Fab Four finally come together in spirit for one last song

Mersey's new beat: Security was tight and tempers frayed at the launch of the first new Beatles single for 25 years

DAVID LISTER

Arts Correspondent

Security was tight. So tight that one frustrated European journalist at the launch of the first new Beatles music in 25 years yesterday shouted at the president of EMI: "This is not the Rosetta Stone. This is just a pop record that you are marketing."

His plea failed. Camera crews from all over the world were made to turn their backs as an exclusive video of the three surviving Beatles answering questions was shown.

The first double CD of Beatles' outtakes, demos and rejected songs was delivered to shops yesterday, after having spent the last few weeks literally under armed guard at the warehouse. Its highlight, "Free As A Bird", the first genuinely new Beatles song in a quarter of a century, was played for the first time.

Paul, George and Ringo failed to attend a press conference at the Savoy Hotel in central London to launch the new album. But they were there in spirit, or at least on video, to give their views on the Beatles' enduring popularity.

"We were cute," said George. "We certainly made some good records, and in our early days we were a tight little band. And we looked quite good at the time, which always helps."

He put into perspective the frenetic pace of those years when he said: "When I was 17, I was in Hamburg. By the time I was 23 we had done Sergeant Pepper and I was in the Himalayas. We put 20 years into every year."

Ringo Starr said that impresarios were still offering the three pounds 1bn to play a reunion concert. "They don't quite get the picture. There were four of us. One of the Beatle boys isn't there any more," he said.

The surviving members of the group used Jeff Lynne, a fellow musician, to produce their new single, "Free As A Bird", in which they added their harmonies and music to a cassette John Lennon made in 1977 of him singing his composition to piano accompaniment. George Martin, who was the group's producer, said yesterday he had been too busy producing the Anthology album, the first of three double CDs to accompany a television history of the group starting next weekend.

The song has a clear Beatles sound to it, with harmonies reminiscent of some of the songs on Abbey Road, the last album they recorded back in 1969. It will be released as a single on 4 December.

Though a number of early songs and demos on the album are very poor quality, and though Lennon once said that everything of worth was used on Beatles' albums, Mr Martin defended the project yesterday. "I used to say that. But in the last year I have listened to every take of every track we have ever done. And I realise that maybe I wasn't right. Now I realise that some of the early takes may have had mistakes but they have charm and they are gorgeous. It's in the raw. It's warts and all. People are ready for it now. They wouldn't have been ready in 1970 or 1980," he said.

Derek Taylor, the Beatles' press officer, said the album was similar to a literary exercise. He said it was the "musical equivalent" of the Churchill Papers.

Mr Martin said "Free as a Bird" was "a super song. I like the way the harmonies move. I like the lyrics. I don't think it's as good as 'Strawberry Fields', which actually didn't get to number one, but I think it's much better than other number ones we've had. Having heard it now I wish I had produced it . . . This will certainly be number one all over the world."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence