Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:43
Yes, there's video footage of the Beatles in the Cavern -- August 22, 1962, to be precise -- in the Anthology video/DVD. They perform a cover of the obscure early-'60s Ray Charles-styled rocker "Some Other Guy," originally by Richie Barrett (and one of John Lennon's all-time favorite records). It was just Ringo's fourth appearance with the band, Pete Best having been sacked only about a week before. It's a fabulous clip, giving some sense of how the Beatles sounded like in their fiercest-rocking Hamburg/Cavern days, though they're already in suits (sans jackets, it was probably too hot and crowded down in the Cavern for that). We're also pretty lucky this clip -- the first sound footage of the Beatles -- survives. It was originally filmed for Granada TV, but considered too lo-fi to broadcast at the time. Luckily, about a year later, when Beatlemania was taking off -- and before it was erased or thrown out (as often happened to pop music film footage of the time, even some clips by the Beatles) -- Granada realized its value, preserved it, and in fact first broadcast it back in November 1963. There's only about four other minutes of footage from that August 22 filming. Most it's actually shots, without sound, of the Beatles doing songs other than "Some Other Guy," with lots of audience reaction shots. It's cool to see, but not quite as powerhouse as the "Some Other Guy" clip itself. It's not as rare as you might think, because some of those shots have shown up in other documentaries. Granada TV sent back a sound technician to record the Beatles at the Cavern just a couple weeks later, because the sound quality on the original film clip (the one you see in Anthology) was deemed too poor for broadcast. Just a little bit of the recordings made during this day have escaped onto bootleg -- another, similar version of "Some Other Guy," and just a little bit of "Kansas City." Very sadly, Granada TV made an hour-long sound recording of the Beatles on this second visit on September 5, 1962 -- but the rest what was taped apparently was thrown out.
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:50
Michael Zentner (mz) Thu 2 Nov 06 17:43
Or reused. That was probably more common.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Thu 2 Nov 06 23:19
IJWTS that I went to see Richie at Pegasus tonight and it was most diverting; indeed, a splendid time was had by all. If you get a chance to catch him at an upcoming event, do it! Sorry I couldn't stay for the whole thing, but it was good to see you again after so long and I really enjoyed the clips and your comments! Another dunderheaded question (this one multi-part): Do you have a favorite Beatle track--released or unreleased? A favorite album/bootleg? A favorite era (i.e., period in their work)? If so, I'd be curious to hear you talk about it--why, and what about it appeals to you above other possible choices. Like I said, a dunderheaded question. But, you know, somebody's gotta ask it.
Eric Rawlins (woodman) Fri 3 Nov 06 07:39
Always a worthwhile question, I think.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 07:45
My favorite Beatles track would be a released one, not an unreleased one; like I've said before, as much as I enjoy going through their unreleased music, I wouldn't put it on the level of what they actually issued. There are so many good Beatles tracks, though, that I feel like I can't pick just one. Here are some of my favorites: "Ticket to Ride," "All My Loving," "A Hard Day's Night," "You Can't Do That," "Help," "Things We Said Today," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "Back in the USSR," "Revolution" (the single version), "Hey Jude," "Helter Skelter," "Let It Be," "Don't Let Me Down," "Here Comes the Sun." I don't know how to say why these might appeal to me just a little more than dozens of other candidates, other than that they're all absolutely riveting time after time, from many angles: the songwriting, the melody, the singing, the recorded production/arrangement, the intensity of expression (even in the lyrically simpler earlier songs), where you feel like there's no artifice involved whatsoever.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 07:56
Continuing to go through Phil's questions one at a time: Picking my favorite Beatles unreleased track is not easy, but certainly easier than picking the best released track. Despite the not-wholly-optimum recording quality, I really like the version of "Revolution" from that batch of acoustic-oriented White Album home demos recorded in May 1968 at George's house. It's real different (not superior or as good, but different) than either the single version or the White Album version. And they just sound so happy doing it in their campfire singalong mode. Other strong contenders would be: the 1963 BBC version of "Lucille" that didn't make it onto Live at the BBC. The only other version of the song they did for the BBC, which is also good, was chosen, but I think the tremelo-laden solo by George on the unissued version is better; Their 