ON SEARS CUSTOM LASERDISCS
The "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" videos on CAV laserdisc? No, it's not a prototype of the fan-friendly version of the Anthology home video set rejected by Apple, but some obscure in-store laserdiscs produced for Sears. Issued every month or so, each disc or "cycle" is designed to be played in a Sears store for about four weeks, and then eventually returned for recycling. Video (NTSC) and sound quality throughout the series is excellent, but each disc's program is indexed as one track, making it difficult to access specific sections of the disc.
The Sears "Wall-of-Eyes" Laser Disc Program was, as stated on the jackets, "developed to provide an impressive, uniform presentation to our customers, high quality picture resolution and eliminate competitive advertising on our sales floor." Each disc featured ads for Sears-related products, ranging from Kenmore dishwashers to H&R Block tax services, mixed in-between movie trailers and music videos from a wide variety of performers.
Here is a list of Beatles and solo cuts (Paul only) that appear on nine different custom laser discs issued between 1995 and 1998:
1) CYCLE 1, 1996 CAV (Use dates 12/31/95 - 1/27/96):
FREE AS A BIRD
"ANTHOLOGY 1" ad
There is an odd edit near the end of FAAB which may be a mistake of some sort. After the false ending, just as the camera pans to the man on stage with the ukulele, a few (less than 10) seconds from earlier in the video appear. The footage is of the crowd in front of the Cavern and the boy in Strawberry Fields, but does not affect the audio in any way. Very strange. The commercial here is the same one which was run on television at the time, which concludes with "25 years after the screams died down....it's happening again."
2) CYCLE 2, 1996 CAV (Use dates 1/28/96 - 2/24/96):
"ANTHOLOGY 1" ad
This disc opens with approximately five minutes of interviews and clips, done in the style of the Anthology, talking about the project. Not all of this material was used in the finished production. The onscreen text at the end describes A1 as being "out now" and A2 due on 2/27/96. The second ad on the disc is the same one used on Cycle 1 1996 for Anthology 1.
3) CYCLE 3, 1996 CAV (Use dates 2/25/96 - 3/30/96):
Anthology "Love" ad (This appears three times on the disc)
REAL LOVE (Version 2, more footage of the Beatle wives)
This is the version of the "Love" ad with black handwritten lettering on a while background. The text then reads "This message brought to you by the Beatles." "The Beatles. Anthology 2. March 19. Classic tracks. Fresh takes." A medley of A2 songs which mention the word "love" (You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, It's Only Love, I Feel Fine, A Day in the Life, Yesterday, Real Love) provides the musical backing. All three appearances on the disc are identical.
4) CYCLE 4, 1996 CLV (Use dates 3/31/96 - 4/27/96):
Anthology "Love" ad (Appears three times, just like Cycle 3.)
REAL LOVE (Version 2, more footage of the Beatle wives.)
Aside from being placed in a different sequence on the disc, all material on Cycle 4 is identical to that on Cycle 3. From Cycle 4 on, however, the laserdiscs are all in the CLV format.
5) CYCLE 9, 1996 CLV (Use dates 8/25/96 - 9/28/96):
YESTERDAY ("Blackpool Night Out")
TICKET TO RIDE (From HELP)
YESTERDAY is credited to "The Beatles", even though only Macca appears in the shot. Oddly, the clip itself is credited to "The Ed Sullivan Show," even though it's the "Blackpool Night Out" performance which appears in the Anthology home video. TICKET TO RIDE is taken directly from the film "Help", starting with the "Meanwhile..." message and fading as the Beatles head down the hill away from the piano.
6) CYCLE 11, 1996 CLV (Use dates 10/27/96 - 11/23/96):
One of the best looking individual ads. It starts with the opening scene from the video (drum into a huge logo), followed by an onscreen tag that says "Eight videos. Three double CDs." along with pictures of both packages. The rest of the ad is a montage of music clips from the Anthology, with bits of the following: LOVE ME DO / PLEASE PLEASE ME / FROM ME TO YOU / I FEEL FINE / I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND / HELP! / PAPERBACK WRITER / SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND / ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE / I AM THE WALRUS / LADY MADONNA / LET IT BE / THE END and a reprise of the opening title.
7) CYCLE 12, 1996 CLV (Use dates 11/24/96 - 12/28/96):
(2 different ones - one for the videos, the other for the CDs. Each appears twice.)
Another nice looking advertisement to promote A3, which is "out now," with a montage of clips done in the style of the cover. The second clip is for the video series, a montage of quick shots that fade in and out in sync with a heartbeat. This turns into the chord from "A Day In The Life" and closes with a shot of the video box. The A3 clip appears again, this time coupled with the promo used on Cycle 11.
8) CYCLE 2, 1998 CLV (Use dates 2/1/98 - 2/28/98):
Paul McCartney - LITTLE WILLOW (From "IN THE WORLD TONIGHT")
Seems to be taken directly from the commercial video.
9) CYCLE 5, 1998 CLV (Use dates 5/3/98 - 5/30/98):
Paul McCartney - BEAUTIFUL NIGHT (From "IN THE WORLD TONIGHT")
Also seems to be taken directly from the commercial video.
The 1996 discs were produced by a company called AVM-TV (Adventure Media, Inc., "The In-Store Network") and run about 30 minutes each. The earlier ones are in CAV ("standard play"), but by Cycle 4 1996 had gone to CLV ("extended play"). The older AVM-TV discs have a white sleeve with a wide green stripe down one side of the front. Currently, the discs are produced by a company called PRN (Pics Retail Networks) and run about 60 minutes each. These are packaged in a more colorful sleeve with stripes of blue, red and green. The front of these have the SET (Shopper's Entertainment Television) logo. The McCartney videos appear on this series, all of which are CLV.
Both series, AVM-TV and PRN, use a generic sleeve for each release, differentiated only by a small sticker bearing the dates the disc is to be used. Anyone obtaining one of these is strongly cautioned to check to verify that the disc inside matches the one listed on the sleeve, and nowhere on any of these discs is there any reference the Beatles, or to the disc's other content. All also have a disclaimer on the sleeve explaining (to Sears staff) the importance of playing the correct disc during the appropriate dates. To discourage employees from skipping over sections of the disc, each disc is indexed as a single track, or "chapter."
In a telephone interview, Don Orlando, the Sears executive in charge of the LD program, said that approximately 1,000 laserdiscs are produced for each four-week "cycle," and he added that the discs are manufactured exclusively for Sears. Outdated discs are supposed to be returned about twice a year to be recycled, but Orlando noted that it's sometimes possible to obtain extra discs from the manufacturer, depending on the licensing restrictions of the individual discs. Sears switched its in-store video from VHS to laserdisc in 1991.
In addition to the Beatle nuggets (the elusive "Real Love" video) found on these laserdiscs, be prepared to wade through a good amount of Kenmore dishwasher ads, H&R Block commercials, movie trailers, and videos from other performers ranging from Sophie B. Hawkins to Michael Bolton. With such limited runs, these laserdiscs aren't likely to appear frequently in collector's circles, so grab them if you get the chance.
Main article ©1998 Keith Stanley and Rick Holland, originally published in Beatlefan issue # 115, Sept./Oct. 1998. Reprinted with permission. Web conversion and additions by Mitch McGeary, November 1998.
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