Between March 1962 and June 1965 The Beatles performed a total of 52 BBC sessions. Some 275 performances were taped, comprising 88 unique songs (as some songs were repeated at various sessions).
Out of these 88 songs, 36 were never recorded for the Beatles' studio albums, so therefore it wasn't surprising that the majority of these were included on the first release, Live At The BBC, originally issued in 1994 and now available as a 2013 remaster.
Whilst this does mean that this second collection is slightly less essential than Volume 1, On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2 does contain a couple of songs never previously officially released - Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You" and the evergreen "Beautiful Dreamer", a favourite from their Hamburg days. There are also a number of alternative versions of songs released on Volume 1, such as "Memphis, Tennessee", "The Hippy Hippy Shake" and "Lucille" but most of the songs on this CD are BBC versions of tracks from the Beatles albums and singles of the period.
The BBC's recording facilities at the time were quite primitive, so whilst the BBC recordings lack the polish of the Beatles own album versions they're not without interest, as it's fascinating to hear these essentially "live" performances.
In addition to the 40 songs, there's 25 or so speech tracks, interspersed between the music. They capture the heady, early days of Beatlemania very well, as the fabs banter with the various DJ's hosting the shows, such as Brian Matthew, Alan Freeman, Lee Peters and Rodney Burke.
There are also four interviews each lasting about eight minutes (one per Beatle) recorded by Brian Matthew in 1965 and 1966 for the series Pop Profile. Two are at the end of the first CD and the other two are the last tracks on CD Two. These one-on-one interviews find the boys in more serious mode and although widely bootlegged, they make their official début here.
Sound quality is pretty good considering the source material, although it's fair to say that nothing is going to sound quite as clear and crisp as the album remasters. There are a few songs which are quite lo-fidelity though, particularly the rarer tracks like "I'm Talking About You" and "Beautiful Dreamer".
An essential purchase for Beatles fans then, but for the more casual listener the 2013 remaster of Volume 1 might be of more interest as it contains more unique material. And whilst one day it would be good to have a boxset containing all 275 tracks, for now On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2 is a solid addition to the Beatles' catalogue.
on 11 November 2013
This is a review of the Live At The BBC - The Collection but contains specific reference to On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2, hope people find it useful.
When Live At The BBC was released in 1994 it kicked off a major archival excavation that culminated in the Beatles Anthology Project but to my mind the Live At The BBC was the most interesting of these archival releases and the one that I have listened to the most over the years. It wasn't without it's flaws though and with the bootleg releases that included most of their complete shows, a volume 2 seemed like a no brainer. So it's a surprise that it's taken nearly 20 years for that to happen, especially as volume 1 shifted something like 5 million units.
Anyway, with regards to volume 1 the question is whether its worth purchasing the remaster if you already have the original from 1994. I would certainly say yes, if you don't have volume one then its essential and the stronger of the 2 volumes as it contains the most unreleased tracks. Although there isn't any new music or major upgrades in sources to what you would already have, the use of noise reduction is a lot better and less heavy handed than the previous issue and the key thing is the completely unnecessary cross fading between tracks have been removed, meaning you can compile both volumes chronologically without cutting of the start or end of tracks. There are also a few more snippets of dialogue like the inclusion of the amusing introduction from George to Soldier of Love, wish they'd also included the equally amusing intro to the Honeymoon Song or the `Honeyboot Song' as George calls it because of his `terrible nose'.
As for `On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2' this is long overdue. I really didn't think we would see any further official releases of the BBC recordings so this is hugely welcome. There aren't many sound upgrades from the bootlegs but on first listen Words of Love, Ask Me Why and Anna are considerable upgrades from the latest bootleg sources. Of the 36 unique songs the Beatles recorded for the BBC only the tracks from their very first session are still to be officially released. Those are Dream Baby, Besame Mucho (the EMI recording was released on Anthology One) and Pictures of You, all with Pete Best on drums. Not sure why those haven't been included because sound quality wise they are no worse than `I'm Talking About You' or Keep Your Hands of My Baby. Volume 2 also contains the tracks from the Baby It's You CD single but contains a different version of Devil In Her Heart, so need hang on to those singles, Lend Me Your Comb which was missing from volume 1 is also included here. The only frustration for me is we still don't have at least 1 performance of every song performed for the BBC! Of the 88 different songs recorded for the BBC we are still missing, I Call Your Name, I Should Have Known Better, The Night Before and I'm Happy Just to Dance With You as well as the 3 tracks I mentioned above from the first BBC sessions. All of these tracks are available on the boots but in poor quality so I suspect the compilers wanted to keep the poor quality off air recordings to a minimum on a mainstream release.
