Beatles head for top of charts again - but should they let it be?

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The Independent Culture

Thirty years after the Beatles split, fans and critics alike are finding it hard to know whether to welcome the release today of a new album of their number one hits - which, after all, were the original definition of "fab" - or condemn it as a cynical marketing ploy.

Thirty years after the Beatles split, fans and critics alike are finding it hard to know whether to welcome the release today of a new album of their number one hits - which, after all, were the original definition of "fab" - or condemn it as a cynical marketing ploy.

The album is called 1 and is the latest in a long string of emissions from the Beatles industry, which is estimated to employ in the region of 2,000 people.

EMI has launched its biggest marketing campaign in the run-up to Christmas and has pressed one million copies of the album for Britain. Eight million are being shipped to shops around the world to cope with initial demand and the new set of old releases is virtually guaranteed to be No 1 for weeks. A budget of £1.5m has been allotted to promoting the album in the UK, but worldwide £16m will be spent on the release.

The surviving Beatles - John Lennon was shot dead by a deranged fan in 1980 - are so wealthy that they reputedly turned down £1bn to do a millennium concert this year.

But their physical absence from the stage appears only to fuel demand for the product, with a steady stream of after-the-fact Beatlemania CDs and the recent book Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald helping to solidify the myth into profits.

The suggestion is that the Britpop of the mid-Nineties and subsequent Cool Britannia media outings have revived a hunger for the original Union Jack chic, and that since the Beatles are the giants upon whose shoulders Oasis are standing (Liam Gallagher even called his son Lennon) there is little surprise in this kind ofnostalgia still having the power to grip.

There are 27 songs, all of which were No 1 hits in Britain, the US or both, including "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Yesterday", "The Long and Winding Road" and "Get Back". Critics of all ages are still overwhelmingly loving about the music itself, with the tone of reviews so far being "evergreen", "forever young", "still remarkably cool".

However, the veteran Radio 1 DJ John Peel took the opportunity of the album's release to explain to The Independent: "I have never been a fan of naked capitalism."

To coincide with the release, the band's first official website goes online today (at www.thebeatles.com). The £2m site features archive material, games and a new video.

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