Monday, 24 November 2014

The Beatles: Compilations, Live Sets and Rarities Part One: 1962-1974

Dear all, just as before we're offering you a sneak preview of our proposed forthcoming Beatles ebook (due 2017-ish!), with all of the compilations, live, rarities and remixes issued during their career and afterwards as well as all the 'American' Capitol releases of their material. We've split this one up into three parts:

 "Live At The Star-Club"
(Recorded December 1962; Released April 8th 1977)
Introduction-I Saw Her Standing There/Roll Over Beethoven/Hippy Hippy Shake/Sweet Little Sixteen/Lend Me Your Comb/Your Feet's Too Big//Twist and Shout/Mr Moonlight/A Taste Of Honey/Besame Mucho/Reminiscing/Kansas City-Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!//Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees)/To Know Her Is To Love Her/Little Queenie/Falling In Love Again/Ask Me Why/Be Bop-A-Lula/Hallelujah I Love Her So//Red Sails In The Sunset/Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby/Matchbox/Talkin' 'Bout You/Shimmy Like Kate/Long Tall Sally/I Remember You
(American edition includes the additional songs 'I'm Gonna Sit Down And Cry Over You''Where Have You Been All My Life?' 'Til' There Was You' and 'Sheila')
"This next song is here by special request...it's for Hitler!"
How fantastic that this treasure trove should have survived intact: despite only having one single out in Britain and being far from household names, a whole hour of one of The Beatles' last performances in Hamburg was captured on tape for posterity. The fact is this tape only exists by chance: King Curtis, leader of another promising Merseyside band away from home in Hamburg, saved up to buy a new tape recorder to record his own band and asked Star Club stage manager Adrian Barber to oblige in recording him and whatever other band was on that night. The Beatles just happened to be the 'other' band and are effectively the 'tape testers' for Curtis' set later on (Lennon reportedly agreed on being taped on behalf of the others to having a single microphone thrust on stage in return for a case of beer, little thinking he'd ever it again!) Curtis could have wiped the tape (Tapes were precious in those days and The Beatles weren't yet big names, with only 'Love Me Do' to their name at the time). He could have simply taped one song to test his microphone (as opposed to the hour he seems to have recorded). The microphone could have malfunctioned. One of The Beatles could have been sick that night. Any number of reasons could have conspired against this tape surviving long enough to be useful - and yet here it is, in our hands (sort of).
How ironic, too, that it should be four lads from the second most bombed city in England during World War Two who find their sound in the most bombed German city of the same conflict. The Beatles are away from home, the eldest of them (Ringo) just 22 in a foreign land that, less than 20 years before, was attempting to blow them up. Without the long hours in Hamburg to up their game The Beatles might have ended up like everybody else, left behind post-skiffle and never quite tight enough to make the big time. Goodness knows they'd been turned down by enough managers and venues by 1962 and struggled to even keep hold of a drummer. Yet Hamburg, hard as it was, sad as it was at times (with the band breaking up after George was deported the first time in 1960 - he's 19 here and old enough to play legally! - and with the sad death of Stuart Sutcliffe at just 21), the eight hour shifts really pushed the band to their limits, forcing them to grow their own identity both as a band and as individuals and to on the one hand extend songs for several minutes of improvised jamming and on the other make the setlists eclectic enough to be able to cover any genre at the drop of a hat. Hamburg made The Beatles telepathic and without it they wouldn't have had first a single for Brian Epstein to be sent on a wild goose chase for - or secondly impressed their manager so much when he did finally track them down. The years at the Cavern Club were important too of course (sadly only a few rehearsals and one TV clip exists of the band there so it's impact on history is hard to judge) - but Hamburg is where the Beatles were 'manufactured', even if back home in Liverpool is where they were 'sold' (or as Lennon put it 'I was born in Liverpool, but Hamburg was where I grew up!)' The chance to hear this little snippet of history - the only tape of The Beatles in the city that made them - is breath-taking.
 akburgHamburg
There are lots of caveats attached to this tape though. The sound, as you'd expect from a tiny microphone directly plugged into a tape reel, used to be appalling until bootleggers devoted hours to cleaning it up in the 1990s (now it sounds merely awful). The recording is at times so grotty that, even cleaned up, it’s not worth your while trying to work out what’s going on past the sound of Star Club patrons and noisy waiters (did they always make this much noise when they were playing?!) Many of the tracks end suddenly, spliced into the next one as Barber was too trigger-happy on the 'pause' button, reducing some to a mere 90 seconds. This is also The Beatles not of legend and as seen in 'Backbeat' - young, hungry and ready to rock - but a band who've spent too many hours on stage and want to get home (to be honest with two EMI recording sessions under their belt they've outgrown Hamburg and sound resentful at still having to play). Several songs sound slurred, suggesting this is the end of the band's eight hour set when they're badly drunk, not the beginning when they were (hopefully) sparking on full cylinders. Lennon especially sounds subdued, perhaps still haunted by the ghost of his friend Stuart Sutcliffe who died just around the corner a mere eight months before.
What’s most impressive is how wide-ranging the band’s set list is: even back in 1962 The Beatles chose to play obscure B-sides rather than the better known songs that might have got them bigger rounds of applause (and more beer) from the pretty disinterested-sounding audience and already their arranging skills are making old classics sounds like Beatle tunes already. However while there are a lot of songs here that the band will do later, few of these recordings are definitive and this album is more interesting as an insight into just how eclectic the band's setlist was back then (including- depending on which of the many variations of this album you own - nine whole songs The Beatles never returned to again and which are all detailed below in our 'non-album' section). The ones that work best are the ones that we know The Beatles knew well: powerhouses like 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'I Saw Her Standing There'. Note the lack of Lennon/McCartney originals in the set-list too (just 'Standing' and 'Ask Me Why', with perhaps the German crowd much more receptive to songs they vaguely knew, even if they were being sung in a foreign language). Practically all the cover songs are in truth much better played in their BBC Session variety. However there are many surprises well worth listening out for  The ones of most interest are songs the band won't return to for years yet and which will be changed beyond all recognition, long after the Hamburg arrangements were forgotten: 'Kansas City' 'Mr Moonlight' (with the delightful Lennonism 'Here I am on my nose, waiting for you please...'), 'Long Tall Sally' 'Matchbox' (with Lennon on lead!)and 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby' (which is the one track here that improves the album version, mainly because Lennon gets the tricky stop-start passages spot-on here) - the only time either 'recorded' this song as 'The Beatles'. 'Twist and Shout', about three months away from being one of the most famous songs on the planet courtesy of 'Please Please Me' is prefaced here  by a brief extract from Bo Diddleys' 'Roadrunner'. Oh and there's a cover of Gene Vincent's 'Be Bop-A-Lula' 12 and 27 years earlier, respectively, than the more famous Lennon and McCartney solo cover versions! Even the rest are fascinating if you're as big a Beatlenut as I am just for the slightly different nuances - a different guitar solo here, a missing harmony part there. This tape is also interesting for what's not here: either side of the band's one and only release at this point, 'Love Me Do' - did Barber's trigger-happy fingers fail to record them? Or had The Beatles already moved on to other things?
The Star Club Tapes have always attracted a lot of criticism from fans and are far from The Beatles at their best. One of the songs here ('Fallin' In Love Again') even features The Beatles providing backing not for Tony Sheridan or Helen Shapiro but for the Star Club waiter Fred Fascher, the 1962 equivalent of Adele putting a karaoke section in her act. But if treated in the right spirit, rather than a 'new' Beatles release, that's just part of the fun. Sure, it’ll never stop the people who saw The Who live laughing at The Beatles’ stage antics but, hey, if even the great Who had started out playing dingy German clubs with no original songs in their material they wouldn’t have sounded better than this.  and yet - I say again - how fabulous that this exists, a golden opportunity to hear The Beatles 'at play' as it were - the only time they weren't singing for an audience bigger than the amount of people in the room. Of course it's no substitute for the records or even The BBC Sessions, but it's better than nothing and by golly - despite all the circumstances working against them - The Beatles still sound amazing. Even at less than their peak you can still hear why they made such an impact on Astrid and Klaus and all the rest and why The Beatles made such an impact with their 'new, improved' sound when they got back home to the Cavern Club. One other revelation is Ringo's drumming: he may have only been in the band four months but he's already nailed the band's loud and heavy sound, his playing well suited to a live arena with echoey walls compared to the later outdoor concerts or the accuracy he needs at Abbey Road. Lousy as the sound may be, this could be Ringo's greatest ever Beatle album with Starr keeping things simple yet fluent throughout.
Which has raised an interesting point. When this album was first released (semi-officially) in 1977 it came with the bold statement on the back sleeve that it was taped during the band's 'Spring 1962' and so therefore featured Pete Best on drums. So different is the drumming that many fans accepted that (and Best went higher up in their estimation as a result). However it turns out that this was a 'ruse' to get around the fact that EMI had The Beatles under exclusive contract from the date of their first session in August 1962: any other recording made automatically belonged to them. Lennon, of course, had given his agreement (either forgetting or assuming the tape wouldn't count for anything in the long run) but there was no contract Curtis could produce. The show was actually taped the night of New Year's Eve 1962 (when the band had already recorded twice at Abbey Road) which might account for the rather drunk atmosphere in the room (the band also mention 'new years' at one point in their conversation, which rather gives the game away!)
You can understand, then, why The Beatles have fought so many times repeatedly to block this tape - not least the fact that, legally, EMI ow it (or at least the rights do what they like with it, including sticking it in a vault). Curtis, realising this, first got in touch with Brian Epstein in 1964 to discuss turning it into an album: while the band were thrilled that it existed (they'd forgotten all about it) they were horrified at the state of the recording and Brian only offered him £20 for the tapes (not a lot even in 1964). No one quite knows what happened then: Curtis says that he 'forgot' about the tapes (unlikely given how big The Beatles were), while the band's pre-Brian manager Allan Williams claims that Curtis went ahead trying to make a record anyway, only for the publishing plant to go bust and taking the tapes with it (he and Curtis reportedly broke in to 'steal' them back!) In 1973 Curtis tried again, meeting up with George and Ringo to discuss a £5000 deal: again the timing was wrong (ongoing Apple court cases meant neither Beatles had much money spare). Having been patient for so long Curtis then bowed to the inevitable: he got in touch with Paul Murphy, head of minor label Lingasong, who agreed that despite the legal minefield ahead of them The Beatles name would sell enough records to hopefully pay for any court case. The album appeared in 1977 - The Beatles duly sued and blocked it. Pickwick Records re-issued it (with a slightly different track listing plus the song 'Hully Gully', actually from a quite different Hamburg performance by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers featuring a young Frank Allen before he was a Searcher) in 1979 - The Beatles sued again. In 1985 it was a 'pure' bootleg (ie not released on a legal label) where it was called 'The Beatles v The Third Reich' in a cover that mimicked 'The Beatles v The Four Seasons'. This one was harder to stop. Giant label Sony then surprisingly got in on the act, releasing the album in 1991 (the fullest one yet, with all 33 songs recorded rather than 25 or 29 as per the other versions), withdrawing the set in 1992 under legal pressure (The Beatles won again but the court case dragged on for six years this time). To date the set has never been re-issued, although it's found its natural home on 'Youtube', where collectors have had fun passing it on under a variety of funny names to escape the legal wrath of Apple. Most of the Beatles still hate these recordings with a passion – one of George Harrison’s last non-musical act in the public eye was to appear in court demanding it’s removal when another label tried to revive it on CD in the 1990s – but Lennon in private is said to have been rather pleased (indeed, the rumour is still strong that Lennon ‘leaked’ his copy in order to see it get a ‘proper’ release!) None of the sets are counted as 'canon', but they're still important - and popular, the 1977 release reaching as high as #111 in the American Billboard chart - and seem unlikely to ever go away. For better or for worse, these tapes are very much a part of The Beatles story and look set to remain so for a long time to come. Short on finesse but high on energy and power and with a little dose of the magic that touched most everything else they did, I'd say on balance it's for the better. 

