Live Beatles LP sparks memories of first vinyl purchase

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      The other night I listened to the new Beatles album, On Air–Live at the BBC Volume 2, and it's got its pros and cons.

      To be honest, I could do without the 19 “speech tracks” that litter this three-LP package. Most of it is goofy gibberish between the Beatles and various BBC DJs, but I don’t need to hear that crap. Although I love the Beatles to death—they’re my favourite band of all time—there was enough Fab Four silliness on A Hard Day’s Night alone to last a lifetime.

      These recordings from 1963 and ’64 do capture the band performing some of its biggest early hits—including Lennon-McCartney classics like “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”—but many of the songs here were already included on the first Live at the BBC collection, which was issued in ’94 and sold an estimated eight-million copies during its first year of release.

      One cool thing about Volume 2 is the number of covers by the American artists who most influenced the Beatles, including Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard. There are three songs by Chuck Berry, including a previously unreleased, direct-to-air performance of “I’m Talking About You”.

      As noted on the album’s back cover, “some tracks included for their historical significance do not represent the usual sound quality of studio recordings.” Whether or not you’ll be okay with the sound quality depends a lot on how much of a hardcore Beatles/nostalgia buff you are.

      For me, listening to Volume 2 tracks like Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and the Tamla/Motown hit “Please Mr. Postman” hold special significance because those were the two songs on the very first record I remember buying.

      I think I was around six or seven when I made that unforgettable purchase. I was visiting my grandparents in Point Grey, and my mom took me for a walk to a record store on 10th Avenue—which seemed like halfway around the world. She bought me the 45 and then we went back and played it on my grandparents’ stereo until I was politely asked to stop.

      At the time I had no idea that these weren’t actually Beatles songs. They sure as hell sounded like Beatles songs to me.

      Stand on it, George!

      Thanks Mom!


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      Michael K

      Dec 8, 2013 at 3:16pm

      I think Kevin Howlett, the man who's compiled the whole project since the late 70's in ever-expanding tracks and quality from meagre beginnings as a 'list f things the BBC hadn't kept', is right to include more of the inbetween chatter on this second double CD. I hadn't really got with the 1994 CDs til now but playing the whole lot of these Live at the BBC cd's now quite simply creates a rolling radio station. I kind of remember this from the radio broadcasts of the 'Beatles at the Beeb' shows that were the earlier incarnations of these CD's but what Apple and Howlett have done is push back further to give us something like the Beatle radio world of 1963-5 and it's really quite something to tap into.

      Michael K

      Dec 8, 2013 at 3:22pm

      I'm actually also quite amazed that some comparisons a few years back between the energy of the first Arctic Monkeys album and the Please Please Me album (the former breaking the fastest-selling debut record set by the latter) were, after all, quite appropriate. There is a raw and relentless energy in these performances that is shared with the more recent band which has since become quite the progressive item itself.


      Dec 8, 2013 at 3:22pm

      Re: "they’re my favourite band of all time"- mine too. I think they were in a league of their own and I can only scratch my head when others think otherwise. They raised the bar so high that-during the sixties and seventies- it resulted in others having to compete by doing their absolute best, resulting in a great wave of melodic music. I'm looking forward to this new BBC release.

      Adrian Mack

      Dec 8, 2013 at 6:59pm

      It's great. The Beatles, live, warts 'n all? There's no downside! That version of "I'm Talking About You" that Newt mentions is outrageously good, and maybe one of the best Lennon vocals you've never heard before. I also like the between song chatter. At one point Paul is talking about his 21st birthday.