inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #26 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 08:24
    
richie, the unreleased beatles (which i haven't finished yet) is
excellent.

I was born in 62, but was a big beatles fan from the beginning. Probably
the two biggest reasons for my fandom from such an early age are that my
parents were into the beatles and i was always aware of my uncle's
musical tastes when i was a kid--he was only 10 years older than me and
i learned about a lot of pop music through him.

i have tons of memories of the beatles from throughout my childhood: the
day sgt. pepper was released, seeing a video of the beatles performing
hello goodbye on the news, listening to my uncles beatles records
whenever I would visit my grandmothers house, listening to yesterday and
today for the first time, watching hard days night on network tv,
spending entire weekends glued to the radio as some local station played
all the beatles songs from a to z.

When I was about 11 years old, i had amassed a fortune of $20 that I
saved from gifts and doing various jobs around the house and
neighborhood. I took that money and rode my bike to a neighborhood
record store. This was the first time i had ever set foot in a record
store.  I went and grabbed up a bunch of beatle records, a lot of the
early stuff, albums i wasn't familiar with.  I did not pay any attention
to the price because surely the $20 was such a vast fortune it would
cover anything i wanted to get that day.  The clerk was pretty
sympathetic towards my exuberance, but i still had to return quite a few
albums back to the bins.

Despite my fandom, i never explored the unreleased/bootleg stuff at all.
There are several reasons for this: i only had the dimmest awareness
that such recordings existed and had no idea how to obtain them or even
what they were, i don't have collector tendencies, i never had tons of
disposable income but did have a pretty broad musical interests so never
had the ability to get tons of stuff i wanted anyways, but
also--whenever I did come across unreleased beatles stuff,  although it
was often interesting and worthwhile to listen to for a number of
different reasons, i always thought that the stuff they released was
their best.  Putting aside live recordings or radio broadcasts, i never
came across unreleased treasure--a version of a song better than the
released version or some unreleased song that was equal to or better
than the released songs.  One of my beatle theories is that they pretty
much managed to release the best of their work. I wanted to participate
in this discussion to see how valid i though that opinion was.

Some of my questions to you are: did you come across an unreleased
version of a song that you thought was superior to the released version?
Did you come across any unreleased beatles song that you thought was the
equal of all the songs they did release?
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #27 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:06
    
I'd  agree, actually, that it's rare to come across an unreleased
Beatles track -- in the form of an alternate studio version, home tape,
BBC recording, live concert performance, etc. -- that's better than
the released version. Also, there are not only no recordings of the
Beatles doing original compositions they didn't officially release that
are on par with most of their best stuff -- there are very few such
recordings whatsoever. The things they did release *were* their best;
they, and George Martin, had great judgement in that regard. I do think
that a lot of the BBC-only cover versions (most of which finally came
out in the 1990s on Live at the BBC) are great tracks, like "Lucille,"
"Hippy Hippy Shake," "Don't Ever Change," and "Soldier of Love," though
the previous post acknowledges the worth of that material.

Still -- I don't want to dampen enthusiasm for the unreleased material
too much! -- the Beatles were *so* good that I often find it extremely
entertaining, and always educational, to hear the variations in the
alternate/work-in-progress versions, or the songs that for some reason
never came out on their standard releases. And as unkosher a statement
as this might sound to some people, after you've listened to the
official stuff thousands of times, it really is damned refreshing to
hear the material done in a different way. I had a similar Beatlemaniac
experience to yours: born in 1962, bought my first Beatles album in
1970, listened to those A-Z Beatles weekends in ways that had my
parents worried because they thought it was kind of antisocial (but
there was no other way to hear the more obscure songs if you didn't
have the records!), starting buying Beatles records in bulk when I was
about 10 (and had gotten all of the available ones within a year -- at
that time, they constituted about 90% of my LP collection!). But after
years and years of having the albums, even if your love for the Beatles
is just as great as ever, you don't want to play Rubber Soul every
week anymore. The unreleased material is great for continuing to be
able to listen to the Beatles without getting into overkill, or risking
making the core studio material sound stale.

More on specific examples of unreleased recordings I found on par, or
nearly on par, with the official versions in the next post.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #28 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:07
    
There aren't many alternate Beatles versions that could be argued to
be on par with the official studio track, and the ones that are have
come out on the Anthology series. As I noted earlier, however, I do
cover the Anthology/Live at the BBC/Hollywood Bowl/Hamburg Star-Club
stuff as part of the book, since it really was part of what the Beatles
decided not to eventually release, though it never came out.

