Friday, October 9, 2015

The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970 & The Beatles Live At The BBC: The Collection

The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970 & The Beatles Live At The BBC: The Collection
Antonio G. Pereira © 2015 Antonio G. Pereira

The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970 by Kevin Howlett
Published by Harper Design - An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

       Author Kevin Howlett was a producer at the BBC and knew The Beatles quite well, and his book, 'The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970' is expertly put together (and an excellent companion to his other project, 'The Beatles Live At The BBC: The Collection' - the 4 CD set, Vols. 1 & 2, of the group's performances live in the BBC studios, that make up the second half of this double review), tastefully done and a pleasure to read. Wonderfully packaged in a colourful box containing the 336 page hard cover book, full of important (as well as amusing) information and packed with rare photographs. A folder containing very rare BBC documents and a beautiful historical photographic print of The Beatles, from the BBC Files.
       What's interesting about this book is that it's very evident from the beginning, that there was a segment of the BBC listening audience, who were still steeped in England's traditional class system mindset, who had a particular dislike for The Beatles and everything they symbolized and represented; which unfortunately for those listeners meant that a drastic change to their world was coming. Nothing as they knew it, would ever be the same again. And suddenly the era of Swinging '60s London gripped Britain, and The Beatles were placed squarely in the forefront and etched into history forever; as they were joined with an entirely new culture that became part of England. This book, 'The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970', gives you a clear window into musical and sociological history in the making, that produced change in how Pop Culture itself would be perceived from then on.
       What's equally interesting here is the interview material, where we see through the years, as The Beatles' interest in recording techniques developed and changed, how they in turn began viewing their craft in a much more expansive manner; as new ideas flowed freely within the group. This is a marvelous look back.
       What's most fascinating in 'The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970', is the gradual maturation process that (inevitably) took place within the group, after the death of their manager Brian Epstein (who was irreplaceable - {to understand why, read Brian Epstein's final and remarkable 3 part interview, given to Melody Maker, in The History of Rock/1967 - Uncut Magazine Issue No. 3, Pages 100-105}). The sections on 1968 show the busy optimism through the formation and birth of Apple Records after the Retreat with the Maharishi in Rishikesh, 1969 which was when individual interests within the group began to diverge and go in different directions, and finally 1970 when the process was complete, John, Paul, George and Ringo, the individual men, moved on with their own lives. And John put it so well in his 1971 interview with Radio Host David Wigg (which also ends The Beatles Anthology DVD set, accompanied by Linda Eastman's silent footage of the final group shot of The Beatles at John's Tittenhurst home),and which ends the 1970 section and this book, 'It's just natural. It's not a great disaster. People keep talking about it as if it's the end of the Earth. It's only a Rock group that split up. It's nothing important. You have all the old records there if you want to reminisce. It's like a Rugby Team. Sometimes you have to get married and leave the boys on a Saturday night...And that's how it is'.

The Beatles Live At The BBC: The Collection
Apple Corps LTD in association with Capitol Records, LLC

