Live at the BBC | On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2
The Beatles were the most famous band of all time, dominating the music of the 1960s and influencing all pop and rock artists that have come since. The four members, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, only gained their success after playing long nights every day each week in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg.
On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2 is another high-quality album. A follow-up to Live at the BBC, an album released in 1994, it contains live performances of their greatest hits – including five number ones – as well as a selection of lesser-known songs including rare cover versions of songs that influenced the band.
At the BBC
Amazingly, in the early days of their success, the Beatles were invited to perform songs that were broadcast live on BBC radio. Between 1962 and 1965 the boys played 88 different songs, with 36 of these songs never recorded on any of the Beatles official albums. 30 of these songs were released on Live at the BBC, two on Anthology 11 and two more, 'I'm Talking About You' and 'Beautiful Dreamer', appeared for the first time on this album2.
The album also includes banter between the band and the hosts of the programmes they appear on: Rodney Burke, Lee Peters, Brian Matthew and Alan 'Fluff' Freeman. The album also includes four personal interviews as part of the Pop Profile series, one with each of the Beatles.
Track titles in italics indicate that this is an introductory speech, not a song. Songs titles in Bold are the songs not released on any EMI/Apple Beatles album when they were still together or on Live at the BBC.
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In this section of the Entry, as well as the song title, the month in which the song was recorded and broadcast is listed, plus fascinating facts about the song.
'Words of Love' (July, 1963)
A 1957 Buddy Holly song that was one of the first songs regularly performed by the Quarry Men, John Lennon's school days group that later evolved into the Beatles. They recorded a version of this song in 1964 that appeared on Beatles For Sale and the American Beatles Albums Beatles VI. This version was broadcast on radio in July 1963, 15 months before Beatles For Sale was released.
Both Paul and John were heavily influenced by Buddy Holly after seeing him perform live with The Crickets at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall on 20 March, 1958. In fact, Stuart Sutcliffe chose the name 'The Beatles' having been inspired by The Crickets. Paul would later buy Buddy Holly's entire back catalogue from Holly's manager Norman Petty in 1971.
'Do You Want to Know a Secret' (July, 1963)
A song from the Beatles' debut album Please Please Me that they sang six times for the BBC in 1963. Though they never released it as a single in the UK, this track was a US number 2 in 1964 and a UK number two hit for Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas in June 1963, where it was beaten by the Beatles' 'From Me to You'. This was the first UK top ten hit for a Beatles song performed by another artist.
One of the inspirations for the song came from Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the film near the beginning, Snow White talks to some birds, saying 'Wanna know a secret? Promise not to tell?' before singing 'I'm Wishing'. These are reflected in the lyrics 'Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?'. 'I'm Wishing' was a favourite song of John's mother Julia, which she often sang to him as a child.
'Lucille' (September, 1963)
A Little Richard rocker that had also been covered by the Everly Brothers, who also appeared on Saturday Club, the first of two Beatles live radio performances, with their second performance previously released on Live at the BBC. Paul would later perform it live for the Concert for Kampuchea and on his solo album CHOBA B CCCP.
'Anna (Go to Him)' (August, 1963)
A song by Arthur Alexander, an artist John in particular admired. The song appeared on their debut album Please Please Me, and the Beatles sang it twice on radio in 1963, with this their second performance.
'Please Please Me' (July, 1963)
The Beatles' second single and the name of their first album, 'Please Please Me' was listed as a UK number 1 on five of the six national charts of the time. Although 'Please Please Me' was considered a number 1 on the BBC, Disc, Melody Maker, New Musical Express and Record Mirror charts, on the Record Retailer chart it was classed as number 2. Record Retailer's chart is the one that evolved into the chart used today.
Capitol Records, EMI's American subsidiary, chose not to release 'Please Please Me' as a single as they felt the lyric was promoting fellatio. In fact, John's inspiration was the 1932 Bing Crosby record 'Please', another of John's mother's favourite songs. This contained the lyrics 'Oh please lend your little ear to my pleas'. An early version can be heard on Anthology 1. The live performance does not feature John playing the harmonica.
'Misery' (March, 1963)
Another Lennon-McCartney number from their debut album. This song had been written in January 1963. They had hoped that Helen Shapiro, who they were due to support as the sixth-billed act in a nationwide tour in February, would consider recording it, but Shapiro's recording manager Norrie Paramor rejected it. In March it was recorded by Kenny Lynch, another of Shapiro's supporting artists, who was the first non-Beatle to record a Lennon-McCartney song, although it was not a hit.