I love the acoustic, earlier studio version of "While My Guitar Gently
Weeps" (now on Anthology 3). This is the one alternate version/studio
outtake that is both *very* different from the official version (on The
White Album), and to my mind just as good, though in a very different
way. There's just so much melancholy tenderness and humility that comes
through on the early version, as if George is giving us a window to
his soul, and not worrying the least about how to make it a commercial
rock track. In the CD age it's much more common for bands to make
radically different versions of studio tracks available, on non-album
CD singles or what have you, and had that option been available to the
Beatles at that time, I think they would have considered it in this
instance. (And actually, they *did* do that, pretty much, with
"Revolution," which was given a very hard-rocking treatment when issued
on a single, but a slower, more acoustic-flavored one as "Revolution
1" on The White Album).

We've already talked about the earlier version of "I'm Looking Through
You." I really like that harder-rocking feel and funkier beat, and
Paul's vocal is great on it. Its big weakness it's that it's missing
the bridge. Perhaps if the bridge had been integrated into the funkier
arrangement, as I contended earlier, it might have been better than the
final Rubber Soul track. Even if not, it would still have been
fascinating to hear.

Oh, and here's an obvious one: I MUCH prefer the "stringless,"
"un-Spectorized" version of "The Long and Winding Road" to the
violin-and-choir-overdub-drenched one that came out on Let It Be. Now,
of course, it's not hard to get the stringless version, on Anthology 3
and Let It Be...Naked. Paul McCartney, of course, very publicly agrees
on this matter -- he even did back in April 1970, and I do think his
hearing the Spectorized version was the straw that broke the camel's
back in his decision to quit the Beatles when he did that month, though
the group was almost certainly going to break up very soon anyway. As
I wrote in my intro to the book, I actually bought a Beatles bootleg of
Get Back/Let It Be outtakes when I was eight back in 1970 before the
Let It Be album had even come out. Even when I was eight, when I first
heard the Spector production of "The Long and Winding Road" on the
radio (it was issued as the Beatles' last US single), I was aghast. It
was so clearly a butcher job on the pretty, modest version I had, which
until that time I had known under the title "Don't Keep Me Waiting"
(the title it was given on the bootleg, which had to guess --
incorrectly -- as to what the actual song title was, since "The Long
and Winding Road" still hadn't been released in any form).

To talk about a really (relatively) obscure alternate that hasn't
officially come out anywhere, I like the alternate mix of "Flying." It
not only has high-pitched slide whistles not heard on the official
release, but goes into a *way* different cabaret-ish Dixieland jazz
ending than the one heard on the Magical Mystery Tour LP (where there's
a fading coda of gentle Mellotron swirls). As it turns out, however,
that Dixieland ending wasn't played by the Beatles -- it was ripped
right off a Mellotron tape! Perhaps that was why it wasn't included on
Anthology 2 -- it's much more interesting, substantial variation than
many of the alternate takes that were chosen. In this instance, I'd
contend it was as good (though not better) than the official release.

This is a fairly arcane example, but though I really like the studio
version of "Roll Over Beethoven," one of their BBC versions (from June
24, 1963) makes a case to me as the best one. It has an exuberant
guitar solo twice as long as the one on the Beatles' studio recording
of the song, and really percolating McCartney bass that's better
recorded than it often was on their early official EMI tracks. The
casual collector is turned off, I think, by the abundance of so many
multiple versions -- sometimes five or more, in the cases of popular
songs -- on the full set of BBC recordings, which take up ten CDs in
all. But this is the kind of instance that explains why serious Beatles
fans collect this kind of stuff -- there really are some nuggets in
there.

I also want to touch upon a few recordings that, while not better or
as good as the official stuff, are almost up there in quality. I'll get
into those in the next post.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #29 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:09
    
There are a few recordings of original songs the Beatles never put on
their  studio releases that, while I wouldn't say they were among their
better compositions (that's a very high standard to meet), I think are
very good all the same. In the May 1968 White Album demos done at
George's house, John does a nice folky ballad, "I'm Just a Child of
Nature"; the Beatles wouldn't put it on a record, but John reworked the
lyrics into "Jealous Guy" for the Imagine album. In the January 1969
Get Back/Let It Be sessions, the band tries -- sometimes with
noticeably little enthusiasm -- to work on arrangements for George
Harrison songs that ended up on All Things Must Pass, including "All
Things Must Pass," "Hear Me Lord," and "Let It Down." I like all those
songs a lot (All Things Must Pass is my favorite Beatles solo album),
but somehow, it just didn't seem like they lent themselves to be easily
molded into Beatles arrangements. It's almost like they were too
personally spiritual for the Beatles to give them the almost
gospel-rock-influenced arrangements that were used on the All Things
Must Pass album.

