on November 17, 2013
Between March 1962 and June 1965, The Beatles appeared on 53 radio shows for the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC, a.k.a. "The BEEB.") The numbers are staggering: 275 performances of 88 different songs, 36 which were never recorded on the group's EMI records. Unfortunately, the BEEB did not keep most of the tapes or transcription discs of the original broadcasts; the only reason that we have them today is because enterprising Beatle fans taped them off the air on home recorders. Bootleg albums of the BBC recordings began to appear in the late 1960s. In 1982, using tapes acquired from fans and bootleggers, the BBC put together a radio series, THE BEATLES AT THE BEEB (a.k.a. THE BEEB'S LOST BEATLES TAPES), which was syndicated worldwide to high ratings and critical acclaim. My first serious taste of the BBC recordings came in 1989, with a two-CD bootleg set on the Swingin' Pig label called FROM US TO YOU ("realized somewhere over the rainbow, all rights re-severed").
Finally, in 1994, Capitol/EMI released the first official version of The Beatles' BBC sessions, Live At The BBC. The two-CD set contained 56 songs, including 30 that were previously unreleased. It sold over five million copies worldwide, reaching Number One in the UK and Number Three in the U.S. Four additional BBC recordings appeared in 1995: three on the Baby It's You CD single, and a fourth recording on Anthology 1. Oddly enough, despite the BBC collection's success, Capitol Records deleted it from the catalog in 1995; after much public demand, it was reissued in 2001.
For The Beatles' 50th Anniversary, Universal Music/EMI/Capitol has assembled two collections of the band's BBC recordings: one a remastered version of the original 1994 album, the other a brand-new collection called On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2. I purchased the box set collection containing both titles.
The remastered LIVE AT THE BBC has much better sound than its 1994 predecessor. I listened to both versions back to back; the old version is more bass-heavy and muddy, while the vocals and instruments are crystal-clear on the new version. The most dramatic improvement is on the Elvis cover, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" on Disc 2; it sounded terrible on the original issue, but is terrific on the new version. The remastering team has also tweaked the album in a few places: there are now two versions of the "From Us To You" theme, one an opening version with a BBC announcer exclaiming, "It's the Beatles!"; the closing version, added to the end of Disc 2, is the one without that spoken intro that appeared on the 1994 album, followed by another BBC announcer giving credit to BBC DJ Alan Freeman for producing the show. Also, two new speech tracks were added: one called "What Is It, George?," which features George Harrison introducing the next song, "Soldier Of Love"; on Disc 2, after "A Hard Day's Night," Brian Matthew's silly instruction to Ringo to "Have a Banana! Catch!" is replaced by Alan Freeman's (and Ringo's) proper introduction (titled "Ringo? Yep!") to "I Wanna Be Your Man." This change was done at Ringo's request, I'm sure. Another tweak, found thanks to an alert reviewer, is on "Things We Said Today." The 1994 version had the BBC's Brian Matthew introducing "Things" as a "film song"; that intro was removed from the 2013 version. According to the 1994 liner notes, Matthew's intro came from a BBC Transcription Service LP entitled TOP OF THE POPS, which was shipped to overseas radio stations; for the 2013 release, the remastering team obtained a "clean" copy of the song without the intro, from the original July 1964 TOP GEAR broadcast.
For the record, "Things We Said Today" was not in the movie A Hard Day's Night, but did appear on a trifecta of record releases in the UK: the B-side of the "A Hard Day's Night" single (Parlophone R 5160); on the non-soundtrack side of the A Hard Day's Night album (Parlophone PMC 1230 (mono) / PCS 3058 (stereo)); and the EP EXTRACTS FROM THE ALBUM "A HARD DAY'S NIGHT" (Parlophone GEP 8924). In America, where "I Should Have Known Better," which WAS a film song, appeared on the B-side of the U.S. "A Hard Day's Night" single (Capitol 5222), "Things We Said Today" was issued on the album Something New (Capitol (S)T 2108).
