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Friday, December 20, 2013

ANTHOLOGY 1 - side five

On the set of Around the Beatles
In the first half of 1964, the Beatles maintained their hectic pace.  First up was the completely unexpected conquest of America, quickly followed by the demands of making a feature film and its accompanying soundtrack album.  Before they even had time to catch their breath, they starred in their own television special and set off on their first world tour.  Despite this barrage of projects, they began to get more comfortable during their still-infrequent studio sessions, taking a little more time to craft a song in the recording process if necessary.

All My Loving - The voice of Ed Sullivan opens this side with his introduction, "Ladies and gentlemen - the Beatles!"  Screams erupt from the studio audience and Paul counts the band in for a performance of this uptempo number from With the Beatles, or Meet the Beatles as the corresponding album was titled in America.  73 million viewers tuned in, instantly making this a watershed moment in television history.

You Can't Do That - John counts the boys in for take 6 of a song he wrote for the soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night.  They did perform it in the concert sequence of the film, but it was edited out of the final print.  On this take, all of the elements are already in place, including John's lead guitar solo.  Without Paul and George's backing vocals, however, he sounds positively flat on the words "green" and "seen" in the bridge.

And I Love Her -Take 2 of Paul's ballad for the soundtrack features Ringo on his full drum kit and George picking an electric guitar.  Paul also had yet to write the bridge (A love like ours...) at this point.  There would be not just one but two remakes over the next two days before they perfected the arrangement on take 21 with Ringo on bongos and claves and George playing a simple but beautiful part on acoustic guitar.

A Hard Day's Night - Take 1 of the film's title track has all the earmarks of a song hastily written, hastily rehearsed and hastily recorded.  George's opening guitar chord clangs instead of resonating, the guide vocals by John and Paul are sloppy and they laugh as the fadeout fizzles.  Incredibly, in only a few short hours, their next single was completed by producer George Martin's piano overdub onto take 9.

I Wanna Be Your Man - This is the first of four selections from the television special Around the Beatles.  The group recorded the music for the program on April 19th, 1964 on three-track tape and only mimed their performance in front of the studio audience days later.  This number was Ringo's most recent vocal outing from the album With the Beatles.

Long Tall Sally - The group had recently recorded this Little Richard screamer during the sessions for the film soundtrack, and it was currently being issued in the US on The Beatles' Second Album.  Fans in the UK would have to wait until June 19th, when it would appear as the title track of an EP.  This TV version is not quite as breathtaking as that one-take recording.  It also lacks George Martin's piano part.

Boys - For some reason, they also taped Ringo's lead vocal number from Please Please Me, but decided not to use it on the program. 

Shout - This precursor to the Isley Brothers' other hit Twist and Shout is an absolute delight.  All four Beatles take turns singing lead on this barn-burner, driving the crowd into a frenzy.  The performance is truncated by half a minute here on the Anthology, but you can find the whole number on YouTube, including John's sign-off, "You've got a lucky face.  The end."

I'll Be Back (Demo) - With the film complete, the group returned to the studio on June 1st to begin recording a new batch of songs for the non-soundtrack side of the album.  John originally wanted this dramatic number to be in waltz time but, as we hear him say here after take 2 breaks down, "It's too hard to sing."

I'll Be Back (Complete) - On this very next take, played in 4/4 time, the song suddenly works.  It would require a total of sixteen takes before they achieved the version that closes the album, but they already knew that they were on the right track.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ANTHOLOGY 1 - side four

Beatlemania flourished in Britain in the latter months of 1963.  Manager Brian Epstein kept the boys constantly in the public's consciousness, from BBC radio sessions to television appearances to an endless stream of concerts (including their one and only trip to Ireland), plus The Beatles' Christmas Show - a three-week engagement of a pantomime extravaganza at the Astoria Cinema in London from December 24th to January 11th.  The workload was daunting, but the Beatles were still hungry and, though no one could have predicted it at the time, they were on the cusp of worldwide fame on a level that few have ever known.

She Loves You - The first of three selections from the Royal Command Performance on November 4th, 1963 features the boys' monster hit from that summer.  Instead of the usual screaming fans, we hear enthusiastic but polite applause from the audience following the number.

Till There Was You - We are treated to a bit of the group's patented stage patter as Paul introduces this song from The Music Man and informs the crowd that it had also been done by "our favorite American group...Sophie Tucker."  Unlike the recording on With the Beatles which had featured bongos and acoustic guitar, Ringo plays his standard drum kit and George plays an inventive electric guitar line.

Twist and Shout - The most famous line of the evening came from John before this final number when he asked those in the cheaper seats to clap their hands and "the rest of you...if you'll just rattle your jewelry."  After a rousing version of the Isley Brothers hit, we hear the house band play the theme several times as the group takes its signature bow.

This Boy - This is the first of four selections from an appearance on The Morecambe and Wise Show taped on December 2nd, 1963.  The boys perform a rather shaky version of the B-side of their current single, demonstrating just how delicate those three-part harmonies are.

I Want to Hold Your Hand - They have no such trouble with the A-side, however, giving a strong performance of their latest hit.

Speech: Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise - Here is an absolutely delightful example of the type of comedy being done on TV at the time, with the Beatles fitting in as seamlessly as they had done on radio.  Their manner is so offhanded, it almost seems as if it's not scripted.  Listening to this banter never fails to make me smile, especially every time Eric refers to Ringo as "Bongo."

Moonlight Bay - John, Paul and George then join the hosts for a brief, but whacky rendition of this old standard.  It's no wonder they appealed to all ages in Britain before exploding upon the world stage.

Can't Buy Me Love - The final selection on this side is a studio track recorded in Paris on January 29th, 1964.  This is one of the first times that they altered an arrangement during the recording process, even though the entire track was completed in only four takes, plus a few overdubs added at Abbey Road on February 25th.  We have take two here with Paul singing (and muffing) a guide vocal and John and George singing backing vocals which were cut by the next take.  Though this song was only intended to be the A-side of their upcoming single, it was later added to the soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night.

Friday, November 15, 2013

ANTHOLOGY 1 - side three

Though they felt as if they had struggled for many years, the fact is that the Beatles were still very young when success came along.  The youngest member of the group, George, was only twenty and the oldest Beatle was also the newest, Ringo, a grizzled twenty-three years old.  They came seemingly out of nowhere and skyrocketed to worldwide fame as few have ever done, yet they never let the madness that surrounded them keep them from developing their craft at a remarkable pace, as evidenced even in these earliest recordings.

Please Please Me - One week after their first official recording session in September of 1962, producer George Martin summoned the boys back to the studio to re-record both sides of their first single with session drummer Andy White.  Though Ringo was surely disheartened by this turn of events, the work was quickly accomplished and there was enough time left over to attempt a third recording.  With White still on drums and John's harmonica noticeably absent, they laid down what amounted to a demo of the song that would ultimately be their second single.

One After 909 (False Starts) - This is the first example of something that I feel the Anthology series does very well - show the development of a song over a number of takes.  In this case, the song does not change, however, it simply breaks down a few times - once because Paul is playing without a pick and a second time because John comes in vocally before the guitar solo is over.

One After 909 - We then get an edited version of what the song would have sounded like had they completed it on this day - March 5th, 1963 - after recording both sides of their third single.  They did not return to this song until the Get Back sessions in 1969, giving a definitive performance during the rooftop concert.  This much earlier recording is played at a slower tempo and, of course, lacks Billy Preston's fine work on electric piano.

Lend Me Your Comb - A number from a July 1963 Pop Go the Beatles BBC session is inexplicably dropped into the sequence here.  This tune, once done by Carl Perkins, features a duet by Paul and John, except in the bridge where Paul sings solo.

