* Yoko Ono says Beatles remaining iTunes holdouts
* Widow unveils John Lennon commemorative projects
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Don’t hold your breath waiting for Beatles songs to go on sale at iTunes or other online retailers, Yoko Ono said on Thursday.
The Fab Four have long resisted the allure of digital downloads, instead selling millions of old-fashioned compact discs last year after remastering the catalog.
Apple Corps, the group’s holding company has been unable to agree on terms with EMI Group, which licenses the Beatles’ recordings. And then there’s the unrelated Apple Inc (AAPL.O), owner of iTunes, the world’s largest music retailer.
Apple and Apple have had a difficult history over rights to the name. But that trademark dispute was settled in 2007, and speculation has regularly popped up ever since that the two companies would strike an iTunes deal.
“(Apple CEO) Steve Jobs has his own idea and he’s a brilliant guy,” Ono, the 77-year-old widow of John Lennon, told Reuters. “There’s just an element that we’re not very happy about, as people. We are holding out.
“Don’t hold your breath ... for anything,” she said with a laugh.
Ono, who was promoting an upcoming public television documentary about her husband, “LENNONYC,” declined to go into detail. Former member Paul McCartney was similarly vague in 2008 when he said there were “a couple of sticking points.”
Ono said her comments did not necessarily reflect the opinions of the three other equal shareholders in Apple Corps — McCartney, bandmate Ringo Starr and Olivia Harrison, the widow of George Harrison. But she added that the infamous rancor of the past has been replaced by smooth consensus because “we’re older and more experienced.”
Apple Corps may be reluctant to enter the digital age, but the company is far more open to new ideas that it was in the past, Ono said. The company’s day-to-day operations are run from London by Jeff Jones, a former Sony Music executive who took over as CEO in 2007.
She said Jones was an “action person,” while his late predecessor Neil Aspinall — who worked with the Beatles for 40 years — kept the Beatles “elite and closed-off,” which served its purpose at the time.
Jones has overseen not only the reissue of the Beatles catalog, but also a “Beatles: Rock Band” videogame. The band’s music has also been getting a new life in a Cirque du Soleil “Love” stage show that has been running in Las Vegas since 2006.
Ono was reluctant to discuss upcoming Beatle-related activities, but has plenty of projects in the works to commemorate Lennon’s 70th birthday on Oct. 9, and the 30th anniversary of his murder on Dec. 8.
“LENNONYC” will premiere nationally on Nov. 22, as part of PBS’ “American Masters” series. It focuses on the couple’s time together in New York from 1971 to 1980, boasting previously unseen video footage and unheard studio recordings from sessions for his final album, “Double Fantasy.”
That album will be reissued on Oct. 5 (a day earlier internationally), along with seven other studio releases, such as 1971’s Imagine.” “Double Fantasy” will also be available in a newly remixed “stripped down” version that enhances Lennon’s vocals on such songs as “Starting Over” and “Woman.”
Ono said she was putting a lot of care into the projects, because of her increasing age.
“I’m 77, so I think this could be my last effort, so I’m really trying very hard,” she said.
Ono will once again oppose parole for Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman when his case comes up for review later this month. She said Chapman, now 55, posed a risk not only to her and to Lennon’s two sons, but to the public and even to himself. (Editing by Jackie Frank)