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Saturday, February 8, 2014 A guide to those "other" Beatles records Rarities and oddities abound... if fans know where to look by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA
Reporter Kabir Bhatia
The Beatles were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. (L to R) George Harrison, Yoko Ono (widow of John Lennon), Ringo Starr, and Lennon's sons Julian and Sean. Paul McCartney did not attend because of what he called ongoing business differences with his former bandmates. Lennon (1994), McCartney (1999) and Harrison (2004) have all been inducted as solo artists, while producer George Martin (1999) is in as a non-performer. Manager Brian Epstein will be induced this April in Brooklyn.
Next to Taylor Hicks, probably my favorite musical act is The Beatles. So much has been written about the group, it hardly seems necessary to add more. So I will end this post and see you later. KIDDING—we're paid by the letttterr here. In 2012, EMI re-released the Beatles’ original UK albums on vinyl. Despite archival releases, the group’s “core” catalog has remained 217 songs spread over 16 CDs/LPs. But what happens when you want more? Solo Beatle albums are obviously a good choice, and most of them have their moments. But here I discuss another option… rare albums, hard-to-find songs, or just flat-out illegal (but easy to find) bootlegs. Enjoy! And be sure to visit me in prison!
1961 The Beatles (John, Paul, George and Pete Best) were playing another residency in Hamburg, Germany when they were drafted by Polydor Records to back up fellow British expatriate Tony Sheridan. Producer Bert Kaempfert set up the quintet in a local school auditorium and recorded several songs, one of which (“My Bonnie”) became a sizable German hit. With Sheridan singing, the Fab Four were credited as “The Beat Brothers” at the time. But in the course of the session, they managed to cut an uptempo version of the Tin Pan Alley standard “Ain’t She Sweet” (with John on lead vocal) and “Cry For a Shadow” (a Lennon-Harrison instrumental, intended to mimic the style of British mega-stars, The Shadows). The latter two songs wouldn’t come out until the height of Beatlemania, with “Ain’t She Sweet” even hitting the Top 40. Both tunes are on “Anthology 1,” but a stereo version of “Ain’t She Sweet” is on the 1974 compilation “The History Of British Rock, Volume II” (Sire SASH-3705/2); that album also includes several Lennon-McCartney songs given away to fellow Merseybeat artists.
1962 Six months after the Tony Sheridan session, on New Year’s Day, a very hungover Fab Four entered Decca Studios in London for an audition. They played 12 covers and three originals (“Love of the Loved,” “Hello Little Girl,” “Like Dreamers Do”). The latter two originals, plus three covers (“Searchin’,” “Three Cool Cats” and “The Sheik of Araby”) are on “Anthology 1.” The rest… well, they’re easily findable on YouTube, sync’d up to images of the band (just search for “Beatles Decca audition”). If you want them on vinyl, you could buy a nice pair of early 1980s albums titled “The Silver Beatles” on Phoenix Records. OR, check out the “Deccagone” label. In 1976, some enterprising (and evil GENIUS) record presser made seven colored-vinyl 45s, compiling all the Decca audition tunes (except “Take Good Care of My Baby”). They’re all packaged in sleeves reminiscent of the mid-1960s Capitol picture sleeves. This “label” also put out an EP of 4 songs from the group’s 1963 Royal Command Performance. And Decca Records made out OK, too… George Harrison tipped them to a hot R&B group playing in London, The Rolling Stones. And except for all those friends and bandmembers dying, the Stones did OK, too.
1964 It’s the height of Beatlemania. You’re a big, shiny executive in a bad suit at Capitol Records. There isn’t enough Beatles product coming through the pipeline. What do you do? What DO you DO?! First, get a better suit. Second, start hanging out with the Beach Boys and hope to meet some local groupies. Third, you setup to record the Beatles' performance at prestigious Carnegie Hall. BUT, the Musician’s Union says “fat chance!” To which you should respond, “that means the same thing as ‘slim chance’." Then you record the group at the Hollywood Bowl, just to mess with those New York eggheads. That’s what Capitol did that summer. And again the following summer (twice). No one was happy with the quality of the 1965 shows, either. Fast-forward to 1977, and Capitol hired Beatles producer George Martin to distill an LP from the three shows. "The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl" hit #2 in the US and #1 in the UK. It’s never been reissued on CD, but vinyl copies are easy to find. A bootleg double-CD containing all three concerts is also floating around among collectors. (The Beatles' other high-profile appearance that year, on "The Ed Sullivan Show," is available here, while their first U.S. concert in Washington D.C. is available here).
1968 The Beatles launched their own record label, Apple Records, featuring their own new releases, plus albums and singles from Welsh songstress Mary Hopkin and Liverpudlian Jackie Lomax. Both of them required instrumental backing and producing/writing guidance. In Lomax’s case, his first disk was “Sour Milk Sea,” a rocking George Harrison tune written in India and featuring a band of George, Nicky Hopkins, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton. Not bad, except the tune got lost in the shuffle when it was released the same day as mega-hits “Hey Jude” and Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days.” The Beatles recorded an acoustic demo of “Sour Milk Sea” for possible inclusion on the White Album, and an enterprising music-lover with too much time on his hands (trust me, it’s a him) has combined George Harrison’s demo vocal with the rocking backing track from Lomax’s single.
1969 Every Christmas from 1963-69, the Beatles would put out a flexi disc (those wobbly, plastic things you’d see in magazines), with holiday wishes, some off-key singing, etc. By 1968, they couldn’t be bothered to trot down to the studio and put these things together, so DJ Kenny Everett visited each group member, rolled tape, then edited it all together. Paul’s contribution in 1969 was a Christmas song, which an enterprising YouTuber has edited together. It’s catchy, too. All seven fan club messages were collected on the Apple LP "From Then To Us" (aka "The Beatles Christmas Album"). It has not been reissued on CD, but vinyl copies abound online.
1970 Mary Hopkin’s first single to miss the British Top 10, “Que Sera Sera” was produced by Paul McCartney and apparently features a band of just him, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. The track sounds like it could have easily slotted on “Abbey Road” with more overdubs. Hopkin fever-CATCH IT!
“It Don’t Come Easy” said everyone alive then. War raged overseas, and gas had soared to 36 cents per gallon. Apollo 13 nearly met with disaster. Heather Graham was born, which almost balances the Beatles breaking up. Anyhow, Ringo Starr had a big hit with his first single, “It Don’t Come Easy,” which the label said he wrote. Labels don’t lie, but in this case, I wonder… a demo emerged about 15 years ago, which features the recording of this tune that we all know, except with George Harrison singing! It’s otherwise identical to the released version (although there are more prominent backing vocals from Badfinger, and a few measures were edited out here and there for a better flow on the released version). Published reports and foggy memories say the band consists of Ringo, George, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills and Klaus Voorman.
The Beatles are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Mick Jagger, 1988...