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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.