The CD booklet has revised liner notes and photographs, many of them in the original black-and-white instead of the fake sepia-toned versions from 1994.
One correction to the liner notes: The Coasters' "Young Blood" was NOT recorded during The Beatles' Decca Records audition on January 1, 1962, as the 1994 liner notes claim; the flip side of that single, "Searchin'," was sung by Paul McCartney at that audition. The 2013 liner notes correct that error. "Searchin'" also appears on ANTHOLOGY 1. "Young Blood" does have an ex-Beatles connection, however: George Harrison and Ringo Starr backed up Leon Russell on his version of that song, performed as a medley with The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," at the Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
ON AIR - VOL. 2 is even better. In addition to alternate performances of songs from the first album, it has BBC versions of classics such as "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "This Boy," "She Loves You," "I'll Get You," and "And I Love Her," as well as rarities such as "Beautiful Dreamer" and "I'm Talking About You." The four 1995 bonus songs are here as well: "Lend Me Your Comb" is from ANTHOLOGY 1; "Boys" and "I'll Follow The Sun" are both from the BABY IT'S YOU CD single, while "Devil In Her Heart," also from that single, is a different version. There are also bonus interviews with each Beatle, recorded in 1965 and 1966, for the BEEB's "Pop Profiles" series; John and George are on Disc 1, Paul and Ringo are on Disc 2.
There are still seven songs that are missing from this collection, according to Mark Lewisohn's excellent book, The Complete Beatles Chronicle. They are:
1) "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?)," (from TEENAGER'S TURN - HERE WE GO, recorded 03/07/62, broadcast 03/08/62); [The Beatles' first BBC broadcast]
2) "Besame Mucho," (from TEENAGER'S TURN - HERE WE GO, recorded 06/11/62, broadcast 06/15/62);
3) "A Picture Of You," (from TEENAGER'S TURN - HERE WE GO, recorded 06/11/62, broadcast 06/15/62); (NOTE: These first three songs, along with several other BBC and Cavern Club live recordings, can be found on the 2013 Rock Melon Music "gray-market" double CD, I SAW HER STANDING THERE, although the sound quality is not very good.)
4) "I Call Your Name," (from SATURDAY CLUB, recorded 03/31/64, broadcast 04/04/64);
5) "I Should Have Known Better" (two versions: one from TOP GEAR, recorded 07/14/64, broadcast 07/16/64; the other from FROM US TO YOU, recorded 07/17/64, broadcast 08/03/64);
6) "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" (from FROM US TO YOU, recorded 07/17/64, broadcast 08/03/64); and
7) "The Night Before" (from THE BEATLES INVITE YOU TO TAKE A TICKET TO RIDE, recorded 05/26/65, broadcast 06/07/65). [The Beatles' last BBC broadcast]
According to the LIVE AT THE BBC liner notes, no quality tape of the three 1962 broadcasts exists. Perhaps legal reasons also got in the way, or maybe Apple didn't want to feature any tracks with Pete Best on drums. Unless the other four songs also have missing tapes, they would make an excellent EP, or could be the cornerstone for a future third BBC volume.
In conclusion, these two collections - either in this box set or individually - contain some of the greatest music ever recorded.
Hopefully, we'll get CD/DVD versions of the Hollywood Bowl and Shea Stadium concerts next. UPDATE: Not yet, but we now have THE U.S. ALBUMS box set available, and an iTunes exclusive, THE BEATLES' BOOTLEGS (1963), which is unavailable on CD, I'm sorry to say.
