It’s John Lennon’s Birthday – Let’s Make Some Money!

Had he not been murdered 30 years ago, John Lennon would have been 70 years old on Saturday.  Apple and EMI are marking the occasion with a big mess o’ reissues of Lennon’s post-Beatles solo work.  There is no Two Virgins, Life With the Lions, Wedding Album (some might say hurray! to those omissions), no Live Peace in Toronto and the posthumous Live in New York City, Menlove Avenue and Acoustic have also been omitted.  And, sadly, they’ve omitted many of the bonus tracks that turned up during the previous catalog reissue a few years back. However, for the most part, I’ve read that they’re restored Lennon’s original mixes rather than the remixed versions from that previous reissue series and the sound is said to be excellent.

So what do we get?  And what did I get?

The “crown jewel” in the series is the Signature Box – presumably so called because Lennon’s autograph is embossed on the side of this massive thing.

The box contains Lennon’s 8 solo albums, newly remastered, on 9 CDs (Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Some Time in New York City, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges, Rock n’ Roll, Double Fantasy, Milk and Honey). There are two extra discs – one a 6 track collection of non-LP singles, the other 13 tracks of studio outtakes and home recordings. There’s a 60 page hardcover CD-sized book of essays and photos. A “70th birthday commemorative print housed in a portfolio wallet.” A fold-out with brief essays from Yoko, Julian and Sean. And a business card-sized card that has a key to get at some extra stuff online. Yeah, I bought this.

While the box includes the remastered Double Fantasy, it does not have the second disc to be found in the new Double Fantasy Stripped Down.

Of the two discs here, one is the remastered version of the album that’s included in the box. The second is what’s said to be a radically remixed version of the album, pushing Lennon’s voice further forward. I didn’t buy this.

I did buy Power to the People – The Hits.

There are 15 songs here, nothing that’s not included in the box set. I bought it because I was able to get the local HK release of the deluxe version for HK$110 – this version includes a DVD with videos for the 15 songs. At that price, I figured it was worth it. (But I’ll bet HMV HK is charging a lot more for it.)

I didn’t buy the 4 CD boxed set, Gimme Some Truth.

This collection doesn’t appear to have anything that’s not in the larger boxed set among the 72 tracks that are arranged by theme.

Of course, the 8 original albums are also available separately in newly remastered versions.

Lennon was always “my favorite Beatle” – yes, in my era, it was considered necessary to have one. Of the 8 albums here, there are 4 I’d consider essential – Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges – though I suppose only the first two of those are truly 5 star albums. The others all have their moments to one degree or another.

Plastic Ono band was Lennon’s first solo album of pop music, drastically stripped down and very revealing (at a time when that meant something). Imagine features Lennon’s best known solo recordings – the title track, Jealous Guy and How Do You Sleep, his arsenic-laden attack on former partner McCartney. I’ve always liked Walls and Bridges and it’s too bad that EMI didn’t see fit to reproduce the original die cut cover for this reissue.

The signature box, by the way, is freaking huge – 7″x7″x7″ – but really lovely. I knew I was going to get this in advance and I’m really happy with it. The singles collection was a spur of the moment purchase due to the DVD and the relatively low price of the HK edition.

For those of you not as enamored of Mr. Lennon as I am, next month will bring newly remastered deluxe editions of Paul McCartney & Wings’ Band on the Run. There’s a single CD:

A special edition that adds a 2nd CD of bonus tracks and a DVD with an assortment of videos:

And a 3 CD/1 DVD deluxe edition that also adds a 120 page book:

The big George Harrison box set is now six years old and next year marks 10 years since he died, so I’ll bet that they’re already preparing some new merchandise. Can Ringo be far behind?

(Yes, the “let’s make some money” in the title of this post unironically also applies to me – if you buy any of these items by clicking on the links above.)