Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Beatles - Rarities (UK Mono/Stereo LP - Parlophone)

Label: Dr. Ebbetts, PCM 1001

1. Across The Universe
2. Yes It Is
3. This Boy
4. The Inner Light
5. I'll Get You
6. Thank You Girl
7. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
8. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)
9. Sie Liebt Dich
10. Rain
11. She's A Woman
12. Matchbox
13. I Call Your Name
14. Bad Boy
15. Slow Down
16. I'm Down
17. Long Tall Sally

Liner Notes
Beatles rarities? There's no such thing, surely? Nothing the Beatles released could be rare; not with the sales they've chalked up around the world. You could probably wallpaper the entire Abbey Road Studios with gold and silver albums they've all sold over a million copies around the world. Unless you mean unreleased demos and stuff . . .

No. There's nothing here that hasn't been released before, although a couple of tracks have never been released in Britain before. What's meant by rarities are the B-sides of various singles and tracks from EPs which have never been put on an album. Some of them have got "lost" over the years. Everybody who bought a copy of "She Loves You" (and one and a half million people did in Britain alone) must have played the flip side, "I'll Get You" a handful of times at least, but how many people have played it in the last decade?

If you're old enough to remember (even if you'll only admit it to yourself), most of the songs here will come at you with the same mixture of surprise and pleasure that you get from meeting somebody by chance in the street who you used to know years ago but had forgotten about. And if you're young enough then it's quite likely that you won't have heard several of the songs before. Whatever, you'll find this fun.

So let's check out the goodies. "Across The Universe" is not the Phil Spector-produced version that's on the "Let It Be" album. It dates from earlier than that and was originally donated to the World Wide Life Fund compilation album "Nothing's Gonna Change Our World" which was released in January 1970. It features John and Paul on vocals with back-up vocals done by a couple of girls they roped in from the street during the session! Lennon has always rated this as one of his favourite Beatle songs.

"Yes It Is" backed "Ticket To Ride" and came out in April 1965. Nobody would claim it as one of the Beatles' more distinguished compositions but like so many of their B-sides, it gave them a chance to try out some new instrumental and vocal ideas away from the commercial "glare" of an A-side or an album. In case you're wondering, the sensitive "whine" that's an integral part of the arrangements is George Harrison playing with a volume tone pedal, a device that's pretty old hat now but was something new in those days.

"This Boy" is in a similar vein although it's some eighteen months earlier. In fact, it could claim to be the biggest selling rarity in the world as it was the flip side of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" which sold over five million copies worldwide. The cleverly arranged and tightly performed harmonies were something of a revelation at the time. "You mean these boys can actually sing?" (!) That's Paul on the top line vocals by the way, but listen to the way John subtly alters the harmonic shades underneath.

"The Inner Light" is a George Harrison effort that found its way onto the back of "Lady Madonna" in March 1968. It bears the strong Indian influence that pervaded all his work at that time and is his first impression of the Maharishi Yogi's trascendental meditation; simple, yet joyful. McCartney says of it: "Forget the Indian music and listen to the melody. Don't you think it's a beautiful melody? It's really lovely."

"I'll Get You," as we've mentioned before, had the honour to share the same vinyl as the immortal "She Loves You" and even has the audacity to start with "Oh yeah" as the opening line. It has all the hallmarks of an early Lennon McCartney Sixties beat group composition; straight forward but delivered with that unique Beatles style. John and Paul were turning out sogns like this in their sleep at one time but there's many a Liverpool band who would have given their adenoids to have this as their A-side.

"Thank You Girl" is even earlier, from the B-side of their third single, "From Me To You," released in April 1963. The wailing harmonica and basic instrumental backing gives the song a real Cavern Club flavour, right down to the primitive echo on the vocals at the end.

"Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" and "Sie Liebt Dich" are respectively "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" sung in German! They were released together as a single in Germany in January 1964 as an acknowledgement of the Beatles' Hamburg apprenticeship. This is the first time they've been released in Britain although they did come out in America at the height of Beatlemania there when a record of the Fab Four scratching themselves would have got in the charts! German is not the world's easiest or most evocative language to sing in but the Beatles' own character sees them through. Knowing John's sense of humour at the time, I just hope somebody checked the translation!

"You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" qualifies as the curio of the album, not to mention the Beatles' entire recorded output. It originally came out as the B-side of "Let It Be" in March 1970, but would you believe it was once considered as an A-side? (!) It's a prime example of Lennon's scrambled consciousness that had previously been aired on some tracks of the double White album. It's a cheerful piece of self-mockery that debunks everything in sight.

"Rain" could fairly claim to be one of the strongest Beatles B-sides ever recorded. Supporting "Paperback Writer" when it was released in June 1966, it is an early excursion into the realms of expanded consciousness at a time when most of us thought grass was something you sat on! At the end John can be heard singing backwards, a trick he stumbled across when he took a demo of the song home with him one night and in his stoned reverie inadvertently played it backwards on his tape recorder. So now you know.

"She's A Woman" was the flip side of "I Feel Fine" which came out in November 1964 in wake of the "Hard Day's Night" triumph. It's clear evidence of McCartney's burgeoning confidence as a singer and composer. The song is sharply syncopated and demands (and gets) an alert instrumental approach. Over the top Paul sings with firm conviction. It's just one of those tracks that couldn't have been written by any other group in the world.

"I Call Your Name," "Matchbox," "Long Tall Sally" and "Slow Down" were collectively issued as the "Long Tall Sally" EP in June 1964. Only "I Call Your Name" was a Beatles composition and even that had been given to Billy J. Kramer earlier as the B-side of "Bad To Me" (a Lennon-McCartney composition the group never recorded themselves).

The other three tracks are standard rockers that the Beatles had been playing for years, and just in case you thought they couldn't play real rock and roll here's the proof to the contrary. Higher energy than this you could not get in 1964.

"Bad Boy" is a genuine evergreen Beatles rarity. A Larry Williams song (he wrote "Slow Down" as well) it first cropped up on the American album "Beatles VI" (the American Beatles albums bear little relation to the English albums up until "Revolver") in the summer of 1965, but it didn't appear in Britain until November 1966 when it turned up as part of the "A Collection of Oldies . . . But Goldies" compilation. It was rather swamped by a mess of million-selling chartbusters there but in the context of this album, it holds its head up with a good deal more confidence.

"I'm Down" is the Beatles having the audacity to take on Chuck Berry at his own game. Originally to be found on the flip-side of "Help!" released in July 1965 it rattles along at breakneck speed with John pummelling what passed for an organ in those days fit to bust. The song was also one of the highlights of the Beatles' legendary Shea Stadium gig a month later.

Only true Beatles followers could claim to have more than half the tracks on this album. And only die-hard fanatics could boast over 80 percent. So on any level this album represents a collectors item . . . and some fine rock and roll to boot.

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