This song, primarily by John Lennon, is the first of his songs heard on the Beatles' first album, and so is a downbeat antithesis to Paul's optimistic 'I Saw Her Standing There'. The live performance does not feature George Martin's piano playing that features on the album version.
'I'm Talking About You' (March, 1963)
A song performed live on air, as the band had been unable to pre-record their appearance on Saturday Club because John had been ill. This song was a 1961 Chuck Berry number that the Beatles only performed this once on radio. Their interpretation of this song was previously unavailable and had never been officially released before this album, making it one of the album's undisputed highlights.
'Boys' (June, 1963)
This song sung by Ringo about how wonderful Boys are was the B-side to girl group The Shirelles' number 1 hit, 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow'. Ringo had first sung the song before he joined the Beatles and was the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He continued to play it as part of his 1989 All-Starr Band tour and included it on his Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band Anthology... So Far album. Beatles versions appear on Please Please Me and Anthology 1.
Sadly Ringo has not yet followed up this song with a rendition of 'It's Raining Men'...
'Chains' (June, 1963)
A song written by husband and wife songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King that was released by The Cookies in November 1962. The Beatles included it on Please Please Me.
'Ask Me Why' (September, 1963)
This song was the very first Lennon-McCartney composition broadcast by the BBC when it was included in their debut radio session on Teenagers Turn: Here We Go in June 1962, although this performance dates from September the following year. The song also appears on Please Please Me.
'Till There Was You' (July, 1963)
A song from The Music Man musical that was a hit for Peggy Lee in 1961. Three versions of this song were recorded for the BBC, all broadcast before the song was released on their With The Beatles album. Other versions of this song are also on Live at the BBC and Anthology 1.
'Lend Me Your Comb' (July, 1963)
A 1958 Carl Perkins number, the B-side to 'That's Right', that the Fab Four often sang in Hamburg. This performance was previously released on Anthology 1.
'The Hippy Hippy Shake' (September, 1963)
Originally a minor 1959 record for Chan Romero, this song was a favourite of Liverpool's Cavern Club DJ Bob Wooler, and so many Mersey Beat groups learnt it. Consequently it later became a 1964 number 2 hit for The Swinging Blue Jeans. The Beatles often sang it, including in Hamburg. Another performance is available on Live at the BBC.
'Roll Over Beethoven' (August, 1963)
A Chuck Berry 1956 song that failed to make much impact in the British chart, but a song George Harrison frequently sang. They performed it seven times in BBC sessions, with this performance taking place two days after they recorded the take that opens side two of With The Beatles. It also appears on Anthology 1, with another radio performance appearing on Live at the BBC. The song features in the biopics Birth of the Beatles, In His Life: The John Lennon Story and Nowhere Boy.
'There's a Place' (August, 1963)
Another John Lennon song from Please Please Me showing his introverted side. John would later state that he had been inspired by Motown music when composing it.
'P.S. I Love You' (June, 1963)
One of Paul's earliest songs, it was written in 1961, became the B-side to their first single, and appears on their debut album. At the time Paul was in a relationship with Dot Rhone and he often wrote letters home to her in Liverpool from Hamburg where he was performing.
This is one of only two Beatles' songs whose copyright is owned by MPL3 Communications. It was released before Lennon and McCartney were persuaded to set up their 'own' songwriting company Northern Songs in February 1963. What they didn't realise was that the terms of the deal meant that 55% of the company was owned by music publisher Dick James, with the remaining 45% shared between the four Beatles and Brian Epstein. In 1965 Northern Songs went public on the stock exchange, at which time Dick James owned 37.5% of Northern Songs, John and Paul 15% each, Brian Epstein 5%, Brian Epstein's company NEMS 7.5% and George and Ringo only 0.8% each. In 1969 Dick James sold his shares to Sir Lew Grade's company ATV Music4, and the Beatles lost the rights to their songs forever.
'Please Mister Postman' (July, 1963)
An early Motown number 1 hit for The Marvelettes from 1961. The Beatles were all extremely fond of Motown music and championed its introduction to the British public. George Harrison sings the vocals. The song appears on With The Beatles. Their first radio performance of this song in March 1962 had featured Pete Best on drums.
'Beautiful Dreamer' (January, 1963)
The album's second unique song, with the only released Beatles recording of it appearing on this album. This song had been written in the 19th Century by Stephen Foster and had been sung by artists including Bing Crosby, Slim Whitman and Al Jolson. This version, sung by Paul, had been influenced by a revived version by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller performed by Tony Orlando. The Beatles included it in their repertoire in 1962-3.