1963 bare-bones demo of "Bad to Me," which -- though the recording quality is rough -- is done much better than on the familiar hit single version by Billy J. Kramer; The January 1, 1962 version of "Love of the Loved" (a Lennon-McCartney song never released by the Beatles, but given to Cilla Black for a 1963 single) from their Decca audition tape. It's awkward but endearing, and gives you a sense of how they were writing as they found their feet as composers, as well as how Paul's vocals were much more imitative of Elvis Presley at this point; The hot June 24, 1963 BBC version of "Roll Over Beethoven," discussed in an earlier post, with really well-recorded thrusting McCartney bass and a guitar solo that's twice as long, going into some really neat trills and stutters; A really good outtake of "Let It Be," done a few days before the familiar hit recording (and bootlegged from the first acetate that was done of "Get Back" LP mixes), with a more pronounced gospel feel and way-hip McCartney count-off introduction.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 08:09
If you expand the question of my favorite unreleased Beatles track(s) to include material that lay in the vaults for a long time and didn't surface until Live at the BBC and the Anthology volumes, I think my all-time favorite of those would be the acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I went over that in a previous post, but to reiterate, it's that rare double play: an alternate version that's both VERY different from the official version, and about as good as the official version. Some of my other favorites would also include: "Soldier of Love," BBC, 1963: A great Arthur Alexander song, a great John Lennon vocal, great backup harmonies. I speculated in the book that this is probably the one BBC track most likely to be mistaken for a Lennon-McCartney song, so Beatlesque does it sound (though Arthur Alexander certainly had not yet heard of the Beatles when he wrote it). "Don't Ever Change," BBC, 1963: An obscure Gerry Goffin-Carole King song that was a British hit for the post-Buddy Holly Crickets in mid-1962, and also likely to be mistaken for an early Lennon-McCartney composition. "The Hippy Hippy Shake," several BBC versions, 1963-1964: One of the greatest ever raucous Paul McCartney vocals. "Shout!": Great Isley Brothers cover from a 1964 Beatles British TV special, with all four switching off on lead vocals. Note that the bootlegged version is a good half-minute longer than the one on Anthology 1 -- an example of the occasional editing/remixing for the Anthology versions that has upset some hardcore Beatles completists. "And Your Bird Can Sing": Alternate version from Anthology 2, fairly different (and much more Byrds-like) than the Revolver version. Note that some crafty bootleggers have managed to produce a version of the track without the many giggles heard on the Anthology version, simply by taking the signal out of phase, which isolates all the sound not heard in both stereo channels. "Strawberry Fields Forever": The gentler, folkier take 1 heard on Anthology 2, though as previously noted, the bootlegged version includes some harmonies not on the Anthology mix. "The Fool on the Hill": The McCartney solo piano demo on Anthology 2. "The Long and Winding Road": As discussed earlier, I vastly prefer the stringless-choirless, unSpectorized mixes. "Come and Get It": Also discussed earlier -- Paul's one-man demo of the Badfinger hit.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 08:23
Trying to pick a favorite Beatles album is almost as difficult as trying to pick a favorite Beatles song, since there are so many strong contenders whose merits can be argued from different angles. I think my favorite, though, is Meet the Beatles -- which of course is no longer part of their standard catalog, as it was a US-only LP from early 1964, and their CD catalog conforms to the original British album versions. It's just got so many great Beatles originals one after the other, some of which of course are among the songs most important to launching them as an unprecedented phenomenon in the United States ("I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There," "All My Loving"). But even the secondary tracks -- "Don't Bother Me," "It Won't Be Long," "All I've Got to Do," "Not a Second Time" -- are absolutely thrilling, and there's not one song on the record that's not a gas, other than perhaps the sole non-original, "Till There Was You" (which I still like). I suppose I have a personal connection to the LP as well, as it's the first Beatles album I owned, even though it was six years old (and I was just eight years old) when I got it in 1970. I also think it's *the* document, really, for getting a sense of the visceral impact of the Beatles when they were first heard in the United States. This is what American listeners heard, not its rough UK counterpart, their second British album With the Beatles. And while that album's great as well, I think Meet the Beatles' near-total emphasis on original compositions made the group sound that much more unique and unprecedented -- exotic, even. Because there was nothing else to readily compare it to, even via the Chuck Berry/Motown/et al. covers that were on With the Beatles (and, of course, quickly released in the US anyway on The Beatles Second Album). I gave this answer to someone recently who asked what my favorite Beatles album was, and I think he was surprised and, to some degree, even a little disappointed. (His exact response was a quizzical, "Really?") I think it's expected that rock critics will favor their later albums, which are more sophisticated in terms of both lyrics and production. But that's my choice. Other of my favorites are A Hard Day's Night (UK version) and The White Album.