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Mild Case of Beatlemania : Midnight Debut of ‘Anthology’ Fizzles Despite Hoopla, but Steady Sales Expected From Fab Four’s Older Devotees

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Inside Tower Records on the Sunset Strip late Monday night, store manager Todd Meehan curtly chastised Joy Feuer, a sales and marketing representative from Capitol Records.

Outside, more than 100 Beatles fans had gathered for a midnight sale of “The Beatles Anthology Vol. I,” a two-CD, Apple/Capitol set of rarities and a “reunion” cut, “Free as a Bird,” the first new Beatles song in 25 years.

With new albums from Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks and Frank Sinatra also going on sale, it promised to be a lucrative night for Tower.

But Meehan was upset because he had been told that two other retail outlets, ignoring a Capitol embargo, had begun selling the eagerly anticipated Beatles album several hours earlier.

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“This ain’t no Foo Fighters record,” Meehan told Feuer. “This is the biggest record of the decade.”

You wouldn’t have known it by the orderly crowd that filed quietly into the store, greeted by members of a Beatles tribute band.

“I feel like I’m at a funeral,” said Daniel Diaz, a cameraman who was there filming for KTTV-TV Channel 11. “I expected a frenzy.”

Beatlemania it wasn’t.

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Less than an hour before midnight, only six people had lined up outside the store. The crowd grew as midnight approached, but it still fell short of expectations, perhaps because Meehan’s store was only one of several dozen in Southern California that put the Beatles album on sale at midnight.

“I thought there’d be a little more,” Meehan said, “but the Beatles crowd is an older crowd. A lot of them are like, ‘Midnight? I go to bed at 9:30. I’ll get it tomorrow. The price isn’t going to change.’ ”

He predicted that Tuesday--when the would-be Beatles, the Mop Tops, were to perform in the store from 8 a.m. through the afternoon--would be among his busiest days of the year. (Just before noon Tuesday, Meehan said business was “picking up” and that he expected to sell 500 copies of the Beatles album by the end of the day.)

But for some fans, an extra few hours was too long to wait.

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First in line Monday night were USC students Elsa Mendoza and Douglas Hoffman, who arrived at about 8:30 to see the east side of the store decorated with oversized pictures of the Fab Four above large panels displaying many of their best-known lyrics.

“I just have to have it today,” Mendoza said. “You don’t understand. Nobody understands.”

David Jacks understands.

“I’ve been waiting for this for 25 years,” said the 39-year-old video editor, “so I couldn’t just sit at home about a mile away while the first new Beatles song in 25 years went on sale.”

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What would he do after he picked up the record?

“Go home and do what I used to do when I was a kid, which was to play them over and over and over,” he said. “Then I’ll get up tomorrow morning and listen to it again.”

Mike Silverblatt, 42, didn’t buy the Beatles record--he shelled out $399 for “Frank Sinatra: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings,” a 20-disc box set--but he understood the lure.

“The fun of getting something when it immediately comes out is that it creates a little magic spell around it,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not going to go home and play 20 CDs in one night.

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“I could have come here tomorrow--at $399 a crack, it’s not going to sell out--but it’s fun to create a little energy around it.”

That energy, he said, is what attracted the Beatles fans.

“What surprises me,” he said, “is that there aren’t more Springsteen fans out here.”


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