The legacy lives on

Sunny Tse
Sunny Tse |

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With the re-release of their 12 albums, Sunny Tse examines whether The Beatles are still relevant to young music-lovers.

Almost half a century ago, four young lads from the British city of Liverpool formed the greatest band in the history of music and started the world rocking to their innovative and contagious tunes.

From 1960, Beatlemania swept every corner of the globe, including Hong Kong, where the band almost caused a riot when they visited in 1964.

Fast-forward to this month: nearly 40 years after The Beatles disbanded, a complete catalogue of the band's 12 albums - re-mastered and digitalised - revived the stagnant record market.

And a special edition of hit video game Rock Band has just been released, featuring 45 of the band's songs.

But in an age of MySpace and Youtube, where millions of songs are only a click away, do teens know or care about the Fab Four?

Design student Andy Leung is in a rock band which takes inspiration from the likes of My Chemical Romance and Green Day.

'The Beatles are not my favourite band,' the 22-year-old says, 'but their music is like a lesson in music history. Everyone in a rock band should listen to at least five of their albums to understand the roots of rock 'n' roll.'

Andy sees the band's album covers, in particular Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as representative of the pop culture of the era.

He hopes the return of The Beatles' catchy tunes will provide an alternative to Disney pop and teach young people that there is more to music than the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and High School Musical.

'Their songs have a life of their own. They are timeless,' he says.

The songs are so timeless that many other singers and bands have chosen to cover them; and that's how Form Five student Cecilia Li Sin-yee discovered the band about five years ago.

Like many Hongkongers, Cecilia grew up to the sound of Canto-pop and Taiwanese ballads. While she knew who The Beatles were, she didn't bother to find out more about their music.

'Stefanie Sun Yan-zi's version of Hey Jude was the first [Beatles] song I knew,' she says.

But she didn't realise how talented the band members themselves were until she watched Julie Taymor's 2007 musical movie Across the Universe.

'The visuals in the movie were so captivating and I was blown away by the music,' says the 16-year-old who, after leaving the cinema, rushed to the nearest record store to grab a copy of the movie soundtrack and a Beatles greatest hits collection.

'I love the movie versions of the songs more than the originals,' Cecilia admits.

'But the lyrics are just lovely. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is by far the best Beatles song I have come across,' she says, referring to the song about a fantasy journey.

'I like I Am the Walrus best,' adds Cecilia's eight-year-old brother Tommi Li Shun-yung, who is particularly excited about the new Rock Band game.

'It's so funny with all the 'goo goo ga joob'.'

Unlike his sister, Tommi has discovered The Beatles at a very young age, as his English teacher often uses their songs to teach new vocabulary.

He already knows most of the lyrics to Yellow Submarine, All You Need Is Love, Yesterday and Let It Be by heart.

'The Beatles are cool,' Tommi says. 'They have a video game devoted to them, and that's what cool bands have.'

With the chart success of the re-released albums, it's clear the Fab Four haven't lost their appeal.