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 08:43
Trying to pick a favorite Beatles bootleg is hard because there are literally thousands. I made this point in the intro to the book, but it's worth mentioning here, for those who haven't seen it yet: the book is not a guide to individual Beatles bootlegs. There are literally thousands of those, and an unholy amount of repetition/recycling of tracks among them. Reviewing each bootleg would also involve an unholy amount of repetition, expand the volume to unpublishable size, and, most importantly, reduce the book to a very list-oriented, discographical, rote boring nerdish kind of thing. Instead, I go through all the unreleased tracks in chronological sequence, with separate entries for everything (covering tracks that were obviously recorded during the same day, or the same rough chronological era for those whose specific dates are unknown, within the same entry). And, I hope, I do this in a very reader-friendly fashion, emphasizing the music and the stories, though the basic recording details are there in the headings to the entries. But to get back to the question, I think my favorite bootleg, as something that physically exists, is the one called From Kinfauns to Chaos that gathers all the May 1968 White Album demos done at George's house, other than a few that were later excavated for Anthology 3. (This material has also come out on bootlegs with different titles -- a common occurence in the bootleg world.) To briefly repeat from an earlier post: " They have a friendly, intimate, at times almost campfire-party-like feel. It's like hearing the Beatles' "Unplugged," though the concept didn't exist in those days, and they seem to be having a great time, in spite of the internal tensions so often reported to be starting to tear the band apart around this time." I also like the ten-CD box of every damned last existing 1962-1965 BBC recording, in chronological order, although there are many multiple versions of specific songs. (This box set, despite its size, has also come out in under different titles.) On the whole, I think the BBC recordings represent the very most enjoyable part of the unreleased Beatles material, certainly in terms of the sheer fun of the listening experience. As for a bootleg LP I might have a fondness for based on a particular experience, I like the one that came out in 1980 called The Beatles Broadcasts, with 18 1963-64 BBC tracks. Up until that time, it should be remembered, all the bootlegs of Beatles BBC material -- as well as *most* of the Beatles bootlegs of any sort -- had pretty bad sound, and often poor packaging. Suddenly, here was this collection of stuff that sounded great, in a real good-looking color sleeve. And it had a bunch of cuts that I'd never heard the Beatles do anywhere -- "Soldier of Love," "Clarabella," "Carol," "Hippy Hippy Shake." I played it over and over for weeks, and it raised my hopes -- fulfilled -- that there was still a lot more interesting-to-exciting unreleased Beatles stuff that would eventually circulate.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 08:49
Trying to pick a favorite Beatles era is -- I hate to sound like a broken record -- real hard considering that there are several good ones to choose from. I think I do like the 1963-64 era the best, it's just so fresh and, in the context of the times, so utterly unprecedented and unexpected in terms of both its inventive energy and the effect it had on the world. But all their eras, however you divide them, from 1963-69 were great, for different reasons. Like anyone, which one I prefer might depend on what mood I'm in that day.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 3 Nov 06 09:36
Like millions upon millions of my peers, I love the late-period Beatles -- the density yet magic of the music and lyrics, the mind-opening song structures, the overwhelming complexity yet simple beauty of so much of the song writing, etc. etc. etc. But the Spitz bio caused me to reconsider the early Beatles, especially the Cavern/Hamburg period and the first wave of Beatlemania, and now I think that might be my favorite period, as the 63-64 Beatles is yours, Richie. Perhaps it's just nostalgia for the energy and enthusiasm of youth, now gone from my 50+ year-old body, but there's a purity of excitement in that period that sometimes brings tears to my eyes.
