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Beatles box sets: An Amazon sellout [Updated]

September 8, 2009 |  2:32 pm

BEATLES_BOX_3_ Update: As of Wednesday morning, EMI reports that Amazon's stock of the Beatles boxed sets has been replenished. The site is once again taking orders.

“Money can’t buy me love,” the Beatles sang in 1964, and today, it couldn’t buy either the stereo or mono box sets of the remastered Beatles catalog at Amazon.com, which reported selling out of both a day before their official release.

The online retailer is, however, continuing to take orders for the individual CD reissues, according to an EMI Records representative, who said Amazon will be restocked on both box sets “soon.”

As of  midday today, six of Amazon’s 10 bestselling music titles were Beatles albums, and fully half of its Top 20 was occupied by the Fab Four. The box set containing stereo versions of all 13 of the Beatles' core studio releases plus two additional CDs with singles and other tracks that weren’t included on those albums lists for $260, while a limited-edition mono box, containing the 10 albums originally intended by the group and producer George Martin to be heard in mono, lists for $300. That set also includes a slightly different two-CD set of singles and non-album tracks.  Reportedly only 40,000 copies of the mono box have been manufactured for worldwide distribution, with 13,000 of those allocated to the U.S. market.

The sellout at Amazon indicates that the quartet’s tradition of topping the sales charts is alive and well 39 years after the band disbanded, paving the way for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to pursue solo careers.

The remastered CDs have been long anticipated by Beatles enthusiasts because their music has not been sonically upgraded since the albums first appeared on CD in 1987. The new CDs offer noticeably improved sound quality over the earlier versions. They arrive simultaneously with the release of the Beatles: Rock Band, the first version of the popular video game series to be devoted completely to the music of one act.

EMI still hasn’t reached a deal for making the group’s recordings available for legal download, although there is some speculation that Apple Inc.'s annual news conference, scheduled for Wednesday in San Francisco, might include an update on the prospect for the Beatles' future with iTunes. Over the weekend, the complete catalog turned up on a BitTorrent site illegally, according to Wired.com.

The flurry of Beatles activity signals yet another surge in popularity for the group that EMI Records says has sold 1 billion albums worldwide.

Its “1” hits collection has sold 10 million copies since its release in 2000, and is one of six albums by the group certified by the Recording Industry Assn. of America with sales of 10 million or more. Their 1968 double album “The Beatles,” a.k.a. the White Album, is the single best seller, certified at 19 million by the RIAA.

But on Amazon’s list of top sellers, “Abbey Road” from 1969 is edging out “The Beatles,” which is followed by “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Revolver” and “Rubber Soul.”

Ironically, all the Beatles albums came in behind the U.K.’s latest singing sensation, Susan Boyle, the 48-year-old  “Britain’s Got Talent” discovery whose debut album, “I Dreamed a Dream,” due Nov. 24, is listed as Amazon’s No. 1 seller.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo credit: Apple Corps.