Do those wacky mop-tops have another hit on their hands?
Readers who called The Spokesman-Review’s Cityline poll on Monday gave the new Beatles song, “Free as a Bird,” a clear vote of approval.
Out of 92 voters, 71 said they like the song, while 21 said they don’t like it.
“It had that old Beatles sound and tradition,” said one caller, representing the majority opinion.
“I thought it was kind of flat, morose and dead,” said another caller.
The song premiered at the end of Part 1 of “The Beatles Anthology” on ABC-TV Sunday night. By Monday morning, the “Bird” was flying all over the airways: One Spokane station played it at the top of every hour.
“Free as a Bird” originally was an unreleased solo vocal tape that the late John Lennon had made at home in the late 1970s. The other three Beatles - George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney - obtained the tape and dubbed backing tracks, harmonies and their own vocals on top of Lennon’s vocal.
“It brought back memories of the early Beatles, and you could really feel John Lennon’s presence in it,” said one caller.
Some likened it to to early Beatles; others to mid-‘60s Beatles; others to Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles; and others to Lennon’s solo work on “Imagine.”
The lyrics are pensive, which fits quite comfortably with the nostalgic mood of the televised “Anthology.” Many callers found the song to be an emotional experience.
“It had that nostalgic feel to it, that sort of wistful past kind of thing,” said one caller.
However, one person’s “wistful” is another’s “banal.”
“Thirty seconds into that song, I was sound asleep,” said another caller. “It’s very long, very monotonous, very boring music.”
“I think they should have left it in the can, man,” said one caller. “If John Lennon had wanted that song out, he would have put it out.”
So far, national critical response has leaned toward the negative, but The Spokesman-Review’s rock critic Joe Ehrbar said the song has grown on him.
“The song still demonstrates the innate chemistry and the gorgeous harmonies the Beatles once had,” said Ehrbar, who was born after the Beatles broke up. “It wears like a Beatles song, and it shouldn’t disappoint the purist.”
Most callers also liked the accompanying video that aired with the song.
“The video was absolutely fantastic,” said a caller. “It brought tears to my eyes with the memories.”
But another reader said that the the video made him “seasick.”
A number of callers predicted the song soon would hit No. 1. The song is part of a double-CD Beatles set that goes on sale this morning.
Another “new” Beatles song, “Real Love,” will premiere Wednesday at the end of Part 2 of the “The Beatles Anthology” on ABC. The concluding episode, Part 3, airs Thursday night on ABC.
Already, some people have had it with all the Beatles hype.
“The Beatles are totally overrated and overglorified from a musical standpoint,” said one e-mail correspondent.
Other skeptics, however, have been won over.
“I didn’t really expect anything more than just a reject from the past,” said another e-mail correspondent. “‘Free as a Bird’ has the potential for becoming a great classic on its own merits. It sounds so much like John Lennon. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say thanks to everyone involved in making this release possible.”
Apparently, a lot of people agree with those sentiments. But many also may identify with this, the shortest and most indignant message we received:
“What is the big fuss?”