There is a guitar-and-voice-only 1963 demo of "Bad to Me" that, while
the sound quality is imperfect, is really touching and beautiful. The
Beatles never released the song, instead giving it away to Billy J.
Kramer, who had a big hit with it. I find this demo version MUCH, much
better than Kramer's innocuous interpretation; the vocal on the demo is
just so much more heartfelt. In fact, when a Beatles version exists of
a song they "gave away" -- as it does, for instance, of "Love of the
Loved," "Hello Little Girl," "Like Dreamers Do," "That Means a Lot,"
"Goodbye," and "Come and Get It" -- it's almost always *much* better
than the officially released cover version. Incidentally, I devoted an
entire chapter to "the songs they gave away" -- i.e., songs written by
the Beatles (usually credited to Lennon-McCartney) that the Beatles
didn't put on their official releases, but someone else covered for
official release.

Also worthy of honorable mentions of sort, I thnk, are:

The early version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" on Anthology 2, which
has a gentle, folky feel that got a little toughened up in the hit
recording. Note that the bootlegged version of this early take has
backup harmony vocals not on the Anthology 2 mix -- an illustration of
both how the Anthology versions often tinkered with the original
recordings, and why serious Beatles fans continue to buy bootlegs even
after the cream was lopped off for the Anthology volumes, since that's
the only way to get versions which many consider more authentic than
the ones that came out on the Anthology series.

"That Means a Lot" isn't a great Lennon-McCartney song, and maybe
wouldn't have fit into the Help! album (for which it was originally
intended) too well. But I like it; it's real catchy, and has a nice
dramatic arrangement and typically fine McCartney vocal. By the way,
though this shows up on Anthology 2, they tried to do it yet again with
a much different arrangement (bootlegged and described in the book),
though they didn't seem to get very far with it.

The 1969 outtake "Come and Get It" (actually just Paul McCartney,
singing and overdubbing all the instruments)  likewise is now easily
available, on Anthology 3. But I like it very much, even though it's
extremely similar to the more familiar hit version by Badfinger. When
the Badfinger single came out -- this was just before the Beatles broke
up, remember -- I thought it WAS the Beatles, it just sounded so
Beatlesque (and, specifically, McCartneyesque). I'm sure that a lot of
others mistook it for the Beatles at first too. But even at the age of
eight, I remember being confused as to why the songwriting credit was
just "McCartney," not "Lennon-McCartney" -- a small indication that a
breakup was on the horizon.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #30 of 121: Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:23
    
I would love to hear the two long version of Helter Skelter.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #31 of 121: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:26
    
Richie, it seems that The Beatles made the decision to put their
efforts into making great studio records well before they quit
performing live as a band. My sense of the live performances in the
last year or so of touring is that the band was just going through the
motions, fun as it was. They're not doing anything onstage they hadn't
already done. (A big part of the reason for this, to be sure, was the
very, very limited technical capabilities of stage equipment at the
time. Someone who was there told me that at the Candlestick show, the
sound was actually routed through the tinny stadium PA.) 

My question is this. From your assessment of the released and
unreleased material, was it the band or George Martin or the
combination that decided The Beatles would always and forever make
their best music in the studio. I get a sense that Martin recognized
the possibilities for Beatles music even before the boys did, though I
could be quite wrong about that. Did Martin see them perform live much
in the early days? Or was he *all* about the studio?
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #32 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:40
    
whoa!! thanks for all this info!

i hope my question didn't dampen any enthusiasm for the unreleased
material! i was just curious because there have been some folks who have
sat on exceptional unreleased material.

i absolutely love the BBC Live CD, the whole thing.  For whatever
reason, one of my favorite cuts is I'll be on my way.  It's really not
one of the great beatle songs, but i love it.  The sound is so
wonderfully mersey beat ballad.  I mention this as testament to the fact
that even if there is no lost equivalent of penny lane, there is a lot
of great stuff to discover.

Regarding Straberry Fields: in the Maysles brothers documentary of the
beatles first us tour, there is a scene in a hotel room.  Lennon is
playing through a toy instrument, one of those ones that is like a
recorder, except there is a keyboard on the side that you press down on
instead of finger holes.  It's only a brief moment, but I swear to god
that he plays what became the descending figure at the beginning of SFF.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #33 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:41
    
(slippages)
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #34 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 10:42
    
i would love to hear that alternate version of flying!
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #35 of 121: Eric Rawlins (woodman) Thu 2 Nov 06 12:29
    
Regarding unreleased versions being better than the released: I know from
reading Richie's book that he disagrees with me, but I always preferred the
earlier version of "Penny Lane" that ends with the trumpet flourish instead
of the big final chord. To me that little melancholy trumpet figure, all by
itself, makes a more poignant commentary on the banality of the street
scenes than the chord. It trails off into nothing instead of putting a big
full-stop at the end, which strikes me as somehow appropriate.