'Devil in Her Heart' (September, 1963)
Originally 'Devil in His Heart', this was the B-side to The Donay's 1962 song 'Bad Boy'. The Beatles included it on their second album With the Beatles. A previous live version of this song, recorded in August 1963, had appeared on the Baby, It's You EP which was released in 1995 to coincide with the Anthology 1 album.
'Sure to Fall (in Love with You)' (September, 1963)
A Carl Perkins hit from his 1956 debut album. This is the second of four performances the Beatles did of this song for the BBC, with their first version available on Live at the BBC.
'Twist and Shout' (July, 1963)
Though a 1962 US hit for the Isley Brothers, this song will always be associated with the Beatles, as the song magnificently concludes their debut album Please Please Me. Despite their never releasing it as a single in the UK, in the US, the song was a number 1 for the group on the Cash Box and Record World charts, though it was only a Billboard number 2.
In early 1963 Brian Poole & the Tremeloes, the band that record company Decca signed instead of the Beatles when both auditioned in December 1961, released a single of this song which reached number 4 in the charts. It was massively outsold by the Beatles' version included on their first EP, Twist and Shout, which sold so well it became the first EP to make it into the top ten of the singles chart.
'I Saw Her Standing There' (September, 1963)
One of Paul's early compositions in 1961, the Beatles' debut song on their Please Please Me album remains one of their best rockers. When the Beatles performed this song on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 a record 70 million Americans were watching. Versions of this song appear on Live at the BBC and on Anthology 1.
Always a crowd pleaser, live versions by Paul McCartney can be heard on his albums Tripping The Live Fantastic, Back in the World, Back in the US, Good Evening, New York City and Live in Los Angeles. It was one of the few McCartney songs that John Lennon covered following their split. A duet version with Elton John on 28 November, 1974, at Madison Square Garden, was dedicated to 'an old estranged fiancé of mine called Paul'. The last song that Lennon performed for a live audience, that version was released on the B-side of Elton's 1975 single 'Philadelphia Freedom'.
'Glad All Over' (July, 1963)
A 1958 Carl Perkins number sung by George, who had long been a Carl Perkins fan. Back in 1960 when the group, then known as the 'Silver Beatles', went on their first tour of Scotland, George briefly adopted the stage name 'Carl Harrison' in tribute to him. In 1985 George would appear on the television tribute concert Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session playing this song along with Carl, Dave Edmunds, Eric Clapton, and Ringo Starr on drums. This was the first time George and Ringo had played on stage together since 1969. Another Beatles' version appears on Live at the BBC, performed two weeks earlier than this take.
'I'll Get You' (September, 1963)
The B-side of 'She Loves You', written by John Lennon. Its opening line, 'Imagine I'm in love with you, it's easy 'cos I know', anticipates Lennon's most famous solo song's first lines, 'Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try.' A version recorded on the Sunday Night at the London Palladium television show appears on the first Anthology album, and the song also appears on Past Masters: Volume One.
'She Loves You' (September, 1963)
'She Loves You' was written in their room in Newcastle's Turks Hotel on 26 June, 1963. Paul suggested that instead of writing a love song about two people - me and you - they remove themselves and write about two others - She loves You.
In the UK this was the best selling single of the 1960s5, getting to number 1 twice, between September and early October 1963, and again at the end of November to early December. In America it reached number 1 following on from the success of 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'. John described the song by saying, 'the woo woo was taken from the Isley Brother's 'Twist And Shout' which we stuck into everything - 'From Me To You', 'She Loves You', everything'.
'Memphis, Tennessee' (September, 1963)
Chuck Berry's 1959 B-side to 'Back in the USA', which would later inspire the Beatles song 'Back in the USSR'. The group performed this song on their radio debut in March 1962, though this performance of 'Memphis, Tennessee' took place 18 months later. Another version appears on Live at the BBC. This was an early favourite for both Paul and John, as in Paul's words they felt it had 'the greatest riff ever!'
'Happy Birthday Dear Saturday Club' (September, 1963)
A song sung light-heartedly to celebrate the fifth birthday of radio show Saturday Club.
'From Me to You' (October, 1963)
The Beatles' second number 1 hit. Paul and John co-wrote 'From Me To You' in the back of a van between York and Shrewsbury on 28 February, 1963, having been inspired by the letters column in Mersey Beat, entitled 'From You To Us'. They recorded it a week later on 5 March, released it on 11 April, and it was number 1 in the UK for six weeks. It was also the first Lennon-McCartney song to enter the US chart when Del Shannon's cover version reached 77 in the Hot 100.
