Alan Cross: Looking at the Beatles breakup 50 years later, and some unusual things we remember

When I was a kid, I toted my Lloyds transistor radio everywhere, including when I went to bed. It would sit quietly playing on my pillow until I fell asleep and my mom would take it away.

The family’s station of choice was 680 CJOB in Winnipeg. They didn’t play much in the way of music that I liked, but I was hooked on their newscasts, which in those days could stretch 10 minutes or longer. My parents didn’t like me listening to the news before bed — “You have bad dreams!” — but that only made me want to listen more.

I do remember the night CJOB delivered the news that The Beatles had broken up. It was April 10, 1970, and even though I was extremely young, I knew this was important. When mom came into my room at the usual time to put my radio up on the bureau, I asked her, “The Beatles have broken up. Is that a bad thing?”

“Well,” she replied, “they did cause problems, so this is for the best.”

My parents were (and still aren’t) much for this rock’n’roll business. I’m told that when The Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964, my dad insisted that my 18-month-old-self should be put to bed first because he didn’t want their bad influence to rub off on me.

The Beatles were really only with us for seven proper years, 1963 to 1970, yet in that time managed to change popular music forever. Here are just some of the ways the Fab Four has continued to exert influences and some of their most unusual achievements since they parted ways.

The Beatles have been the final arbiters when it comes to new technology at least three times

Although the compact disc first went on sale to the general public in 1983, The Beatles held back, waiting to see if the new format was viable. No Beatles album appeared on CD* until Feb. 26, 1987, when Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, and Beatles for Sale appeared in stores. (*Well, not exactly. Abbey Road appeared for sale for a very short time in Japan in 1983, but was pulled from the market at the request of EMI.)

To be honest, the digital transfers sounded terrible as they were just digital versions of the vinyl releases without the necessary audio tweaks required to make things sound proper on CD. These first discs were also issued in mono, just like the original releases. Retailers were very worried that there would be blowback from fans over this decision but that passed without too much controversy.

After The Beatles gave their blessing to the new tech, sales of all CDs exploded, doubling from 53 million units sold in the U.S. in 1986 to 102.1 million in 1987. Billboard reported that Beatlemania had returned in a story entitled, “’87 Looks Like ’64 in Beatles Chart Surge.” Those four CDs debuted at numbers 7, 8, 9, and 10 on the album charts.

The Beatles were also longtime holdouts when it came to digital downloads. It took years of negotiations with Apple Corps, the Beatles’ organization, EMI, their then-record label, and iTunes. The band had a long-standing grudge with Steve Jobs who had promised not confuse things by taking Apple Computers into the music arena. That ended with the arrival of the iTunes music store in April 2003.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107 and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play.

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