I'll Get You - Here is part of the October 1963 appearance on the television show Sunday Night at the London Palladium that resulted in full-scale Beatlemania in Britain.  The boys perform the B-side of their fourth single, prompting handclaps from the audience at the outset.

Speech: John - In the Lennon Remembers interview, John maintains that in the early years the Beatles were a great live band and "there was nobody to touch us in Britain."  This audio clip sets up the next five selections from the group's live set for Swedish radio on October 24th, 1963.

I Saw Her Standing There - The boys launch into a raw version of their opening number from the album Please Please Me.

From Me to You - Paul introduces the A-side of their third single to the delight of the Stockholm audience.  John does not attempt to play his harmonica part live.

Money (That's What I Want) - They then choose to perform three numbers from their second album With the Beatles, which would not be released until November.  The boys give their all on this hard rocker, though they miss George Martin's piano line from the recording.

You Really Got a Hold on Me -Though all three of these as-yet-unreleased songs were covers of American rock and roll (this one by Smokey Robinson), they must have been relatively unfamiliar to the Swedish audience, which becomes rather subdued as a result.

Roll Over Beethoven - George and the band perform a smoking version of the Chuck Berry classic, though they omit one verse.  They also make a few variations from their own recent recording, especially when John and Paul join in vocally at the end.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

ANTHOLOGY 1 - side two

The role of Pete Best in the development of the Beatles should not be taken lightly.  He was part of the group during their seminal Hamburg phase when they really honed their craft.  Upon their return to Liverpool, people were bowled over by how powerful and professional the group had become.  Pete's appearance on several of the tracks on Anthology 1 in 1995 finally gave him the payday he so richly deserved.  He travels the world to this day with the Pete Best Band and has a loyal following on Facebook and Twitter, even though he is often overlooked as being one of three surviving Beatles.

Speech: John - Lennon waxes nostalgic about manager Brian Epstein in a 1971 interview.

Speech: Brian Epstein - By 1964, Epstein had already written his autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, and had begun working on a recorded version of it.  This excerpt introduces five selections from the group's famous Decca Records audition on January 1st, 1962.

Searchin' - Paul leads John and George in a Lieber and Stoller number originally done by the Coasters.  The nerves can clearly be heard in a few of George's guitar solos on these tracks.

Three Cool Cats - Another Lieber and Stoller number also done by the Coasters, but with George taking the lead this time.  Paul and John back him both ably and comically.  

The Sheik of Araby - Epstein had hand-picked the group's material for this all-important audition, wanting to demonstrate their versatility.  This comic treatment of an old standard once again has George handling the lead, with John and Paul throwing in the "not 'arf" bits.

Like Dreamers Do - To further impress the Decca brass, Epstein let the boys do a few of their self-penned tunes.  This uptempo one by McCartney features a complex intro and a breathless vocal by the composer.

Hello Little Girl - Lennon claimed that this was the first song he ever wrote, and it shows.  It's very telling that they chose to never record material this lightweight once they finally did get a contract with EMI.

Speech: Brian Epstein - Epstein recounts the group's disappointment with the rejection by Decca, then quickly moves on to his first meeting with Parlophone producer George Martin.

Besame Mucho - Paul sings this old standard at the June 6, 1962 audition/first session at Abbey Road Studios.

Love Me Do - The group also recorded this McCartney composition at that session.  Pete's drumming is all over the place, with numerous changes in style and tempo.  This may be the performance that sealed his fate.

How Do You Do It - On September 4th, with Ringo now in the fold, the Beatles recorded this tune which George Martin had chosen for their first single.  Though they wanted to record only their own material, they took the time to come up with a new arrangement for this song, which was eventually used by another Epstein-managed group from Liverpool - Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ANTHOLOGY 1 - side one

As ambitious as Live at the BBC had been, it was dwarfed by the Anthology series.  Neil Aspinall, a fellow Liverpudlian and the group's early road manager, had envisioned such a project for many years.  It finally came to fruition in 1995 with a sprawling documentary and this equally vast series of unreleased recordings and alternate takes, many of which had been available as bootlegs for decades.  The first double CD, Anthology 1, was issued on November 21, only days after the documentary made its television debut.

As usual, I will present the tracks as they were released on vinyl.  Since there are three records for each double CD, this will be the first of eighteen entries covering the Anthology - not to mention the two EPs containing the "new" songs and some additional material.

Free As a Bird - The series opens with the first new recording featuring all four Beatles since the break-up.  This song was also released as a single and on an EP, so I will discuss it in a later entry.

Speech: John Lennon - In a brief audio clip from the famous Lennon Remembers interview with Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner in 1970, John flatly states that the Beatles were simply a band that made it very big.

That'll Be the Day - The only Buddy Holly song that the group ever released during their career was Words of Love on 1964's Beatles for Sale, but proof that the early rock and roller was a seminal influence is presented here as the Quarry Men pooled their money to make their very first recording in 1958.  A 78rpm record was cut featuring John on lead vocal and guitar, Paul providing both harmony and backing vocals and guitar, plus George on guitar, John Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums.

In Spite of All the Danger - For the B-side of that single, John and Paul assume the same vocal duties, though this composition was written by McCartney and Harrison, a unique songwriting credit demonstrating that even at this early stage the core members of the group had great aspirations.

Speech: Paul McCartney - In a 1994 interview, Paul tells Mark Lewisohn that the boys used to use a tape recorder in their pre-fame days to listen to themselves, and that "a couple of those (tapes) still exist." 

Hallelujah, I Love Her So - And Hallelujah, here are three of those recordings.  Paul leads John, George and Stuart Sutcliffe in a rousing rendition of this Ray Charles number sometime around 1960.  Sadly, we do not get the full performance as it fades both in and out.

You'll Be Mine - This one is an original credited to McCartney and Lennon in the style of the Ink Spots according to the liner notes.  Paul sings lead with John adding a falsetto backing and literally grabbing the microphone for an outrageous spoken section in the middle.  I realize they were young men in another era when this recording was made, but I don't think I am the only person who has ever felt uncomfortable with the racist overtones of this performance.

Cayenne - An instrumental credited to McCartney.  Again, we do not get the full performance, but we hear enough of what was a popular genre at the time.  The liner notes indicate that these tapes are the only known recordings made with Sutcliffe as a member of the group. 

Speech: Paul McCartney - In an early interview from 1962, Paul reflects back one full year to the Hamburg sessions with producer Bert Kaempfert and headliner Tony Sheridan.

My Bonnie - Fade in to the song that Liverpool fans asked for in Brian Epstein's record shop, leading to...well, you know the rest.  John, Paul, George and Pete Best backed Sheridan on a number of tracks, including this rocked up version of an old standard.

Ain't She Sweet - At these same sessions, the Beatles were allowed to lay down two tracks of their own.  John gets to deliver a growling lead vocal on another old standard given the rock 'n' roll treatment.  Once the Beatles conquered America, this was released as a single on Atco Records and my mother actually found it and bought it for me.  Ain't she sweet, indeed.

Cry for a Shadow - For their second solo track, the boys laid down this instrumental (though Paul can clearly be heard screaming throughout).  And we have yet another unique composer credit - Harrison and Lennon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Baby It's You

In March of 1995, only a few months after the release of Live at the BBC, came a new collection of radio performances from the early 60's.  Technically, it was considered a single, though it contained four tracks like a standard EP.  To appease all potential levels of fandom, it was issued not only as a CD, but also on vinyl and even as a cassette.  And it was the most democratic of releases, featuring lead vocals from all four Beatles.

Baby It's You - The title track is the same performance as the one on Live at the BBC, minus the amusing Sha la la la la! intro that appears on that collection.

I'll Follow the Sun - This McCartney song from Beatles for Sale was performed in November 1964 to promote the upcoming release of that album.