"Introducing...The Beatles"
(Vee Jay,  January 10th 1964)
(Note: after a court-case a second version replaced 'Love Me Do' and 'P.S. I Love You' with 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why'. This running order was also used on a third version re-titled 'Songs, Pictures and Stories of The Fabulous Beatles'  circa October 1964)
I Saw Her Standing There/Misery/Anna (Go To Him)/Chains/ Boys/Love Me Do//P.S. I Love You/Baby It's You/Do You Want To Know A Secret?/A Taste Of Honey/There's A Place/Twist and Shout
"One-Two-Three-Four!...Or not!"
Figuring that The Beatles craze was only a peculiarly British phenomena and that, like every other popular band who tried, the fab four would die a death in the United States, Capitol - owners of EMI - passed on releasing the first four Beatles singles. Undeterred, Transglobal (a branch of EMI that tried to place singles internationally) offered the Beatles' singles (starting with 'Please Please Me') to smaller companies. Vee-Jay, a label best known for signing Frank Ifield in the States and whose one big name success had been The Four Seasons, agreed. The single duly came out and at #116 in Billboard with little promotion Capitol began to think they'd made a bad decision. The single was popular for Vee-Jay to buy the rights to the band's first album 'Please Please Me' and it was originally planned for release in the States under the new name 'Introducing The Beatles' (minus both sides of the 'Please Please Me' single) as early as July 1963 (just four months after the UK version - which is quick going by 1960s standards).
However, Vee-Jay had an awful year in 1963: a series of bad investments and growing debt meant that the label abandoned all of their 'smaller' acts to concentrate on their big cash-cows - and ironically enough The Beatles were one of the bands that were left to rust in a vault somewhere. Vee-Jay passed on singles three and four ('From Me To You' and 'She Loves You') which were released by the Swann label. However, The Beatles got bigger and bigger and American teenagers kept radio-ing in requests and talking about the new swell English group their cousins had told them about, creating a swell of noise even before the 'Ed Sullivan' shows in february. Capitol did the sensible thing and made sure they had the rights to the band's most recent single 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' (out in November 1963) and when that hit number one bought up the rights to second album 'With The Beatles', which Capitol quickly set about re-issuing as 'Meet The Beatles!' with new packaging and a smaller track listing. However Capitol were beaten to the market place by Vee-Jay, who'd had this album ready to go for five months and thus became the first ever Beatles album in the States by a mere ten days.
At first Vee-Jay couldn't believe their luck: The Beatles had fallen into their lap at a very cheap price and 'Introducing The Beatles' sold enough copies to solve most of their debt problems at once. Then came the problems: Capitol claimed that Vee-Jay had 'failed' to report royalties on the sales of the earlier singles (which owing to their financial difficulties they'd overlooked) and that the rights to at least the 'Please Please Me' single reverted back to them. More complications came a week after release and all because of the 'one-off deal' John and Paul had struck with EMI over the release of 'Love Me Do' and 'P S I Love You' (published by Beechwood rather than the company created especially for them by Epstein 'Northern Songs'). Beechwood were owned by EMI and although they had 'passed' the release of the two songs back in 1963 when nobody wanted to know, they claimed that the songs had 'not yet been published' and so rights had reverted back to EMI. Solving the first problem, but hitting a stumbling block over the first, Vee-Jay simply re-issued the album again under the same name with 'Love Me Do' and 'P S I Love You' substituted for 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why' (this is the copy most American will have bought, although even in the week before the injunction this album sold an impressive 80,000 copies). Eventually a deal was struck: Vee-Jay had full rights to the 'Please Please Me' album and both sides of the 'Please Please Me' single but only until October 1964 when rights would revert back to Capitol. Vee-Jay had to work fast to make the most profit from this album and so re-issued this album as many times as they could - under a whole variety of new names and under increasingly desperate 'false' measures. We'll be telling you about the 'weirdest' of those two later but for now all you need to know is that a third, straight re-issue of this album was entitled 'Songs, Pictures and Stories of The Fabulous Beatles' and was identical in track listing so hasn't been discussed here (it even has 'Introducing The Beatles' still stamped on the label of most copies!)
Music-wise you know what you're getting: in either version it's the 10 songs recorded on the same day (February 11th 1963) plus both sides of either the first or second single (depending which copy you have - it's usually 'Please Please Me' and 'Ask Me Why' on the CDs). Without the resources to 'meddle' with the originals as much as Capitol did, there's less to tell you about mix-wise than usual, although it is worth noting that the Vee-Jay engineer assumed that Paul's 'one-two-three' count-in on 'I saw Her Standing There' had been left in 'by mistake' and took it out for the first pressing of this album! The packaging is a rather austere and old-fashioned picture of The Beatles in brown suits, taken so early on in the band's career that Ringo hasn't quite grown his Beatle wig yet!

"Meet The Beatles"
(Capitol, January 20th 1964)
I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There/This Boy/It Won't Be Long/All I've Got To Do/All My Loving//Don't Bother Me/Little Child/Til' There Was You/Hold Me Tight/I Wanna Be Your Man/Not A Second Time
"Oh yeah I'll tell you something I think you'll understand when I tell you something - you're gonna love this band!..."
Like Veejay but with more material to choose from, the Capitol (American owners of EMI) American Beatles album series are very different depending where you live and what your age is. To American show grew up with them these are how The Beatles 'should' sound - and considering that these albums contain nothing that isn't on a European Beatles album somewhere the tears of joy and relief when these American editions were finally released on CD for the first time in  2014. To Europeans these are bastard children from some alternate universe that The Beatles never intended and just sound odd without the familiar running orders and packagings fans cal home. What's more, they're simply not value for money: Capitol albums tended to be 11 songs long and mixed up songs from all sorts of albums, singles and EPs - some tracks not finding a home for months in America, although in contrast three songs from 'revolver' were issued on American-only album 'Yesterday and Today' first. We'll be giving you a brief run down here of exactly what is available on which American LP, where it comes from and whether any songs were remixed, as well as if Capitol's random song selections throws up anything good.
'Meet The Beatles' was number one for a full 11 weeks in America, issued on January 20th in a media blitz and getting an added boost from the band's 'Ed Sullivan' appearances across February that year. More by luck than design, all six of the songs The Beatles sang on that first show are on this record might account for the album's continued popularity (Rolling Stone magazine placed it at #59 on their list of the greatest albums ever). As the cover implies, this is really a shortened version of second British album 'With The Beatles'  with both sides of the 'I want To Hold Your Hand' single added and 'I saw Her Standing There', the opening track of 'Please Please Me' added. With most of the Motown covers from 'With' removed this gives the album a nicely rocky feel and - apart from 'Til' There Was You' - makes it an all-original Lennon/McCartney/Harrison album (rumour has it Capitol were worried that American fans might object if they included too many covers done first by American bands and singers - as a result this is a very 'English' sounding record). There are no alternate mixes used here for once. Like the other early Capitol albums, it was re-issued on CD in 2004 as part of the 'Capitol Albums Volume One' set and separately in 2014.  


"Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield Live On Stage!"
(Veejay, February 26th 1964)
Please Please Me/Anytime*/Lovesick Blues*/I'm Smiling Now*/Nobody's Darling*/From Me To You//I Remember You*/Ask Me Why/Thank You Girl/The Wayward Wind*/Unchained Melody*/I Listen To My Heart*
* = Frank Ifield performances with no Beatles connection
"It's not live, two-thirds of it isn't by The Beatles and it's just so not funny!"
Jolly, erm, what?! This American-only compilation album is wrong on so many levels. Full marks to record label Vee-Jay for agreeing to release the first two Beatles singles in the USA ('Love Me Do' and 'Please Please Me') before Capitol US realised they might be worth licensing properly. However minus several million marks for skimming just four short songs out to a whole LP. The mistakes in this title just keep on going: first of all, crooner Frank Ifield is Australian, not English. Secondly all of these recordings were made in the studio - none of them were live. Thirdly neither were exactly 'England Greatest Recording Stars' - The Beatles had only had two #1 hits by the time this album came out. Finally - and most importantly - VeeJay had access to many far more suitable acts to pair the Beatles with. What about Macca's idol Little Richard? Or the East coast Beach Boys 'The Four Seasons' (actually that's what Vee-Jay do next when they realise what a 'hit' they had on their hands!)Even Gladys Knight and the Pips would have been better!
Even so, I have a soft spot for Veejay. Capitol hadn't wanted to know until this smaller label turned The Beatles into American superstars and they deserved to cash in on their success more than their bitter rivals. While tacky, there's a tongue-in-cheek vibe about their packaging that's very Beatles (the 'Jolly what!' bit of the title is coming from a cartoon of a typical English Edwardian figure but with a Beatle wig - as if saying 'ha ha this is what you thought the English  were all about!') However this is still a shameless money-grabbing rip-off, done in such a hurry that no one seemed to check the liner notes (which proudly state that 'it is with a great deal of pride and pleasure that this copulation has been presented!')


"The Beatles' Second Album"
(Capitol, April 10th 1964)
Roll Over Beethoven/Thank You Girl/You Really Got A Hold On Me/Devil In Her Heart/Money (That's What I Want)/You Can't Do That//Long Tall Sally/I Call Your Name/Please Me Postman/I'll Get You/She Loves You
"If she got a dime the music will never stop!..."
Capitol's second Beatles album mops up the remaining songs from 'With The Beatles' with a few 'sneak previews' of that summer's 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Long Tall Sally' Ep, represented here by 'You can't Do That', 'Long Tall Sally' and 'I call Your Name' respectively. All those doubts about American being put off by re-recording of 'their' music seem to have been forgotten: this record starts with Chuck Berry ('Roll Over Beethoven' working really as an album opener) and ends in Motown with 'Please Mr Postman' bar the two sides of the hit single Capitol rejected back at the end of 1963 but have now shame-facedly had to buy back from Vee-Jay. This album became another number one hit and The Beatles became the first band in history to freplace themselves at the top of the US charts!
The album is of most interest to collectors because the Capitol engineers decided that the British mixes were too 'dry'. Wanting something close to the funkier 'live' sound of the 'Ed Sullivan' recordings they remixed the entire album, adding lots of echo to everything. This is less awful than it sounds - the 'echoed' 'oh oh oh' finale to 'I'll Get You' is rather effective and this puts the Motown covers on the album back closer to the sound of the original sources. 'Thankyou Girl' mysteriously adds an extra three-note harmonica riff on the fade not heard in Britain! (George Martin must have taken it out for the original record!)The cowbell on 'I Call Your Name' also appears marginally earlier - although not quite from the beginning as some sites state. The running order is one of Capitol's more successful grab-bag track listings too, with a sublime merge from 'Money' into 'You Can't Do That!' The cover is less successful. Rather than nick the ones from 'Long Tall Sally' or 'Please Please Me' the American use their favourite 'collage' approach, with lots of tiny cut-up pictures of the band (mainly stills from Ed Sullivan) which must have disappointed many a fan who wanted to gaze into a large picture of Paul McCartney's eyes...Rock and pop heavy, with less ballads  this time, 'Second Album' is arguably the best American-only album till the 'additions' on 'Magical Mystery Tour' three years later! Like the other early Capitol albums, it was re-issued on CD in 2004 as part of the 'Capitol Albums Volume One' set and separately in 2014.


"Long Tall Sally"
(E.P. EMI, June 19th 1964)
Long Tall Sally/I Call Your Name/Slow Down/Matchbox
Making the 'Hard Day's Night' film understandably caused chaos with the pattern of working The Beatles had used across 1963, when added to the same amount of single releases and a similar amount of touring responsibilities. By June 1964 there hadn't been new product since 'Can't Buy Me Love' in March and no album since 'With The Beatles' the previous November. Fearful that their cash cow might die on them without new product to push, EMI got the Beatles to interrupt their planned sessions for 'A Hard Day's Night' side two to record a quick bashed-out four track EP (the 'halfway house' between a single and an EP, which cost a middling amount of money between the two - sadly this 1960s concept only lasted until the end of the decade before being revived in the 'CD single' age when anything less than four songs was considered 'stingy'). The Beatles had already released four EPs by this time (including 1963's 'Twist and Shout', the best-selling E.P. ever - and since the art form has died out it seems unlikely ever to be beaten!) but they all came at more or less the same time as the albums and didn't feature unreleased recordings (actually the two EPs are the most palatable way to hear next album 'Beatles For Sale' with the worst of the cover songs absent!) 
Unwilling to give away anything good that they needed for the higher profile 'A Hard Day's Night' record, The Beatles seem to have treated these reached sessions (one day apiece in March and June 1964) as a kind of glorified 'radio session', reaching back to their 'Hamburg' past for some cover songs they could knock off quickly and one Lennon song ('I Call Your Name') that it's author considered a 'failure' (however he also considered it better than a mere 'B side' - which is how Billy J Kramer treated it when the Beatle gave it to him to record!) Few fans would ever claim 'Long Tall Sally' as being amongst the best works The Beatles ever made, but it's a nice chance to hear the band purely as a rock and roll covers act (on three of the songs at least!) and it's an interesting stepping stone between the more Motowny sound of 'With The Beatles' and the harder-edged-with-folk-overtones 'A Hard Day's Night'.
[102] 'Long Tall Sally' was to Paul what 'Twist and Shout' was to John: a party-piece that was rather a good replica of Little Richard's screaming original and was a fan favourite, much requested by McCartney watchers at the Cavern. In fact, it's odd that such a popular song in the Beatles' stage act wasn't dusted down before this, either as an album track or on a radio session (was Macca too shy about aping one of his idols? Not that this prevented him doing Little Richard's lesser known 'Ooh! My Soul' for the BBC). The result isn't quite as tight (and therefore not quite as powerful) as 'Twist and Shout' and Paul garbles his lines near the end ('Long Tall Sally she's....built for speed'), while George is clearly struggling to come up with a guitar part on a song that was originally based around a piano. However after several months working hard on 'A Hard Day's Night' you can hear The Beatles having a whole lot of fun just letting rip. This hard-hitting arrangement, kept together with some tight drumming from Ringo, dispenses with the camp of Richard's original and turns it more into a party song ('Have some fun tonight!'; legend has it that the lyrics are a form of gay code, like those of Richard's other best known song 'Tutti Frutti'). It's one of the better Beatle cover re-arrangements although it's less sophisticated than many Beatle interpretations of other people's work.
[103] 'I Call Your Name' isn't one of Lennon's greatest ever songs (it runs out of things to say past the title and how his lover's name gives the narrator succour in troubled times). However it is a key song in his development as a writer. On the one hand this is the first time any Western band anywhere tapped into the musical genre that will later be known as 'reggae' (though Paul became a bigger fan of it in time) and to their credit The Beatles pull this sound off better than most other bands (our website is full of bad white AAA reggae pastiches, from The Beach Boys to 10cc). The other is how Lennon cleverly compensates for this new sound by also making this track sound like archetypal Beatles: Ringo gets his cowbell out again (the Beatles sound of 1964, what 'oohs' and 'yeah yeahs' are to 1963 and what mellotrons are to 1967) and John and George's meshed Rickenbackers recreate the sound of 'You Can't Do That' (already released on the B-side of 'Can't Buy Me Love')but with a more typically Beatles joy and exuberance (Ian McDonalds speculates that the song was diverted from 'A Hard Day's Night' to this EP deliberately to hide how similar the two songs are). Lennon may have disliked the song but there's no sign of that in his double-tracked vocal which treats the lyrics as if they're the most important thing in the world. The result is another strong performance and arrangement of what in other hands would have been a rather weak song. 
[104] 'Slow Down' is a fiery Larry Williams song, taped - like other Williams covers 'Bad Boy' and 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' - on the composer's birthday. (Were The Beatles simply looking around for songs to cover that day when the news came on the radio?) Without the 'message' of 'Bad Boy' or the great hook of 'Lizzy', 'Slow Down' is arguably the weakest of the three and you can tell The Beatles have revived it in a hurry: they never quite sound in control throughout, with an over-heavy sloppy recording closer to something The Kinks or The Who might have done (Lennon even messes up the lyrics double-tracking the last verse: he should be singing 'now you've got a boyfriend and no time for me' but his 'other self' sings 'Now you've got a boyfriend, diamond ring' - was a verse of the original cut, leaving John unsure where he was? However The Beatles were always great tryers and they do their utmost to rescue this song: aware that everyone else is sticking religiously to the song's main riff (over-emphasised by having George Martin on piano play it as well as George and Paul), George Harrison goes all-out in his solo which is one of his most bonkers yet, simply refusing to hit the same notes as the riff however weirdly that makes him play (this also fits the song 'theme' about the narrator's girl refusing to slow down in a relationship). Lennon, too, is on terrific vocal form, sounding like musical sandpaper throughout. The result is a chaotic but fun three minutes from a band clearly in a hurry.
Finally, it seems odd to us now that Ringo should get a vocal on the EP when even George doesn't get one (perhaps to make up for it, Ringo doesn't get any on the 'A Hard Day's Night' album). However this EP was the first 'planned' release since The Beatles 'cracked' America that February and Ringo was always the most popular Beatle in the states. [105] 'Matchbox' is the first of three Carl Perkins covers recorded by The Beatles that year and in opposition to how most Perkins songs work feature a great riff but lousy incomprehensible lyrics (usually the words are {Perkins' strong point). Ringo struggles on a song that isn't a natural fit (the other Beatles often played it and knew it well, but only as Pete Best's token vocal - you sense this tough, gruff voice would have suited him better than Ringo's deadpan sourpuss style). You'd think that the band would have given this to George to sing (given that he was the biggest fan and knew his songs well), especially considering that Carl Perkins was invited to the sessions after hooking up with the band at the end of their American tour. This sloppy mess, with Ringo way out of his depth on a lyric best described as incomprehensible ('I'm sitting here wondering will a matchbox hold all my clothes?' is how the line should run, though Ringo doesn't sing it that way!) , seems like a slap in the face to someone they admired (why didn't the band revive their other classy Perkins cover 'Lend Me Your Comb' for the occasion? The band had played it on radio in 1963 so it wouldn't have taken up much rehearsal time. It was also considered a 'Beatles' song during their pre-fame days, one of the sacred songs a Liverpool band was considered to have made their 'own' and so wouldn't be touched by other bands, one of the 'big three' of their early songs alongside 'Twist and Shout' and 'Some Other Guy'). In truth these made-in-a-hurry covers are dragging The Beatles reputation down slightly - if only the band could release a full album of originals? That would be nice...

