Police appear to have recovered about 500 original Beatles tapes that were stolen in the 1970s, including some never-released tracks, during raids Friday on members of a piracy racket in England and the Netherlands.
British police said the tapes were "priceless." Dutch police, who found the tapes in the Netherlands, agreed, but said analysis of the material was ongoing.
"We're investigating whether they really are the originals, but it appears to be so," prosecutor spokesman Robert Meulenbroek said in Amsterdam. "There are about 500 tapes, so there's quite a bit to research."
The tapes soon will be turned over to British authorities, he said.
Police arrested five people in raids in England and in Holland, following an investigation that began about a year ago. The suspects' names were not immediately released.
The tapes contain songs, including "Get Back," for an album the Beatles planned in 1969. The project was shelved, and some of the songs instead became part of the "Let It Be" album. The rest of the tapes disappeared.
In 1970, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr broke up, disappointing millions of people around the world.
That's one reason that for many devoted fans and collectors, the original reel-to-reel tapes would be a valuable recovery by Apple, the Beatles' record company.
"We applaud this exemplary police operation, which reflects the extraordinary level of international coordination that is needed to tackle the sophisticated cross-border strategies of today's organized music pirates," said Jay Berman, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which led the investigation with help from London detectives.
The federation and London police first identified suspects who were thought to have been involved in the theft and handling of the tapes. Further inquiries across Europe led to the joint operation by British and Dutch police.
Two British men were arrested in west London, and two Dutch men and a British man were arrested south of Amsterdam, where Dutch and British police were working together.
"This is a good example of how an international multiagency approach by both the private sector and police agencies can combat offenses of this nature," Detective Inspector Paul Johnston said in London.
The material disappeared shortly after the 1969 Beatles sessions which attempted a more back-to-basics approach to recording after the tensions of the 1968 "White Album."
They met in the Twickenham area of London to rehearse, rather than Abbey Road, where they usually recorded. Continued problems within the band saw Harrison briefly quit during that period.
The recovered reels are believed to contain dozens of entire songs, as well as snippets of tracks the band attempted, then abandoned. Along with new songs, the Beatles ran through earlier tracks for old time's sake.
"Get Back" originally was written to satirize negative attitudes toward immigration in Britain in the late 1960s. In early versions, it was referred to as the "Commonwealth Song" and "No Pakistanis."