Happy 50th Anniversary, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" / "I Saw Her Standing There!" That single, Capitol 5112, was released 50 years ago today, December 26, 1963.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' first album "Please Please Me." The four lads from Liverpool were the biggest thing in popular music during the 1960s, and many folks still think they're the biggest thing in pop. Nearly everything they played, sang, said, and did was recorded, so there's a deep back catalog of words and music, a remarkable quantity of it still unissued by the copyright holders. Bootlegs exist, of course, but their quality and provenance are highly variable, and their cost can be exorbitant. "The Complete BBC Sessions," for example, a rare nine-CD box set produced in Italy in 1993, contains portions of 44 BBC appearances, but it will set you back hundreds of dollars - if you can find it.
John, Paul, George, and Ringo appeared no less than 52 times at the Beeb between 1962 and 1965, performing for "The Light Programme" at the beginning of their careers both in studio and before audiences on a variety of live shows. However, it's been nearly 20 years since the first volume of selected recordings from that era, "Live at the BBC," was officially released in 1994. It was a phenomenon, a number one box set that sold in the millions. It's been remastered and paired with a new set entitled "On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2," which at last brings us more of these broadcasts, two CDs full of great music, youthful exuberance, wit and humor. Both boxes contain 48-page booklets with an introduction (the second one by Sir Paul), a long essay, numerous photos, session details, and track-by-track commentary.
The first volume included 56 musical performances and 13 tracks of dialogue; 30 of the songs were previously unreleased by the BBC, EMI, Apple or Capitol. The new set includes 40 numbers, 37 of them never before issued, nearly all from two to three minutes long. Between songs are 23 short clips of banter among the boys and their rather plummy radio hosts, most lasting less than a minute, in which they tease one another and respond to fan requests. These interpolations give you an impression very much like the one you would have had listening to the programs on the radio. You are a witness to the birth of British Beatlemania.
Seventeen of the songs on the second volume are Lennon-McCartney originals like "Please Please Me," "I Saw Her Standing There," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "I'll Follow the Sun"; the remainder are covers of songs by the likes of Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Goffin & King, Carl Perkins, Dave Clark, Ray Charles, and Lieber & Stoller. So many of my favorites are here: "Boys," "Chains," "Lucille," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Twist & Shout" and many more. Extended interviews of each of the four lads also appear, totaling 35 minutes of relaxed, down-to-earth charm. The monophonic sound is pristine save for a few slightly muffled tracks, and the playing and singing are top-notch. Anyone who loves The Beatles simply must have these four CDs of world-changing music and joyful nostalgia!
You can also read my more detailed review of Volume 2.
on November 12, 2013
At long last, a "NEW" Beatles album is available again. This time, it is two albums in one. 1994's "Live At The BBC" and its long-awaited sequel companion "On Air - Live At The BBC, Volume 2". Both are remastered for superior sound quality. The Beatles recorded several radio programs for the British Broadcasting Corporation from 1962 to 1965. Throughout their time on the BBC airwaves, they performed many outstanding tracks; several were original compositions and a great deal more were cover tunes that were first written and performed by other artists. This 4-disc, double CD set comprises many of these classic recordings that were exclusive to BBC radio listeners during the sixties. The end result is a unique treasure trove of music that still remains a vital force in popular culture, even 50 years later. There are songs that were featured in their 2 films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!"; live tracks performed in front of an audience; alternate versions of many of their hits; and a brilliant assortment of cover songs that showcased the group's remarkable talents. Even more amazing is the amount of songs the band performed for BBC radio that were not officially and formally recorded at any proper EMI sessions. In addition to all of the great music, there are special in-studio banter between the group and their respective radio hosts that display their own free-wheeling sense of humor. The boys cut loose and retain an air of freshness that still sounds as good now as when it first happened. Altogether, you can not go wrong with this double-dose of BBC radio classics. While the members of this group would eventually embark on their own successful solo careers after they disbanded in 1970, what you have here is the sounds of a group that knew how to please and entertain an audience with their catchy melodies and genuine British charm. This is a great way to help celebrate the group's 50th anniversary. "Live At The BBC" is music that will breathe a dose of fresh air from your speakers into your hearts.
on November 21, 2015
There have been numerous reviews of “The Collection”, the 2013 BBC release. What I will attempt to do
is provide some information that will help you make a decision as to whether to buy this release, keep
the one you have, or add it to your collection. The comparison will be between the 2-disc 1994 release,
'The Beatles Live at the BBC’ (Sepia-tone) and the most recent remastered and re-indexed ‘Volume 1’,
‘Live At The BBC The Collection’ in 2013.
