Friday, April 24, 2015

The Beatles: Live Highlilghts

In anticipation of Ron Howard's Beatles Live Project, a projected documentary about the Beatles' touring years, I thought I'd dig this up from my archives. These are the liner notes from a six-disc CDR compilation I put together for some friends a few years back: my own selections of the best of the Beatles live. [Sorry, no sound files here! Just the notes.]

Liner notes

1965: The Beatles release You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

The Beatles were a great live band.  The received wisdom is that they were a raucous storm on the music scene in their early years, rocking hard in Hamburg and Liverpool.  As their popularity grew, so too did the screams of their audience, drowning the music out in that primitive world of small speakers and no monitors to speak of.  They “cleaned up” their act under the tutelage of Brian Epstein, and their live sets gradually calcified into a  small rotation of the same numbers over and over.  The joy of playing live was supplanted by the misery of overbeaten ears and sore throats, coupled with the frustration of not being able to recreate live what they were doing in the studio.  It seems like each Beatle at one time or another has claimed that by the time they had their first #1 record, their best performing days were behind them.  

For the listener, the problem is compounded by the quality of the live recordings.  In one sense, it’s amazing that we have anything at all.  Anybody used to recording bands in person, professionals or amateurs, surely must have been overwhelmed by the sheer relentless din of the crowds.  There are many Beatles concert recordings where the screaming is louder than the music.  And there are just as many recordings where the performances are lackluster, or have outrageously out-of-key vocals, missed cues, and blatant mistakes. (Actually, much less out-of-key vocals than you’d expect!)  Especially in 1965 and 1966, many of the shows are almost impossible to get through. It’s no wonder they gave up on touring.

And yet.... the Beatles were a great live band.  A few years ago, the fabulous fan label Purple Chick put out their remarkable series of every recorded Beatles live performance they could get their hands on.  Its an amazing 24-disc set of concert recordings and live TV and radio appearances: everything, in fact, but the subset of live shows broadcast on the BBC (documented elsewhere, most notably on Hobnail’s 2010 12-disc upgrade “ Unsurpassed Broadcasts”).

What I’ve done here is gone through these discs (along with other versions of certain shows) and selected what to me are the best performances from the Purple Chick material.  What I’ve chosen may not always be the best-sounding performances, in terms of audio quality, but they certainly are, to my ears, the most spirited and best-played.

It’s a personal selection, to be sure-- that’s why I’ve included so many versions of “This Boy” and “You Can’t Do That” (my all-time favorite Beatle song), even to the point of including less-than-stellar versions of these songs that don’t match the criteria I applied to most other songs.  (That being said, I found I couldn’t make myself include the abysmally-sounding Seattle version of “You Can’t Do That”--yes, even I have my limits!)  At any rate, let’s face it: their live repertoire from 1963 to 1966 was severely limited, and for each tour, they pretty much repeated their hit-heavy (and relatively short) setlist for every show.  Luckily, there are plenty of variants to merit repetitions in this set, and for the Star Club material, a good batch of the only Beatle versions we have of certain songs.

Ah, the Star Club recordings.  What a blessing to have these!  It’s the closest we’ll ever get to their pre-Beatlemania heyday, but it’s late enough in the game, December 1962, that we have Ringo instead of Pete Best.  This is the key.  As exciting as they must have been early on in Hamburg, they undoubtedly were held back by the wooden, monophonic thumping of Best, who couldn’t swing his way out of a paper bag.  Really, any serious Beatles fan should have all of the Star Club recordings.  Purple Chick’s 2-disc set is by far the cleanest and most complete, but all I’ve included here are the tracks that struck me as most exciting, including the only live version of “Mr. Moonlight” and the only recorded Beatle performances of “Little Queenie,” Arthur Alexander's “Where Have You Been All My Life?” and “Shimmy Like Kate.”

Maybe all you need really is love?

