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Consumer Reports

Beatles originals stolen 30 yrs ago found | (UPI) LONDON For Beatles fans, the music is about to go on and on -- some of it they have never heard before and what was thought to have been lost forever.

It's all a part of a rare collection of some 500 original tapes by the British rock legends that police announced Saturday had been recovered three decades after their mysterious disappearance. Two people were arrested in London and three others in the Netherlands.

Police said the reel-to-reel tapes, believed to have been stolen in the 1970s and which had become something of a Holy Grail for record industry investigators, were retrieved following a year-long investigation that began when they were offered to the EMI record company for $430,000.

Beatles historians said the tapes were made during what was known as the group's "Get Back" sessions while they were working on the album that became "Let It Be."

The music was described as "priceless" and "unique," on tapes that contained hundreds of hours of rehearsals, dialogue and alternative versions of songs released elsewhere. The music is reported to include dozens of entire songs, as well as snippets of tracks that the Beatles attempt and then abandon during rehearsals.

"As well as new songs," one music expert reportedly described, "the band ran through early tracks, for old time's sake," as they neared the end of their collaboration.

But what may trigger the fascination of many Beatles aficionados even this many years after the band's break-up - and the deaths of two of its members, John Lennon and George Harrison - is that the tapes contain tracks that have never before been released.

Police said Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, had been notified of the recovery of the recordings.

Ever since the tapes vanished, rumors and reports of their existence have circulated, fueled by evidence that emerged periodically in the form of "pirate" versions. Music authorities said the emergence of compact discs in the early 1990s made pirating much easier and that black market copies, in packs of up to 30 volumes, had become increasingly available.

But efforts to trace the originals had proven uniformly fruitless - until now.

"We were always interested in finding these tapes," Michael Ellis, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's west European branch, told journalists. "The tapes were made in 1969, and they represented a significant part of the heritage of the British music industry."

When they went missing, he said, "it was like a priceless painting being stolen." The IFPI, which investigates piracy for the music industry, was called in at the first sign that the tapes might be up for sale.

The long-awaited break came, London Detective Superintendent Kieron Sharp said, when the suspected music pirates tried to sell them. Otherwise, he added, it was unlikely police would have found out where the tapes were being held, which turned out to be in the Netherlands.

Among those arrested was a man and a woman believed to have been employed at the Beatles' Abbey Road studios in London at the time of the tapes disappeared in the early 1970s. Police said they were apprehended after a man met two undercover detectives and offered to return the originals to EMI at a price.

At the same time, London police said, three Netherlanders with some of the tapes were arrested in an Amsterdam suburb by Dutch authorities. Police moved in when the man in London and those in the Netherlands agreed by mobile phone to complete the sale.

Authorities said "a substantial amount of tapes" was recovered, as well as large quantities of other Beatles memorabilia missing from the band's record company, Apple.

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© 2002, UPI