Get Shorty (esau) Fri 3 Nov 06 09:38
(I'm enjoying the content of this interview immensely, but I gotta say: that's some damned impressive typing!)
Lurking while singing along with Rain in a loop (jonsson) Fri 3 Nov 06 14:02
The Rubber Soul boot I bought really made me wish I'd bought the original and swore me off the entire practice. On the otherhand I did later hear the White Album unplugged sessions, and agree that is a rough jewel, the Anthology just does not cover the same bases. On the other end of the spectrum, it is rumoured there is a publisher in Marin selling limited edtions of books by Harrison and/or George Martin bundled with CDs of rare tracks, these signed & numbered by George Martin tomes are going for hundreds of dollars each.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 14:55
Darrell, I don't have either of those books, and am not sure I know what that Harrison book might be. However, that George Martin book must be "Playback: An Illustrated Memoir: The Autobiography of George Martin." (Details at http://www.genesis-publications.com/books/playback/). This was a limited edition, VERY expensive book (price: Deluxe edition £425, regular edition £375, i.e. about $600 or a little more), with a print run of 2000 copies, each one signed (by George Martin) and numbered. There is a CD of rare material that comes with the book, but none of them are Beatles recordings. Both the deluxe and regular editions are sold out. Genesis is a publisher specializing in these super-expensive limited edition things. I wish they would put it "regular" editions for a mere $50 or so, for those of us common folk who don't want to spend half a month's rent on a single book. It makes me feel like my book -- $34.95, for 400 large-format pages and 300,000 words -- is a basement bargain.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Fri 3 Nov 06 18:30
Oh, your book is a darn good deal, let there be no mistake about that. Thanks for answering all my questions so patiently and systematically--and forthrightly. It's a real pleasure to encounter another person who has devoted so much thought and, well, *devotion* to something one finds so worthy of thought and devotion! You mentioned some of those originals from "With the Beatles," and it prompted me to recall that some of those very songs were what first sold me on the group as something special--not the megahits "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "She Loves You," which dominated the airwaves and mass consciousness as America first surrendered to the Beatles, but the no-less-urgent-but-vastly-more interesting-songs "Not a Second Time," "It Won't Be Long," "All I've Gotta Do," and especially George's deeply brooding "Don't Bother Me." You knew you were in the presence of something other than anything else you'd encountered before.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 19:28
If I may refer back to an earlier book of mine, Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-Rock Revolution, this is what one folk musician-turned-rock musician, Cyrus Faryar, told me about the impact of Meet the Beatles: "This is an era when a record company was not fond of the idea that *any* of their artists would evolve. What a record company of that era really demanded was that an act would gain prominence and then repeat itself over and over and over again, singing and doing the same kind of material. The phenomenon of the Beatles was that no two songs were the same. And no two *albums* were the same. They delivered this evolutionary blow to the perception of what popular music was."