So, the songs here are presented in chronological order, with two exceptions, the Swedish radio show and “Around the Beatles,” both of which are so fantastic I decided to put them together, complete, on their own disc.  For the most part, what’s here are live concert recordings in front of an audience, with three exceptions:  “Around the Beatles” was recorded live in the studio, with the audience overdubbed when they lipsynched their performance in front of the cameras; “Shindig” was basically the same deal; for the Shea Stadium TV show they went back into the studio, re-recording “I Feel Fine” and overdubbing bass and organ on “I’m Down.”  (Also included here are the raw original recordings, unretouched.) One last point on sources: all recordings here are from the Purple Chick releases, with the exception of the songs from December 7, 1963.  These are from “The Empire Strikes Back,” a significant upgrade recently released by Hobnail.

What’s not here?
--any of the BBC recordings.
--the Capitol LP “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” (although unedited performances from all three Hollywood Bowl shows--once in 1964 and twice in ‘65--are here).
--their last live performance, on the rooftop during the “Let It Be” sessions. (Not only had their sound changed drastically by then, but the material is inferior.)

Judicious editing was done for these selections, mostly along the lines of fading out or cutting almost all introductions, stage patter, and announcements, so that each song can stand on its own (besides, how many times do you really need to hear Paul say, “we’re going to carry on now”?).  I tried to create a smooth flow for each CD.  That being said, going through the shows chronologically means that there may be times when a song is repeated back-to-back from two different shows.  Sorry ‘bout dat.  I also did fast fades at the end of each song to try to block out some of the screaming (not always possible!), but I didn’t attempt to apply any sound equalization-- what you hear is what you get, so the sound levels may bump around a bit.  Purple Chick always did a great job of boosting these and cleaning them up as best they could.  A fun thing to do is to load these up on your iPod and let the magic of shuffle reward you with live Beatles from time to time.

--Sam Byrd 2010-2011

I’m not going to give a song-by-song analysis.  Instead, I’d just like to point out a few highlights and fun facts to know and tell.

John’s lead guitar solos are an underappreciated aspect of his playing.  His early soloing is robust and energetic, and every bit as competent (if a bit more purposefully “ragged”) as George’s.  Check out his solo on “Sweet Little Sixteen” from the Star Club.  For comparison’s sake, listen to the various versions of “Long Tall Sally.”  The first guitar solo is always John’s, and the second is George’s.

Disc 1
Tracks 19-22, 1963-12-07: “It’s the Beatles,” Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Two interesting things unique to this performance are the drum beat intro to “From Me To You”--the closest thing to a Ringo drum solo until “The End”--and the instrumental version of “From Me To You” they use to close the show.

Disc 2
Track 8, 1964-06-04: Copenhagen
This Boy:  This is the only song included here with substitute drummer Jimmy Nichols on drums. While certainly better than Pete Best, he’s rather competent and dull.

Track 20, 1964-08-23: Hollywood Bowl
Twist and Shout : Around this time, the Beatles began truncating “Twist and Shout,” opening their shows with it so that it serves as a teaser/intro rather than a full song.  I prefer the full versions, where they really build up steam to a heady climax, but I have to say none of the shorter versions are missing out in intensity and energy.

Track 22, 1964-08-23: Hollywood Bowl
All My Loving:  I love George’s harmonizing with Paul on the last verse.  It’s great to watch on the Ed Sullivan show, and it’s especially strong here.  Paul chose to overdub harmony with himself in the studio, but the blend of their voices live really makes the song for me, and I always miss George when I listen to the album version.

Track 25, 1964-08-23: Hollywood Bowl
Roll Over Beethoven: Two different things to note here: When they played this live, during the last verse, they often alter the dynamics, lowering the volume during George’s vocals and then bringing it up loud and hard in between each line, rather than playing it straight through the way they do on the studio version.  They were doing this as early as the Star Club.  It works live, but I have to say I’m glad they didn’t do it on the album.  Second, dig Paul’s high harmonies during the last chorus.  He didn’t always do this, but it’s thrilling when he does.

Disc 3
Track 17, 1964-10-03: "Shindig”
Kansas City: This features a slightly longer intro they didn’t do elsewhere.

Track 24, 1965-04-11: "NME Pollwinners Concert”
Long Tall Sally: Every version of this by the Beatles is a barnburner, but this one may be the wildest of them all!