 "A Hard Day's Night" (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(United Artists, June 24th 1964)
A Hard Day's Night/Tell Me Why/I'll Cry Instead/I Should Have Known Better (Instrumental)*/I'm Happy Just To Dance With You/And I Love Her//I Should Have Known Better/If I Fell/And I Love Her/Ringo's Theme (This Boy)*/Can't Buy Me Love/A Hard Day's Night (Instrumental)*
* = non-Beatles incidental music
"I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I Should have known better than to buy an album like you, with so many instrumental tunes..."
More legal shenanigans for you now: United Artists were so unconvinced that a Beatles film would do well at the box-office that they agreed to make one on the grounds that not only would it be shot quickly and cheaply (in black-and-white in other words), but that the soundtrack record would be published solely on their label in America, without any involvement from Capitol. This bizarre arrangement meant that yet another Beatles album got chopped to pieces the other side of the Atlantic, with only eight songs (the seven made for the film, plus 'I'll Cry Instead' which was planned and some reports say shot for inclusion but dropped to make the final edit) to choose from plus four pieces of George Martin incidental music from the film which range from the sublime ('This Boy' - the bit that plays when a drunk Ringo - as he's since admitted wanders disconsolately down the towpath and meets the young boy, which improves on the original)to the ridiculous (the title track is pure James Bond and rather misses the excitement and energy of the film). These four songs are now very rare outside America (although they're not as rare as they once were after being re-issued on CD for the first time in 2014)but not really worth your time searching for: George Martin sounds a little overwhelmed by the responsibility of staying true to the Beatles and his classical pals to be honest, ending up pleasing neither. At least United Artists paid more attention to Martin's mixes than their Capitol counterparts however as there are no noticeable differences anywhere. The cover, too, is nearly what it should be, only instead of four rows of 20 Beatles poses there are now just four, shot from the eyes up (it's a measure of how recognisable the band are that you can still tell whose who from 'half a Beatles': clockwise from top left they are Paul, John, Ringo and George).

"Something New"
 (Capitol, July 20th 1964 )
I'll Cry Instead/Things We Said Today/Any Time At All/When I Get Home/Slow Down/Matchbox//Tell Me Why/And I Love Her/I'm Happy Just To Dance With You/If I Fell/Komm Gib Mer Deine Hand
"I've got a chip on my shoulder that's bigger than my feet because the Capitol Beatles albums are incomplete..."
Capitol album number three and from here-on in things get silly. Capitol have access to the entire second side of the 'A Hard Day's Night' LP and duly choose five songs from the six available ('I'll Be Back' is the one that's missing). However this album also replicates 'If I Fell' 'I'm Happy Just To dance With You' and 'And I Love Her' - all of which had been released just one month before on the United Artists' version of 'A Hard Day's Night'. Confused? It gets worse! In addition Capitol release two - but not all four - songs from the recently released 'Long Tall Sally' EP in Britain (the Americans never really did EPs: it seems that unlike Europe, where people had a bit of money but not much, Americans were either rich or broke!) Oh and just in case that line-up was looking too 'normal', one (but not both) of the 'German language' songs the Beatles recorded at the beginning of the year. Goodness what any teenager who hadn't quite caught on to The Beatles until this album made of it: this is the worst hodge-podge in Capitol's Beatle history, veering from rock and roll covers to hit singles to obscure album tracks to 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' in German in quick succession.
Perhaps understandably, this album was beaten to the top spot by the United Artists version of 'A Hard Day's Night' and became the first Beatle Capitol album not to make #1 in America. This is also the second cover to feature a still from the 'Ed Sullivan' shows, although full-size this time and taken from an unusual angle to the left of the stage and apparently shot from a balcony. Once again Capitol were careless with the mixes and there are a few minor differences compared to the EMI sets: a different musical bridge during 'Any Time At All' (with a louder guitar part), 'When I Get Home' (which places a different emphasis on Lennon's double-tracked voices) plus 'And I Love Her' (which features Paul single-tracked for much more of the song). Like the other early Capitol albums, it was re-issued on CD in 2004 as part of the 'Capitol Albums Volume One' set and separately in 2014.

"Hear The Beatles Tell All!"
 (Veejay, 'Mid' 1964)
Impressions Of America/The Group's Name, Hairstyle and History/Reaction To Their American Success/Formation/Early Recordings Early Success/Beatles On British Radio/Huge Success/The Crowds, The Reactions/Threat Of Injury From Fans/The Future? Writing Maybe!/Educational Background and Liverpool/In Closing//Ringo - Throat Woes? Paul? Pete Best?/Paul - Staying Where? Fan Mail? Jane Asher?/John - His  Book? The Film? A Baby? Leaving The Beatles?/George - His Parents?/Patti Boyd?/Paul - Addresses and Fishing/John - Favourite Part In Film? Ad Libbing? New Film? Moving?/Paul - Dad's Racehorse? Favourite Bits In The Film?/Ringo - Maureen? Sightseeing? Audiences?/George - Disneyland? Film Favourites?/Ringo - Goodbye L.A.!
"Goodnight America - thanks for the bread!"
Vee-Jay weren't going to let a cash-cow like The Beatles pass through their fingers so when the rights to the band's first 16 songs expired and reverted back to Capitol, they went on the war-path. Spoken word is harder to copyright than music so that's where Vee Jay turned next, hiring someone named Jim Steck to interview all four of the band during a brief trip to Los Angeles in August 1964. Poor Jim isn't really a journalist (he was  simply someone handy and even drove The Beatles away from a gig one night - much to Lennon's chagrin, 'well good luck to you!' at one point) but he copes well and asks more sensible questions than some actual American journalists of the day. Then it's a chap called Dave Hull's turn on side two, who doesn't fare quite so well but then his conversations are snatched chats rather than a 'proper' interview. Lennon is on particularly bright form and gets a whole side to himself (lasting some twelve minutes), while all four get brief snatched conversations on the album's second side (lasting eleven in all).
Along the way we learn a few interesting nuggets we didn't know before as well as the usual sorts of things. For instance, this is Lennon on his expectation of success on the band's first American tour (which is rather different to his 'it was inevitable' tone of his solo years!): 'We didn't think we stood a chance, we didn't imagine it at all, we didn't bother, when we came over the first time we only came to buy LPs!' Lennon on screaming audiences: 'If they want to pay their money they can scream - we scream back at them anyway, only with guitars!' And on the band's background: 'Liverpool wasn't too different from this, but then again this is a bit of a dump! Most American seem to think we all came out of the slums, but only Ringo did. Well, he doesn't care - he probably had more fun there!' Ringo on Paul: 'Paul McCartney's quite nice - once you get to know him!' Ringo on his relationship with Maureen Cox, later his wife: 'Everyone went they were un-chaperoned ho-ho-ho, but we were chaperoned. There was nothing kinky going on!'   John on rumours of a second child: 'Cynthia's not having a baby and I don't think I'm having a baby either!'
The record was rush-released less than a month later with minimal packaging resembling a tabloid newspaper (with such ridiculous 'headlines' as 'Hear The Beatles tell all! Does Paul lives with The Ashers?' (yes), 'Is John having another baby?' (no), The truth about the talk that John is leaving The Beatles (he isn't!), 'How The Beatle Haircut Came About',  'Why John Gives Out The Addresses Of The Rolling Stones' (as a joke - a mutual friend accidentally gave out The Beatles' real' addresses and they were swamped - this is a witty form of revenge!),'Ringo talks about his throat operation', 'Facts about Paul's race horse' ('promised' to him by a fan but never sent!),  'George Talks About The Paddi Boyd' (I think someone misunderstood that one!) and - my favourite - 'The Day They Fished From The Hotel Window' ) Along with the 'flip your wig' game, this is perhaps the greatest souvenir we have of the days when The Beatles were the biggest phenomenon on the planet and kick-started a legacy that lasts to this day (although I doubt they'll never made a 'flip your wig' game for One Direction!)
All in all this is one of the better 'official' interview discs with The Beatles around and a good insight into the period - although as ever Vee-Jay do their best to ruin things when they're onto a good thing by adding lots of 'linking' passages featuring a most peculiar mix of tubular bells, bongos and some sudden drumming from session musician Hal Blaine. As ever Capitol are waiting in the wings for a bigger, bolder, longer album with a far bigger budget designed to swamp this one - although just as 'Introducing' was made with a lot more care and concern than 'Meet The Beatles', so I prefer this record to the double-disc 'Beatles Story' coming up soon...Sadly this record is now quite rare and has never been released on CD, although the vinyl was re-issued in 1981.