So all in all, Volume 2 is a very worthy addition to the Beatles catalogue and a excellent reissue of Volume 1. The studio outtake of I Feel Fine especially is a highlight. The booklets are excellent with essay's from Kevin Howlett (author of the excellent The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970) as well as a track by track analysis. I never tire of these performances and would happily sit through every one of their 275 performances (and have done on many occasions). Performances like Soldier of Love, Some Other Guy and To Know Her is To Love Her are every bit as good as the covers they recorded for EMI. It never ceases to amaze me that 2 of the greatest rock and roll singers of all time ended up in the same band!
So is there enough material left for a Volume 3, damn right there is. We are still missing those 3 unique tracks as mentioned earlier but there are sufficiently interesting versions of the already released tracks to justify another volume. The version of I'm a Loser with John substituted lyrics `Beneath This Wig I'm Wearing a Tie' immediately springs to mind, as well as superior performances of Misery from Pop Go The Beatles 14 and There's a Place from Pop Go The Beatles 5 also I can't believe they kept that version of A Hard Day's Night on volume one with the solo flown in from the EMI recording when they played it live on another performance. Hopefully as new sources are discovered this will happen.
*Edit 16/12/13. 41 more BBC tracks are being released on iTunes on the 17/12 along with studio outtakes and demo's in an effort to prevent them from becoming public domain![...]
on 22 February 2014
As a lifelong Beatles fan I was pleased to see the appearance of "On Air". However, if "Live at the BBC" is the A side "On air" is most certainly the B side. It's not that it's bad; it's just not as good. "Live at the Beeb" brought us not only live versions of many of the numbers from their first four albums and contemporary singles but also dozens of covers. It was like listening to "Live at the Star Club" except that it was much better recorded. "On Air" though has few of those and almost none that we haven't already now heard. On the other hand if you are a diehard like me you have to have it, don't you? and it will get the occasional playing. Highlights: "Money" and "Twist and Shout" and (wierdly - not their best single) "From Me To You".
on 16 November 2013
I try and buy music on the old black stuff whenever I can. This 3-LP set is obviously priced at a premium compared to the CD but it's worth the extra money. The triple gatefold packaging is superb (although the lack on inner bags is a bit of a niggle), beautifully printed with informative notes from Kevin Howlett and an interesting intro from Macca; plus, of course notes on each individual track. The great advantage of the LP format is of course the fact that you don't get eyestrain reading the sleevenotes!
The records themselves are beautifully pressed, and devoid of surface noise. Sound quality, given the age and origin of much of this material, is very good indeed.
As for the music, well I think it's better than that on Volume 1. Granted, I won't be listening to the interviews on the third LP (interesting as they are) THAT much but as a whole I think this collection is of more musical interest than the first.
on 16 November 2013
Listen again to remember how good they were. I realise now that there was a lot
more to the Beatles than most people realised. I think I now know why some wise
old man said "Youth is wasted on the young" or words to that effect.
I have to admit, it's not easy for me to listen to this album and equate what I'm hearing with the massively enthusiastic reviews for these two discs. It's difficult to treat this album as any more than it is - a collection of archive live performances The Beatles made for the BBC in the early sixties, some of which isn't of the best sound quality. I'm not stating for a minute that it isn't enjoyable or of great interest to a fan of The Beatles (any serious fan will want to own it), but for anyone who has owned Volume One for the past couple of decades, this album simply adds another volume of curios, asides and performances of songs we have all (mostly) heard before. There are the old rock 'n' roll classics The Beatles hammered out in Hamburg as live versions of singles and album tracks from their first few years of recorded output (1962 to 1965), plus a few "profile" interviews tagged onto the end. These are all good to have, it's a really lovely, quality package (featuring an interview with Paul McCartney from July 2013 in the beautifully detailed booklet) and made me smile many times throughout listening to it, but I can't see myself getting this album out to play very often now I have it... probably about the same frequency that I have Volume One, maybe once every three or four years.