Devil in Her Heart - This seems to be the only instance where a BBC session inspired the group to go into the studio and record a song for an album in the works, which they did only two days after this performance for With the Beatles.  The casual air of these sessions is apparent here as George, John and Paul clearly muff the lyrics on a few occasions, yet the recording was broadcast nonetheless.

Boys - Ringo's vocal spotlight from Please Please Me was recorded seven times for the BBC.

In the selection of tracks for the group's first new EP in almost thirty years, the inclusion of Baby It's You and Boys strikes me as being no coincidence, since they were the only songs from their first album Please Please Me which had not appeared on EPs back in 1963 and '64.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

LIVE AT THE BBC - side four

Another common complaint about this collection is that the Beatles generally do not deliver top-notch performances on many of the songs.  In their defense, it must be noted once again that these recordings were made quickly and were not intended for posterity.  It was assumed that they would simply be broadcast and never heard thereafter.  And they often recorded anywhere from four to eight or more numbers in a single session.  The intent was merely to promote sales of their records, which contained the well-polished versions culled from multiple takes in the studio.

I'm a Loser - A solid rendition of one of John's compositions from Beatles for Sale.

Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby - This Carl Perkins tune was George's only lead vocal on Beatles for Sale.

Rock and Roll Music - Yet another Beatles for Sale item, with John singing a classic Chuck Berry number, minus one of its verses.  This BBC take also lacks George Martin's piano contribution from the released version.

Ticket to Ride - The group appeared for the final time on the BBC in June of 1965 on a special program called The Beatles Invite You to Take a Ticket to Ride, playing a rousing rendition of their latest hit.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy - Also on that final program, they performed this Larry Williams tune, one of John's favorites which would soon appear on the album Help!  They even use electric piano here, as they do on the studio version.

Medley: Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! - Almost a year before recording this Lieber and Stoller/Little Richard medley for Beatles for Sale, Paul and the boys broadcast this performance which I feel is better (except for George's guitar solo) than the one on that album.

Set Fire to That Lot! - Ringo and host Rodney Burke goofing around on Pop Go The Beatles as an intro to...

Matchbox - ...this Carl Perkins number, also performed here about a year before the boys did a proper recording for the EP Long Tall Sally.

I Forgot to Remember to Forget - George takes the lead on this Elvis cover.

Love These Goon Shows! - John explains the difference between a harmonica and a harp to the mock consternation of Rodney Burke as a lead-in to...

I Got to Find My Baby - ...another Chuck Berry tune.  Berry is easily the big winner among the group's rock and roll heroes on this collection, with the boys performing eight of his songs. 

Ooh! My Soul - Paul handles the lead vocal on another Little Richard screamer.

Ooh! My Arms - Host Rodney Burke cracks the boys up as he amusingly segues from the previous song to...

Don't Ever Change - ...this Goffin-King number originally done by The Crickets after leader Buddy Holly's death.  Here we are treated to a unique duet by Paul and George.

Slow Down - John sings lead on this Larry Williams rocker almost a year before the Beatles recorded it for the EP Long Tall Sally.  And again, it is odd to hear a song without George Martin's piano contribution when you are used to the released version.

Honey Don't - Another rarity for the die-hard fans is this rendition of the Carl Perkins tune with John singing lead as the group had always performed it.  A year later, they recorded it for Beatles for Sale with Ringo singing.  I may be in the minority on this one, but I feel the song is actually better served by the drummer's down-home style.

Love Me Do - The collection comes to a fitting end with the simple song that started it all, one which they performed on BBC radio nine times.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LIVE AT THE BBC - side three

Back cover of the vinyl edition
One major criticism of this collection is that the overall sound quality is rather poor, but there does not seem to be much that executive producer George Martin and the Abbey Road engineers could have done about this.  Many, if not most, of the original BBC session tapes no longer existed in the 1990's because nobody would have believed in the early 60's that they would one day be compiled for sale to the general public.  A good amount of the material was salvaged from people who had recorded the actual broadcasts on home equipment.  The quality therefore varies quite a bit depending on the source and, amazingly, many of the 1964 recordings are inferior to most of the 1963 offerings.

With news of a second BBC collection in the works as of this posting, it will be interesting to see if today's technology can make any significant improvement to these historic performances.

Crinsk Dee Night - John surmises that this would be the title of their film in Portuguese.

A Hard Day's Night - This performance of their latest single features a rare overdub for a BBC session.  George Martin's piano solo from the record is clearly dropped in...

Have a Banana! - ...forcing host Brian Matthew to insist that the group was playing live before he introduces the next song from Ringo...

I Wanna Be Your Man - ...though this performance of the drummer's vocal outing from With the Beatles was from a broadcast months earlier than that intro.

Just a Rumour - A little banter in which George reveals that he has been singing the next song for 28 years.

Roll Over Beethoven - A Chuck Berry classic which the group had recorded for With the Beatles.

All My Loving - Paul's rollicking composition, also from With the Beatles.

Things We Said Today - This tremendous reflective number by Paul had appeared as both the B-side of the single A Hard Day's Night and on the non-soundtrack side of that album.  Here, it features a spoken introduction by Brian Matthew.

She's a Woman - Paul's bluesy screamer was the B-side of the recent single I Feel Fine at the time of this broadcast from November 1964.

Sweet Little Sixteen - John takes the lead on this Chuck Berry classic.  His snarling delivery of "They're really rockin' in Boston..." was included in radio station WBCN's inventive Boston medley back in the 1980's.

1822! - Another witty intro by John before handling the lead vocal on...

Lonesome Tears in My Eyes - ...this oddity from 1957 by Johnny Burnette and his Rock 'n' Roll Trio.

Nothin' Shakin' - George sings this rockabilly number originally done by Eddie Fontaine.

The Hippy Hippy Shake - Paul sings this song by Chan Romero that is in the same mold as the Little Richard screamers he did so well.

Glad All Over - This rockabilly tune once done by Carl Perkins is sung by George, whose high number of lead vocals on this collection gives us a good indication of how important he was to the group in their pre-fame stage act, especially during their marathon sets in Hamburg.

I Just Don't Understand - John sings this strange obscurity recorded by Ann Margaret in 1961.

So How Come (No One Loves Me) - Paul and John (or is it Paul and George?  I admit that it's even hard for me to tell sometimes) do their best Everly Brothers impersonation.  For some reason, the CD case mistakenly adds the word Top onto the beginning of the song title.

I Feel Fine - The group plays their latest single during a November 1964 appearance on a program called Top Gear.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

LIVE AT THE BBC - side two

Radio played a vital role in the British public's initial awareness of the Beatles in 1962 and had an even bigger impact in 1963, contributing greatly to the explosion known as Beatlemania.  Manager Brian Epstein secured John, Paul, George and Pete their first BBC appearance in March of '62, months before their inaugural recording session/audition at EMI.  Not only did the group's revised lineup with Ringo Starr eventually appear on all of the top programs like Saturday Club and Easy Beat, but they even headlined their own shows such as Pop Go the Beatles in 1963 and From Us to You in 1964.

A Little Rhyme - One of the delights of the collection for me is the bits of banter between some of the songs, giving a sense of what the actual broadcasts were like.  Here, John reads (and comments on, by his delivery) a poetic fan letter.

Clarabella - Paul performs one of his specialties, a screaming rocker originally done by the Jodimars.

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You) - John and Paul duet on this Elvis cover which the Beatles play at an absolutely manic tempo.  Those critical of Ringo's drumming should give this one a listen.

Crying, Waiting, Hoping - George handles the lead vocal on this Buddy Holly number, backed by John and Paul.

Dear Wack! - Another interpretive reading of a fan letter by John.

You Really Got a Hold on Me - A performance of the Smokey Robinson tune from around the same time the group recorded it for their upcoming album With the Beatles.