"The Beatles vs The Four Seasons"
(Vee Jay, 'October' 1964)
LP 1: I Saw Her Standing There/Misery/Anna (Go To Him)/Chains/ Boys/Love Me Do//P.S. I Love You/Baby It's You/Do You Want To Know A Secret?/A Taste Of Honey/There's A Place/Twist and Shout
LP 2: Sherry/I've Cried Before/Marlena/Soon (I'll Be Home Again)/Ain't That A Shame/Walk Like A Man//Connie-O/Big Girls Don't Cry/Starmaker/Candy Girl/Silver Wings/Peanuts!
"Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Ok *whisper*, this is the same record you bought a month ago - and a couple of months before that..."
Getting increasingly desperate - and with the tracks they had licensed growing older with every passing week - Vee Jay made one last gasp at the big time: a double album headlined 'The international Battle Of The Century!' where each side 'deliver their greatest vocal punches!' The cover fooled a few people into buying it (was this some international cross-over no one had told them about?) but it was, of course, a gimmick like the 'Frank Ifield' album all over again. Thankfully this one is less of a con as at least the two bands are compatible (loosely) and each band get their own 'full' albums, although in The Beatles' case it's a fourth straight re-issue for the 'Introducing The Beatles' record within 10 months. Surely no self-respecting teenager was without this record? The result? Well, considering that the 'Four Seasons' set is a best-of ('The Golden Hits Of The Four Seasons'), albeit one that misses out many of their best songs: sadly their masterpiece 'Rag Doll' wasn't released until the end of the year) and The Beatles is just the first LP meddled with the contest isn't a fair fight: it's as if The Beatles' boxer was forced to fight with a hand behind his back. Then again The Beatles still deliver at least a few of the 'knock-out punches' promised on the record sleeve. Oh well, at least the sets came with limited edition posters of both bands: one of the earliest to feature the fab four (be-suited Beatles standing or sitting round the same chair back in the really early days before Ringo grew his 'Beatle' cut!)  

"The Beatles' Story"
(Capitol, November 23rd 1964)
On Stage With The Beatles/How Beatlemania Began/Beatlemania In Action/The Man Behind The Beatles - Brian Epstein/John Lennon/Who's A Millionaire?//Beatles Will Be Beatles/The Man Behind The Music - George Martin/George Harrison//A Hard Day's Night - Their First Movie/Paul McCartney/Sneaky Haircuts and More About Paul//The Beatles Look At Life/Victims Of Beatlemania/Beatles Medley/Ringo Starr/Liverpool And All The World
"It started in Liverpool, England, a sound of feeling and emotion, and swept up the youth of the world. And while adults in many foreign speaking languages looked on in awe, four young boys from a poor British seaport slum-town, their hairstyle a harmless defiance of convention, their musical style brash, earned renowned which they had never dreamed or and perhaps never really wanted. The Beatles had even picked a name which defied and challenged acceptance. Their very success ironically seems to defeat their 'I-don't-care' philosophy. But through it all, confused at times, perhaps a little frightened at times, they clinged to their identity and grown closer to one other."
Quite. As you can see from this opening, Capitol did what Vee-Jay had done so simply and casually on 'Hear The Beatles Tell All' and re-did it rather pompously, inevitably missing the point thanks to the narrator's bemused vocal expression and a script that doesn't ask 'who' 'when' or 'how' so much as 'why???' This should, by, tights have been better. The album's much quoted line is 'are they a band big on hair but short on talent?' Interestingly no one involved actually gives a straight reply. This record was put together by Gary Usher and Roger Christian, two leading DJs of their day who are well known to Beach Boy aficionados as separate writing partners for Brian Wilson. However while Gary ('In My Room') Usher clearly understood the darker side of the teenage mind and Roger ('Little Deuce Coupe') Christian clearly understood the excitement of buying a new car, both seems to have lost the plot here. Narrator John Babcock is uncomfortable 'old school' too: the equivalent today of getting Mary Berry to do a documentary about 'One Direction' (or that really odd interview I keep thinking I must have dreamt where Joanna Lumley gets a snatched five minutes with Will I Am).
The result is, at times, hilarious. All four Beatles have their biographies told, patronisingly ('John Lennon is a determined 23-year-old whose face gives the impression of an angry-young man...he says we have our differences like any other human beings!') At times the narrator's paraphrashing of Beatle words sounds deeply wrong ('I thought school was a total joke, said John, but I'd hate any fan to act like I did!' A later comment has John supposedly saying 'My love was in Liverpool. She and I met one day and suddenly we fell in love. And like all good husbands I wanted my family to have financial security!' - erm, no, I don't think so!) At one stage we also get introduced to 'Paul' before George starts talking... remember this is the biggest band on the planet and the group who more than anyone else are paying Capitol's wages! Oh and when George is finally introduced we're told he has a 'deadpan expression that would make the Sphinx jealous' and is 'the blasé Beatle'. Not on most of the photographs I've seen he doesn't - he was probably trying to say anything rude to the dumb interviewer! Interestingly, though, the script captures his meditative phase a full two years before most people caught on, telling us that George prefers to 'have a bit of peace and quite, sitting around in your slippers, watching the telly - that's the life!'
Even when this script is right everything is told in a very over-dramatic way that makes The Beatles sound like 'Eastenders' ('For The Beatles at that time no 10 Matthew Street - home to the popular Liverpool Club The Cavern - must have seemed as far away as no 10 Downing Street ')('After Ringo joined, Lady Luck could be considered Beatle number Five, guiding Brian Epstein towards them!' - we won't mention the fact these events are in the wrong order!) (Ever since birth Paul has been....left-handed!'), a world away from the almost shoulder-shrugging of the band's own later documentary 'Anthology' ('We were just a band that got very big, that's all is Lennon's opening line). Oh and apparently all of John's family are 'musically inclined', which must have come as a shock to his Aunt Mimi!
Luckily there are some upsides to this album: some genuine interview snippets including a great bit where John and George are asked about the rumour they are millionaires ('No, not even Brian's one!' quips John before an interviewer asks where all their money goes. 'To her majesty - she's a millionaire!' adds a quick-thinking George). The fact that this is a double LP, running to some 50 odd minutes, also offers the chance to focus on some topics not often covered at the time (Brian Epstein and George Martin both gets their own biographies too, not always accurate ones!) Occasionally the set is illuminating too: there's a particularly interesting quote from Paul that reads thus: 'When you're about 11 you start to think what's going to happen to you. I've often thought about it. My plan was to carry on playing the clubs until I reached the ripe old age of 25. Then I'd go to John's art college and hang around there for a couple of years. I never dreamt about being discovered or anything like that. I always thought it was just something you read about.' Sadly this is immediately followed by a typically cringe-worthy piece about the band getting 'sneaky haircuts' at the barbers, the juxtaposition of which rather sums this album up!
 The one thing the documentary does get right over virtually every other tabloid cash-in of the day is what hard work it was to get to 'Love Me Do', with the script ripping into the idea of the band as 'an overnight success'. The other place where 'The Beatles Story' improves on 'Hear The Beatles Tell All' is Capitol's access to real genuine Beatle recordings rather than the rather odd percussion used to 'link' that record - although frustratingly all too often Beatle songs are cut short for some gormless orchestral interpretation of a Beatle hit. Until 1977, this was the only official place where you could hear The Beatles 'live', with extracts of the 'Hollywood Bowl' 1964 show intermingled with the jumble of sound (the original plan had been to release a 'live album' but even Capitol didn't think it would sell at the time; 13 years and with financial restraints they'll change their mind and release it anyway...
The Beatles are, today, studied in schools (if only they'd been on my curriculum I'd have got straight As! Well that and detention for writing too much!) 'The Beatles Story' sounds like a school project, a lot of fact and fiction intermingled with a rather high-brow sneer that badly misses the point. Like 'Hear The Beatles Tell All', though, it's a marvellous time capsule of a time when Beatlemania was genuinely shocking and had never been seen before and parents were a little bit scared and confused (at one point The Beatles are reported as saying 'we're from a new generation and so are our fans' - the narrator takes in a big in-take of breath right there that says everything). Admittedly I've felt that about at least the last 30 musical crazes (Justin Bieber where did you go?!), but the chance to hear all this unfolding for the first time in real time is great for 'us' musical historians to learn just how The Beatles were treated in their early days (largely as Martians from another planet it seems). So big were The Beatles that even this pricey double-album monstrosity rose all the way to #7 in the US charts (the first of their albums not to make #1 barring the Tony Sheridan re-issues!) This record was finally re-issued on CD in 2014 as part of the mammoth box set 'The US Albums' and still hasn't had its own separate release in 50 years!