I'm not criticising any aspect of this collection, far from it, it does exactly what it says on the tin, however there really is a lack of a "wow" factor on Volume Two. There was huge excitement listening to and watching the Anthology project and there were certain tracks on Volume One that really got the hairs on the back of the neck tingling. Unfortunately, there just isn't that kind of material on this album - they're not exactly scraping the bottom of the barrel, either, but I have to say that there is very little here that has increased my love or appreciation of The Beatles (if, indeed, that is possible). Simply put, it's just a very pleasant, decent listen that is more interesting for the interviews and hearing the four of them chat than listening to the music itself, as nice as it all is. Apart from one or two tracks outstanding, it seems like this is probably going to be the last "original" material that we will hear from the Fab Four, so that, in itself, makes it something to treasure, but for the songs, live performances and sound quality, I have to, objectively, say that it isn't exactly the toppermost of the poppermost. Wouldn't it have been great to have been there, eagerly listening to this emanating from the wireless at that point in time, though...?
on 20 November 2013
I was back to being 16 years old when I use to listen to the Beatles live on radio.
It's lovely to listen to the excellent vocals and superb musicianship of the 4 lads performing for us on live radio.
Brian Matthews did a sterling job presenting the show and allowing the boys' to demonstrate their personaliy, wit and spontaneity to entertain us in our own homes.
Back then, of course, the only daytime TV was the test card. As the song goes 'Video killed the radio star'' - never a truer word said or sung.
This is a fabulous DVD to go along with Volume 1.
This is a fascinating collection. I loaded it with some nervousness: I have pretty well all these tracks in their original form, so what could the BBC sessions add? The answer is atmosphere, a sense of the phenomenon that was Beatlemania and many, many fond memories of just how important this group was in shaping popular music for generations.
The atmosphere comes from the banter between the radio hosts and the Beatles themselves. I thought it might be too much but it isn't: there is just enough to bring across the enthusiasm of the Beatles and the affection with which they were hosted.
The sense of the Beatlemania phenomenon comes across from the requests that were sent in and duly read out. And the fond memories come from the music itself.
The first thing to notice about the music is how short the tracks were in those days: the well crafted single was three minutes or less and today that seems all too brief. Then, the quality of the performances: we all know how the Beatles started as a live band: they were good playing live on stage and they were good playing live in the studios too. To my ear they were at their very best when performing their own compositions. Yes, there are a couple of weaker tracks, but overall the musicianship is of a very high order. The singles, especially, are brilliant live reproductions of the records that were released.
This two-CD release brings across how special it was to people of my generation to hear the Beatles live on the radio. Half a century later it is a pleasure to hear these very well put together CDs and to revel in those fond memories.
A word too for the four interviews: these are not anodyne, superficial conversations. They are actually very interesting. I found the John Lennon interview particularly so, where he talks about the education of his son (Julian) and how important he is. Within a very short space of time Lennon was to leave his wife and family: what a change he went through.
I recommend this release: frankly, it exceeded my expectations. Very good: four stars.
on 6 December 2013
My "Go To" Beatles album of the last 15 years has been "Beatle Songs Live" by Paul McCartney & friends (now a double homemade 160 min CD). We of course can never have the Fab 4 live with the modern technological advances of the last 50 years so I have gone for the next best thing! "Beatle Songs Live" includes some special downloads such as the tribute Liverpool concert where George, Ringo and Paul played a 3 track tribute to John (Help, Strawberry Fields and Give Peace a Chance) but it is mainly made up of the 4 live Macca albums "Tripping the Live Fantastic", "Paul Is Live", "Back In The World" and "Good Evening New York City" which all have many great live versions of Beatle Songs plus a couple of songs each from "Wings Over America", "Macca Unplugged" and rare internet downloads. The result is song after song of magical tunes (including several of John's) and I would recommend it to any fellow Beatles Fanatic as there is no live concert in history to match it!