:: The Comparison ::
The 2 discs of the 2013 ‘Collection’ (Volume1) are a revamped, slightly improved version of the original
release of 1994. In some cases better and/or cleaner performance versions of songs were found and
then swapped. The producers also reduced the noise reduction (NR) overall which is not that audible for
most ears. So, most of you will not find a huge improvement in the sound over the original 1994 edition
for most of the songs.
In the 2013 release some songs were speed corrected so you will see some differences in running time.
“Soldier of Love” and “I Forgot To Remember” are two songs most notably different in that regard. Other
audible improvements can be heard on “I’m Gonna Sit Down”, “Johnny B Goode”, “I Saw Her Standing
There”, “Youngblood” and “Love Me Do”.
On the second CD of ‘Volume 1’ “Things We Said Today” (DJ free intro), “I Wanna Be Your Man”, and “A
Hard Days Night”, come from different, and slightly better, source tapes. Some songs get more dynamic
so you will hear more bottom with the bass and drums. Again, all this being said most of the songs to both
discs of ‘Volume 1’ are not going to startle you with their sonic improvements compared to the '94 release.
The 2013 release has more space between songs and the spoken word segments. This also means there
are no more cross-fades between the sections. This can allow you to make compilation discs without the
spoken word sections or put the songs in chronological order. You will also find a few new dialogue tracks
and some fades occurring earlier in the song than the 1994 version. It appears it was done to complete
the newer song performances that had been found or re-edited in lieu of cross-fading.
The booklet for the first set has been redesigned and shows an improvement over the washed out color
photos in the 1994 release. The sepia-tone shots are gone and now all the photos are in black and white.
Most of the text is identical but the photos are laid out differently with some new photos inserted and
others taken out. The introductions by Derek Taylor and Kevin Howlett are the same. FYI, Paul McCartney
has the honor of introducing the ‘Volume 2, On Air’ booklet.
What is nice about the 2013 book is there's more track information on a lot of songs. You will find that
some song info remains the same and some are edited or completely re-written. It is always nice when
the old info is appended or corrected. This piece could have been overlooked but it appears they had a
bit more respect for Beatles fans. Good for them. They could have just reprinted the original booklet with
a few notes here and there. That has been done by others to reduce costs.
One note about the 2 ‘Live At The BBC’ discs overall is that most of the tracks were never recorded and/
or released by EMI. In comparison, the added “Volume 2, On Air” of “The Collection” uses more released
songs and much more dialog. If you think the dialog is experiential you will like this new collection wit
the increased dialog
:: “Volume 2” of “The Collection”, aka, the New Stuff ::
This 2-disc set sub-titled, ‘On Air’, houses newly ‘discovered’ songs and more dialog so a comparison to
anything but old bootlegs is not necessary. I have some boots of the BBC sessions and the legit Apple/
EMI releases are generally much better quality in all aspects of the recorded matter and printed matter.
To break ‘Volume 2’ down; there are 28 previously released versions of Beatles songs or covers and only
9 previously unreleased cover songs. Those 9 songs were usually played in their live shows or previously
recorded in the studio but never released officially due to sequencing, time, or performance issues. So
you are not hearing as much new as ‘Volume 1’ the 2013 release or the original 1994 release.
:: Decision Time > 1994 VS. 2013 ::
First Time Buyer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get the newly remastered and expanded BBC recordings. It could
also make a nice gift for that Baby Boomer relative if they don’t have the 1994 version.