"Live At The Hollywood Bowl"
(Apple, Recorded August 1964 and August 1965; Released May 1977)
Twist and Shout/She's A Woman/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket To Ride/Can't Buy Me Love/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/All My Loving/She Loves You/Long Tall Sally
"You make me dizzy when you rock and roll!"
When I tell people that an official Beatles album that made the top ten is still unreleased on CD they either think I'm monkeynuts or lying. But the truth is exactly that: 'The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl', an amalgamation of two concerts taped at the principality in 1964 and 1965, was the first ever posthumous release of new Beatles product and caused a huge stir. Like the Hamburg tapes, the result is endlessly fascinating -a chance to hear what the band sounded like live - but not exactly easy listening even by live 1960s standards (even with a lot of hard work mixing the screams down low there are still times they overwhelm the recording!) Most people were disappointed when this album came out, expecting some killer rock in the style of the Stones' 'Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!' or even Macca's recent 'Wings Over America' (a huge hit that probably played a part in 'inspiring' this album). In truth what they got was closer to earlier recordings like The Stones' 'Got Live If You Want It!' or The Kinks' 'Kelvin Hall' gig: tapes that weren't originally intended for release and were so badly recorded that nobody in 1977 quite knew what to do with them.
That was certainly the case in 1974 when George Martin was asked in an interview in 1974 whether there were any decent live recordings in the vaults. ‘Ooh gosh no’, he’s meant to have replied, ‘there is one tape reel but it’s so horribly recorded and the Beatles play so badly we couldn’t possibly release it’. Three years later he was doing just that, at EMI’s request, remixing the album to take out some of the louder screams and sticking two concerts haphazardly together (both shows sound much better when heard complete I have to say, as they are on bootleg). For my money, they should have just released the latter recordings, which are genuinely thrilling with The Beatles still stretching their palette with complex and fairly rare (in as much as any released Beatles track is rare) material such as ‘She’s A Woman’ 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' and ‘I’m Down’ (the three highlights of the set, along with a surprisingly rocky 'Boys' from 1964 that knocks spots off the record and with Ringo turned into a heavy metaller!) The 1964 set-list just can’t compete, being a series of rather rushed and poor quality recordings of singles we’ve heard hundreds of times over and over, especially after 'Anthology One' although even this set has 'historical value' and a cracking rare live version of 'Things We Said Today' (with George filling in for Paul's double-tracking!)
The music is, of course, excellent even if it's all a little bit 'covers heavy' and none of the versions here understandably live up to the records given all the hysteria going on up front. Lennon is on great form, especially in 1965, while the band's harmonies and backing are surprisingly tight given the circumstances (this is one live album we know wasn't 'doctored' later in the studio, unlike 'Wings Over America', or a Beatles reunion would have made this record bigger news). Sadly the Beatles aren't that chatty at this gig (not by their standards anyway) and there's only one great Lennon witticisms to report, a much-quoted introduction to 'Baby's In Black' : 'We'd like to do another number because that's what we're here for, while Paul fiddles with his amplifier...I hope you can hear me, I'd be awfully disappointed if you couldn't! We'd like to do another one from one of our LPs, long players, albums, records...It's a slow number and a waltz for all of you under ten...Some people play fast waltzes and some people play slow waltzes but we're going to play a slow one!' However the version of 'Baby's In Black' they play is anything but slow, being patently faster than the studio on 'Beatles For Sale' (and that was pretty darn fast for a waltz! Note, too, the moment when Lennon gets temporarily lost in the middle of 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' and ends up busking 'Love me ...till the end of time' instead of '...And I wish you were mine!' (well saved there John!) What we do get though is a well-drilled band who clearly know their setlist well (both the August 23rd 1964 and 29th August 1965 gig come relatively near to the end of each run of American shows).
Alas, like pretty much every Beatles re-issue/new release of the 1970s the artwork and packaging is dire – the sleeve-notes get some of the dates wrong and the distorted coloured tickets are far too tacky for a release of this importance. Also the track listing is exceedingly random - if EMI really had to release both concerts in one set (there are a few replicas, not that this bothers fans like me much) then why not put the '1964' show on one side and '1965' on the other? The sudden jolt of hearing 'Help!' in between 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'All My Loving' for instance is just silly. Amazingly, despite all the fuss we have every few Beatles when the band/label start on a re-issue frenzy (2009’s remastered set and rockband game, 2004’s ‘Love’ 1995-6’s ‘Anthology’ and 1993’s ‘Live At The BBC’) the only official Beatles concert still remains absent from our shelves. Strange, especially considering that it was John and George who objected to its release the first time around – and sadly neither Beatle is around to protest anymore. 'Live at The Hollywood Bowl' isn't pretty, but it is pretty darn interesting: after all, this was millions of screaming fans heard the greatest band on the planet and it's the next best thing to going back in time and experiencing it all for yourself.

 "The Early Beatles"
(Capitol, March 22nd 1965)
Love Me Do/Twist and Shout/Anna (Go To Him)/Chains/Boys/Ask Me Why//Please Please Me/P.S. I Love You/Baby, It's You/A Taste Of Honey/Do You Want To Know A Secret?
"I can't break away from these chains!"
The rights to the Beatles' first 16 recordings reverted back to Capitol in late 1964 after the result of a court case over whether Vee-Jay's rights to them had lapsed or not. Capitol duly followed with a re-issue of eleven of these songs in March 1965 (i.e. in between 'Beatles For Sale' and 'Help!') These recordings must have seemed very rushed and unsophisticated by 1965 standards (seven of them were recorded on the same day after all). That and the fact that 'Introducing The Beatles' had featured all of these songs bar two just 14 months meant that, by Capitol Beatle standards, this album was a flop and the poorest selling of their releases (peaking at #43). While the lack of 'I Saw Her Standing There' makes sense (Capitol pushed their luck and included it on the first album, even though it was a gray area whether they were allowed it) but 'Misery' and 'There's A Place' were hard done by, appearing only on a single later in the year and not finding an album release in America until their version of 'Rarities' in 1980. Capitol spent very little time promoting the album (there was only a three month gap before 'Beatles VI' is out!) but they did at least take the time to give this record some of the best packaging of the 1960s in America, using the rear sleeve of the UK 'Beatles For Sale' as the main cover (you know the one I mean, The Beatles in front of some twigs - no I don't know why either!) The album was later re-issued on CD as part of the box set 'Capitol Albums Volume Two', where this album belongs in terms of chronological ordering but not the dates of the Beatles recordings.

"Beatles VI"
(Capitol, June 14th 1965)
Kansas City-Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!/Eight Days A Week/You Like Me Too Much/Bad Boy/I Don't Want To Spoil The Party/Words Of Love//What You're Doing/Yes It Is/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Tell Me What You See/Every Little Thing
"Though tonight Capitol's made me sad, I still love them..."
Of all The Beatles albums made for the American market 'Beatles VI' (Capitol clearly weren't counting 'The Early Beatles' or the United Artists or Vee-Jay releases) is the most...different. On the one hand Capitol use up the half a dozen songs they had leftover from 'Beatles For Sale' (an album released a full seven months earlier!) On the other they have obtained 'sneak previews' of three songs from 'Help!' a month before the British: 'You Like Me Too Much' 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' and 'Tell Me What You See'. They also choose to use recent B-side 'Yes It Is' but not the A-side 'Ticket To Ride'. Finally and most notably, this record includes 'Bad Boy', a Larry Williams recorded especially for the American market the same day as 'Lizzy' and which won't be released in Britain for another 18 months (on 'A Collection Of Oldies But Goldies'). In truth its all a bit of a mess, with songs covering the space of about nine months all jumbled up together. Even the cover seems rather 'out of sequence' - a mainly be-suited Beatles fooling around with a microphone stand. However the new hodge-podge element does have the unintended effect of making 'Beatles VI' The Beatles' one and only folk-rock album, with the pedal steel of 'Yes It Is', the sorrow of 'I Don't Want To Spoil The Party' and the honky tonk charm of 'You Like Me Too Much' sounding impressively 'together' on the same LP. Of course, this being Capitol, all these relative ballads are surrounded by three of the heaviest rockers the Beatles ever covered ('Kansas City' 'Bad Boy' and 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy'). A Capitol offence? Bizarrely, 'Beatles VI' hangs together about the best of any of the Beatles' American off-spring and is often cited as the band's influential LP by Americans looking to start a band (The Byrds, for one). This album was re-issued on CD as part of the 'Capitol Albums Volume Two' box set and - finally - on its own right in 2014.

""Rubber Soul"
(Capitol, December 3rd 1965)
I've Just Seen A Face/Norwegian Wood/You Won't See Me/Think For Yourself/The Word/Michelle//It's Only Love/Girl/I'm Looking Through You/In My Life/Wait/Run For Your Life
"I thought I knew you...what did I know? You don't sound different but you have changed, I'm looking through you - you're not the same!"
The American edition of 'Rubber Soul' really changed the sound. When the CDs of the British albums finally came out in the States in the late 1980s this was the album that most surprised fans who'd seen this as the band's 'folk rock statement', an attempt to swing back the way of The Byrds (the biggest new band of 1965). The British version, of course, is far more eclectic with some relatively heavy rockers like 'Drive My Car' 'What Goes On' 'Nowhere Man' and (interestingly given that it's the most Byrds-like song The Beatles ever did) 'If I Needed Someone' are missing (though 'Think For Yourself, the 'heaviest' song on the album, is still here, suggesting this is accident not design - well, of course, it's Capitol!) and have been substituted by two of the gentler songs still left over from 'Help!': 'I've Just Seen A face' and 'It's Only Love'. This version of the album is rather palatable actually, sounding less 'instantly wrong' than some of Capitol's earlier LPs with 'Face' and 'Wood' making for a particularly interesting blend. While the packaging and album title is identical to the British version (wow two records in a row - what is going on?!), Capitol are still messing around with the mixes. 'I'm Looking Through You' includes a 'false start' most beloved by bootleggers that was 'accidentally' left on and 'The Word' sounds rather different too (Lennon's been playing around with his double-tracking again!) Plastic 'Rubber Soul' man? Actually no - this is one of America's brighter ideas! Once again this album was originally issued on CD in 2009 as part of 'Capitol Albums Volume Two' and in its own write in 2014.

