SiriusXM satellite radio said Tuesday it will debut a channel devoted to the Beatles later this month, achieving a long-sought dream to highlight the music of the pop legends.
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The Beatles Channel launches May 18, a week before the band's newest archival project is released: a box set keyed to the 50th anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
Backed by the band, the channel will feature music from the Beatles, its members' solo projects and artists who influenced them. Its suite of programs will include "My Fab Four," where other musicians and celebrities talk about their favorite Beatles songs.
"I still remember the thrill of when we first heard our music on the radio, but I don't think any of us would have imagined that we'd have our very own Beatles radio channel more than 50 years later," said Paul McCartney, with Ringo Starr one of the two surviving Beatles. "The SiriusXM channel will have it all, eight days a week."
SiriusXM has more than a dozen channels branded to specific artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Kenny Chesney, Pitbull and Tom Petty.
The Beatles remained the Holy Grail, and SiriusXM President and chief content officer Scott Greenstein said he made his interest plain with the band's management years ago. But it was a delicate subject; both McCartney and Starr remain active musicians and have worked with Sirius, and he didn't want them thinking the satellite network was only interested in their past.
But, he said, "The moment came, and you can rest assured that when the moment came, we dove right in."
Similarly, the band and its management were cooperative once the decision was made that the time was right, he said. Plenty of archival material was made available, including interviews where Beatles had talked about specific songs, many of them heard once or twice before and forgotten.
"It will be a channel that will sound shockingly current and alive, not a retrospective jukebox," Greenstein said.
Veteran music author Bill Flanagan will have a major role on the network, hosting a live weekly call-in round table with broadcaster Dennis Elsas, and a second show based on themes that tell the story of the band. The network will have a weekly "Magical Mini Concert" featuring live music recorded by the band and its solo members.
On June 1, the network will play the newly remixed "Sgt. Pepper" album on the 50th anniversary of its release, with commentary from the late producer George Martin and his son, Giles, who was responsible for putting the new box set together.
SiriusXM will also use the new channel for a membership drive, offering free listening to people with inactive satellite radios from May 17 to May 30.
The network's debut on SiriusXM channel 18 will come at 9:09 a.m. Eastern (for the Beatles song "One After 909," remember?)