OTOH, I love artistic disagreements of this kind. When I read Richie's
thoughts on the ending, it struck me as another illustration of the way
great art can hit different people differently while all are still agreeing
that it's great art.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #36 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 13:41
    
It's great to get into this crossfire of dialogue among serious
Beatles  listeners. As fun as doing the book was, most of this sort of
thinking was done in isolation, in a very concentrated period of time.
Now that the book's coming out, it's cool to have these kind of
speculations/opinions generated; that's part of the purpose of doing
music history like this, to get some fun interaction going among people
who love the music so much.

Going back a few posts to address some things one at a time, those
long versions of "Helter Skelter" are, I think, the studio tracks known
to exist -- but, as of yet, unbootlegged -- that fans want to hear the
most. The basic story is that on July 18, 1968, three VERY long takes
of "Helter Skelter" -- lasting 10:40, 12:35, and 27:11 respectively --
were done in the studio. These weren't just longer versions of the
arrangement ultimately used; they were, apparently, much different in
structure. One writer, Mark Lewisohn, *has* heard these; he wrote about
them, and virtually all of the Beatles' studio outtakes (which he,
unlike any other writer, was given access to), in his book The Beatles
Recording Sessions, which is essential for any Beatles fan. Lewisohn
wrote that "each take developed into a tight and concisely played jam
with long instrumental passages."

Part of one take came out on Anthology 3, and I must say that I found
it quite disappointing, at least in what light of that description led
one to expect. It's really plodding, elementary blues-rock. This is
said, mind you, as someone who loves the White Album version. It's
another example, among many, of how the Beatles kept working and
working on songs to make them much more special than they might have
been at first pass.

George Martin was actually asked about this directly in a filmed 1995
Dutch interview. He said it wasn't chosen for the Anthology CD
compilations because "I think it gets boring." He added, "In making
these records [i.e. compiling the Anthology volumes], my consideration
has been to put in works that are interesting to the majority of
people. *Not* to Beatle fanatics. And I have to look at the public as a
broad, interesting thing. And I don’t want to put anything that people
are going to say"—here he yawned for emphasis—"‘I wonder when this is
gonna finish.’ And that’s what that would do. Now, there are the
hardcore Beatle fanatics who would love to have this. But they already
have it on bootleg."

Actually, we *don't* have it on bootleg. None of the long versions
have ever made it onto that format (even the take 2 on Anthology 3 is
less than half of its actual 12:35 length). Martin's answer, like
several comments found by Martin and the surviving Beatles when they've
been asked about Anthology and unreleased material in general, seems
to indicate they know less about what's in the archives (and what's
escaped) than the most knowledgeable Beatles fans do. I don't think
that's surprising and I don't blame them for that -- being in the
middle of creating something, you remember and look at things
differently than you do if you're a fanatical fan and collector.

Also keep in mind that Martin didn't like improvisation or rock jams
in general. Even during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, he'd get annoyed when
the Beatles got occasionally sidetracked into long, rambling
experimental outtakes. ("Carnival of Light," the most famous of these,
*still* has never came out on bootleg.) In the Anthology DVD/video
itself, he said (when talking about The White Album), "A lot of the
recordings, they would have a basic idea and then they would have a jam
session to end it, which sometimes didn’t sound too good." I think
there's some validity to that.A few White Album recordings meandered
into lengthy instrumental jams in their original state, like
"Revolution 1," "Sexy Sadie," and "Helter Skelter," and benefited a lot
from having the extended fadeouts/jams cut off.

By the way, there's a much earlier, semi-version of "Helter Skelter"
from June 1968, during a studio session (for "Blackbird") in which Paul
McCartney, pretty much working on his own, was filmed. At this early
point, it wass a much gentler folk-blues of sorts with far more softly
crooned vocals; it really toughened up by the time the Beatles were
finished with it.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #37 of 121: Get Shorty (esau) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:05
    
What I took away from listening to some unreleased tracks is how
decisions that were made on the fly in the studio became *canonical*.

For instance, I've heard the multiple takes that build up to "I Saw Her
Standing There." They make some mistakes, a couple false starts, and
then there is an attempt to change the tempo a little, which leads to
two or three more false starts, until Paul finally just counts it off:
"One, two, three, FOUR!" That beginning then became an inseparable part
of the song, though it was clearly just a passing moment.

