Another Set of Beatles’ BBC Recordings Is On the Way
By ALLAN KOZINN
September 12, 2013
When Capitol Records released “The Beatles Live at the BBC” to great fanfare in 1994, Beatles collectors lamented that the two-disc set barely scratched the surface of the vast trove of recordings the band made for the BBC between March 1962 and June 1965. Many of those radio recordings were already on a 10-disc bootleg set, after all, and in the 19 years since then, bootleggers have come up with another three discs’ worth of material.
But Capitol and Apple, the Beatles’ own label, are determined to catch up. “On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2,” another two discs, will be released Nov. 11. It will include 63 tracks, including 40 songs and 23 spoken segments, with interviews, introductions and studio banter. A remastered version of the 1994 set will be released at the same time.
The new set redresses some of the complaints about the original. It had seemed odd, for example, that the Beatles’ radio performances of some of their biggest hits, including “Please Please Me,” “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” were left off the first set. All three are included here, as are “This Boy,” “Words of Love” and “And I Love Her,” which the earlier set also skipped.
The new set also includes several songs new to the Beatles official discography, including a rocked-up version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” Paul McCartney’s energetic rendering of Little Richard’s “Lucille,” and John Lennon’s biting account of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You.” Included, too, is the Beatles version of “Happy Birthday,” recorded to celebrate anniversary of Saturday Club, one of the shows they performed on.
Three of the tracks have been released previously, including a cover of a Carl Perkins track, “Lend Me Your Comb,” which appeared on the first volume of “The Beatles Anthology.” There is no crossover between the 1994 set and the new album, but several songs from the earlier collection – including I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Got A Woman,” “Sure To Fall” and “Hippy Hippy Shake” – are heard here in different performances.
All told, the Beatles performed 88 songs on the BBC, most in multiple performances. Among them were 36 songs they never recorded at Abbey Road. Equally significant, though, is the way the BBC recordings were made. Essentially, they were live performances, sometimes with minimal vocal overdubbing. They represent the group’s concert style, which had an edge that their polished studio productions sometimes lacked – but although a few of the BBC recordings were made before live audiences, most were not, and are therefore free of the hysterical shrieking typically heard on even the most professionally recorded Beatles concert tapes.
Among the interviews are individual talks with each Beatle recorded for the Beeb’s Pop Profile program in November 1965 and May 1966. The sets will have notes by Kevin Howlett, a former BBC producer whose 1996 book, “The Beatles at the BBC – The Radio Years 1962-70” is being republished in a substantially expanded and reconfigured edition as “The Beatles – The BBC Archives 1962-1970,” by Harper Design, in November.