iTunes to offer solo albums for first time

Apple’s iTunes Store began selling John Lennon’s solo catalog on Tuesday, leaving the late George Harrison as the only ex-Beatle with no deal for the digital distribution of his music.

ITunes has been offering the solo works of Paul McCartney since May, and Ringo Starr’s post-Fab Four work is slated for an Aug. 28 delivery. It’s still unknown when iTunes will begin selling the Beatles catalog.

The digital retailer is offering the eight albums Lennon recorded between 1969 and his murder in 1980 in addition to collections such as “Anthology,” “Milk and Honey” and “Working Class Hero.” For the first 30 days, exclusive video content will be included with the albums “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” “Sometime in New York City” and “Walls and Bridges.”

Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, speculated in a statement that “John would have loved the fact that his music will now be available in a format suited to a new generation of listeners.”

Tracks, which carry no digital rights management software, also will be available via iTunes Plus, Apple’s higher-fidelity offering, for $1.29 per song.

On the first day, his live recordings of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There” plus the 1974 hit single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” were the top sellers.

Deal leaves only the Harrison catalog, which is now all under the EMI roof, limited to CDs. His 11 post-Beatle albums could be made available as early as the end of this year, according to interviews Harrison’s widow Olivia has given since the Beatles’ company, Apple Corps, and Apple Computer settled their lawsuits in February.

Since that settlement — and Apple chief Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone by using a graphic of the “Sgt. Pepper” album cover — speculation has been rampant that the Beatles catalog will go online some time this year.

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