It's a funny thing about pop music, maybe all recorded music, where the
audience spends more time with the piece than the artist did.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #38 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:17
    
Steve, you're right that the Beatles' enthusiasm for touring
diminished enormously in the last year or so they were playing
concerts, at least judging from the evidence on unreleased live
recordings/films from the summer 1966 tours. There's a huge difference
in quality and energy even from the live recordings/footage from 1965
-- which includes their famous Shea Stadium show, the 1965 Hollywood
Bowl recordings that supplied some of the tracks for the official
Hollywood Bowl concert LP, and their final Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
It falls off a cliff, really, in several respects. The harmonies often
have a half-moaned, got-out-of-the-wrong-side-of-bed quality; George's
guitar often has this weird sour tone, as if IT'S gotten out of the
wrong side of the bed; and on the first of their two Tokyo shows to be
filmed (from June 30, 1966), Ringo looks incredibly bored, like he's
suffering from jet lag. In the early Beatlemania footage (especially
their first US concert in February 1964 in Washington, DC), Ringo looks
like there's no place he'd rather be them onstage, he's so happy; in
that Tokyo film, he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else BUT on that
stage. Only Paul McCartney retained pretty much the same degree of
enthusiasm and professionalism on the 1966 tours.

Even before the 1966 tours, though, I think they'd essentially become
entirely different bands for studio and live purposes. Even though they
look like they're still enjoying themselves to some degree in 1965,
they were already going through the motions to some extent -- playing
the same songs every show for the duration of a tour, contending with
scream audiences and limited sound equipment that were both making it
hard for them to hear each other, and hard for the audiences to hear
the Beatles. In a sidebar in the book on their decision to stop
touring, I noted that it was, unfortunately, not until shortly after
the Beatles stopped giving concerts that sound systems started to be
developed that would allow rock groups to project well to really large
audiences. It wasn't until then, either, that fold-back speakers and
monitors were put into common use that allowed bands to hear themselves
well under such conditions.

In the studio, not only did they not have to contend with all of this
-- they could constantly work on NEW material and new sonic ideas,
rather than feel like they had to trot out popular songs in order to
satisfy the audiences. Playing concerts wasn't creative for them at all
by 1966, probably 1965; in the studio, on the other hand, their
voracious appetite for creativity and change was constantly being
challenged and whetted. Perhaps they underestimated themselves and
their audiences a little; they had the capital to invest in better
sound systems if they'd wanted, and they could have at least played
some different, more recent material in concert. They never played
anything from just-released Revolver on their final 1966 tour, for
instance. While a bunch of songs from that album ("Eleanor Rigby,"
"Love You to," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "I'm Only Sleeping," and others)
had studio arrangements/effects that would have been impossible at
that point to replicate onstage with four musicians, other, more
straightforward, guitar-oriented Revolver tracks -- "Taxman," "And Your
Bird Can Sing," "Dr. Robert" -- could have worked quite well. The same
goes for some Rubber Soul material, like "Think for Yourself" and
"Drive My Car." But the Beatles decided to spend more time and energy
on *studio* recording than anyone had ever done, and considering how
much great music they recorded over the next three years, I think that
was inarguably the right decision.

But to answer Steve's specific questions as to whether it was the
Beatles or George Martin who decided to concentrate on studio
recording, I think it was more the Beatles. I think they realized
quickly that creativity onstage -- in terms of things like
improvisation and constantly introducing new material, as they were in
Hamburg and the Star Club in the early 1960s -- was not going to be
possible under Beatlemania conditions. But I think they immediately got
fascinated by the possibilities of the studio as a creative outlet,
not just because of the areas they could explore in terms of
technological sophistication but also because it allowed them to
concentrate on perfecting their SONGS -- which, more than anything
else, was the Beatles' greatest strength.

Even as early as their 1963 Christmas fan club disc, Paul McCartney
said, "Lots of people ask us what we enjoy best, concerts and
television or recording. We like doing stage shows, ’cause it's,
y'know, it's great to hear an audience enjoying themselves. But the
thing we like best—I think so anyway—is going into the recording studio
to make new records, which is what we've been doing all day before we
started on this special message. [One of the songs they were working on
that day, by the way, was "I Want to Hold Your Hand."] What we like to
hear most is one of our songs, you know, taking shape in a recording
studio, one of the ones what John and I have written, and then
listening to the tapes afterwards to see how it all worked out."

While George Martin's contributions were immeasurably important in
getting them to maximize their potential in the studio, I don't think
he would have been the key catalyzing force in getting the band to
concentrate on studio recordings above all else. A famous quote that
Martin's phrased in various manners over the years is that in the
beginning, he was somewhat the teacher and the Beatles the pupils, in
the manner that was customary for young pop recording artists in the
early 1960s. But then the Beatles, very quickly, started to challenge
HIM and force HIM to come up with innovations in order to realize the
sounds that THEY wanted. In end, in fact, he said the process exhausted
him, so ceaselessly explorative were the Beatles in the studio.