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 19:36
In my Beatles book, I lamented that there were no non-official versions (studio, BBC, or live) of any sort for some of the outstanding original songs on With the Beatles/Meet the Beatles, like "All I've Got to Do" and "Not a Second Time." The only non-official versions of "It Won't Be Long" are crummy-sounding monitor mixes (i.e. not the tapes themselves, but recorded off the monitor playback speaker) of a couple alternate takes which aren't too different from the finish version anyway. There's a poor-sounding composing tape of George working out "Don't Bother Me" in August 1963, so poor you can't make out the words (frustrating as they actually seem to be different than the finished version). There are, at least, a few unreleased alternate studio takes of "Don't Bother Me" that are reasonably interesting, though fairly close to the finished arrangement. On one of them George, probably sensing the take isn't going to be used, breaks into a drolly hilarious, sardonic-sounding "oh yeah, rock and roll now, oh yeah." George, oddly, always said in interviews that he thought "Don't Bother Me" was a lousy song. I think it's great, up to the level of the other non-hit tracks on With the Beatles/Meet the Beatles. It's unfortunate the Beatles didn't do BBC versions of most of their originals from With the Beatles/Meet the Beatles. I think that would have made the sessions more interesting both for listeners and for themselves, but maybe they thought people wanted to hear the most popular songs, even if that meant trotting out "She Loves You" one more time.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 3 Nov 06 19:45
Posting about that George Harrison composing tape of "Don't Bother Me" has made me think a little more about home tapes of the Beatles in general. An earlier post wondered whether there weren't tapes of George and Eric Clapton playing together. If such things existed, that would be interesting, especially since their one official songwriting collaboration of the late 1960s, "Badge," was very good. It makes you wish they'd written some more stuff around that time, at least a few songs, as busy as they were with other projects. If there's going to be any goldmine of previously unsuspected Beatles material unearthed, I think it's going to have to come from previously unknown home tapes. A lot of stuff from the EMI vaults still hasn't circulated, but we basically know, thanks to Mark Lewisohn's book and a few other odds and ends sources, what's in there, and it's pretty certain that most of the very most interesting such stuff came out on the Anthology volumes. A good number of John Lennon 1960s home tapes have come out, in good part because of the "Lost Lennon Tapes" radio series of the 1980s. I emphasize I'm sure we'd all rather have John still with us at the expense of missing some unreleased material, but I think it's likely that had he not died so young, much of that stuff would remain unheard, as John and Yoko wouldn't have been nearly as interesting in excavating old relics if John was still an active recording artist. But very little in the way of McCartney home/composing tapes have surfaced, other than bits and pieces of "We Can Work It Out" and "Eleanor Rigby," as well as his acoustic demo of "Goodbye" for Mary Hopkin's cover. Nothing, really, has come out in the way of Harrison home/composing tapes, other than those two rickety-sounding songs where he's singing and playing with Bob Dylan. But as John admitted in an August 22, 1966 press conference, by then they were all recording at home, and George had a home studio as far back as 1964. You'd think there'd have to be some more material somewhere. But maybe, not knowing there'd be any historical value to them or curiosity about them decades later, Paul and George just didn't look after the tapes or keep track of them, perhaps even taping over them.
Phil Catalfo (philcat) Sat 4 Nov 06 09:38
Richie, where do you come down in the US version / British version "debate" (if we can call it that)? In other words, do you have any preference for the US versions of the early Beatles albums that Capitol put out, or do you prefer the albums as they were issued in the UK? Or do you not have a preference? I'm curious to learn whether you do, and why. I remember being shocked, when I worked in a Berkeley record store in the mid-1970s and got my hands on "import" versions of the Hard Day's Night and Help! albums (which weren't "soundtrack" albums as I'd known them but all-song collections including stuff recorded at the same time as film songs but not used in the films), as well as Rubber Soul and Revolver, and found out about albums I'd never seen or heard before (e.g., Beatles For Sale). The *songs* weren't new to me, of course, but the albums were. (They were also pressed on better vinyl, which mattered in those days.) So even though it took some getting used to the idea that Rubber Soul did not, in fact, open with "I've Just Seen a Face," and actually coming to like the new-to-me version of the album just fine. Which reminds me: On that British vinyl version of Rubber Soul, I believe it was, there was a version of "I'm Looking Through You" that I've never heard elsewhere. Well, it wasn't a completely different version--the entirety of the track is what we're used to--but the intro included not one but two false starts (the second slightly longer than the first). Do you know anything about that, and in particular about why it was included on one version and not others? I'm pretty sure the CD version of Rubber Soul, which is based on the tracks collected in the British version, does *not* include those false starts on that track.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sat 4 Nov 06 15:07
richie--i'm cuious about the sourcing for the book. What kinds of original documents were you able to access? Where were they? When did you depend on secondary sources? For example, in the (very interesting) entry on the decca audition tape, you refer to a list of songs that Brian Epstein sent to George Martin before their EMI audition--a list of suggestions for what he should hear. Were you able to access this list? If so, where is it kept? Was this information gleaned from another source? I find the sourcing interesting, because so much of this material was originally considered ephemeral and it was only much later that anyone would have found it interesting and valuable. Is there some sort of repository for documents related to the Beatles? Are there any libraries that have collections of this type of material?