To Know Her Is to Love Her - John sings lead and he, Paul and George apply their three-part harmony skills to this Teddy Bears number written by Phil Spector.

A Taste of Honey - Paul once again handles the lead on this standard which the group had included on their album Please Please Me.

Long Tall Sally - The Little Richard rocker was performed here by Paul and the band almost a year before it appeared on their EP of the same name.  Of course, this version was also played live in the studio, but without producer George Martin's piano contribution as on the vinyl release.

I Saw Her Standing There - Paul's original rocker, the opening track of Please Please Me, was very well known by the time they played it for this October 1963 broadcast.

The Honeymoon Song - Like A Taste of Honey, this is one of those obscure standards that Paul would pull out during live sets for a change of pace.  According to the excellent liner notes by Kevin Howlett, a version of this song was released by Marino Marini and his Quartet in 1959.

Johnny B Goode - This is perhaps the weakest performance on the entire package, which is shocking given John's admiration for Chuck Berry.

Memphis, Tennessee - However, John and the boys do right by Mr. Berry with this fine rendition of another of his classics.

Lucille - A brief introduction by host Brian Matthew overlaps the opening bars of the Little Richard screamer sung by Paul.

Can't Buy Me Love - The group performs their brand new single on From Us to You in early '64.

From Fluff to You - On the same program, host Alan "Fluff" Freeman asks Paul about his influences as John repeatedly attempts to change the subject to his book In His Own Write.

Till There Was You - The third of Paul's standards on this side is this beautiful number from the Broadway show The Music Man, which the group had released on With the Beatles.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

LIVE AT THE BBC - side one

It had been a long wait since the last official release from the Beatles - six years, in fact - and even longer since fans had had the pleasure of hearing something completely "new," but in 1994, that wait was finally over.  Was it worth it?  Sadly, many were unimpressed by this collection when it first appeared and quite a few maintain that opinion to this day.  And while I must admit that it took a while for it to grow on me, I now consider it to be an indispensable part of the group's canon - not for the renditions of their own numbers, mind you, but rather for the many covers of songs by other artists, revealing more than ever the Fab Four's encyclopedic knowledge of popular music.

Though this package was conceived as a two-CD release, it was also issued on vinyl.  Thus, as usual, I will be making my entries as the tracks appear on the four sides of the records, even though they are incredibly long sides.

Beatle Greetings - The band members introduce themselves to the radio audience from a 1963 broadcast.

From Us to You - The title song of a 1964 series, derived from their third hit single, of course.

Riding on a Bus - A brief discussion of life as celebrities.

I Got a Woman - The first real number on the collection is this great version of a Ray Charles song with John handling the lead vocal.

Too Much Monkey Business - John sings lead again on this high-energy Chuck Berry number.

Keep Your Hands Off My Baby - John yet again (with Paul and George backing him up this time) on a tune from Goffin and King.

I'll Be on My Way - One of the real finds of the collection is this Lennon/McCartney original first recorded by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, sung as a duet by the composers.

Young Blood - George sings lead on this comedy number from Lieber and Stoller originally done by the Coasters.  Paul and John join in the vocal antics.

A Shot of Rhythm and Blues - John and Paul tackle a song released by Arthur Alexander, whose Anna (Go to Him) they had covered on their album Please Please Me.

Sure to Fall (In Love with You) - Paul takes the lead on a Carl Perkins cover.

Some Other Guy - This song and the next were recorded in front of an audience at the Playhouse Theatre in London.  John and Paul share the lead on this Lieber and Stoller rocker that was a favorite of every band in Liverpool.

Thank You Girl - At the time of this performance, this song was the B-side of their most recent single.

Sha la la la la! - The group engages in some amusing banter with Lee Peters, host of their Pop Go the Beatles series, before launching into...

Baby It's You - ...this Burt Bacharach tune which they had covered on Please Please Me.

That's All Right (Mama) - Paul boldly tackles Elvis Presley's debut single.

Carol - This Chuck Berry tune is given a surprisingly lackluster performance by John and the band.

Soldier of Love - A wonderfully strange song that had been recorded by Arthur Alexander.  With strong backing by Paul and George, John puts his all into this one.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PAST MASTERS VOLUME TWO - side two

Get Back - The huge hit single from April of 1969.  It was originally intended to be the title song of a live project begun in sessions in January of that year.

Don't Let Me Down - Lennon's best song from those sessions wound up only being released as the B-side of this single.  Both sides bear the credit "The Beatles (with Billy Preston)."

The Ballad of John and Yoko - Only John and Paul appear on this track, singing and playing all of the instruments.  This single was released at Lennon's insistence in May of '69, hard on the heels of Get Back.  Though it was eventually followed by two great singles, it managed to be the group's final number one in the UK during their career.

Old Brown Shoe - Harrison's second B-side is this nifty uptempo rocker.

Across the Universe - From the World Wildlife Fund charity album No One's Gonna Change Our World.  Apart from its appearance on that album, it had been made available on both the UK and US versions of Rarities.  Producer George Martin had deliberately sped up the tape and added bird sounds onto the beginning and end of the song for the WWF release.

Let It Be - The group's final single in the UK was the version of this song produced by Martin and featuring brass, more vocals and a mellow guitar solo overdubbed by George Harrison three months after the track was originally laid down at the live Get Back sessions.

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) - The final B-side was this comedy number from Lennon that was gradually put together over two and a half years.  It is the only track presented in mono on Past Masters Volume Two.

With the release of Past Masters Volumes One and Two, the group's entire catalog was now available on CD.  It would be six years before the next official Beatles product appeared, and it was one that would showcase them in a manner that most of us had never experienced before.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PAST MASTERS VOLUME TWO - side one

As great as Past Masters Volume One is, many feel that Volume Two is even better, probably because it features more hit singles and less deep cuts.  In The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, Sean Egan goes so far as to state: "For this listener, Past Masters Volume Two constitutes the greatest collection of music ever assembled." 

Day Tripper -This stellar album kicks off with both sides of the double A-sided single from December of 1965.  This side went to number one in the UK...

We Can Work It Out - ...while this side was a US number one.  Both of these great songs were recorded during sessions for Rubber Soul. 

Paperback Writer - This single was recorded in April of 1966 during the Revolver sessions.

Rain - The amazing B-side of that single.

Lady Madonna - We jump 1967 entirely and pick up with this rocking single from March, 1968.  It was recorded during a series of sessions specifically designed to create a single for release while the group was in India studying transcendental meditation.

The Inner Light - The B-side features George Harrison's first song to appear on a Beatles single.  The Indian instruments were recorded at EMI's Bombay studio during sessions for Harrison's soundtrack for the film Wonderwall.  Vocals were added a month or so later at Abbey Road.

Hey Jude - The monster single from August 1968 was recorded during sessions for The Beatles, aka the "White Album."

Revolution - The B-side of that single.  Lennon had pushed hard for this to be an A-side, but once McCartney brought in Hey Jude, John acquiesced.  This could easily have been another double A-sided single, though.  Few acts have ever had the ability to produce two such widely different songs, each strong enough to be a hit, let alone put them back-to-back on the same record.

Friday, May 10, 2013

PAST MASTERS VOLUME ONE - side two

For anyone who might be wondering why I am still issuing these posts as "side one" and "side two" even though I am now covering material released on CD, the fact is that these collections were also available on vinyl and cassette.  I owned Past Masters Volumes One & Two on cassette years before purchasing my first CD player.  Furthermore, it is my hope that keeping each of my entries relatively brief will make for a more easily digestible experience for my potential audience.

Long Tall Sally - This Little Richard cover was only available on an EP of the same name in the UK.  It was recorded in one astonishing live take on March 1st, 1964 during sessions for the soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night.