Casual Fan: Not recommended. The sound bump is not that significant since most of the songs do not
show any discernible improvement. About 10 songs had slight to moderate improvements in sound due
to the new source material or the remastering. If you are a Casual Fan the printed matter may be no big
deal and unless you really dislike the sepia-tone and the washed out color of the photos skip this release.
Avid Fan (crossover factor): No/Yes. (See above reasons.) BUT…Avid Fans sometime crossover a bit to
Collector status dependent upon which segment of Beatle-mania they focus. If the ten slightly improved
unreleased songs are what you are after it may behoove you to buy the 4-disc ‘Collection’ with the ‘On Air’,
'Volume 2' release. Albeit, there are only 9 unreleased songs in the ‘On Air’ disc and a lot more dialog.
Collector (causal or rabid): That’s a dumb question. Collectors can be completest at times. Every Beatle
track is a time capsule or something was spelled incorrectly. Getting different versions of every song The
Beatles ever recorded is the thrill of the hunt. So, you already have this release because you pre-ordered
it and waited with anticipation. Once it arrived you poured over every printed word, listened to the entire
program and then started to compare the 2013 release to the 1994 release. It’s okay we all need a hobby
that keeps us out of trouble. Not that I would know anything about that and not that there is anything
wrong with that.
I give 5 stars for the music and 3 stars for the new material and previously released improved material;
which averages to a 4 Star rating. The 2013 Collection is a marginal improvement in sound overall with
the biggest improvement being the re-edited booklet. The second set of discs, ‘On Air’, adds only 9 more
unreleased songs with added dialog.Depending upon what you want and expect will decide whether or
not to purchase this 2013 release with few upgrades.
on January 23, 2014
Five stars are surely for the music. Doubtlessly. Make no mistake, this is a mast have even for an average collector perhaps since they play many tracks they never recorded in the studio or played live throughout the later years for that matter, when their set-lists became much lazier. Great playing throughout. This set is like two more Please Please Mes and With The Beatles - that's how many interesting tracks you get. Moreover, there are some Len-Mac originals, which were never recorded in the studio. I will move on to other aspects of the purchase though since all info on track-listing can easily be found on Wikipedia and other even more reliable sources. Briefly though: sound quality is varying and this is quite alright. Only several songs survived on the initial BBC tapes. 99% of this was taped off air, basically. It is interesting though: volume 2 is much more enjoyable as an album. Volume 1 gets slightly tiresome. I don't know why. Maybe too much content? Volume 2 is more heavily interspersed with the chatter, which is really nice and funny and really lets you in on the atmposhere of those times.
As for the box vs purchasing the volumes individually. Well, I purchased the box only because I live in Ukraine and wanted to ensure that those flimsy digi-packs will reach me intact. Alas, did not happen. Amazon packed the box into this crappiest bubble-wrap packaging and sure enough, damage was not only done to the box but even to parts of digi-packs as well. Yes, yes, Amazon did send out the replacement, but still... this was really frustrating. Why can't they just pack sturdier initially?? That would save them all the trouble and spare my nerves as well. So, yeah, if you live faraway, might as well order inidividually. Will be cheaper. Since with Amazon's crappy packaging, the box isn't much of a protection.
A separate dishonourable mentioning goes to the packaging. I haven't purchased any stereo re-masters yet (Mono box only), so I haven't had the displeasure yet of facing those new digi-packs. They are awful. Very uncomfortable. Discs are hard to get out, booklets tend to fall out if one is not careful... So, yes, this does not even hold a candle to lovely ECM digipacks, or some I have purchased from Rhino (Yes 2003 re-masters). Some digi-packs of Wayne Horvitz's music on independent labels or of Elliott Smith's posthumous releases, also on indie-labels, are much better executed. What gives?