So to the problem of reviewing Vol 2 of "Live at the BBC" and John Lennon perhaps best sums it up on the live show here when he says" I find it amazing we are here in America but doing a live show on UK radio!" That is how much technology has moved on in 50 years especially with live recordings.
So this album is for the "Purists" in that it is 100% the Fab 4 live as they were on radio shows such as "Saturday Club", "From Us To You" and "Pop Go The Beatles" back in 1963 to early 1965. In truth many of the tracks here were included in Vol 1 but because they repeated the same songs on different shows there are alternate versions here. In all there are about 10 songs covered here worth having to put into a live mix of the two sets of BBC shows. "Words Of Love", Twist & Shout", "She Loves You", " And I Love Her", "If I Fell", "I Feel Fine", "I'll Follow The Sun", "Money", "Do You Want To Know A Secret" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" being the must have gems not included on Vol 1. The technology and sound though is basic and you should buy aware of this. Studio work was far more polished back in those days. But regardless of this there is still much magic here.
So if your about to buy your first Beatles album then start with the studio albums or the double best off's "Red" and "Blue" album if you want the greatest hits. The "Live at the BBC" albums are like the Anthology series a bit of very pleasant nostalgia to add on at the very end of your Beatles tour! And definitely buy the live Macca albums above and do your own "Beatle Songs Live" mix as the advance in technology of live performance is massive. As a tester Download "Can't Buy Me Love" from the "Back In the World" album and "Sgt Pepper / Pepper Reprise" & "Fool On The Hill" from the "Tripping The Live Fantastic" album as they are really sensational.
on 27 November 2013
There has been so much written about the Beatles studio albums that I do not really wish to comment on the songs themselves or their quality. However, if you really want to get a little taste of the sixties then this CD and the previous volume "The Beatles Live at the BBC" are the ones to buy. When I was a teenager there weren't that many programmes on the radio for young people, so we avidly listened to "Pop Go The Beatles", "The Saturday Club", "Top Gear" etc. It was not just the Beatles, but we also listened to the Swinging Blue Jeans, The Mersey Beats and Gerry and the Pacemakers and of course the Rolling Stones. The "Hippy Hippy Shake" was a big hit for the Blue Jeans but the Beatles never released it on a 45 rpm. The Swinging Blue Jeans went down just as well at the Cavern Club as The Beatles.
The "Beatles Live at The BBC volumes" shows the musical influences on the fab four including R&B, Country Music, Blues, Rock and Roll and Rockabilly. The Boys were trying to develop their own style based on the the wonderful American pop music of Chuck Berry, Elvis, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers and of course the best two of all: Buddy Holly and the Big O. The Beatles managed to top them all in terms of popularity if not music.
Life was pretty drab for a teenager in the early sixties compared to today; most teenagers had prospects to work in a factory or in a shop and a lot of the music played on the BBC was drab too. The Mersey Beat sound and the R&B sound of the Rolling Stones introduced a little colour into the life of teenagers.
These records are worth listening to if only for the interviews and the rapport which the The Beatles had with their fans and audience. The Boys had a zany sense of humour reminiscent of the "Goon Show". They were never arrogant, egotistical or pretentious. They came across as the friendly boys next door; their behaviour was urbane and polite even when they were teasing the audience or the interviewers. You get a real picture of what life was like then, so five stars for a little history.
The Beatles were not just about Rock and Roll for they loved ballads too but whatever were they thinking of by including "The Honeymoon Song" on Volume 1? So, there was romance in there too. Three stars,then, for being a bit mawkish.
Some of the songs were not recorded so well and from this you can get an impression of the sound quality which was coming out of AM radio stations but without the constant fading. It also gives you a feeling for the sound quality that we were getting out of our "Dansette "record players but without the rumble, wow and flutter and the scratches. The Beatles re-mastered CDs in mono and stereo sound fantastic compared to the sixties but will not take you on a trip down memory lane. The re-mastered stereo LP versions won't do it either and neither will the new re-mastered mono LPs.
"Live at the BBC" will give you a little taste of history and that is why it is essential that all pop music lovers listen to them.