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Beatles on iTunes: An Anticlimax You’ll Never Forget

Stop The Presses!

Where were you when JFK got shot? Where were you when you heard John Lennon died? Where were you when those planes hit the Twin Towers? Where were you when you first had the chance to legally download the same version of "I Am the Walrus" you already ripped to your computer eons ago?

One of these things is not like the other. But in one of the most misleading ad lines ever, Apple yesterday devoted its home page to the message: "Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget." Today is, indeed, a day that shall live in infamy, at least among Apple fans, who are used to product announcements living up to the hype. The backlash against the company for the hilarious hyperbole is so great that whoever came up with those taglines is probably being taken to the marketing woodshed as we speak... unless it was Steve Jobs himself, of course.

The Beatles' catalog coming to iTunes has been many years in coming, of course. But it's less of an event to the rest of the world than it is to the lawyers who've spent a half-decade trying to get Paul, Ringo, and John's and George's widows to agree on terms.

Really, there's only one Beatles-related release that could have made this a day we'd "never forget." And that's if iTunes had been able to release audio recordings of the phone calls and meetings between the ex-Beatles, wives, lawyers, EMI, Jobs, etc.—especially back in the days when various parties were saying there was no hurry to rush the catalogue online, even as tens of millions of dollars were lost to fans illegally downloading the material.

Here's a sampling of the immediate reaction on comment boards on music and tech websites:

"Always wanted to hear the Beatles, and now, thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple, I finally can. Amazing stuff!" (That would be sarcasm you detect.)

"Cheaper for a CD on Amazon, and better quality if you rip [from CD] into iTunes."

"Apple cranks up the hype machine for something a little more exciting than iPod Socks. Kind of reminds me of the 2007 announcement of the Apple Hi-Fi." (That was 2006, but we get the point.)

"I think it's ridiculous that apparently a whole bunch of people delayed listening to the Beatles for about eight years because they were too lazy to import a CD." 

"Apple has taught all of us a very good lesson in hype and disappointment today. A day to remember indeed." 

There was speculation that fans would at least get some previously unreleased takes or mixes—an Anthology Vol. 4, if you will—to up the ante. But the only bonus, if you buy the $149 boxed set, is a 40-minute video of the band playing at the Washington Coliseum in 1964. (Somewhat upping the good will, iTunes is making the concert film available for free streaming on the site, though the show isn't available for purchase apart from the "box.")

The anger being directed at Apple today may be out of proportion. But the hype in that simple ad line—which didn't even allude to a Beatles song, but to a McCartney solo song, "Another Day"—led many to believe that Apple was about to unveil its long-rumored music streaming (or "cloud" locker) service. For the first time in years, the reaction to an Apple announcement was: I read the news today, oh zzzzzzzz. Folks don't like being misled, even for 24 hours, any more than a kid likes seeing a bicycle-sized box next to the tree on Christmas Eve and then finding out it's all Dad had to wrap a new croquet set in.

Let's hope iTunes doesn't go down a similarly hyperbolic path when they finally get hold of the still-missing Kid Rock, Garth Brooks, and AC/DC catalogues. ("Tomorrow, we'll shake you all night long... and every day and night for the rest of your natural life.")

Is there anything exciting to you about the chance to finally buy Beatles music online? Or have you been there/done that? 

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