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Nov 06 18:01
It comes as a disappointment to some people, but I don't have real strong opinions on the merits of the US versus the UK versions of the Beatles albums, except for a couple of specific cases. This actually comes down to two issues: sound quality, and track selection/sequencing (though admittedly the sleeve art on some of the early US Beatles albums was way less imaginative and tastefull rendered than the British counterparts). As for sound quality, most audiophiles would say that the British versions are considerably superior. This is both because some reverb was added to some of the early Beatles tracks (particularly through Beatles '65) on the US editions, and because the British versions are the ones that the Beatles and George Martin specifically approved. As you point out, Phil, the quality of the vinyl was better on the UK pressings as well. This is not the kind of remark that will win me any popularity contests among said audiophiles, but actually, I don't mind the reverb added to the American mixes. I know this has something to do with having heard "She's a Woman" and "You Can't Do That" -- two of the tracks in which the added reverb is very noticeable -- in the reverbed versions for years before hearing the original UK ones. The UK ones sounded a little flat and dry after getting used to the US versions. But I might have felt the reverse if I'd gotten used to the UK versions, and suddenly was hearing the echoey US mixes. There are other differences in the American mixes besides the added reverb, but in my opinion these are pretty minor, and not significant enough to affect whether I prefer the American or British mix. Track/sequencing issue discussion to follow in the next post.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Nov 06 18:02
As for the track selection/sequencing issues when comparing the US and UK versions of Beatles albums, there are only four instances where I have a strong preference for one over the other: A Hard Day's Night: This is a no-brainer. The US soundtrack album had just eight Beatles tracks, with four frankly unimpressive George Martin orchestral instrumental versions of Beatles songs. The UK version has all eight of those tracks, plus six more, all very good. Help!: This is another no-brainer. The US soundtrack has just seven Beatles tracks (the ones used in the film itself), and a bunch of sub-James Bond-thriller instrumental orchestral soundtrack music, usually not related to Beatles songs. The UK version has all seven of those Beatles tracks, plus seven more -- double the value. And the remaining seven songs include some very good ones, like "Yesterday," "I've Just Seen a Face," and "It's Only Love." What's worse, the US soundtrack LP was sequenced not so they put all seven Beatles songs together on one side and the instrumental soundtrack items together on the other (as was done for Yellow Submarine), but so that the Beatles songs alternated with the soundtrack recordings. I distinctly remember well how much of a pain it was to keep lifting the needle over the soundtrack instrumentals, and all those extra needle drops inevitably had an adverse effect of the playing condition of the LP itself. I'm sure if you compared US LPs of Help! to, say, US LPs of Rubber Soul, the vinyl of the US Help! LPs would generally be in MUCH worse condition than the vinyl on Rubber Soul. Don't forget, too, that on the US version of Help!, the track "Help!" itself -- cut one, side one -- starts off with about ten seconds of unrelated James Bond-type music before the actual Beatles recording of "Help!" starts. Revolver: Another no-brainer, albeit of the milder variety. The story's well known, but -- in the US in mid-1966, Capitol was putting together the Yesterday...and Today LP from leftover 1965 tracks that hadn't yet been put on album in the US. They were a little short, so they asked EMI in the UK whether some new songs could be flown over. And three tracks that had already been completed for Revolver in the UK -- "I'm Only Sleeping," "Dr. Robert," and "And Your Bird Can Sing," were literally flown over so the Yesterday...and Today LP would have enough stuff. So the 11-song US version of Revolver was missing those three songs. The UK version had all 11 songs on the Revolver version, *plus* "I'm Only Sleeping," "Dr. Robert," and "And Your Bird Can Sing." This not only meant there was less good stuff on the US version. It also tilted the balance of the US version very much in the direction of McCartney-dominated songs (which were very good, I'm not arguing that point) and away from Lennon's contributions. And, as we've noted several times, one of the things that made the group great was the balance between the different composers/singers. Meet the Beatles: I discussed this in a previous post. With the Beatles is still a great album, but I love hearing such a concentration of 1963 Beatles originals all in a row. And it's the way most Americans first heard the Beatles.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Nov 06 18:04