Disc 4
Track 3, 1965-08-14: "The Ed Sullivan Show”
I’m Down: Whereas John has the strongest reputation for screwing up lyrics, Paul gets a turn here, botching things by starting off with the second verse.

Track 5, 1965-08-14: "The Ed Sullivan Show”
Help!  Paul ain’t perfect, but John’s on another plane entirely--but what are words, anyway?  This is a really strong version otherwise, and in rock and roll you don’t always need the correct lyrics.  Don’t believe me?  Just check out the next track....

Track 9, 1965-08-15: Shea Stadium
Dizzy Miss Lizzie, where John’s all over the place. It’s like he’s singing a Burroughs cut-up collage.  But what a rocker!

Track 25, 1965-08-29: Hollywood Bowl  
I Feel Fine: The sound quality drops off considerably during this song, but the performance is so damn strong I left it in anyway.

Disc 5
Track 8.  1965-08-30: Hollywood Bowl  
I’m Down: It’s astounding when you think about it, but by this time the Beatles basically couldn’t hear each other on stage.  So it’s easy to see how this could have happened--coming into the second chorus, the timing is way off.  They right themselves pretty quickly, and frankly, it’s amazing that they didn’t do this more often, but in fact this is the only instance I can find out of their entire body of recorded live work.

Tracks 9 & 13:
Yesterday: Two versions of “Yesterday” are included here.  Why? Because as far as I know they’re two of the very few versions we have of the full band playing it, as opposed to Paul by himself on guitar with a string quartet, as he is on the umpteen versions included on “Anthology.”  If it were me doin’ the choosin’, I’d have picked either of these over any of those.  Drums on “Yesterday”?  What a concept!  [I also prefer the version of “And I Love Her” with drums, from “Anthology.”]

Track 23, 1966-08-29: Candlestick Park
Long Tall Sally: This is sadly incomplete, but I included it here since it’s the last song of the Beatles’ last American live show (and, indeed, the last time they would perform in public until the rooftoop show-- but that’s another story).


GERMANY & BEYOND (1962-1964)

1962-12-25(?): Star Club, Hamburg, Germany

1. I Saw Her Standing There 2:51
2. Kansas City    Hey Hey Hey Hey     2:12
3. Shimmy Like Kate 2:18
4. Sweet Little Sixteen 2:45
5. Roll Over Beethoven 2:15
6. Ask Me Why 2:28
7. Long Tall Sally 1:49
8. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You) 1:43
9. Mr Moonlight    2:08

1962-12-28(?): Star Club, Hamburg, Germany

10. Nothing Shaking (But The Leaves On The Trees) 1:18
11. Where Have You Been All My Life?    2:14
12. I'm Talking About You 1:57
13. Little Queenie 3:58

1963-10-13: “Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium”

14. She Loves You 2:19
15. Twist And Shout 2:39

1963-10-30: “Drop In,” Stockholm, Sweden

16. I Saw Her Standing There 2:36
17. Long Tall Sally 1:22

1963-12-02: “Morecambe and Wise Show,” Elsetree Studios, Borehamwood

18. This Boy 2:11

1963-12-07: “It’s the Beatles,” Empire Theatre, Liverpool

19. Prelude/From Me To You    1:23
20. I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:16
21. Twist And Shout    2:17
22. From Me To You (instrumental) 1:10

1964-01-16 (afternoon): L’Olympia Theatre, Paris

23. I Saw Her Standing There 2:34
24. Long Tall Sally 1:55

1964-01-16 (evening): L’Olympia Theatre, Paris

25. This Boy 2:19

1964-02-09: “The Ed Sullivan Show,” CBS-TV Studio 50, NYC

26. Twist And Shout 2:33

1964-02-11: Washington Coliseum, Washington, DC

27. From Me To You 1:48
28. This Boy 2:15
29. Please Please Me 1:50
30. She Loves You 2:14
31. Long Tall Sally 1:53

1964-02-16: “The Ed Sullivan Show” (rehearsal), Deauville Hotel Mau Mau Club, Miami, FL

