Saturday, 28 December 2013

My Beatles Christmas.



I have to confess it has been a Beatles Christmas for me, shamelessly wallowing in nostalgia.

It started because I bought myself (why not?) ‘The Beatles On air – live at The BBC volume 2’.

About twenty years ago the BBC and Apple brought out a double cd of Beatles numbers from the archives with a few introductions and snippets as well. It was about a year before the magical series of demos, outtakes and odd leftover stuff came out on ‘The Beatles Anthology’.

Now there is a second volume out – I couldn’t resist. I loved the Beatles in the 1960’s and whatever anyone says I still like them now.

Beatles fans come in two blocks – before 1967 and after, I’m very much a ‘before 67’ fan.

I can’t stand Sgt Pepper, which was a dreadful, pretentious album. If you don’t believe me, listen to the tracks on ‘Anthology’, to the demos and early takes before George Martin messed them about, they are far better than the finished article. Also, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane were due to be on it but EMI wanted a single out and they were ‘stolen’, we can only guess which songs made it as a result.

Anyway, ‘On Air 2’, is a pleasure; great sounds, great photos and some interviews, a lot of fun.

I grew up with a transistor radio from about 6 years old, catching the tail end of these broadcasts and later heard them endlessly repeated. Back then ‘The Beatles’ were aimed at a younger audience and they often did matinee performances for children.

They got their contract with Parlaphone records (EMI’s comedy label) – based on their humour, because everybody thought that the Merseybeat sound was already dead by then. Their ‘harmless’ humour won over the older generations as well as the BBC – they did a lot of performances (250 plus) and always nurtured their relationship with ‘The Beeb’.

When new experiences, the Vietnam war and drugs radicalised them – that was why the older generations were so scandalised – they had thought The Beatles were harmless.

Because their contract with EMI was so bad (a farthing per record – which is a quarter of an old penny or less than one eighth of a present day ‘new’ penny) they had to keep touring.

Their punishing schedule meant that their BBC shows were often crammed in between rushing up and down the country for shows. As a result it’s the nearest thing to a live performance you can find, without the screams.

It’s also the nearest thing to their act when they were playing all night in Hamburg – more rocky, more lively.

It’s a sheer joy to an old ‘un like me. And Brian Matthews (of Saturday Club fame) whose on the disc and got them onto the BBC to start with, is still broadcasting ‘The Sounds of The Sixties’ at 0800 am every Saturday on BBC Radio 2.



A Hard Days Night

Then I went into Staines for the sales and didn’t buy anything, except I went into Sports Direct and bought a Beatles Calendar which charts 1964 (50 years ago) with some wonderful photos from the Apple archive.

When I got home I enjoyed it so much that when I went back to Staines today to go to HMV for music, I bought another one to give to my new friend Thomas, in Upton Park Hospital, just so that he realises that you have to make plans for 2014, whatever the year holds.

He loved it too.

And I’ve still got to review Andrew Deeley’s album.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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