The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963

The Beatles

Apple/UMG, 2013

http://www.thebeatles.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/26/2016

I know of no other band where studio outtakes are as cherished as those of the Beatles’. It is an amazing tribute to the band that there is such appetite to listen over and over again to the same songs, which may contain only slight differences from the officially released versions. Bootlegs of Beatles studio outtakes have abounded for decades, and the Anthology albums of the mid-1990s really gave a massive dose. But the desire in many quarters to get a hold of EVERY note the Beatles ever laid onto a magnetic tape is nothing short of incessant. In 2013, The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963 became one of the strangest official releases from the group because it was at first only released on Apple’s iTunes for a few short hours (and later made available permanently). This was long enough to extend the copyright protection in the European Union on these exact performances. Why these were the only ones worthy of protection, as no subsequent yearly prophylactic releases followed, are a mystery. 

Most of the 15 studio tracks available here were recorded on only two days, a marathon session from February 11 and another shorter session on March 5, 1962, in which the group recorded nearly all of the tracks for their my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Please Please Me album. Such quick work was common from the Beatles in those days, but became extremely rare once the group stopped touring. These recordings are full of vocal flubs, false starts, breakdowns, and studio chatter. The lead guitar tracks are often less than impressive, but it’s still a fun look at the Beatles at work. According to Beatles recording historian Mark Lewisohn, John Lennon was suffering from a pretty bad cold for the February session and the group made it through hours of recording only by a steady intake of throat lozenges. It was at the end of that session that the band, needing one more song to round out their LP, recorded two takes of the famously raucous “Twist And Shout” with Lennon’s voice torn to shreds. The released version was take one, because after that take, his voice was beyond repair. The results were music history, and getting a further glimpse into those sessions is a pleasure.

Most of the remaining tracks cover a treasure trove of BBC radio performances that the Beatles did during 1963. Many of these songs are well known to the Beatle fan, having been released through the Live At The BBC release in 1994 and 2013’s On Air — Live At The BBC, Vol. 2. But the Fab Four were big supporters of radio, and performed some 275 times on air in three years. Many of those recordings were deemed to not be of official release quality when those two albums were compiled, but many have been widely available on unofficial bootlegs for years, even predating the 1994 release. Several are fun diversions from the usual Beatle fare, such as “Too Much Monkey Business,” “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues,” and “I Got To Find My Baby.”  As most of these tracks were done with no overdubs and often in one take, the performance quality is quite astounding. 

The album also offers two demo tracks of songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote and gave to other artists, “Bad To Me,” and “I’m In Love.” These artifacts are immensely interesting, but it is pretty easy to see why they were sold off to others. They are not fully Beatle quality, but for those who can’t get enough, especially of demos and songs in half-finished form, these are gold.  

This release whetted the appetite of die-hard fans that more would follow in order to protect more songs’ copyrights. But alas, the vault appears to be closed. Nevertheless, this album is a great piece of music history, and for those who can’t get enough of everything Beatles, this is a must-have download.

Rating: A-

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