32. This Boy 2:17

1-9: Live Volume One - Star Club (Purple Chick) disc 1
10-13: Live Volume One - Star Club (Purple Chick) disc 2
14-18: Live: Before America (Purple Chick) disc 1
19-22: The Empire Strikes Back (Hobnail)
23-25: Live: Before America (Purple Chick) disc 2
26-32: Live: Conquering America (Purple Chick) disc 1


1964-02-16: “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Deauville Hotel, Miami, FL

1. This Boy  2:19
2. I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:24

1964-04-26: “NME Pollwinners Concert,” Empire Pool, Wembley [entire show]

3. She Loves You 2:15
4. You Can't Do That 2:20
5. Twist And Shout 2:28
6. Long Tall Sally 1:55
7. Can't Buy Me Love 2:01

1964-06-04: KB Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark [Jimmy Nichols: drums]

8. This Boy 2:16

1964-06-17 (late show): Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia

9. You Can't Do That 2:35
10. Roll Over Beethoven 2:17
11. This Boy 2:14

1964-07-19: “Blackpool Night Out,” ABC Theatre, Blackpool

12. A Hard Day's Night 2:31
13. You Can't Do That 2:29
14. If I Fell 2:10
15. Long Tall Sally 1:57

1964-08-22: Empire Stadium, Vancouver, Canada

16. You Can't Do That 2:28
17. All My Loving 1:56
18. Things We Said Today 2:14
19. A Hard Day's Night 2:17

1964-08-23: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA [entire show, unedited stereo tape]

20. Twist And Shout 1:16
21. You Can't Do That 2:25
22. All My Loving 1:56
23. She Loves You 2:12
24. Things We Said Today 2:10
25. Roll Over Beethoven 2:12
26. Can't Buy Me Love 2:01
27. If I Fell 2:04
28. I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:15
29. Boys 1:58
30. A Hard Day's Night 2:14
31. Long Tall Sally 1:55

1-8: Live: Conquering America (Purple Chick) disc 2
9-11: Live: Adelaide Reaction (Purple Chick) disc 2
12-15: Live: Seattle Down (Purple Chick) disc 1
16-31: Live: Seattle Down (Purple Chick) disc 2

TICKET TO PARIS (1964-1965)

1964-09-02 Convention Hall, Philadelphia, PA [entire show]

1. Twist and Shout 1:20
2. You Can't Do That 2:29
3. All My Loving 1:59
4. She Loves You 2:14
5. Things We Said Today 2:11
6. Roll Over Beethoven 2:11
7. Can't Buy Me Love 2:02
8. If I Fell 2:08
9. I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:20
10.1 Boys 2:00
11. A Hard Day's Night 2:16
12. Long Tall Sally 1:55

1964-09-03: State Fair Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN

13. You Can't Do That 2:34
14. All My Loving 2:00
15. Things We Said Today 2:13
16. I Want To Hold Your Hand 2:25

1964-10-03: "Shindig," Granville Theatre, Fulham, London

17. Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey [undubbed] 2:29
18. I'm A Loser 2:20
19. Boys 2:05

1965-04-11: "NME Pollwinners Concert," Empire Pool, Wembley [entire show]

20. I Feel Fine 2:07
21. She's A Woman  2:40
22. Baby's In Black 2:11
23. Ticket To Ride 3:00
24. Long Tall Sally 2:01

1965-06-20 (afternoon): Palais des Sports, Paris

25. Twist And Shout 1:20
26. She's A Woman 2:46
27. A Hard Day's Night 2:25
28. Rock And Roll Music 1:53
29. I Feel Fine 2:08
30. Ticket To Ride 3:01
31. Long Tall Sally 2:00

1965-06-20 (evening): Palais des Sports, Paris

32. Twist And Shout 1:20
33. A Hard Day's Night 2:26
34. Ticket To Ride 3:00
35. Long Tall Sally 1:56

1-16: Live: Convention Hall Wisdom (Purple Chick) disc 1
17-24: Live: Convention Hall Wisdom (Purple Chick) disc 2
25-35: Live: Les Beatles en Europe (Purple Chick) disc 1