George Martin did see the Beatles perform at least a few times in the
early days. In fact, he considered making their first album a live
recording of the Beatles at the Cavern. He instead, and rightly,
decided that the energy of the Beatles could be captured in the studio,
resulting in the Please Please Me album (which actually wasn't far off
a live album, recorded as it was with minimal overdubs, and mostly in
one day). He saw them play at various other times throughout their
career, and was present at the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert recorded by
Capitol and used in part on the official Hollywood Bowl album after the
Beatles broke up, though the actual producer of that Hollywood Bowl
recording, Voyle Gilmore, told Melody Maker that Martin "was more
interested in hanging out backstage with the boys or going out front to
see how it sounded out there, that sort of thing."
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #39 of 121: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:28
    
Thank you, Richie. The entire post is fascinating.

On some of the later studio material I hear occasional moments of
desire to get back on stage. Maybe it's all in me head, as one of the
boys might say, but I swear on the guitar jam that concludes Abbey Road
you can feel The Beatles connecting one more time and collectively
thinking, Hey, mates, we could still be a fucking great live rock and
roll band!
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #40 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:29
    
It's certainly true that some folks have sat on some exceptional
unreleased material. A leading illustration is Bob Dylan, who didn't
release anything from his Basement Tapes (recorded in 1967) until the
mid-1970s -- and there's still a lot of basement tapes that haven't
come out, though the most interesting ones, certainly in terms of his
original compositions, did come out officially. There was also his 1966
Live at Albert Hall album (eventually confirmed to have been recorded
in Manchester), which must have sold hundreds of thousands of copies as
a bootleg, and which many critics feel is one of the all-time best
live recordings. That too, of course, came out officially, finally, as
part of Dylan's bootleg series. Some critics feel that his first
version of Blood on the Tracks, which has some earlier versions of
songs, is superior to the released one.

I don't agree with some critics who intimate that his choice of what
to release has been seriously flawed, but everyone agrees that a lot of
what he kept in the can was very good, and in some cases on par with
the best stuff he was putting out. Dylan, and/or Dylan's people, seem
to have realized this by initiating their "Bootleg Series," which is
making a good deal of this kind of thing officially available.

A lot of people, too, feel that the Grateful Dead's best stuff was on
certain live gigs that didn't come out. The Dead, too, have
acnkowledged this with the Dick's Picks series. Some fans of Neil Young
and Prince feel that they failed to green-light some material that,
while not likely to be among their very best stuff, was certainly very
worthy of release. Neil Young's been intimating for many years that a
gargantuan box set's been on the way to unleash some of this, although
it's failed to appear.

The Beatles' Anthology/Live at the BBC/Let It Be...Naked albums were
also an acknowledgement that there was much demand for at least the
cream of their unreleased material, and all those Beatles bootlegs
were, whether explicitly acknowledged or not, likely a vital kick in
their pants to get them to finally authorize some vault-digging. I'd
argue that they should loosen the constraints a little and initiate a
special-interest vault series for the best of the rest, a la Dylan's
bootleg series, though that doesn't seem to be in the works for the
near future.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #41 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:38
    
"I'll Be on My Way" is another song I should have mentioned as a
noteworthy Lennon-McCartney composition the Beatles didn't release
while active, and which they don't seem to have ever attempted in the
studio, though a 1963 BBC version is on Live at the BBC. It wouldn't
have been one of their major early songs had it gone  on "Please Please
Me" or an early B-side, but it certainly would have been a very
pleasant and acceptable one. I think it's about the most Buddy
Holly-influenced of their songs, and I love the way how, at the
beginning and end, slightly shifting guitar chords dramatically ascend
with this achingly yearning quality.  (These are chords on which the
fifth-note is being augmented, to be technical.) Those passages don't
appear at all on the cover version that Billy J. Kramer released (on a
B-side!) in 1963. For that and other reasons, the Beatles' version is
WAY superior to Kramer's.

Also, it's absolutely correct that in a scene in the Maysles brothers
documentary of the beatles first US tour, Lennon plays a descending
melody (on melodica) that's very much like the one heard at the
beginning (and in the beginning of the verses) of "Strawberry Fields
Forever." I noted this in the book, at the beginning of the pretty
extensive section running through the song's evolution from acoustic
home recordings to finished studio track.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #42 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:51
    
About the Beatles' desire to get back onstage: of course, the entire
marathon of January 1969 Get Back/Let It Be sessions was a reflection
of their desire to get back onstage, or at least to playing music live
(if only in the studio). The tragedy was that at this point John, Paul,
and George had very different ideas about how to do this (I think
Ringo would have likely gone with the flow of whatever the other three
agreed on). So this attempt, largely McCartney-initiated, to get the
Beatles back to being a tighter unit, ironically, helped speed the
process by which they flew apart, so bitter was the friction that
surfaced during the sessions.

