The Local Knowlege

Tenuous golf connection

There's a reason you're not hearing any Beatles songs on ESPN this week


HOYLAKE, England -- "Live and Let Die" to send you to commercial break? Say it ain’t so!

Sure, the 1973 track is a centerpiece of the Paul McCartney live set and has kept pyro-technicians employed for years, but is a James Bond film theme song reflective of the music created by the lads here in Liverpool?

What’s next? George Harrison’s relentless “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You”?
Paul’s painful duet with Stevie Wonder, "Ebony and Ivory"? Or maybe covers of Beatles tunes, like this catastrophic rendition of "Let It Be".


Actually, don’t knock ESPN for using "Live and Let Die" or other solo works by the Beatles. They wanted to play Liverpoolian-themed Fab Four tunes all week during the Open Championship telecast, but even a network valued at $50 billion can’t justify paying the Beatles catalog rightsholders what is expected for proper Beatles songs like "Strawberry Fields", "Penny Lane" and "Hard Day’s Night." 

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According to ESPN spokesman Andy Hall, the network looked into playing the right tunes but couldn’t justify the cost. Considering that Mad Men reportedly paid $250,000 for the less-famous "Tomorrow Never Knows" off of the Revolver album, the network might have been looking at a tab higher than the first place winner’s check.

The controlling interest of key Beatles tunes has been especially tough on television networks seeking rights to play classics. Who has final say over the catalog?

Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney in 1985 to buy the Associated Television Corporation (ATV)'s back catalog. Paying $47.5 million for around 200 or so Beatles classics, Jackson’s estate still controls the collection and McCartney has long regretted having tipped the King of Pop to the investment opportunity that was the catalog. 

There is good news, however, for McCartney and Beatles fans. The 1976 U.S. Copyright Act means the credited songwriters will now be able to claim back some of their work in four years, because all songs written prior to 1978 revert to the songwriter after 56 years.

Maybe even in time for the next Open at Royal Liverpool.

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