1965-08-01: "Blackpool Night Out," ABC Theatre, Blackpool

1. I'm Down 2:11

1965-08-14: "The Ed Sullivan Show," CBS-TV Studio 50, NYC

2. I Feel Fine 2:06
3. I'm Down 2:10
4. Ticket To Ride 2:27
5. Help 2:14

1965-08-15: Shea Stadium, NYC [no overdubs]

6. Twist And Shout 1:18
7. She's A Woman 2:44
8. I Feel Fine 2:07
9. Dizzy Miss Lizzy 2:48
10. Ticket To Ride 2:14
11. Can't Buy Me Love 2:04
12. Baby's In Black 2:08
13. A Hard Day's Night 2:23
14. Help 2:15
15. I'm Down 2:10

1965-08-15: Shea Stadium, NYC [overdubs/re-recorded]

16. I Feel Fine [re-recorded]         2:06
17. I'm Down [with bass & organ overdubs]         2:08
18. Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby [stereo]         2:20

1965-08-18: Atlanta Stadium, Atlanta, GA

19. Twist And Shout 1:20
20. She's A Woman 2:43
21. Ticket To Ride 2:11
22. Can't Buy Me Love 2:08
23. I Wanna Be Your Man 2:05
24. I'm Down 2:08

1965-08-29: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles,CA [unedited stereo]

25. I Feel Fine 2:09
26. Dizzy Miss Lizzy 3:02
27. Ticket To Ride 2:18
28. Can't Buy Me Love 2:08
29. A Hard Day's Night 2:25
30. I'm Down 2:13

1-5: Live: Les Beatles en Europe (Purple Chick) disc 2
6-15: Live: Sheaken, Not Stirred (Purple Chick) disc 1
16-18: Live: Bowled Over (Purple Chick) disc 2
19-24: Live: Sheaken, Not Stirred (Purple Chick) disc 1
25-30: Live: Bowled Over (Purple Chick) disc 1

TOUR FATIGUE (1965-1966)

1965-08-30: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA [stereo mix]
1. Twist And Shout  1:22
2. She's A Woman  2:44
3.  I Feel Fine  2:10
4. Dizzy Miss Lizzy  3:02
5. Ticket To Ride  2:16
6. A Hard Day's Night  2:30
7. Help  2:14
8. I'm Down  2:09

1966-06-24 (afternoon): Cirxus-Krone-Bau, Munich, Germany

9. Yesterday 2:05

1966-06-24 (evening): Cirxus-Krone-Bau, Munich, Germany

10. Nowhere Man 2:08

1966-06-30 (evening): Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan

11. Rock and Roll Music 1:32
12. Day Tripper 2:58
13. Yesterday 2:04
14. Nowhere Man 2:07
15. Paperback Writer 2:04
16. I'm Down 2:05

1966-07-01 (afternoon): Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan

17. Paperback Writer 2:04
18. I'm Down 2:08

1966-08-29: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA

19. If I Needed Someone 2:31
20. Day Tripper 3:02
21. Nowhere Man 2:15
22. Paperback Writer 2:11
23. Long Tall Sally [inc] 0:32

1-8: The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl Deluxe (Purple Chick) disc 2 The Mixes
9-10: Live: Far East Men (Purple Chick) disc 1
11-18: Live: Far East Men (Purple Chick) disc 2
19-23: Live: The Last Tour (Purple Chick) disc 2



1963-10-24: Karlaplans Studio, Stockholm, Sweden

1. Introduction     0:48
2. I Saw Her Standing There 2:45
3. From Me to You 2:08
4. Money 2:52
5. Roll over Beethoven 2:19
6. You Really Got a Hold on Me 3:10
7. She Loves You 2:31
8. Twist and Shout 2:46

1964-04-19: IBC Studios, London [original studio recordings for telecast “Around the Beatles” without audience overdubs]

9. Twist and Shout 2:35
10. Roll over Beethoven 1:51
11. I wanna Be Your Man 1:47
12. Long Tall Sally 1:44
13. Medley: Love Me Do/Please Please me/From Me to You/She Loves You/I Want to Hold Your Hand 4:03
14. Can’t Buy Me Love 2:07
15. Shout 2:03

1-8: “Swedish Radio Show” (Fabulous Sound Lab)
9-15: “Around and Around” (Silent Sea)

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