It looks like the Blue Meanies left Pepperland for an excursion to Norway.
A Norwegian broadcaster yanked free downloads of Beatles songs from its website today, citing the advice of its lawyers. The move came a day after the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation -- NRK -- posted 14 classic tunes, promising to roll out free and legal downloads of the whole Fab Four catalog this month.
The turnaround was sure to add to the frustration of fans already bitter over the failure of Beatle-owned Apple records and the group's label EMI to make the songs available for download.
On Monday, NRK said it inked a deal with TONO, a music rights holder in Norway, that would allow NRK to post podcasts of old radio programs, as long as the shows contain less than 70 percent music.
A 2001 series called "Vår daglige Beatles" -- "Our Daily Beatles" -- fit the bill. The show featured every Beatles song, along with three-minute stories -- delivered in Norwegian -- about each track.
The Nordic patter between tunes seemed a small price to pay for Beatles fans who are losing patience waiting for downloads. The demand is high, and goes beyond the obvious convenience factor: with downloadable tunes comes the promise of remastered tracks, via both Internet and CD.
Fans long have been dissatisfied with the often muddy mixes on the Beatles CDs released beginning in 1987 -- and the discs sound even worse when transferred to MP3 players. Some of the devoted have issued their own digital bootlegs that echo the crisp, vibrant sound of the original vinyl releases.
Many fans had hoped the recent 40th anniversary of The White Album would bring the debut of the first batch of remastered tracks. Instead, the occasion was marked by the release of new Beatles merchandise -- including a $395 fountain pen (yes, it's mostly white.)
The remastering of the Beatles' catalog is believed to have been completed. There have been tantalizing hints of what's to come: MOJO magazine reportedly got a preview of 10 remastered White Album tracks, and the results are said to be astounding.
The holdup appears to stems from the kind of corporate you-never-give-me-your-money bickering that's hounded the group in one form or another since its 1970 breakup. In November, Paul McCartney said a "couple of sticking points" were snagging a deal between Apple and EMI.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.