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What'll Be Left Out of Beatles' Greatest Hits Set?

May 07, 2000|STEVE HOCHMAN

With all the albums of Beatles music released over nearly 40 years, one thing remains missing--a definitive, career-spanning "greatest hits" collection.

That's going to change, probably before Christmas. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, are supervising the track selection for what is expected to be at least a two-CD set.

Executives of Capitol Records have been meeting with their EMI counterparts in London about the project, with former Virgin America and Work Group label head Jeff Ayeroff reportedly hired to oversee the marketing strategy.

The set will likely be released in conjunction with the book that McCartney, Harrison and Starr recently announced they are writing to tell the group's story from the inside. The CD set and book follow the 1994 two-CD set of recordings of the band on BBC radio and the three collections of archival recordings that accompanied the 1995 "Anthology" TV documentary.

Unlike those sets, however, the new collection apparently will not include any previously unreleased material, sticking to the band's catalog of hits. Is that enough to sell it, given the number of fans who already have at least a few Beatles records in their collections, including the two double-album compilations released in 1973 and popularly known as the red and blue albums.?

"There's a need for a straight-ahead Beatles greatest-hits package," says Pete Howard, editor of the ICE monthly CD publication and a Beatles authority. "The red and blue albums served a purpose, but at four CDs in two separate packages, they're somewhat cumbersome or even intimidating for the general consumer who wants just a good, solid overview of the hits."

What would that overview be, exactly?

Pop Eye asked Howard to compile his dream disc of Beatles greatest hits, restricting his program to the maximum 78-minute length available on a single compact disc.

Howard came up with 26 tracks--barely more than half of the Beatles' 51 Top 40 U.S. singles. His list, which clocks in at 77 minutes, 30 seconds, includes 18 No. 1 singles. The only chart-toppers not to make the cut were "Eight Days a Week" and "The Long and Winding Road." Howard says he left them off because they weren't released as singles in the U.K., a factor that also kept "Nowhere Man" off the album. (Howard made an executive exception for "Yesterday," because "there's no way you could leave that song off.")

Conversely, Howard includes "From Me to You," which didn't even make the U.S. Top 40 in 1964. "It was just a blip on the radar screen here," notes Howard, "but a very important No. 1 record for the Beatles in England."

His most painful omissions? "Big hits with simply no room, like 'She's a Woman' and 'Eleanor Rigby,' and lower-charting single sides--'I Saw Her Standing There' peaked at No. 14, and 'I Am the Walrus' at No. 56."

Here's the track listing for Howard's "Beatles' Greatest Hits," programmed chronologically:

"Love Me Do," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night," "I Feel Fine," "Ticket to Ride," "Help!," "Yesterday," "We Can Work It Out," "Day Tripper," "Paperback Writer," "Yellow Submarine," "Penny Lane," " Strawberry Fields Forever," "All You Need Is Love," "Hello Goodbye," "Lady Madonna," "Hey Jude," "Get Back," "The Ballad of John and Yoko," "Come Together," "Something," "Let It Be."

ANOTHER TWANG: Call it a batty idea, but Jim Steinman thinks it will fly.

The writer and producer of the 1977 Meat Loaf album "Bat Out of Hell," which ranks as one of the top-selling albums of all time, wants to redo the record in a country context.

Such songs as "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" set a standard for rock-operatic bombast. But Steinman is convinced they can work just as well with a little twang.

"My songs for 'Bat Out of Hell' have always been seen to have a real country feel beneath the surface," he says. "Like country, they love telling stories. Like country, they love words and wordplay. Like country, the titles themselves tell you a lot and are often based on well-known phrases, with a twist. I've always thought it would be a great idea, artistically and commercially, to strip these songs down to their essences and do brilliantly fresh country versions."

Titling the project "Bat Out of Nashville," he's teaming with manager David Sonenberg's D.A.S. Communications in a joint venture with L.A.-based Restless Records to put the project together. The plan is to have country artists cover all the songs from the original album, plus several from its 1993 sequel, "Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell"--including the big hit "I Will Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)."

Steinman has drawn up an all-star wish list of country artists he'd like to be involved--including Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, Randy Travis, Shania Twain, George Jones and Johnny Cash--though he hasn't started recruiting yet.

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