"Yesterday and Today"
(Capitol, June 20th 1966)
Drive My Car/I'm Only Sleeping/Nowhere Man/Dr Robert/ Yesterday/Act Naturally//And Your Bird Can Sing/If I Needed Someone/We Can Work It Out/What Goes On/Day Tripper
"You don't get me! You don't get...me!"
Ah yes, 'Yesterday and Today', the American-only recording destined to be forever remembered as 'that one with the hideous butcher's sleeve'. Beatle friend Robert Whittaker was as keen as the fab four were to push the borders of taste and came up with a sniping comment on the commercialism of Western society. Funnily enough The Beatles had been thinking just the same thing (what a shame 'Taxman' - recorded by now but not released till the next American LP - isn't here because it would make the link complete). Whittaker lined The Beatles up in a typically happy-go-lucky portrait and gave them the usual 'nonsense' props to play around with: only in this case it was slabs of meat and doll's heads. Deciding belatedly it made for a worthy 'comment' on the Vietnam War, it can be seen in retrospect as the moment The Beatles became 'properly political - from now on there's no holding them back, Lennon especially. At the time though this was just one of many Beatle photo-shoots; legend has it was Paul who phoned up Capitol and told them if they had to put a new album out then they ought to do it with a picture from this shoot. Not one to upset a Beatle, they agreed (even though the Beatles themselves didn't all agree - George, about to become a Vegetarian after discovering the Indian way of life a few months earlier, thought it was 'stupid', although his smile at the back of the shoot looks genuine to me). Capitol weren't ready for the outcry this caused: fans sent LPs back, disc jockeys moaned on air and some shops refused to stock the album. Trying to calm something of a storm in a teacup (it's only one photograph and the 'meat' wasn't human), Capitol tried to recall as many albums as they could and shot another more innocuous sleeve of The Beatles playing around with a packing case (not quite the 'trip' they meant on 'Day Tripper!') They simply pasted this new version over the old one on first pressings although not many were actually returned and/or stopped at the presses in time. That's why you sometimes hear collectors talk about 'steaming' off covers to see if there's anything underneath (although in most cases there's just a tatty grey bit of cardboard) and why collectors of all things Beatles pay such astronomical prices for the rare pleasure of owning a copy.
With all that going on in the background, the actual musical content of 'Yesterday and Today' tends to get rather over-looked. A weird mixture of songs left over from 'Help!' ('Yesterday 'Act Naturally' and 'What Goes On') 'Rubber Soul' (Drive My Car' 'Nowhere Man' and 'If I Needed Someone') the last single ('Day Tripper' and 'We Can Work It Out') and a 'preview' of three songs from 'Revolver', quite a coup as these songs won't be released in the rest of the world for another two months (Capitol came up with a funny selection from the near-completed album and picked 'I'm Only Sleeping' 'Dr Robert' plus 'And Your Bird Can Sing'  - 'She Said She Said' is the only song still to be taped for the album and not yet available, recorded a single day after this album's release). The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that these are all Lennon's songs, making him by far the dominant force across this album. Like 'Beatles VI' and the American 'Rubber Soul', the result works rather better than it ought to, offering a rather harder edged album than expected, bookended by two songs about 'trips' both geographical and metaphysical. The title too is a rather clever one for such a hodge-podge of a collection. This record was re-released - with the Butcher's Sleeve for the first time - on CD in 2014. After years of similarly outrageous album sleeves by rap stars, Robbie Williams, Madonna et al it didn't cause anything like as much fuss, but as ever it was a Beatles album that paved the way.
"Revolver"
(Capitol, December 3rd 1965)
Taxman/Eleanor Rigby/Love You To/Here There and Everywhere/Yellow Submarine/She Said She Said//Good Day Sunshine/For No One/I Want To Tell You/Got To Get You Into My Life/Tomorrow Never Knows
"The day breaks, your mind aches..."
Capitol's last exclusive American album is a straight reduction of the classic 'Revolver', issued with the Christmas market in mind with the three songs already released six months earlier on 'Yesterday and Today' missing. This all makes for a decidedly Paul-heavy record (five lead vocals out of eleven, with three for George John two and Ringo one!)that makes for an even more 'extreme' sounding album than the original (unusually Lennon's songs 'soften' the extreme changes between hard rockers like 'Taxman' and 'She Said She Said' and the string-fest 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'For No One'). Otherwise Capitol seem to have restricted themselves to leaving this record more or less alone at last, with every song present and correct in its proper order. Yippee! From next record 'Sgt Peppers' onwards, the Capitol series will follow the UK EMI editions to the letter - albeit with an 'album' version creation of the double EP set 'Magical Mystery Tour' now accepted as 'canon' by most of the world's Beatles collectors. This 'American' version of 'Revolver' is currently only available in the  'US Album's box set, which is just as well really - it would be a bit daft to release a 'smaller' version of the identical-looking UK version that has three extra tracks!

"A Collection Of Oldies...But Goldies!"
(EMI, November 9th 1966)
She Loves You/From Me To You/We Can Work It Out/Help!/ Michelle/Yesterday/I Feel Fine/Yellow Submarine//Can't Buy Me Love/Bad Boy/Day Tripper/A Hard Day's Night/Ticket To Ride/Paperback Writer/Eleanor Rigby/I Want To Hold Your Hand
"When I was younger, so much younger than today..."
As 1966 wore on it became increasingly clear that The Beatles - having only just delivered an album in August - wouldn't have time to deliver another one in time for the festive market. This was a bit of a problem: while EMI had several great bands The Beatles were their big stars and the boost EMI experienced every Yuletide helped them greatly throughout the coming year. A compromise was sought: the first Beatles full-LP compilation. What we got was, inevitably, a bit of a cop-out as most compilations are: The Beatles took little interest in it and only one new shot of the band (gathered around a teapot backstage in Japan on their last tour, as shot by old friend Robert Whittaker) was used. The title too is a little suspect: both band a producer referred to this project internally as 'Oldies but mouldies!' and 'Old Hat' to reflect their distaste of releasing old material.
However, there are many plusses in this record's favour. By now some of the band's early singles were getting worn out and had been deleted so this was a welcome opportunity for many older fans to buy their old records again but this time in album format. Also the album is more generous than it needed to be: there are a grand total of 16 songs here - admittedly most are quite short but for 1966 this is generous stuff and made the Capitol 11-tracks-and-that's-your-lot releases look positively scrooge-like. The album packaging, too, is fitting in an odd kind of a way: artwork by David Christian cashing in on the fact that Swinging London was that year the coolest place on the planet and Carnaby Street it's centre, with a well dressed hip young dude lounging in front of a record player that represents the 'now', while the dark embers of the 1950s (embodied by an 'old'-style car and ballroom dancing - don't be silly that can't be back in style in the present day, it must be a mass hallucination or something)fade into the distance behind him. The result is the single most psychedelic image in the band’s catalogue and surely the unsung inspiration for the similarly lurid ‘Yellow Submarine’ film - to modern eyes it might look dated (yeah and current fashions don't?!) but at the time this was groovy stuff, man.   This is all incredibly forward-looking for a record company out to make money with a cheap best-of and shows how much EMI really did care about the band and it's fans (compare it to best-ofs for other bands of the same period - nearly all caught in typically 1950s boring poses - and the difference is striking).
Considering that this record only had late 1962-late 1966 recordings to choose from, musically it's not bad at all: like hearing 'Past Masters Volume One' 20 years early but with a few B sides and EP songs missing and replaced by key album tracks like 'Michelle' and 'Yesterday'. The key song for collectors, though, was 'Bad Boy' - a Larry Williams cover taped in a hurry the same day as 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' six months previous, one of his other Beatles covers but somehow left off the 'Help!' LP. It's a raucous, rebellious 1950s style stroll that had already been released in America the year before (on 'Beatles VI') and in truth doesn't really fit this more laidback collection. However, it's a nice bonus for fans who were inevitably going to buy this record in their droves anyway - in fact so many fans did that this record made it all the way to #3 i the charts, not bad considering that 'The Sound Of Music' was selling bucketloads that Christmas at #1 and 'Revolver' was still holding firm at #2. Perhaps feeling that this set had been superseded by both 'One' and 'Past Masters', this compilation has never been re-issued on CD and is in fact currently the only official 1960s Beatle product not to be! 

