Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tracks You've Never Heard

This month The Beatles bring out on their own Apple label a king-sized collection of recordings, a total of thirty tracks collected onto a pair of LPs which form the group's first-ever double-disc album package--the logical extension of their decision around this time last year when they put all their "Magical Mystery Tour" material onto a couple of EP discs as part of an attractive "look-and-listen set" which included a cartoon and photo book.

Had they put out one instead of two LP records they would have been left with at least a dozen very recent recordings "in the can". In all probability these would never have been released because The Beatles move forward so fast in their musical thinking that by the early months of 1969 they will be regarding anything put on tape in 1968 as "a bit stale".

Not Issued

Meanwhile it's interesting to look at earlier recordings which The Beatles have completed on tape in one way or another, but which have never been issued to the public. These include enough material to fill two LP records with "live performance" tracks made during Beatles concerts in America -- at the famous Hollywood Bowl on August 29, 1965 and at San Francisco's Candlestick Park precisely one year later on August 29, 1966!

The earliest unissued Beatles recording dates back to the last months of 1962 when they taped Mitch Murray's "How Do You Do It" as producer George Martin's suggestion. George saw this as a promising follow-up single after "Love Me Do", but The Beatles were far more enthusiastic about making their own composition "Please Please Me" the top deck of their second Parlophone release. So that everyone could listen to and compare the two numbers in the form of finished productions, The Beatles taped both "How Do You Do It" and "Please Please Me". As you know the latter, released in January 1963, went to Number One whilst the former track stayed "in the can" and has never been released to this day. The song itself wasn't wasted -- it put Gerry And The Pacemakers at the top of the charts a few months later.

A much more recent example is "Across The Universe", a very potent piece recorded in February of this year with John handling the lead vocal and a couple of hastily recruited fans who had been waiting outside the studios--Beatle People Lizzie Brave and Gayleen Pease--helping to add high falsetto voice effects to the accompaniment. At one stage it looked as though "Across The Universe" would be on The Beatles' first new single of 1968--until they completed "Lady Madonna" and decided to issue that instead. So the "Universe" tape was put back into stock with the vague idea that it might form The Beatles' promised contribution to an all-star charity LP. To date that charity LP has not gone into production so "Across The Universe" has stayed "in the can" with no available information about its future use.

Four Tracks

Also shelved for many months have been the four recordings which The Beatles made in the early part of the year and even before that for the soundtrack "Yellow Submarine". They are George's "Northern Song" plus "Hey Bulldog", "All Too Much" and "All Together Now". For these items the prospect is brighter since Apple Records plan to issue all the "Yellow Submarine" cartoon recordings very shortly.

Let's get back to those "live performance" concert tapes I mentioned earlier. Unlike the other unissued tracks, these have been kept "in the can" because The Beatles realise their quality is nothing like as good as stuff done in the studio. On the other hand the 1965 Hollywood Bowl recordings are of an acceptably high standard and were made under George Martin's supervision with the full facilities of the Hollywood headquarters of Capitol Records.

Live List

The 12 numbers are "Twist And Shout", "She's A Woman", "I Feel Fine", "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", "Ticket To Ride", "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby", "Can't Buy Me Love", "Baby's In Black", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "A Hard Day's Night", "Help!" and "I'm Down". 18,000 Californian Beatle People were at Hollywood Bowl to see The Beatles' show that night; the same number attended a second performance at the same venue the following night, Monday August 30. Preserved on tape are the best possible recordings from both concerts -- complete with wildly enthusiastic audience reaction.

The other set of concert recordings are of a much lower technical standard. In fact they were made on a completely amateur basis without the use of professional recording equipment. They are preserved on a tiny tape cassette belonging to Beatles' Press Representative Tony Barrow.

Says Tony: "I taped the whole of the Candlestick Park concert as a personal souvenir of what we all knew would be the last 'live' show The Beatles were planning to do. It was just a sentimental thing really with no idea of doing a professional job. I used my own recorder and a Beyer mike held out towards the stage in the middle of this field. The main purpose of the recorder was to keep my own record of all the press conferences The Beatles gave during their tours. Naturally I've kept the concert cassette carefully because it's a unique souvenir of that final show. At the time the idea was to make just half a dozen LP discs so that each of The Beatles could have their own private copy. We never got round to making the discs but now you've reminded me about it I expect we shall".


I have listened to the Candlestick Park cassette and even if, as Tony Barrow admits, the recording quality is pretty grim, it does recall the full atmosphere of a truly exciting--if not historic--occasion. Before the first number, The Beatles are heard tuning up on stage while even in the open air the noise of the crowd constantly overloads the sound capacity of the cassette recorder. When John tests one of his microphones with a "Hello!" there's a mighty roar of approval from thousands of San Francisco Beatle People.

Then they launch straight into their first two numbers, "Rock And Roll Music" and "She's A Woman". Next Paul introduces George's "If I Needed Someone" and John leads up to the following number like this: "We'd like to carry on now, carry on together, one together and all for one, with another number that used to be a single record back in (heavy guitar chord) a long time ago, and this one's about the naughty lady called Day Tripper".


Then comes "Baby's In Black", "I Feel Fine" and "Yesterday". After that Paul reminds us that there was a cold wind blasting out across San Francisco that grey day as he introduces the next number like this: "Thank you very much everybody and, or, it's a bit chilly! We'd like to do the next number now which is a special request for all the wonderful backroom boys on this tour. The song is I Wanna Be Your Man and to sing it . . . . RINGO!" Defeaning screams from the crowd!

After Ringo's spot they do "Nowhere Man" and at the end of that number Paul finds himself ad libbing a bit while the security guards race across the field to catch up with several fans who had broken through from the crowd and were heading for the stage. We hear Paul say: "We'd like to carry on, I think. I'm not really sure yet. I'd like to carry on, certainly! Well, shall we just watch this for a bit first?" Eventually he introduces "Paperback Writer".

Finally it's Paul again announcing the last number: "We'd like to say it's been wonderful being here, with this wonderful sea air. Sorry about the weather. We'd like to ask you to join in and clap, sing, talk, do anything". And with that The Beatles go into "I'm Down" [sic], an aptly titled finale to their very last American concert performance.

With The Beatles talking quite seriously about the possibility of re-thinking their present "absolutely no stage shows" policy, it is particularly interesting to listen again, two years after as it were, to the way they sounded in "live" concert performance. We all know that any new concert The Beatles might decide to give this year or next would be very different from Hollywood '65 and San Francisco '66 but speculating upon just how different is fascinating food for thought!

I asked Tony Barrow if he thought either of the two concert tapes would ever be released commercially to the public. He said it was unlikely but not impossible.

"Obviously Capitol did a fine job on the Hollywood Bowl tapes" he told me "but most record collectors will have all those same numbers in their original studio-recorded forms. You'll notice that in any case there's a lot of duplication between the 1965 and 1966 programme content. Five of the songs were the same on both occasions.


"Equally obviously all this material has substantial souvenir value on a private level. Even if it is never put on an open market it's a valid part of The Beatles' own museum. Of course there is another alternative--that the recordings might be made up into some sort of very special limited edition LP album. Not to sell but to give away in strictly limited quantity to, say, Beatles' Fan Club members--perhaps as prizes in some sort of members' competition or Beatles Monthly Book competition".

And there, for the moment, the matter rests. Certainly the prospect of a souvenir LP of un-issued concert tapes as a competition prize is thoroughly intriguing--but one knows that umpteen reels of red tape would have to be cut through to turn the idea into fact. So keep watching the Beatles Monthly Book and we'll see what can be done!


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