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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.