       The Beatles Live At The BBC is a wonderful companion piece on CD (and also produced and with liner notes by Kevin Howlett) to The Beatles: The BBC Archives book.
       As someone who grew up during the '60s, when there was a choice of purchasing your LPs in Stereo or Mono, I think it's wonderful that although these 4 CDs Vols. 1 & 2, have been Digitally Remastered, that the Mono Sound has remained intact; so these recordings really sound good and historic (which they are) at the same time. A perfect example of a difference you could hear between Mono and Stereo sound, is the LP soundtrack which Herbie Hancock composed for the explosive '60s film 'Blow Up'; which also contained a recording of the Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page era Yardbirds. The sound difference is like night and day, with the Mono version of the LP soundtrack sounding the best and clearest. Hence these BBC recordings of The Beatles playing live in the BBC studios, sound superb in Mono. Again Keven Howlett has done a wonderful job and his expert liner notes in the accompanying booklets to the CDs enhance everything to perfection. The booklets also contain rare photographs of The Beatles in both colour and black and white. A treasure trove of memories.
       The first thing that's noticeable about Live At The BBC is that The Beatles were not only very good performers, but very good musicians as well. Without having to compete with all the constant hysterical screaming (which is not in evidence in most of these recordings) these guys really cut loose in the BBC studios. Going through a repertoire that represented all of their influences.
       Beginning with a Ray Charles number, 'I Got A Woman', John cuts loose on vocal. A bit of Buddy Holly here, a bit of Little Richard there, and some Elvis Presley to drive the point home. And George working it on guitar. Then we get Chuck Berry's 'Too Much Monkey Business', and Lennon cuts loose with perfect enunciations of Berry's lyrics verbatim; as George really cuts up on lead guitar and Ringo kicks that bass drum with a vengence. By the way, the radio interviews, interspersed between the song tracks, are delightful in their spontaneity.
       One of the Lennon/McCartney compositions that was never on one of the Beatles albums, but which they performed in the BBC studio, 'I'll Be On My Way', is absolutely beautiful (The Beatles, by the way, did wonderful versions of their own songs that they wrote for other artists. Their version of 'I'll Be On My Way' on this set, and also 'That Means A Lot', which was on Vol. 2 of The Beatles Anthology.); and reminds you of 'I'll Follow The Sun'. The live in concert cuts like "Some Other Guy' and 'Thank You Girl', were done before the screaming got out of hand. Followed by a beautiful Bacharach/David 'Baby It's You' played live by the group in the BBC studio. And the boys put in a smokin' version of The Miracles' 'You Really Got A Hold On Me'. And a very good version of Phil Spector's, 'To Know Her Is To Love Her'. And a beautiful version of 'A Taste Of Honey'. An explosive live in concert 'I Saw Her Standing There', and a lovely 'The Honeymoon Song' written by composer Mikis Theodorakis (Z) for the 1959 film 'Honeymoon'.
       On the second CD in Vol. 1 of Live At The BBC, Lennon really kicks butt on Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen', and George does one hell of a guitar solo. And John slithers his way sleekly and silkily through Johnny Burnett's 'Lonesome Tears In My Eyes'. And Paul tears up on Chan Romero's 'The Hippy Hippy Shake'. 'I Feel Fine' drives like a locomotive with Ringo's drumming as the engine. Then we have the Country Folk Rockish 'I'm A Loser' with John on vocals, guitar and rack harmonica. And then John does it again and tears his way through another Chuck Berry classic 'Rock and Roll Music'. And The Beatles sound like they are really having a good time. And 'Ticket To Ride' is another butt kicker with Ringo's kick drum beat, and Paul's fat sounding dramatic bass. And Ringo kicks some more butt on vocals and drums on Carl Perkins' 'Matchbox', with John soloing on guitar. 'I Got To Find My Baby', another Chuck Berry song, has John singing, blowing some mean blues harp, and George squeezing some biting guitar. 'Don't Ever Change', a song previously done by Buddy Holly's backing group The Crickets, is done with heartbreakingly beautiful grace by The Beatles. And John, Paul, George and Ringo drive some more locomotive Rock and Roll on Larry William's 'Slow Down'. On Carl Perkins' 'Honey Don't', John does the vocal (subsequently done by Ringo on record) and does an admirable job. This is quite a set, full of wonderful performances done live in the BBC studios, with The Beatles putting in fresh performances at their best. And it's obvious how much they loved these songs.