The Beatles weren't often filmed playing music in their final years
(with the exception of the January 1969 Let It Be filming), but there's
one filmed moment that to me seems to be an indication of just how
good the Beatles could have been live in the late 1960s, and how much
they would enjoyed playing live back then. This is the promotional film
for "Revolution." Even though these are live vocals over the studio
backing track, and it isn't a wholly live performance, they really seem
to be loving it, and Paul and George do some very enthusiastic doo-wop
style harmonies not on the studio version. They're dressed very
casually, like they're finally dressing like they want in their most
comfortable informal wear, instead of feeling like they have to wear
something -- be it the collarless suits or the Sgt. Pepper suits seen
in the "Hello Goodbye" promo -- to project an image.

You do get to see some genuinely live Beatles in the famous Apple
rooftop concert scene in Let It Be, of course. But it would have been
great to have had at least one or two concerts before a real group of
fans where they were playing an assortment of late-'60s material, not
just the batch of most recent songs chosen for the Let It Be sequence.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #43 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:52
    
ha, i haven't gotten that far in the book yet.  i think every beatle fan who
watches that movie for the first time must do a double take and rewind a
couple of times.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #44 of 121: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 2 Nov 06 14:53
    
(slip)
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #45 of 121: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 2 Nov 06 15:11
    
Richie, you might address this in the book, which I've not yet had an
opportunity to read...

Are there any unreleased recordings of the individual Beatles playing
with other bands or musicians? Paul McCartney spent an afternoon with
Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco, and there was George Harrison's
famous stop in Golden Gate Park. Harrison and Clapton must've played
together casually at each other's houses. How about Lennon and Harry
Nilsson during John's Year in the (LA) Wilderness? And going back into
misty Liverpool history for Ringo, did he record anything still
unreleased with Rory Storm?
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #46 of 121: Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 2 Nov 06 15:15
    
This is the most enjoyable WELL discussion I've been part of in some
time, and that's saying something.

Ah yes, the lads did like their augmented-fifth chords (cf. "It's Only
Love"). And we're all the better for it.

Earlier this week I was in touch with an authoritative source who said
that those who had been working on the Neil Young box set were
"hoping" to see it released sometime in 2007.

That is all for now. See you tonight, Richie!
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #47 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:08
    
There are a few unreleased recordings that have circulated of the
Beatles playing with other bands/musicians -- but just a few. At the
event I did last night, someone asked a similar question, not about
unreleased recordings specifically, but about why the Beatles didn't
seem to play with other musicians often while they were active. That's
hard to answer with certainty, but it seems to me that they had so much
going for them internally -- and it took so much dedication to get the
max out of it, especially in the studio -- that they just didn't feel
the need to jam with other musicians in the way that, say, the guys in
Cream might have. I'm not putting down Cream here, I like them, but I
think they had something of a different mentality, explaining to some
degree why that group lasted just two years.

And I think that, particularly in the early years, the Beatles had an
unrivaled PERSONAL one-for-all, all-for-one tightness that would have
made them feel like it was almost beneath them to think that they
should play with other musicians. That tightness, as was almost
inevitable, unwound toward the end of the 1960s. When George was asked
in the 1970s whether he missed playing with the Beatles, he explained
that after having been cooped up with them so intensely for so long, it
was just so nice for him to play with other musicians -- which he did,
starting with the All Things Must Pass album, which had contributions
by people like Clapton, Badfinger, Dave Mason, Gary Brooker, Jim
Gordon, and Billy Preston.

Not to lose track of your question, some specific examples of
unreleased pre-1971 recordings of the Beatles with other musicians
follow in the next post.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #48 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:10
    
Let's start here with a few notes about recordings in which Paul and
John are heard playing with other musicians, and discuss similar items
for George and Ringo in the next post.

I think the most notable of the unreleased
Beatles-playing-with-other-musicians material that's circulated --
although it's not really that notable in and of itself -- is a tape of
Paul singing and playing with Donovan around late 1968 (actually
recorded at a session for a Mary Hopkin album). It's likable and
folksy, but the material is pretty slight, more like Donovan than
late-'60s McCartney. Or, like "Blackbird," but much more innocuous and
lightweight.

Then there was, of course, John doing "Yer Blues" at the Rock'n'Roll
Circus with Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell. That finally
came out (both the film and the soundtrack), though there are some
marginally different alternate takes only on bootleg. John, of course,
did a bunch of taping with Yoko in the late 1960s, although the
unreleased songs/performances that have circulated tend not to be equal
collaborations -- dominated by either John or Yoko -- and are usually
of pretty subpar sound qualitiy.