I Call Your Name - This Lennon composition was also recorded on March 1st and appeared on the Long Tall Sally EP.

Slow Down - Side two of Long Tall Sally featured this Larry Williams cover recorded on June 1st, 1964 during sessions for the non-soundtrack side of A Hard Day's Night.

Matchbox - Rounding out the Long Tall Sally tracks was this Carl Perkins cover recorded in the composer's presence on June 1st.

I Feel Fine - The band's eighth single boasted this progressive pop song by Lennon.  It was recorded during sessions for Beatles for Sale in October of 1964.

She's a Woman - The B-side of that single was this bluesy composition from McCartney.

Bad Boy - Another Larry Williams cover.  This one was recorded on May 10th, 1965 following a request from Capitol Records in the US for a few new songs for their album Beatles VI.  It did not appear in the UK until A Collection of Beatles Oldies in December of 1966.

Yes It Is - This is the only song appearing out of sequence on Past Masters.  It was recorded in February of 1965 during sessions for the soundtrack of Help! and released as the B-side of Ticket to Ride in April of that year, a full month before Bad Boy was even recorded.

I'm Down - McCartney's screaming rocker was recorded in June of 1966 during sessions for the non-soundtrack side of the Help! album.  It appeared as the B-side of Help!, the group's tenth single.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

PAST MASTERS VOLUME ONE - side one

The job of assembling all of the Beatles non-album tracks for release on CD was handed to a fellow by the name of Mark Lewisohn.  In the mid-1980's, Lewisohn had been granted unprecedented access to the vaults at Abbey Road Studios and had listened to every known take of every song officially recorded by the group in order to prepare his astonishing book The Beatles: Recording Sessions.  Though there are many experts when it comes to the career of the Fab Four, none can match Lewisohn for his exhaustive first-hand research.  Indeed, much of my second-hand knowledge comes from his book and his insightful liner notes, especially those on the Anthology series.

Thirty-three tracks were selected by Lewisohn - enough to stretch over two CDs.  And though, as usual, die-hard fans could quibble over a few omissions, Past Masters Volumes One and Two quickly became as indispensable as the albums they were designed to accompany.

Love Me Do - The group's very first single featured this version, recorded on September 4th, 1962 with Ringo on drums.  For the album Please Please Me, it was replaced by the September 11th version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine.  In the US, this original recording had only appeared in 1980 on the Capitol album Rarities.

From Me to You - The third single, recorded on March 5th, 1963 - the first unqualified number one.

Thank You, Girl - The B-side of that single, recorded on the same day.

She Loves You - The fourth single, which ushered in Beatlemania.  It was also their biggest seller in the UK during their career.

I'll Get You - The fourth B-side, recorded on July 1st, 1963, the same day as She Loves You.  Oddly, the number of takes for these two songs is undocumented - a rare omission for the Abbey Road staff.

I Want to Hold Your Hand - The fifth UK single and the one that conquered America.  It was the first song to be recorded on four-track tape, all earlier material having been recorded on two tracks.  Starting with this song, everything on the rest of the CD is stereo, even though, as I stated in reference to the albums in my previous post, producer George Martin and the Beatles only cared about the mono mixes up through Get Back in 1969.

This Boy - The flip side of that single is also the first truly great B-side released by the group.

Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand - The German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand featured new vocals and handclaps over the original four-track tape.  It was produced at the request of EMI's Odeon label in West Germany.

Sie Liebt Dich - The German version of She Loves You was a complete remake.  Both were recorded at EMI's Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris on January 29th, 1964.  They also laid down the basic track for Can't Buy Me Love on this date.  This marked the only time that the Beatles made a record as a group outside of England during their career.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Beatles on CD

It took the advent of the compact disc for the Beatles to regain control of their own destiny.  Before EMI could begin to re-release the group's catalog on this new format, they had to obtain permission from Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko.  The surviving members had not been happy with the many compilations issued between 1973 and 1982, and took this opportunity to make a few demands.  First and foremost was that they would now decide what was and was not going to be made available to the public.  And Sean Egan surmises in The Mammoth Book of the Beatles that they probably also renegotiated their low royalty deal - pathetically low considering that they had been the biggest act in the world.

All of this took time.  A lot of time.  The first commercial music CDs in the world were issued around 1982.  By 1985, David Bowie had re-released his entire catalog on CD, and still there was nothing from the Fab Four.  Oh, there were the inevitable bootleg CDs in circulation, including a version of Abbey Road that I recall seeing, but fans were waiting with bated breath for the real thing.  Of course, producer George Martin took advantage of the delay and remastered every title ever officially issued by the group.  Finally, in 1987, we were rewarded for our patience.

The first four albums - Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale - were finally released on CD on February 26th, 1987.  To the dismay of many undiscerning fans (and I must count myself among them at the time), they were issued in mono.  But remember that up through 1968, Martin and the Beatles themselves always concentrated on the mono mix - stereo was an afterthought to them.  The case can therefore be made that until the CD version of Abbey Road, only these four were issued as they were truly meant to be heard.

The public's voice was heard, and when the next batch - Help!, Rubber Soul and Revolver - were released on April 30th, they were now only available in stereo.  Sgt. Pepper, as befitting its status, was issued alone on June 1st, the twentieth anniversary of its original release.  One surprise occurred when Magical Mystery Tour appeared (out of sequence, in fact, after The Beatles and Yellow Submarine) in its American version, but the Capitol album had always been preferred over the Parlophone double EP even by British fans.  This was Capitol's one and only victory in 1987, but even that would change with time.

When Abbey Road and Let It Be came out on October 19th, the collection of albums by the Beatles on CD was at last complete.  But many of the group's singles had never appeared on albums in the UK, and they were still nowhere to be seen.  How would EMI and the Beatles handle the release of the thirty or so titles yet to be issued?  With two of the most incredible packages ever assembled, of course.

Monday, April 29, 2013

SESSIONS - side two

The back cover of the proposed album
How Do You Do It -This is the song that producer George Martin chose for the group's first single.  The boys actually do a fine job with this piece of fluff, John singing lead.  To Martin's everlasting credit, he let them release their own composition Love Me Do instead.  Just about any other producer would have insisted on issuing this track, probably resulting in a few modest hits and quick oblivion for the Beatles.

Besame Mucho - At their audition for Parlophone in June of 1962, the boys recorded this rousing version of the well-known standard with Paul singing lead.  And, of course, Pete Best was on drums at this point in time.

One After 909 - After recording both sides of their third single on March 5th, 1963, the group concentrated on this early Lennon composition.  Not satisfied with the result, they shelved the song for six years, not returning to it until the Get Back sessions.  Though the uptempo version they played during the famous rooftop concert is preferable, it is fun to listen to this attempt.

If You've Got Trouble - This number was penned by Lennon and McCartney for Ringo to sing on the Help! album.  It is a train wreck in almost every respect, from the inane lyric to the clunky rhythm track.  The highlight is easily Ringo's exclamation, "Aw, rock on, anybody!" before a particularly uninspired guitar solo by George.

That Means A Lot - This intriguing composition by McCartney also dates from the Help! sessions.  It borrows elements used in Ticket To Ride, which was recorded only five days earlier - specifically, the lopsided drum pattern and a catchy, energetic coda.   In The Beatles: Recording Sessions Mark Lewisohn reports that they re-made it a month after this version, but were still unhappy with the results.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps - This is George's stunning demo of his brilliant composition from the "White Album."  Only George's heartfelt vocal, his acoustic guitar and an organ part entering near the end make up this incredible performance, which includes a verse that was dropped before the final version released by the group.

Mailman Bring Me No More Blues - A Buddy Holly tune covered by the Beatles during the Get Back sessions.  They played many of their favorite oldies at this time, but few were as complete as this one.