       On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2, is the second set of recordings The Beatles played live in the BBC studios. And we have John, Paul, George and Ringo performing a bright and happy version of Buddy Holly's 'Words Of Love'. And then a beautiful 'Do You Want To Know A Secret'. And Ringo sounds great on drums during Little Richard's 'Lucille' with Paul singing a great lead vocal. (This was the Beatles' very first recording in the BBC studios.) And then we get John singing Arthur Alexander's haunting ballad 'Anna', and doing a beautifully moving version. A real standout here is Chuck Berry's 'I'm Talking About You'. The arrangement, performance by the band, and the vocal by John, are just incredible. As this was done in front of a live audience in the studio, they whip the audience into a frenzy. And we get a lovely version of the Beatles performance of 'Till There Was You' from the Broadway play 'The Music Man'. Another kick butt version of 'The Hippy Hippy Shake', like the one on Live At The BBC (Vol.1). Next with George on vocal, they rip it up in the studio through Chuck Berry's 'Roll Over Beethoven'. Then a gorgeous 'There's A Place' with John and Paul harmonizing on vocals. They close out the first CD with a rockin' version of The Isley Brother's 'Twist and Shout'. The CD ends with two Bonus Tracks, which are very enlightening 1965 BBC Pop Profile Interviews with John and then George; which you can read along with as you listen to the CD recording, in the book 'The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970'.
       And finally we have the second CD in the 'On Air - Live At The BBC Vol. 2' set. We begin with a rocking 'I Saw Her Standing There', with George cutting loose with a great solo on guitar. Then a rocking version of Carl Perkins' 'Glad All Over' with George on vocals and working in another great guitar solo. Following, we get another Beatle gem. The strikingly beautiful 'I'll Get You' with lovely harmonies from John and Paul. And next comes a great 'She Loves You' with everyone in perfect voice and playing beautifully. Following is a funky version of Chuck Berry's 'Memphis Tennessee', with John on vocals and John and George playing cross riffs across each other. What a band! As we go along after a comical 'Happy Birthday Saturday Club' and a live in concert 'From Me To You', The Beatles breathe fire into Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford's 'Money'. Then we get a nice 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. And next an absolutely gorgeous 'This Boy' with John, Paul and George on three part harmony. Next we get The Beatles doing a Country Rock version of Ray Charles' 'I Got A Woman' with John shouting with blues joy on vocals. Then we get a wild 'Long Tall Sally' by Little Richard, with Paul on vocals. And then comes a lovely 'If I Fell', followed by a gorgeous 'And I Love Her'. After a good 'You Can't Do That', we get Ringo on vocals on Carl Perkins' 'Honey Don't. Following this is a beautiful 'I'll Follow The Sun'. Then The Beatles hit us with Little Richard's 'Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!' Finally we get the unedited version of The Beatles getting the feedback intro to 'I Feel Fine' just right, before they performed it. And perform it they did. Obviously enjoying themselves. The set ends with two very revealing 1966 Pop Profile BBC Interviews with Paul and then Ringo. As with the first CD in Vol. 2, you can read along with the interviews in the book 'The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970'.
       What 'The Beatles Live At The BBC: The Collection' has done, is opened up a whole new world about The Beatles that previously, we in the U.S., had only a glimpse of. This concerns what the young Liverpool fan with the short blonde hair in The Beatles Anthology DVD set, was so upset about as she saw John, Paul, George and Ringo leaving Liverpool and The Cavern for what was becoming worldwide success. She recognized then, what we recognize now; after having listened to the Live At The BBC recordings. These guys were living historians of all of the influences on the music. And they loved it as much as the fans did. We never actually got to hear The Beatles playing all of these songs for a live audience, as they did in The Cavern and other venues around Liverpool. This (along with their engaging personalities) was what made them so loved in Liverpool, and why this young female fan was so upset, as she watched them leaving their home base for fame and success beyond. The reason these BBC recordings are so important is because it documents where they came from. It is a real pleasure to listen to, and the tracks with their banter in the studio with different hosts of the programs are delightful; some are absolutely hysterical. I'm sure that to some stuffed shirt-straight laced suits, they probably sounded like a bunch of smart ass wise guys. GOOD! Let me tell you, enjoy this one. Enjoy it to the hilt. Highly, Highly Recommended.