One of The Beatles' foremost compositional competitors -- or peers, if you will -- from the original 1960s British Invasion musical movement wrote a song in 1972 ruminating on the eternal nature of Hollywood's movie stars and how they are preserved on film, frozen in time. This notion resonates more than ever in our modern times of all things digital-archival-preserved, and the song takes on new relevance when considered in respect to the world of popular music.
That song,"Celluloid Heroes," is one of Ray Davies' most poignant compositions ending with these lines:
"I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die"
That song by his band, The Kinks, was the first thought that came to mind as I watched with gleeful abandon the absolutely essential, wonderful 2015 video-centric version of The Beatles 1 greatest hits album!
Now called The Beatles 1 +, watching the set stirred up some deep and positive emotions upon viewing it for the first time. Neither melancholy nor bittersweet nostalgic, in watching this Blu-ray set for the first time, I recaptured the sheer sense of excitement and joy about The Beatles (and rock 'n roll for that matter) all over again. That indescribable "thing," that energy and verve that established The Beatles as arguably the best rock group in pop music history just jumps out of your TV screen when watching this collection.
Part of this realization included the happy notion that my original heroes will always be my heroes. Even though John and George are gone, and thus there never will be a "reunion" -- a longtime dream for most original Beatle fans -- I could not deny that special, warm 'n fuzzy feeling one can get when looking at a photo of a departed loved one while watching these two Blu-ray discs.
Chockfull of pretty much the creme de la creme of Beatle promotional short form films, The Beatles 1 + set made me feel great knowing that The Beatles will always be here, preserved for eternity (or as long as we exist as a species).
Hey hey, my my... Celluloid heroes never really die...
You see, I never got to see the Beatles live in person. Heck, I never even got to see Wings in person! I have seen Paul McCartney perform live twice and those were both majestic events. But for the most part, my life-experience of seeing The Beatles has always been through the lens of a film or video camera as conveyed through a TV screen. Believe it or not, one of the the three earliest things I can remember as a wee child of three years old was seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show (for those not familiar with the program, it was sort of like the American Idol of its day only without the contest element ... you had to already be buzz-worthy to get on that show... Ed Sullivan was more than just a taste-maker -- his was a make-or-break show for most acts).
All this was a really big "ah ha!" type realization for me in watching this set -- all my life, I have ONLY seen the Beatles performing live on film and pre-recorded promotional clips.
Thus, in effect, The Beatles were celluloid heroes all along.
The Beatles knew this early on. They'd become so big that they physically could not meet all the requests for live television appearances. They'd become caricatures of themselves. So that is when they started making their own promotional films to be sent around the world for airing in local markets.
Those promotional clips are the genesis and heart of this set... And Beatle fans will understand the joyousness with which I write here upon the official release of 50 original promotional films -- music videos before the term existed -- from the four lads from Liverpool who turned the world upside down during the course of their stellar run from 1963 to 1970. Disc one features all 27 #1 hits and the bonus "+" disc has 23 additional films which, while not #1s, are essential companions in telling The Beatles' story.
Watching these films -- which appear chronologically -- you really get the sense of just how special The Beatles were and how monumental their ascent to stardom really was. The official release of these films in this form is momentous. Sure, in the 1990s we got The Beatles Anthology on Laserdisc and VHS (later reissued in the early 00s on DVD in 5.1 surround sound), but that was a long form documentary program, so most of the clips shown were incomplete. From the press release put out with this set, we learn that a full 20 of the films and videos were not in The Beatles Anthology and the remaining 30 were only seen in part or in alternate edits. So this is a whole different ball game, as they say. There is all manner of joy and wonderment to behold amidst the 200 or so minutes of video in this collection.
Now it is important to add in perspective of the hardcore Beatle fanatics (like me) to the mix of this review... You see, we are the people who had first seen a lot of these clips at Beatle festivals (aka Beatlefest!) which began in the 1970s. A lucky "few" of us were fortunate enough to see some of these clips when they aired the for the first time on television. In addition to seeing one of the The Ed Sullivan Show performances, I remember seeing the US debut of "Hey Jude" on The Smothers Brothers Show.
With the films being computer and hand restored, I can honestly say I've never seen these videos looking so good before.