Christmas Time (Is Here Again) - This amusing and simple ditty is credited to all four Beatles.  It was recorded for the 1967 version of their annual flexi-disc sent exclusively to members of their fan club.  George Martin and actor Victor Spinetti join in the fun.

As you can probably tell from the jacket cover and liner notes, this collection was mastered and ready for release before Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko prevented it from being issued.  Of course, the master was easily bootlegged and copies soon appeared.  It would be ten years before the much more extensive Anthology became a reality.

Friday, April 5, 2013

SESSIONS - side one

Like the Glyn Johns versions of Get Back, this was a proposed album that never saw the light of day - not officially, at any rate.  In 1985, as the surviving Beatles and Yoko Ono were negotiating with EMI over the transfer of the group's catalog to the new CD format, this intriguing collection of rare material and alternate takes was compiled and prepared for release.  According to a press release from the time, the main dissenter was McCartney, his reasons unclear, but perhaps the ongoing negotiations and the sense that something larger was possible (the eventual Anthology series) were the main issues.

Every track on this album made its way onto the Anthology in one form or another, highlighting just how spot on the powers that be were in making these selections.

SIDE ONE

Come and Get It - This is Paul's demo of a song he wrote for the Apple band Badfinger, which would serve as both that band's first single and a soundtrack song for the film The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo.  Paul knocked this off one day in 1969 during sessions for Abbey Road and later produced Badfinger's almost note-by-note recreation of this demo.

Leave My Kitten Alone - Arguably the best recording not issued by the group during their career.  This scorching rocker was recorded during the Beatles for Sale sessions in 1964, and no satisfactory argument has ever been presented as to why it was left off of that album.  Had this album been released, this song was also slated to appear as a single backed with an alternate take of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. 

Not Guilty - George's first offering for the "White Album" was left off of that record, presumably because a few references in the lyrics to the internal strife developing within the group were not well-received by the other Beatles.  If that is true, it is a sad excuse for omitting such a fine song and such a tremendous performance by the band.  This song also has the distinction of requiring more takes (102) than any other in the group's history. 

I'm Looking Through You - This is an alternate take of the McCartney tune from Rubber Soul.  It primarily features handclaps, acoustic guitar, drums, organ and an electric guitar solo in a very different arrangement from the released version.  At this point, it also lacks the superb bridge.

What's the New Mary Jane - Those who believe that songs such as Wild Honey Pie, Mr. Moonlight or Revolution 9 are the worst ever put on tape by the Beatles have obviously never heard this piece of dreck from the "White Album" sessions.  Even though the usual Lennon wit and wordplay is on display in the few verses, the track quickly devolves into a free for all with little or nothing to recommend it.  Only John, George, Yoko and Mal Evans participated in this masturbatory nonsense.  After six minutes, John's remark "Let's hear it, before they take us away" pretty much sums it up.

Friday, March 29, 2013

20 GREATEST HITS - UK & US

Ten years of compilations made without the group's consent came to an end with these releases at the end of 1982.  In The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, Sean Egan reports that EMI originally wanted to make a double album which would have included all of the A-sides officially issued in the UK during the band's career.  As usual, for reasons unknown, the plan changed and twenty titles were crammed onto a single album instead.  Capitol Records in the US was allowed to create their own lineup using the same title.

Here is a side by side comparison of the two versions:

UK                                                                          US

SIDE ONE                                                               SIDE ONE

Love Me Do                                                            She Loves You
From Me to You                                                      Love Me Do
She Loves You                                                        I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Want to Hold Your Hand                                       Can't Buy Me Love
Can't Buy Me Love                                                 A Hard Day's Night
A Hard Day's Night                                                  I Feel Fine
I Feel Fine                                                              Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride                                                          Ticket to Ride
Help!                                                                       Help!
Day Tripper                                                             Yesterday
We Can Work It Out                                                We Can Work It Out
                                                                                Paperback Writer
SIDE TWO                                                                
                                                                                SIDE TWO
Paperback Writer                                                      
Yellow Submarine                                                    Penny Lane
Eleanor Rigby                                                          All You Need is Love
All You Need is Love                                                Hello Goodbye
Hello Goodbye                                                         Hey Jude
Lady Madonna                                                         Get Back
Hey Jude                                                                  Come Together
Get Back                                                                   Let It Be
The Ballad of John and Yoko                                   The Long and Winding Road

Essentially, each version included the songs which had gone to number one in the respective countries - with a few exceptions.  Love Me Do had never hit the top spot in the UK, only peaking at number seventeen on its initial release, but it had recently been reissued on the twentieth anniversary of its debut and had hit a much more respectable number four.

And, of course, there is the exclusion of Please Please Me, the record which had hit number one on all but one of the British charts in 1963.  By all rights, it should be on this collection (in place of Love Me Do, in fact) and, sadly, this is not the last time that this great song would suffer such an indignity.

The greatest sin, however, occurs on the American version.  On my entry for the Beatles Ballads, I noted that squeezing twenty tracks onto a single vinyl album negatively affected the sound quality of the product.  In a misguided attempt to preserve the fidelity of the record, Capitol actually had the temerity to lop off the final two minutes of the Hey Jude coda.  Whatever your feelings about the extended fadeout of that song, it is still tantamount to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

The two albums were issued a week apart in October of '82.  The UK version went to number ten, but the US version only went as high as number fifty.  These were the final official releases until the group's catalog appeared on CD in 1987.

Monday, March 25, 2013

REEL MUSIC & Movie Medley

In theory, this must have sounded like a great idea - take the title songs and several well-known tracks from each of the group's films and stick them all together on one album.  Unfortunately, not only does it make for a very disjointed listening experience, but the album is doubly unnecessary since all but one of the tracks - fittingly, I Should Have Known Better - had already appeared on other compilations.

SIDE ONE

A Hard Day's Night
I Should Have Known Better
Can't Buy Me Love
And I Love Her
Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Ticket to Ride
Magical Mystery Tour

SIDE TWO

I Am the Walrus
Yellow Submarine
All You Need Is Love
Let It Be
Get Back
The Long and Winding Road

Not long after the album was released in March of 1982, an unusual single appeared.  At the time, there was a trend to create a medley of songs and place them on top of a dance beat - certainly not something you would expect to be done with selections by the Beatles, but nonetheless, here it was.  The Beatles Movie Medley, as it was officially known, linked together pieces from seven Reel Music tunes - Magical Mystery Tour, All You Need is Love, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, I Should Have Known Better, A Hard Day's Night, Ticket to Ride and Get Back.  The B-side of the single featured I'm Happy Just to Dance with You, George's vocal outing from the group's first film.

Amazingly, such was the popularity of these stitched-together creations at the time that the single went to number ten in the UK and number twelve in the US.

On a personal note, when I first joined the cast of Shear Madness in Boston in 1988, the Movie Medley was part of the pre-show tape, and the characters on stage had several moves timed to cues in the music.  This clearly ranks as one of the more curious connections to the Beatles in my life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

THE BEATLES BALLADS

I don't believe I have ever seen a copy of this compilation, new or used, in any record store, most likely because it was not released in the US.  EMI put this collection together in time for the Christmas market in 1980, but perhaps Capitol Records, in a rare show of restraint, thought that this package was too much like the 1977 release Love Songs.  This is pure speculation on my part, of course, but Sean Egan does note the great similarity between the two albums in The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, saying "this replicates most of the contents of Love Songs."

Actually, he is only half right.  Of the twenty tracks on this single album, ten had appeared on the twenty-five track double album Love Songs and ten had not.  My comments will be limited to the "new" additions.

SIDE ONE

Yesterday

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Do You Want to Know a Secret - George's maiden vocal outing from Please Please Me.

For No One

Michelle

Nowhere Man - A great song from Rubber Soul as well as the title track of an EP.