Some of those have to be heard to be believed, though, so dissonant
and unpleasant are they. We're not just talking their heavily
avant-garde experiments, but real "songs" of sorts. In "The Maharishi
Song," he plays skin-crawling tuneless, fretless guitar and sings in a
talking-blues style, "There were one or two attractive women there, but
mainly looked like, you know, school teachers or something, and the
whole damn camp was spying on the ones in the bathing suits. And
they’re supposed to be meditatin’! . . . me, I took it for real. I
wrote 600 songs about how I feel. I felt like dying, and crying, and
committing suicide, but I felt creative, and I thought, what the hell’s
this got to do with what that silly little man’s talking about. But he
did charm me in a way, because he was funny, sort of cuddly, like a
sort of, you know, little daddy with a beard."

Then there's "I Want You" (not the same as the Abbey Road song of the
same name), where John moans to Yoko, "Put it on, lift it up, stick ’em
out; I want to you see standing, I want you on your back, I want you
on the floor and I want you on the rack!" And then: "Yoko, you better
lose some weight and get in them old pants!"

On to George and Ringo, in the next post.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #49 of 121: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:11
    
There's a brief tape of George singing and playing with Bob Dylan,
variously cited as coming from late 1968 and May 1970, though I think
it's more likely from late 1968. The fidelity is pretty bad, but it's
definitely them. It's much more George than Bob, though; although the
two songs are ostensibly co-written by Harrison and Dylan, it sounds
more like George is teaching the song to Bob, and Bob's trying, not too
well, to follow and sing along.

One of the songs is pretty well known: "I'd Have You Anytime," later
recorded as the first track for the All Things Must Pass album. The
other is a really nice tune with an arching, sad melody, "Nowhere to
Go" (sometimes titled "Everybody Goes to Town" on bootlegs). Sadly,
neither George nor Dylan put it on an official album. Luckily, George
DID record a very nice, very clear-fidelity studio version as a demo in
May 1970 for All Things Must Pass -- and that whole extremely
interesting group of 15 demos is covered in the book.

I didn't include some instances of unreleased Beatles recordings with
other musicians in which the specific Beatle contributions are so
minimal or minor as to be pretty inconsequential. For instance, there's
some unreleased material (and video) of Delaney & Bonnie in late 1969
when George played onstage with them. But George doesn't sing, no
Harrison songs are done, and really, the band (at that time also
including Clapton) is so big he's really submerged. There's also a
session George did with Dylan in May 1970, but Dylan does all the
singing (even on a dreary attempt at "Yesterday"), there are no
Harrison songs, and even George's playing is functional and
uninteresting.

No Rory Storm tapes with Ringo in the band have surfaced. There's a
little Rory Storm material recorded *after* he left (including, believe
it or not, a Brian Epstein-produced cover of "America" from West Side
Story). It's not that good; Rory Storm might have been an excellent
showman, according to accounts from those who saw him, but he was a
pretty poor singer.

Ringo, interestingly, *did* record once with the Beatles in Hamburg
while he was still in Rory Storm's band. In late 1960, when both groups
were playing Hamburg, John, Paul, George, Ringo recorded some songs in
one of those make-your-own-vanity record setups. (Pete Best and Stu
Sutcliffe, though in the Beatles at the time, did not play on these
recordings.) Sadly, here they were a backing band for someone else in
Storm's band (Lu Walters) who occasionally sang in the Storm group.
It's also speculated that a couple other members of Storm's group, the
Hurricanes, might play on the recording. The songs known to have been
recorded, too, don't exactly sound like the best vehicles for the
Beatles -- the standards "Fever," "Summertime," and "September Song."
Saddest of all, the recording itself has not surfaced, although at
least some copies were made.

As for Lennon and Nilsson recording in L.A. during John's "lost
weekend," I should note that I don't cover the Beatles' solo years in
the book. That would have expanded it to an unpublishable size. The
only exception I made was that I do cover the Beatles' unreleased solo
recordings in 1970 (including outtakes from All Things Must Pass and
Plastic Ono Band), both because those are very interesting, and because
they're still linked in some ways to the Beatles sound, some of the
songs having been written (and, in some cases, even recorded in
unreleased pre-split versions) before the Beatles broke up.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #50 of 121: Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:18
    
I'm loving this conversation!  I have nothing to add at this point
other than to say that it has sent me back to, first of all the BBC
release, and now the Anthologies.  Next up in my queue will be the
stuff that i have that is still unreleased.

Actually, I do have a question:

Earlier, you mentioned a known (but unheard) Cavern audio tape.  Isn't
there also some video footage from the Cavern in the first Anthology
show?  Is there any more of that extant?  Every time I've seen it, it
feels like I'm watching the beginning of time or something.
  

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