"Hey Jude"
(Capitol, February 26th 1970)
Can't Buy Me Love/I Should Have Known Better/Paperback Writer/Rain/Lady Madonna/Revolution//Hey Jude/Old Brown Shoe/Don't Let Me Down/The Ballad Of John and Yoko
"The way things are going they're gonna crucify me!"
After leaving the British releases alone for three whole years, Capitol squeezed one last Beatle LP onto the market three months before 'Let It Be' and like that album is a sort of sombre encore. Well, actually, that might be doing the label a disservice: after agreeing to release every Beatles album 'properly' (which for perhaps the only time in history means the 'British' way), they were quite content to simply follow EMI's lead. It was Apple manager Allen Klein - by now at the highpoint of his relationship with John, George and Ringo but in an all-out war with Paul - who pushed for this album to come out (presumably to get an extra share of the royalties while he still controlled the band's income). The result still 'feels' like a Capitol-made project though: At 32 minutes it's barely worth getting to change the record over halfway through, the packaging is minimal and everything seems to be done with the least amount of fuss.
The only new feature for most fans is the album sleeve. The picture was shot during the very last Beatles photo session shot back in August 1969 and rather fittingly all four Beatles are wearing black (Paul's new wife Linda was on hand to film it, suggesting that he at least had an inkling it would be the last time all four were pictured together; not the 'other' picture taken at the same sessions which is propped up over the doorway of Lennon's Tittenhurst house as The Beatles uncomfortably pose in front of it). Initially titled a rather ironic 'The Beatles Again' (which would have been an awful name for a final LP), Allen Klein had second thoughts and decided to name this album after the biggest hit - now two years old - but so late in the day that first pressings of the album still have 'The Beatles Again' pressed into the vinyl! (The cover, meanwhile, made no mention of the title or the band - which is odd, given that they'd have sold more copies that way and The Beatles' appearance changed so rapidly back in 1970 that an awful ot of fans would have been caught out!)
As expected, this record neatly rounds up a number of Beatles songs that still hadn't appeared on an album as of 1970: 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' which for some reason were left off the American version of 'Revolver' (and in turn not added to 'Magical Mystery Tour'), both sides of the singles 'Lady Madonna' 'Hey Jude' and 'The Ballad Of John and Yoko'. Interestingly B-side 'Don't Let Me Down' is here but not the A-side 'Get Back' - did Capitol already know they'd be getting the 'full' album of 'Let It Be' in a few months (and that this great Lennon song wouldn't be on it but Paul's hit would?)That accounts for all but a couple of real oddities from 'A Hard Day's Night', whose rights had reverted back to Capitol after years of being with film backers United Artists (frankly I'm surprised there aren't more of them here to beef up a rather lame ten song album - all the other Capitol albums featured eleven tracks, the least they figured they could get away with while paying less royalties per records than the UK). This makes for a bumpy ride: even the pioneering 'Rain' sounds like a lost relic against this rather gloomy last batch of songs, never mind the innocent charm of 'Can't Buy Me Love'. 'John and Yoko' is also a rather uncomfortable place to end: not so much a celebration of The Beatles as a condemnation of the events that pulled the band apart (the title track, surely, is made for a rousing finale?) By the way, why the heck was 'The Inner Light' (B-side of 'Lady Madonna' Passed over? Americans who  hadn't bought the single would have to wait until their version of 'Rarities' in 1979 before they got to hear this beautiful song properly!
The running order is as chaotic as all the other American albums, although I have to say that 'Lady Madonna' into 'Revolution' works rather well. I'm not so sure about the starkness of 'Old Brown Shoe' breaking the hypnotic ending of 'Hey Jude', mind you, or the 'realness' of 'Don't Let Me Down' hitting the 'archness of  'The Ballad Of John and Yoko', but believe it or not there are worse disasters on these records. Finally released on CD for the first time in 2014 as part of the 'US Albums' box set (it still hasn't been released as a single CD yet!), 'Hey Jude' is a bit of a mixed release and as much of a bittersweet finale as 'Let It Be', as much of a cash-in as all the others. The Beatles and their American fans, as usual, deserved better.
 "The Beatles 1962-66" (The Red Album)
(Apple, May 1973)
Love Me Do/Please Please Me/From Me To You/She Loves You/I Want To Hold Your Hand/All My Loving/Can't Buy Me Love/A Hard Day's Night/And I Love Her/Eight Days A Week/I Feel Fine/Ticket To Ride/Yesterday/Help!/You've Got To Hide Your Love Away/We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper/Drive My Car/Norwegian Wood/Nowhere Man/Michelle/In My Life/Girl/Paperback Writer/Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine
"I want to hold your hand!"
Apple weren't intending to release a Beatles compilation quite so soon after the break-up: that would have been thought cheap and crass, unworthy of a band everybody seemed to own everything by anyway. But as will so often happen in the rest of this book, fate wasn't in Apple or EMI's hands, but in the bootleggers: a four-disc set titled 'Alpha/Omega'. While given minimal packaging and with every song, rather weirdly, given in 'alphabetical' rather than 'chronological' order (thus starting with 'Act Naturally' and running through to 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away', with the additional bonus of solo tracks 'Bangladesh' 'Maybe I'm Amazed' and 'Uncle Albert - interestingly nothing by John or Ringo) the set was very popular, especially with the 'second generation' of fans (the younger brothers and sisters of those who grew up in the 1960s) eager to experience the band for themselves but unable to afford complete sets in one go. Apple simply had to follow suit and came up with two double LP (now double CD despite the fact that this first set could easily have fitted onto a single disc!) compilations that featured every hit single along with key B-sides and album tracks.
While officially titled 'The Beatles: 1962-66' and dividing the band's career between their pre and post 'Revolver' hiatus, fans will forever know these sets as the 'red' and 'blue' albums, thanks to their bright colours (interesting given that till now Beatles colours tended to be 'yellow' submarines and 'white' albums). We can - and will - quibble with the track listing (in this case why is there nothing from the band's first two albums, why only two songs from the brilliant 'Revolver' - without even 'Taxman' or 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and where the heck has 'Rain' gone?!) but by and large these sets are about 75% of the way to getting things right and were done with far more care than EMI's later Beatle compilations. Interestingly there isn't one cover song on this set - not even 'Twist and Shout!' (Rumour is Allen Klein, still just about hanging on as manager at Apple, only got a share of the profits from Lennon-McCartney songs and had to be persuaded to use any of George's, which are all on volume two incidentally). The chance to hear old friends alongside the occasional song you didn't hear makes for a nice alternate listening experience for old fans - and new fans, while they might not get the 'complete' story, still get a nicely 'rounded' picture of what The Beatles were and what they stood for. Unusually, no rare or unheard mixes were used in the making of these albums, despite them being rushed out quick to combat the bootleggers.
Best of all, though, are the two covers: the 'blue' album shot of the band in 1969 re-creating their cover for 'Please Please Me' in 1963 makes for the perfect 'before and after' shot and really demonstrate the speed of the changes as a bearded, casual Beatles try to look as chipper as their younger, eager, clean-shaven suited selves and against all odds manage it. In a way it's rather a good thing that the band didn't use this shot for 'Let It Be' after all because it makes for the perfect 'twin package'.
After years of procrastinating EMI finally issued these two albums on CD in 1993 and got lots of flack for making them effectively two pricey 'double' sets of four discs, even though with a tiny bit of altering these albums could easily have fitted onto two discs (with just one song that has to go - sorry 'Octopuses Garden', it was nice knowing you...) Amazingly the exact same thing happened again in 2010 when these sets were re-mastered: you'd have thought EMI would have made enough money from The Beatles by now...

"The Beatles 1967-70" (The Blue Album)
(Apple, May 1973)
Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane/Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends/Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds/A Day In The Life/All You Need Is Love/I Am The Walrus/Hello, Goodbye/The Fool On The Hill/Magical Mystery Tour/Lady Madonna/Hey Jude/Revolution/Back In The USSR/While My Guitar Gently Weeps/Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/Get Back/Don't Let Me Down/The Ballad Of John And Yoko/Old Brown Shoe/Here Comes The Sun/Come Together/Something/Octopuses' Garden/Let It Be/Across The Universe/The Long And Winding Road
"I'd love to turn you on"
More of the same, only a wilder and bumpier ride. 'Strawberry Fields' is an interesting place to start - even the other side of that single 'Penny lane' would be a more obvious choice - and throughout there's the sense that the second half of the Beatles' career is still up in the air. While every hit single of the band's is present and correct, the other songs make for a rather odd mixture: hurrah for including the not that obvious 'A Day In The Life' 'I Am The Walrus' 'Fool On The Hill' and 'While Mu Guitar Gently Weeps', but why fill up precious space with 'Octopuses' Garden' 'Across The Universe' 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' and 'Magical Mystery Tour'?
Oh and while we're at it (and because we ended up writing too much for the 'Red' album and not enough on this one!) let's play a few guessing games to show you just how uneven these sets are. Guess when George gets his first vocal? Yep, that's right: 1968 and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Which Beatle is the worst represented? No, not Ringo, but George with three vocals to his partner's four. Which Beatles project is the best represented in terms of tracks per album? Sgt Peppers? The White Album? Abbey Road? Nope: 'Magical Mystery Tour', the supposed 'failure' and traditionally the second-lowest charting Beatles LP (after 'Yellow Submarine') both times these albums came out on CD. Where have Apple decided to put 'Let It Be' in their chronological ordering system? Umm, both sides of 'Abbey Road', just to be on the safe side!
Ah well, the packaging is still terrific and this 'Blue' set offers even more of a sign to newcomer fans about the madcap journey about to come if they get into The Beatles full-time, complete with cul-de-sacs, mistakes and moments of sheer genius along the way. No wonder these two compilations are so well-loved: though a long way from perfect, they're still among the best single purchases money can buy. 

"A Toot and A Snore"
(Unreleased, March 28th 1974)
A Toot and A Snore/Bluesy Jam/Studio Talk/Lucille/ Nightmares/Stand By Me x 3/Medley: Cupid/Chain Gang/Take This Hammer
"Don't suggest anything made before about 1963 otherwise we won't know it!"
We said in our review of the 'Star Club' tapes that, rough and unlistenable as they were, it was almost enough that they simply existed. The same is true but more so of this unofficial bootleg from 1974, when Paul dropped into the sessions for Harry Nilsson's album 'Pussycats' (produced by John) and someone had the frame of mind to hit 'record'. This was a major event - though the pair had been in contact since the split (usually by postcard - all four loved sending each other weird and wonderful postcards, with Ringo later collecting his into a book 'Postcards From The Boys'), but this was the first time they'd been face to face since 1970. Paul is nearly inaudible and Lennon is in full 'this is my territory' mode, but even so this half hour bootleg is quite something: the last recording of John and Paul together. In a way we've come full circle: this is a slow and lazy set of rock standards jammed on by two men not for any audience but simply for the enjoyment of playing old songs, without any idea of its importance or of history looking over their shoulders while they play. At times it's worse than the 'Let It Be' session tapes, with endless pauses while everyone tries to work out the sound (Lennon is fussy about how his voice sounds even on a jamming session, eerily repeating that the sound in his ears is 'dead...Dead...DEAD!!!' and keeps stopping the playing to ask for more echo or for a better monitor mix in his headphones). At one point Macca is grooving away nicely behind the drums (set up for Ringo to play, although sadly he didn't turn up till the day after - when he asked 'whose been messing up me drums?' the next morning and hearing about his famous visitor he's meant to have quipped 'that figures - Paul was always doing that!'), but no one has thought to place a microphone near him so all you get at times is Lennon shouting and McCartney whispering.
In a way, though, I'm glad it ended like this, with Lennon quipping 'let's not look so serious - it's not as if we're getting paid!' (the end recording-wise at least - Paul continued to visit John up to 1980 but nobody taped those meetings), just two friends having fun with no interest in anything except the numbers they're playing. The song choices include 'Stand By Me', Lennon being busy rehearsing Ben E King's classic song for his first go at the 'Rock and Roll' album in this period and - the bootleg highlight - the band's old war horse 'Lucille', with Lennon attempting Little Richard's screaming vocal while Paul joins in behind. Stevie Wonder is present too, banging out a repetitive keyboard lick, with Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, Harry Nilsson on vocals, Rolling Stone Bobby Keyes on saxophone and Linda McCartney on organ. Alas the session soon collapses in a sea of apathy and drugs (the title of the bootleg comes from Lennon's opening suggestion to Stevie that he might like to try a sniff of his latest acquisition of cocaine!) and a bit like that Hamburg night in 1962 never quite gets going or lives up to the talent in the room. Unlikely ever to be released officially, 'A Toot and a Snore' may be wretched, but it's a special kind of wretched: a moment in history that shouldn't have been preserved and yet miraculously was, although those present weren't to know this day was anything special. 

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