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

Across the Universe - The World Wildlife Fund version.

All My Loving - A rollicking tune from With the Beatles and also the title track of an EP.

Hey Jude - The monster hit single from the summer of '68. 

SIDE TWO

Something

The Fool on the Hill - A well-known track from Magical Mystery Tour

Till There Was You - This Broadway show tune was covered by the group on With the Beatles.

The Long and Winding Road

Here Comes the Sun - George's other great composition from Abbey Road.

Blackbird - A solo recording by Paul from the "White Album."

And I Love Her

She's Leaving Home

Here, There and Everywhere

Let It Be - The final UK single, the version produced by George Martin.

Putting ten tracks on one side of a vinyl album (not to mention the seven-minute Hey Jude) surely must have compromised the sound quality of the record.  It was released in the UK on October 13th, 1980 and did not perform well in the charts until John Lennon's untimely murder.  In Australia, it hit number one.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

RARITIES (US) - side two

Inner gatefold
Penny Lane - Side two opens with the promotional single version of this song featuring an additional trumpet phrase at the very end which was deleted from the official release.

Helter Skelter - The Beatles, aka the "White Album," was the last album to be mixed for both mono and stereo.  Capitol did not release the mono version in the US, although a number of the tracks on it are quite distinct from their respective stereo mixes.  This song is a case in point, with different sounds being brought to the fore throughout.  But the big surprise comes when the song simply fades out and ends, instead of fading back in and concluding with Ringo's scream of "I've got blisters on my fingers!" as on the stereo version.

Don't Pass Me By - The mono mix of this "White Album" song is so fast that Ringo's voice sounds almost cartoon-like.  As on Helter Skelter, sounds different from those on the familiar stereo mix are highlighted.  There are also alternate fiddle parts, especially during the fadeout.  

The Inner Light - George's Indian excursion had only appeared as the B-side to Lady Madonna prior to its inclusion on both Rarities albums.

Across the Universe - This is the version which George Martin had produced for the World Wildlife Fund charity album, which had not been released in the States.

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) - Like The Inner Light, this comic B-side to Let It Be had not appeared on an album until the Rarities compilations.

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove - These few seconds of chatter from the end of the group's groundbreaking album did not make it onto American pressings.  The high-pitched dog whistle which preceded this on the British release is not included here.

Perhaps the best rarity of all was not one of the tracks, but rather the infamous butcher cover photo from the Capitol album "Yesterday"...and Today.  It was reprinted on the inner gatefold alongside some conventional shots of the group (including the replacement photo for that 1966 American album).

Capitol released the album on March 24th, 1980 - more than a year after the UK version first appeared in The Beatles Collection.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

RARITIES (US) - side one

The UK version of Rarities simply didn't make sense for the American market.  Almost every track on that album had already appeared on a Capitol album during the group's career, but the executives at Capitol didn't want to miss out on any opportunity, so they set about compiling their own collection that could be worthy of the title Rarities.  The result is perhaps the most bizarre package in the entire Beatles catalog.

The best thing that can be said about it is that at least some attempt is made to present the tracks in chronological order.  Some of the following information comes from the relatively extensive liner notes on the album cover.

Love Me Do - This is the original recording with Ringo on drums.  It had been released as a single in England, but only the version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on Tambourine had ever made it to the US for distribution before.

Misery - This song had previously only been available in the States on the VeeJay album Introducing the Beatles.

There's a Place - In addition to appearing on Introducing the Beatles, this song had served as the B-side to Twist and Shout on the Tollie label, but never on Capitol until this time.

Sie Liebt Dich - The German version of She Loves You had only been released as a single in the US on the obscure Swan label.

And I Love Her - The only thing that makes this version of this well-known song rare is at the very end where the guitar riff is repeated six times instead of four.  It had previously only been released in this manner in Germany.

Help! - Capitol had actually released this version of the group's second film's title song before, but only on the single.  John's lead vocal has slight variations from the version on the soundtrack album.

I'm Only Sleeping - The Capitol version of this song had been hastily mixed and sent Stateside for the compilation album "Yesterday"...and Today.  This is the UK version which features more backwards guitar.

I Am the Walrus - Capitol admits in the liner notes that they combined a few versions to create this new one.  It has the six-bar intro from the UK version (the US one only had a four-bar intro), and a few extra beats from the band and orchestra before the "Yellow matter custard" verse.

Friday, February 22, 2013

RARITIES (UK)

On December 2, 1978, EMI threw caution to the wind and released a massive box set called The Beatles Collection containing every album the group had produced during their stellar career.  Magical Mystery Tour was not included, perhaps because it had originally been issued as a double EP in the UK, yet Parlophone had finally released it as an album (like the Capitol version from the US) in Britain in 1976.  Thus, its omission is curious.  Also missing were more than a dozen A-sides that had not appeared on albums in the UK.  One can only speculate that the reasoning for this is that all of those hit songs had been released on the Red and Blue Albums in 1973.

A bonus album called Rarities was part of the package.  It featured nine B-sides, the four songs from the Long Tall Sally EP, the two German songs, the World Wildlife Fund version of Across the Universe and the song Bad Boy from A Collection of Beatles Oldies.  Since all of these selections appear on the Past Masters CDs in 1988, I will refrain from any descriptions of the tracks until I cover them in that later entry and merely list the sequence of songs as they occur on this album (as a matter of fact, they are listed in order on the cover above).  Note that there is no attempt at a chronological sequence here; if anything, this lineup is completely arbitrary.

SIDE ONE

Across the Universe
Yes It Is
This Boy
The Inner Light
I'll Get You
Thank You Girl
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)
Sie Liebt Dich

SIDE TWO

Rain
She's a Woman
Matchbox
I Call Your Name
Bad Boy
Slow Down
I'm Down
Long Tall Sally

Still missing from the package are the B-sides Revolution, Don't Let Me Down and Old Brown Shoe, which had all appeared on the Blue Album in 1973.

Some British fans who longed for these seventeen tracks on an album bought The Beatles Collection even if they had all of the original albums.  Dealers soon began removing Rarities from the box set and selling it separately.  EMI took note of this and decided to release Rarities as a single album in October of 1979, much to the dismay of those who had shelled out big bucks for the entire box set.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LOVE SONGS - sides three and four

SIDE THREE

Michelle - Side three opens with this well-known tune from Rubber Soul.

It's Only Love - This number originally appeared on the non-soundtrack side of the Help! album...

You're Going To Lose That Girl - ...whereas this one comes from the soundtrack side of that same album.

Every Little Thing - A hidden gem from Beatles For Sale.

For No One - A beautiful, but decidedly downbeat love song from Revolver.

She's Leaving Home - This generation gap song from Sgt. Pepper strikes me as an odd choice for a collection called Love Songs.

SIDE FOUR

The Long and Winding Road - This magnificent composition is from Let It Be. 

This Boy - The B-side of I Want To Hold Your Hand makes its first appearance on an album in stereo in the UK.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - A gorgeous track from Rubber Soul.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - From the Help! soundtrack.

I Will - From The Beatles, aka the "White Album."

P.S. I Love You - For the final track, we go all the way back to the group's very first B-side.

As with previous compilations, it is fun to play the "Why didn't they include this track?" game.  The truth is that there are far too many to choose from for this collection.  Technically, every song they recorded from their first single through the album Rubber Soul - even the rockers - was a love song, but the emphasis here is clearly on the softer songs.  I believe it makes for a marvelous listening experience.

