Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl - The Beatles

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl
The Beatles
Capitol SMAS 11638

This is my belated acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Beatlemania in the United States with the arrival of the Fabs in New York to play on "The Ed Sullivan Show."  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I may have witnessed that fabled event.  My father claims we watched it but given that I was little more than a baby at the time, it may have been past my bedtime.  In any case I have no memory of it, but I cherish it as much as anybody.  I have really enjoyed all the hype in the press about the anniversary as well as the television program that reunited Paul and Ringo.  I became a Beatles fan in the 1970s well after they had broken up and it seemed to me that they were under-appreciated at the time.  None of my friends liked them much and I was forever hearing that the Rolling Stones, the Who or Led Zeppelin were the world's greatest rock band.  Even worse was the rise of the Bay City Rollers (my sisters were fans) and all the ridiculous comparisons between Rollermania and Beatlemania.  I listened to lesser artists have big hits with crummy covers of Beatles' classics and seethed with resentment.  So it was doubly sweet to me to see the arrival of the Beatles being hailed as a cultural landmark event.  I suppose the ideal album to play to celebrate the anniversary would be "Meet the Beatles" which was the album they were promoting with their visit or "Something New" which features a cover photo of the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" but I've already done posts on those records.  So I've opted for this one, the only legitimate issue of a Beatles live album which was drawn from two shows at the Hollywood Bowl, one from August 23, 1964 and one from almost a year later on August 30, 1965.  This album was the first time I got to experience the exquisite pleasure of buying a brand new Beatles album as soon as it came out.  I was thrilled with it at the time and I still love it but some of my enthusiasm is tempered by my disappointment that the record does not contain the full contents of both concerts.  The album consists of 13 songs but runs just a little over 30 minutes which may accurately reflect the length of a Beatles' show but is pretty skimpy for an album.  I have a bootleg of the 1964 show on a record called "30 Nostalgia Hits" and it is all worthwhile.  There are six tracks from the twelve songs they performed at that concert on the album: "Things We Said Today," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Boys," "All My Loving," "She Loves You" and "Long Tall Sally."  The 1965 show provides seven songs: "Twist and Shout," "She's a Woman," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," "Ticket To Ride," "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" with five other songs from the show not making the album.  The sound quality is phenomenal, George Martin did a brilliant job polishing the recordings and seamlessly editing the two shows together.  It sounds a lot better than my bootleg.  The crowd is loud and the persistent roar is exhilarating but the music is nonetheless clear with decent separation.  The Beatles' performances are excellent, I love the raw energy of the vocals of John and Paul and the instrumental backing is remarkably good considering that they could not hear themselves play.  I suspect they were probably trying harder knowing that they were being recorded for a possible record.  These are by far the best Beatles concert recordings I've ever heard.  I particularly like the raucous performances of "Twist and Shout," "She's A Woman" "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," "Boys," "Help!" and best of all, an incendiary version of "Long Tall Sally."  Martin has preserved the lads' between songs patter on the album which I appreciate but it does make for some temporal inconsistencies when they refer to their latest albums or songs since the album jumps back and forth between 1964 and 1965.  This is a minor complaint though that hardly diminishes the appeal of this wonderful record.  I may be a little prejudiced, but I say this is one of the best rock live albums ever.  If I had access to a time machine and could pick one single show to go back and see, it would be one of these two - the hard part is picking which one!  I go to the Hollywood Bowl quite often, it is one of my favorite venues for a show, and there is not a time that I go there that I don't think about the Beatles having played there.  I wish I had been there, but having this record is the next best thing.  Recommended to Beatles fans too young to have experienced Beatlemania first hand.