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The Beatles on iTunes at last? [Update]

November 15, 2010 |  4:04 pm

Beatles-Ed Sullivan 1964 
The refrain of “Don’t Let Me Download” from the Beatles may come to end as the Fab Four’s catalog reportedly will be coming to iTunes shortly, according to the Wall Street Journal.

An agreement for legal downloading of the group’s cherished catalog of more than 200 songs recorded from 1962-1970 is about to be announced by Steve Jobs’ Apple Inc., the Beatles’ Apple Corps and EMI/Capitol Records, the Journal reports.

Representatives for EMI/Capitol, surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and Apple Corps did not respond immediately to requests for comment. A spokesman for Apple Inc. said Monday that the company had no comment on the report. The company is making what it claims will be an “exciting”  announcement on Tuesday morning.

A source close to the Beatles camp told The Times on Monday that such an agreement would not be surprising given the recent posting on iTunes of the entire Apple Records catalog of recordings, excluding the Beatles’ music. That consists of 15 albums by acts the Beatles signed and recorded in the late '60s and early 1970s after creating their own Apple Records label, among them Badfinger, James Taylor, Mary Hopkin and Jackie Lomax.

“The working relationship between Apple [Corps] and iTunes started with the remastered versions of songs by Apple recordings artists other than those named John, Paul, George and Ringo,” the source said. “What Paul has done with his own [solo] stuff, or what anyone who owns their own masters has done is not nearly as significant because these non-Beatle Apple artists are truly what Apple owns. With Apple going in that direction, it’s a significant clue as to what lies ahead” for the Beatles’ own recordings.

The Beatles have been the biggest holdout from the iTunes world, but several other major acts still have not licensed music to the downloading service, including Garth Brooks, Kid Rock, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Tool and Bob Seger.

(Update at 5:02 p.m.:) Shortly after the 2007 resolution of a long-standing dispute between the Beatles' Apple Corps and Steve Jobs' Apple Inc.,  another lawsuit was settled between Apple Corps and EMI Records dispute over royalty payments that Apple said was owed by EMI.

Last year Paul McCartney said the only hurdle to posting the group's music online was remaining differences between EMI and Apple Corps'  "principals": himself, Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison. The settlement of those issues led to the posting on iTunes in recent weeks of the non-Beatles Apple Records catalog, which led to considerable speculation that the Beatles music wouldn't be far behind.

No details were reported of whatever deal may have been reached between the Beatles, Apple Inc and EMI, but speculation immediately began as to how much Beatles downloads will cost.

“They will likely take the position that the Beatles made some of the greatest music ever recorded,” the source said. “I suspect it will be at a premium price.”

Most Beatles watchers felt it was just a matter of time until the group’s music became available for downloading following the digital remastering of the entire catalog last year. That music was released on individual CDs and in two box sets that sold strongly during the final quarter of 2009. EMI and Capitol also recently reissued two hits “best-of” compilations that originally appeared in 1973: “The Beatles/1962-1966” and “The Beatles/1967-1970,” aka the “Red” and “Blue” albums.

“It’s great to see Apple finally joining civilization here in 2010,” said Chris Carter, host of the long-running “Breakfast with the Beatles” program on KLOS-FM (95.5) in Southern California and on Sirius XM Satellite radio. “I don’t think there’s a downside to it. Where else are you going to be able to find a copy of ‘Beatles for Sale’ when you need it late on a Friday night?’”

--Randy Lewis

Photo: The Beatles performing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964. Credit: Associated Press