So, to sum up. Buy individually. The box is plain and simple and does not really protect during shipping if the shipment is packed in a simple bubble wrap package. The booklets are nice, lots of picture, although the construction of digipacks is horrid. Gotta get me some of those tiny packages for CDs, like they put in the mono box. I give this 5 stars.... why? Well, it's the music that matters in the end, doesn't it? And the music component is just sublime. Beatles, still very young, heading to the toppermost of the poppermost, playing each track with ubelievable ghusto and inspiration. Not one performace was phoned in. Quality music can still be heard and enjoyed even through terribly low-fi recordings. I am glad I purchased this. And Amazon did handle my issue properly and promptly. It's just a pity that they didn't pack it well enough in the first place to save them and me some trouble.
P. S. Volume one is an upgrade to the 94 edition. Not a drastic one, but still.. many crossfades were removed (thank God!). Although a "have a banana" dialogue was omitted, alas. Still, I'm reminding myself that it's the music that matters, not funny chat.
on November 20, 2013
This review is for the collection, which includes both versions of the Live At The BBC discs including volume 2. The collection is a great addition to any Beatles collection. I have the original Live At The BBC and now can attest that this remastered version is much better that the original. And while Volume 2 does not disappoint, I am of the opinion that the original is stronger. Perhaps it's just that they're running out of BBC takes from which to release. Having said that, Volume 2 is worth it. Overall, this is an excellent couple of discs and is up to to the quality of Beatles releases.
on December 13, 2013
Since everyone loves these 2 CDs, including me, I will only bring up one issue - I was hoping to hear the (last) recordings of the Beatles with Pete Best. It has always intrigued me that his story was the classic loser's - brutally cut out from a lifetime of immeasurable success and wealth in August, 1962, only months before the Beatles hit it big. The story has always been that he was a lousy drummer and a surly guy, who the 3 other Beatles only chose out of necessity, did not like as a person, and were glad that Epstein/Martin did the dirty work in getting rid of. I wanted to hear the live recordings of this poor guy's last call.
So Apple promoted both of these discs as covering the BBC sessions beginning in "March, 1962". However, none of the early 1962 sessions are on either disc. The notes in the first disc state that these earliest, 1962 BBC sessions were of too poor quality to include. Yet there are some relatively poor recordings that made it onto these CDs - Makes me wonder if after 50 years, they still cannot give any credit (and royalties?) to the pre-Ringo drummer. I know that studio recordings with Best as drummer are included in other compilations - still, if only for historical interest, it would have been best if they had included those live BBC sessions here.
on April 15, 2014
This is a solid collection of early Beatles songs and cover tunes that they performed on the BBC. Between the songs are clips of studio chatter and interview, which are thankfully programmed as separate tracks, so you can listen to the songs only, if desired. The collection includes all their classic early hits such as "She Loves You" to "I'll Follow the Sun." There are also good versions of songs they covered, including "I Got a Woman" and "Some Other Guy." There are duplicates of song titles from Vol. 1 to Vol. 2, but they are different versions. Some songs are as good as the originals, while others have less refined vocals.
on November 27, 2013
it is great fun to hear them play music that originated with other musicians, such as ray charles. they put their own spin on it which shows what superb musicians they were. the comments are priceless. i hope more of these recordings will be released soon.
on July 18, 2015
... if you don't have either "Live At The BBC" released in 1994 or "Live At The BBC, Vol 2" issued in 2013. Both volumes by themselves are excellent recordings of The Beatles during the very early part of their career as Beatlemania was just taking off. Both volumes feature live performances by The Beatles on the BBC radio that roughly covers from around 1963 to 1965. And again as already mentioned ALL these performances are The Beatles singing live. In addition to their singing throughout both albums you get occasional on air interviews with the four lads that demonstrate the wit and charm they possessed. These recordings are a treasure for anyone who are a fan of The Beatles to include in their collection.
I would definitely recommend this box set to anyone but if you would like to save a few bucks here is a suggestion. It might be cheaper to buy both volumes individually then in the box set depending who you buy it from through Amazon. Shop around and look for the best deal possible. But do shop around and add these two volumes to your music collection.