Top positive review
37 people found this helpful
on 18 October 2013
These next few weeks are going to prove expensive for Beatles fans, what with a quartet of releases fighting for your money. Paul McCartney's `New' is out now, and both `On Air' and the remastered `Live at the BBC' are coming your way. A companion to those two releases is Kevin Howlett's history of the group at the BBC. (Moreover, it is not just of their radio performances, as it also covers their television appearances for Auntie.) Nevertheless, is there room for another book on the Fab Four? Other than his slim line look at the Fab Four on radio back in 1996 - and both Lewisohn's 'Complete Beatles' and Ritchie Unterberger's `Unreleased Beatles' looked into the subject - as Howlett had unreserved access to the BBC vaults, yes there is.
Though what is included here was in that previous paperback, not only is this double the number of pages, it is not simply a book per se; it also includes a photo of the group and six reproductions of various documents (one from John Lennon) within a replica paper file. It all comes in a box meant to look like a tape reel box.
Inside, there are plenty of photos of the boys, many of which you will never have seen (the one on page 10 is superb, the three on page 88 need a double take), along with yet more copies of BBC paperwork and photos of the records of the songs the group covered (mostly singles in their original paper sleeves). The BBC Audience Research Reports make interesting reading; the first edition of Pop Go The Beatles had an index of 52 whereas Magical Mystery Tour's was just 23, but their appearance on Juke Box Jury garnered 63.
There is plenty of text regarding the history of their appearances on both television and radio from March 1962 until April 1970, with plenty of interviews to digest. Listed at the back with brief text are the 96 songs and six, of seven, oddities (though it's mentioned in the main body of text, 'Whit Monday To You' is missing) performed on both mediums. What will be surprising to many is how few times the group appeared on BBC television (and very little of those few remain). The most unexpected of these all too infrequent appearances is their return from America in February 1964. Deemed so important by the national broadcaster, the event took over 15 minutes of Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon and has one of those laugh out loud moments. When the reporter spotted a lone male amongst the thousands, he was asked why he was there; "I'm just trying to get on television". Also remarkable is how many documents and letters still survive - now we can all read them.
The only aberration was with one of the names mentioned. The BBC's boxing commentator was Harry Carpenter, not Humphrey Carpenter.
If you are at all interested in the subject, buy this. It is well packaged and presented.