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Imagine All the People

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AT TIMES IT REALLY DID FEEL LIKE yesterday (all their troubles seemed so far away), when the Beatles reigned as Kings of Pop and the world danced to a different drummer—Ringo. Though the recent three-part Beatles Anthology on ABC hardly made ratings history—the final episode, on Thanksgiving night, drew fewer viewers than an ER rerun—the six-hour documentary did propel “Free as a Bird,” the group’s first new song since its breakup in 1970, into the commercial stratosphere. Critics sniffed at the slight, ethereal ballad written and recorded by John Lennon in 1977 and newly enlivened by his surviving mates’ harmonies, but fans turned The Beatles Anthology Vol. 1, on which it is featured, into instant platinum. With nearly a million copies of the two-CD set sold in the U.S. in a single week, it is one of the fastest sellers in history. “Not bad,” said Paul McCartney, “for a bunch of scruffs from Liverpool.” Which, as the following photo album attests, is just what the lads were in those heady yesteryears when even the world’s biggest stars were swept up in Beatlemania.