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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.

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