inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #51 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #52 of 121: Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 2 Nov 06 16:50
    
Ouch!!
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #53 of 121: Michael Zentner (mz) Thu 2 Nov 06 17:43
    
Or reused. That was probably more common.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #54 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #55 of 121: Eric Rawlins (woodman) Fri 3 Nov 06 07:39
    
Always a worthwhile question, I think.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #56 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #57 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #58 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #59 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #60 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #61 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #62 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #63 of 121: 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!)
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #64 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #65 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #66 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #67 of 121: 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."
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #68 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #69 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #70 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #71 of 121: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #72 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #73 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #74 of 121: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.285 : Richie Unterberger, "The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film"
permalink #75 of 121: 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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