Some other points of interest on the US/UK Beatles LPs comparison thread: Starting with Sgt. Pepper, all the Beatles albums came out with the same track listings and sleeve art in the US and UK, so comparing the US/UK versions on basis of track sequencing was no longer an issue. For Magical Mystery Tour, interestingly, the US consumers got a better deal, since in the UK it was just a six-song double EP (with the six songs from the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack). The US version was a regular LP, with five songs from 1967 singles that hadn't yet come out on LP in either the US or UK. The US Magical Mystery Tour version sold so well as an import that EMI realized consumers worldwide preferred the LP-length version, which became the standard. As it happens, I was aware from the time I was ten (in 1972) that the US and UK versions of the LPs were different, sometimes substantially so. This was because it was then that I read the Hunter Davies biography, which had a discography in the back listing the tracks on all UK LP and single releases (and most US ones). Looking at it today, when shelves are bulging with reference works with discographies, it looks pitifully scanty and bare-bones, but it was the only place that info was widely available at the time. There was an old single of "Twist and Shout" on the Tollie label lying around the house that an older brother had bought, with "There's a Place" on the B-side. Somehow the Davies discography omitted the track listing for the Introducing the Beatles LP (the rough counterpart to the Please Please Me album in the US), and I thought I had this wonderful rarity that had never come out in the US on LP. And I vainly wondered how I could ever hear "Misery," that other Please Please Me song that was not listed as ever having come out in the US anywhere. I had no idea that it was on the "Introducing the Beatles" album. I also remember what a profound shock it was, just a couple of years or so later, to see UK import LPs of the Beatles start to show up in bins. I'd just figured those were incredibly exotic items that I'd never see without going to England. Also in the Davies book, I remember reading about their Christmas fan club-only discs and lamenting that I'd never get to hear those, particularly as they were described as containing some "songs" (I didn't realize those were informal, silly singalongs for the most part, not "real" Beatles songs). This is getting sidetracked a little, but I also remember how the Davies book described the Magical Mystery Tour album, and I was in more anguish figuring there was no way I'd ever get to see that. More than 30 years later, I think it's hard for even us, let alone Beatles fans who weren't even born in the early 190s, to imagine how difficult it was to actually access much of this material that we all take for granted now.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 4 Nov 06 18:04
To sum up my take on the US/UK Beatles LPs comparisons, really I'm not that particular about which versions I hear, other than the instances in the above posts. They all sound good to me played all the way through, provided there's not that crummy soundtrack filler. The US version of Rubber Soul sounds really good with "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love" mixed in, and so does the UK version, which is missing those tracks. To offer more heretical opinions, I think there is something to be said for how the US versions would often include songs that were released on singles, where the UK versions often didn't. It's kind of nice to hear "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "I Feel Fine" placed next to songs from around the same period, rather than lumped in those two Past Masters CDs, which are compilation albums covering fairly wide stretches of time. I also admit I like the "Yesterday...and Today" album, though it was strung together from various singles and odd LP tracks. It flows together pretty well, and the songs are really outstanding. It happens to be the way I first heard many of those, as well. Same thing for "Hey Jude," which was done only for the US market -- almost all of the songs are great, and when it came out, it was great to be able to easily obtain the non-LP sides, which I really didn't have access to as an eight-year-old who had no way to get to any specialist record stores that might have kept stocking old Capitol/Apple 45s after they'd fallen off the charts. It can also be noted here that there's a big debate over whether the CD versions of the Beatles catalog, which conform to the original British track selection/sequencing/sleeve art, sound as good as the original UK LPs. That's a very big separate issue that I'd rather not get derailed into, but generally: there are probably more fans than not who feel that the entire catalog should be remastered to improve the sound quality on the currently available CDs, and who also feel that remastered stereo AND mono versions should be provided of all their pre-1969 material, not just one or the other. (Post-White Album, everything the Beatles did came out in stereo only.)
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