Want to rock and roll? Get The Beatles, On Air — Live at the BBC Volume Two
It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have been a Beatles fan just about all my life. As Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, and Ray Charles were to them, they were to me. I learned to play guitar playing their records over and over. Even went so far as to form my own rock and roll group while in high school, an amazing experience I never would have had if it were not for the Fab Four.
One of my all time most favorite of all their music is the Live at the BBC, double CD set. These tracks were taped at the BBC for use in radio appearances the Beatles did for the BBC from 1962 to 1965 or thereabouts. Shows like Saturday Club, The Light Programme, or Pop Goes the Beatles.
The recordings were done in one take, typically, on antiquated recording equipment, with maybe an overdub on a vocal here and there. The songs are original Beatles compositions, yes, but the majority were covers of other rock tunes, proving to me, anyway that The Beatles were the best cover band ever.
In 1994, The Beatles’ Live at the BBC was released to worldwide acclaim – hitting number one in the U.K., number three in the U.S. and selling more than five million copies within six weeks.
Well, guess what, my cyber friends. A new companion to The Beatles’ first BBC collection, On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2, will be released Monday, November 11 in 2CD and 180-gram vinyl packages with a 48-page booklet. On Air’s 63 tracks, none of which overlaps with The Beatles’ first BBC release, include 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio banter and conversation between the band’s members and their BBC radio hosts.
Ten of On Air’s songs were never recorded by the group for EMI in the 1960s, including two making their debuts with the new release: The Beatles’ direct-to-air performance of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” and a rocking cover of the standard “Beautiful Dreamer.” On Air also includes different versions of six rarities heard on the 1994 BBC collection: Little Richard’s “Lucille,” Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” Chan Romero’s “The Hippy Hippy Shake,” Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman,” and two songs they learned from records by Carl Perkins, “Glad All Over” and “Sure To Fall.”
The Beatles’ tribute to the BBC’s most important pop show of the early ’60s – “Happy Birthday, Dear Saturday Club” – is another surprise. As John Lennon recalled in 1980, “We did a lot of tracks that were never on record for Saturday Club – they were well recorded, too.” Paul remembers, “We’d been raised on the BBC radio programs. One of the big things in our week was Saturday Club – this great show was playing the kind of music we loved, so that was something we really aspired to.”
Between March 1962 and June 1965, no fewer than 275 unique musical performances by The Beatles were broadcast by the BBC in the U.K. The group played songs on 39 radio shows in 1963 alone. Ringo Starr said in 1994, “You tend to forget that we were a working band. It’s that mono sound. There were usually no overdubs. We were in at the count-in and that was it. I get excited listening to them.” On their busiest BBC day, July 16, 1963, The Beatles recorded 18 songs for three editions of their Pop Go The Beatles series in fewer than seven hours.
The group played 88 distinct songs in their BBC sessions – some were recorded many times; others performed just once. At the time, three national BBC stations provided all daytime radio broadcasting in the U.K. Only the Light Programme network might occasionally play a record. Most broadcast music was live music. Consequently, to promote their releases, The Beatles had to play live at the BBC. “Everything was done instantly,” remembered George Harrison, “But before that, we used to drive 200 miles in an old van down the M1, come into London, try and find the BBC and then set up and do the program. Then we’d probably drive back to Newcastle for a gig in the evening!”
On Air also features BBC recordings of 30 well-loved songs from The Beatles’ catalogue, including five number ones and other favorites such as: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist And Shout,” “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” “Boys,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Money,” “And I Love Her,” and “If I Fell.”
Like its critically acclaimed predecessor, On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2 includes audio of The Beatles talking to DJs Brian Matthew and Alan Freeman and Pop Go The Beatles hosts Lee Peters and Rodney Burke. When first broadcast, pop fans were amazed to hear such witty irreverence on the rather formal BBC and it is great fun to hear these extracts now. In addition, On Air releases, for the first time, the group’s candid interviews for the Pop Profile series recorded in November 1965 and May 1966.
Newly remastered for reissue on November 11, The Beatles’ first Live at the BBC album sounds and looks better than ever. This collection of the group’s BBC sessions mixed versions of their hits with a treasure trove of 30 songs The Beatles performed on air but never released on record in the 1960s. The compelling track list ranged from a rare performance of the little known Lennon-McCartney original “I’ll Be On My Way” to covers of classic rock ’n’ roll and contemporary rhythm and blues songs. At the time of its release, Live at the BBC was hailed by Rolling Stone as “an exhilarating portrait of a band in the process of shaping its own voice and vision.” It earned a GRAMMY® Award nomination for Best Historical Album.
Live at the BBC was assembled by George Martin in 1994 and On Air – Live at the BBC Volume Two was compiled and researched by producers Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley. Both albums have been meticulously mastered by engineers Guy Massey and Alex Wharton at Abbey Road Studios. The booklets for both collections include Kevin Howlett’s essays on the history of The Beatles’ BBC radio sessions and his detailed commentaries on all of the tracks.
Watch the promo video. It’s way cool. And I for one, can’t wait for On Air, Live at the BBC Volume Two to drop. Who is putting it on their wish list for the holidays this year?
And I just love Ringo’s line at the end of the promo video above. John, in upper class accent: ”I was at college just near there.” Ringo: ”Ya college puddin. Shut up, ya Posh!” LOL
On Air — Live at the BBC Volume Two drops Monday, November 11, 2013.