Love Songs was released on October 21st, 1977 in the US and on November 19th in the UK. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LOVE SONGS - sides one and two

The compilation parade continued in late 1977 with the release of this double album.  And although this package of ballads was once again looked down upon by many, it is a truly excellent overview of the softer side of the Beatles.  Plus you have to admit that not many groups could be responsible for material as distinctly different as that on the collections Rock 'N' Roll Music and Love Songs.  The Beatles were unique not just in their ability to play a wide variety of styles, but also in the fact that they were encouraged to do so by both their producer George Martin and their worldwide fanbase. 

While the selections on the Red and Blue Albums were laid out in a strictly-chronological order, and those on Rock 'N' Roll Music arranged somewhat in that manner, the twenty-five tracks on Love Songs jump back and forth all over the group's career.  As on Rock 'N' Roll Music, the number of lead vocals by Paul and John are almost equal (perhaps this is a conscious attempt to dispel the common notion that John was the rocker and Paul the balladeer), whereas George is reduced to only two numbers and Ringo is completely shut out.

SIDE ONE

Yesterday - What better way to start out than with one of the most famous standards of all time?  It originally appeared on the Help! album. 

I'll Follow the Sun - This little ditty from Paul first appeared on Beatles For Sale.

I Need You - George certainly penned stronger compositions during the group's career, but this number from the Help! soundtrack is one of his only romantic songs.

Girl - A wistful number from Rubber Soul.

In My Life - This elegant, reflective tune is also from Rubber Soul.

Words of Love - Cover songs abounded on the Rock 'N' Roll Music collection, but this Buddy Holly number is the only one on this package.  From Beatles For Sale.

Here There and Everywhere - Paul's perfect composition is from Revolver.

SIDE TWO

Something - George's greatest composition had originally appeared on the album Abbey Road, but was also released on a double A-sided single. 

And I Love Her - A well-known song from the soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night.

If I Fell - From the same soundtrack, but this rare stereo mix features a double-tracked vocal intro by John and an absolutely delicious moment when Paul's voice cracks at the end of the second bridge on the word "vain."

I'll Be Back - This song is also from the album A Hard Day's Night, but from the non-soundtrack side.

Tell Me What You See - From the non-soundtrack side of the album Help!

Yes It Is - This number had only been available as the B-side to Ticket to Ride in the UK, so this is its first appearance on an album in stereo.  In the US, it had also been released on the album Beatles VI.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

THE BEATLES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL - side two

Inner gatefold
Boys - Paul introduces Ringo's vocal outing from the 1964 concert.  At this point in time, American fans would only have known this song from the VeeJay album Introducing the Beatles.

A Hard Day's Night - The next two tracks are from the 1965 concert.  John gets to do the intro for the title song from the group's first film.  "We've only made two.  One was black and white and one was colored."

Help! - During John's next introduction, we hear him exclaim, "Go away with that light!...oh, thank you," demonstrating the loose, chaotic atmosphere surrounding their performances.  They then launch into the "title ditty" of their new film, which was also the most recent single and album available.

All My Loving - The remaining tracks are all from the 1964 concert.  Paul announces this number "from our first Capitol album."  On the studio version, Paul had double-tracked his vocal for the final verse, but when playing live, George got the chance to sing the melody with Paul handling the high harmony line.

She Loves You - John refers to this song as "an oldie.  Some of you older people might remember.  It's from last year."  Actually, although Swan Records had released it as a single in September of 1963, it had only attained recognition in the US after I Want To Hold Your Hand, becoming the group's second Billboard number one hit in early '64.

Long Tall Sally -Paul informs the fans that "this next number will have to be our last," much to their dismay, but when he asks them, "Did you enjoy the show?" they scream enthusiastically one more time.  He credits Little Richard before the band gives a spirited performance of this rock and roll classic.  The album quickly fades out as the crowd's screams continue following the final chords.

The album was released in the UK on May 6th, 1977.  It reached number one there and peaked at number two in the US.  The brief running time of the album is an accurate representation of an actual Beatles concert, and the cleaning up of the original three-track tapes by producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick is quite remarkable; it's the next best thing to being there that we will ever know.

Nevertheless, the Beatles themselves were not happy with this release.  When they finally issued their complete catalog on CD ten years later, this album was nowhere to be found, nor has it ever been officially transferred to that format.  Strange, then, that they returned to these concert tapes when putting together the Anthology series in the mid-1990's and retrieved a performance of Baby's in Black from the 1965 show.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

THE BEATLES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL - side one

This is another one of those much-maligned albums that I absolutely love.  As difficult as it may be to believe, when it was released in 1977, seven years after the group split up, it was the first and only official concert recording of the Fab Four.  How did it come about?

No sooner had the Beatles conquered America in February of 1964 than a feeding frenzy of potential promoters began.  As manager Brian Epstein began setting up the group's first US tour, Bob Eubanks, soon to become famous as host of TV's The Newlywed Game, entered the fray.  Eubanks was a disc jockey on Los Angeles radio station KRLA at the time, and he actually mortgaged his house to finance the Fab Four's initial Hollywood Bowl appearance in August of '64.  EMI's US distributor of the Beatles was Capitol Records, with its headquarters located right in Hollywood.  Capitol couldn't put out new Beatles product fast enough for the insatiable appetite of the American fans, and with a concert now scheduled in their backyard at one of the greatest venues in the world, the executives at Capitol saw an opportunity.  They asked for and were granted permission to record the performance.

Producer George Martin did not travel with the group, so Capitol had their own man, Voyle Gilmore, produce the concert recording.  For some reason, the proceedings were recorded on three-track tape.  Regardless of the medium used, the results were disappointing.  When the Beatles returned for two performances in 1965, another attempt was made by Gilmore, but again, the recordings were deemed unusable.

When the group's popularity was re-established in the mid-70's by the Red and Blue Albums and the Rock 'n' Roll Music compilation, Capitol sent the tapes to George Martin to see if anything could be salvaged from them.  Once Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick found a three-track machine (no mean feat), they transferred the recordings to 16-tracks and set about creating a single performance from the three available to them.  The August 29th, 1965 tape was not very good, so the material chosen comes from either August 23rd, 1964 or August 30th, 1965.

Twist and Shout - The album fades in with the incredible sound of 17,000 screaming fans.  Bob Eubanks quickly introduces the band and the screams actually get louder as the band kicks in with a truncated version of their old Cavern Club favorite.  They open with the rave-up, do one verse and wrap it up before segueing straight into...

She's a Woman - ...the upbeat intro to this great B-side.  The first five selections on side one are from the 1965 concert, so slipping right into this number may be the way the boys actually performed it on that year's tour.  After the instrumental break, they do not repeat the middle eight and final verse as they did on the record.  Instead, Paul simply repeats the title phrase several times before they bring the song to a tight finish.

Dizzy Miss Lizzie - John thanks the crowd and introduces a song "from an album of ours...LP...album."  This number is done in its entirety, with John doing numerous variations from the lyrics he sang on the studio version.

Ticket to Ride - Paul introduces this hit song from the spring of '65, and cannot resist egging on the already-hysterical crowd ("Can you hear me?") in the process.  As with She's a Woman, the band does not repeat the middle eight like they did on the recording. This time, they merely repeat one verse and chorus followed by a few repeats of the "my baby don't care" coda and a brisk ending.

Can't Buy Me Love - Paul's voice is pretty raw on this performance of another one of their hit songs, so it may have occurred later in the actual running order on the night in question.

Things We Said Today - The album jumps back to the 1964 concert for the last two selections on this side.  George introduces this brooding song which had only recently appeared on the Capitol release Something New.  The performance is quite wonderful, with subdued verses balanced by a pumped-up middle eight, the contrast being much stronger than on the studio version.

Roll Over Beethoven - Side one concludes with George's only lead vocal on this seminal Chuck Berry tune.  Once again, a verse is eliminated, streamlining the performance.  Paul and John join in vocally for some "Roll over Beethoven"s before the breathless finish leaves the crowd shouting for more.