio is already into "The Lost Lennon Tapes," a yearlong syndication project using a lot of previously unheard tapes, and now a film is in the works as well: Warner Bros.' "Imagine: John Lennon," a documentary that will be produced, directed and cowritten by Andrew Solt ("This Is Elvis"). Working with Yoko Ono and the Lennon estate, Solt will have access to more than 200 hours of home films, stills and unpublished music. George Martin will produce the sound track.
On the print side, there's "Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles' Last Concert" by ex-Bethesdan Eric Lefkowitz (he also did 1985's "The Monkees' Tale") and veteran photographer Jim Marshall. Although it focuses on the concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on Monday, Aug. 29, 1966, the $12.95 book also offers fascinating overviews of the times, the culture and the media at what was just one more concert -- except that the Beatles never played in public again. For information, write Terra Firma Press, 2215-R Market St., San Francisco, Calif. 94114.
Ringo Starr, fresh from the triumphs of his ads for California Wine Coolers, is reportedly filming a pilot for a television series, "Flip Side," playing a recently widowed rocker left with a brood of kids. And finally, Paul McCartney is busy in the studio, working on his next album with an intriguing helpmate: Elvis Costello. The album should appear in late spring or summer and McCartney will probably tour shortly afterward. It would be his first American tour since 1976.
The Sound Barrier
The Merriweather Post Pavilion, traditionally the area's busiest summertime concert facility, is requesting a 30-minute extension of permitted noise levels on a state noise ordinance. If it's not granted, says spokeswoman Jean Parker, the Pavilion may not be able to continue operating. After a Board of Health decision in October 1980, Merriweather Post management agreed to abide by state noise standards of 65 dBA (decibel level A-weighted, or the way the human ear hears) from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 55 dBA from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. (audible from residents' property lines). It also voluntarily imposed a 10:30 p.m. curfew on artists and made many perform at lower levels than they might have wanted. Some acts did play beyond the state standards, but Parker says the total time was one-fourth of 1 percent of the entire season. Although some Columbia residents still complained about traffic and some of the acts booked into the Pavilion, Parker says it has never had a problem with the noise-level ordinance.
But last year, four apartment complexes were built about 1,400 feet from the Pavilion, and because of their proximity the facility is now liable to be punished for the sound levels allowed in the past. Parker, pointing out that environmental factors such as wind and humidity can affect how sound carries on a given night, says the Pavilion is not asking to play louder or longer, but simply a 30-minute variance to play as it has. "We need that variance to continue operating as we have. It's crucial to the continuance of the Merriweather Post Pavilion as it currently exists." A decision is expected in the next few weeks.