Tag Archives: The Beatles

The Broken Pop of James Bond Songs

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Adrian Daub & Charles Kronengold | Longreads | October 2015 | 12 minutes (3049 words)

Our latest Exclusive is by Adrian Daub and Charles Kronengold, who recently co-authored The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism (Oxford University Press), a cultural history of the Bond-song canon.


James Bond fans will remember Madonna’s 2002 “Die Another Day” as the only Bond song to embrace the sound of techno. And they recall it with little fondness. For them, and most critics, the song was insufficiently “pop”: it sounded flat, too synthetic, repetitious, not hooky enough. And lovers of dance music felt it was too pop, too commercial, too voice-heavy. None of these parties thought Madonna was the right person for the job.
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The Business of Merchandising Pop Music

Brian Epstein was the manager of a family-owned business called North End Music Stores in Liverpool, England. He began hearing a lot about a new group called The Beatles, who were playing at the Cavern Club. So he went to hear them, and one day, proposed a management contract.

The four lads, which included drummer Pete Best at the time, eventually agreed, and a five-year deal was signed in 1962. With that, Epstein created a company called NEMS to manage The Beatles. As the band became popular in England, NEMS began to be overwhelmed with product licensing offers.

But once the band hit America, NEMS became besieged with merchandising requests, so Epstein reluctantly set up a subsidiary called Seltaeb to deal with the offers. Seltaeb was Beatles spelled backwards.

As Epstein saw it, the merchandising was just a PR abstraction at best, so he asked a friend to take the management of Seltaeb off his hands. That friend, Nicky Byrne, suggested a 90/10 split, which, by the way, was 90% for Byrne, 10% for The Beatles.

Epstein agreed immediately, thinking that 10% of incidental merchandising was better than nothing. And in the stroke of the pen, lost untold millions for The Beatles.

CBC Radio’s Under the Influence podcast, on the marketing of rock ‘n’ roll. See more podcast picks.


Photo: moonierocks, Flickr

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Well into his forties he kept swinging between the poles of his double life as only a true Manichean can, a rock star buried in a pile of cocaine one minute and a sadhu renunciant fingering his beads the next. But by his fifties he had abandoned the pretensions of stardom altogether. He had married a formidable but endlessly forgiving woman. (“People sometimes say to me, ‘What’s the secret of a long marriage?’ ” Olivia says in the movie. “And I’m like, ‘You don’t get divorced!’ ”)

“George’s God.” — Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard

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