'Money (That's What I Want)' (December, 1963)
Originally a Motown number 23 hit in 1960 for Barrett Strong, the Beatles sang this song at their unsuccessful Decca audition as well as on With the Beatles, and an early version appears on Anthology 1. John Lennon later recorded a live version on his 1969 Live Peace at Toronto album.
'I Want to Hold Your Hand' (December, 1963)
Their fifth single, 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' was the song that finally brought the Beatles an American number 1 in January 1964, only the fourth British record to top the US chart. The previous three were 'Auf Wiedersehen' by Vera Lynn in 1952, Acker Bilk with 'Stranger on the Shore' in 1961 and The Tornadoes with 'Telstar' in 1962. Within six years the Beatles would have 21 further US number ones6.
'This Boy' (December, 1963)
The B-side to 'I Want To Hold Your Hand', 'This Boy', did not appear on any UK album until Past Masters: Volume One was released in 1988. The song was inspired by the harmonies used by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and has three-part harmonies performed by Paul, John and George, all of whom shared one microphone to perform this.
An instrumental version arranged by George Martin appears as 'Ringo's Theme' in the A Hard Day's Night film. The Beatles performed it on The Morecambe and Wise Show; that version appears on the Anthology 1 album.
'I Got a Woman' (March, 1964)
A song by Ray Charles that was included on Elvis Presley's Rock 'n' Roll Number 1 album in 1956. The Beatles performed this song twice for the BBC, with their first live performance appearing on Live at the BBC. For this version John overdubs a second lead vocal to effectively duet with himself.
'Long Tall Sally' (July, 1964)
A Little Richard rocker dating from 1957. This was the very first song that Paul ever sang solo on stage, at a Butlins holiday camp in Wales, and consequently was a favourite of Paul's and a regular part of the Beatles' set between 1957 and 1966. They continued to perform it even when they had stopped covering other artists' tracks. In fact, 'Long Tall Sally' was the last track sung at the final Beatles concert in San Francisco on 29 August, 1966.
The song appears in the biopic Backbeat being sung by John, much to Paul's disappointment as he had always sung it. This Beatles cover was only available in the UK on the Long Tall Sally EP (1964) before its release on Past Masters: Volume One, though in America it was on The Beatles' Second Album, released in 1964 . This song also appears on Anthology 1 and in the biopic Birth of the Beatles.
'If I Fell' (July, 1964)
A song from A Hard Day's Night, and in that film John serenades Ringo with it to cheer him up. In real life, however, the song was about John considering leaving his wife Cynthia for another woman, something he would later do after meeting Yoko Ono.
'And I Love Her' (July, 1964)
A Paul McCartney ballad from A Hard Day's Night, inspired by his relationship with Jane Asher, and which had been written at her house. Paul described it as 'the first ballad I impressed myself with', although John helped with the chorus. This performance has George playing electric guitar, not the acoustic one used in the album version. The song also appears on Anthology 1 and Paul's later album Unplugged (The Official Bootleg.
This song is one of the Beatles' most covered compositions, with over 300 cover artists to date, including Beatles' favourites Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
'You Can't Do That' (July, 1964)
The B-side to Can't Buy Me Love and also found on A Hard Day's Night. John said that he was influenced by Wilson Pickett when writing it.
'Honey Don't' (November, 1964)
A song that was the B-side to Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes'. This performance stars Ringo, who also sang it on Beatles For Sale, while the version that appears on Live at the BBC was sung by John.
'I'll Follow the Sun' (November, 1964)
A song Paul had written back in 1959, heavily influenced by Buddy Holly, that the Beatles polished up when they needed songs to help fill their album Beatles For Sale. Paul later described writing it with the words:
I wrote that [when] I was about sixteen. I seem to remember writing it just after I'd had the flu. I remember standing in the parlour, with my guitar, looking out through the lace curtains of the window and writing that one.
'Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!' (November, 1964)
This is a medley of two songs:
A Leiber-Stoller number composed in 1952 as 'KC Loving' that became a US 1959 number 1 for Wilbert Harrison.
'Hey!-Hey!-Hey!-Hey! (Goin' Back to Birmingham)'
A Little Richard tune from early 1959.
It was Little Richard who combined the two songs in late 1959.
Another version of this song appears on Live at the BBC. Paul later recorded 'Kansas City' on its own for Russian album CHOBA B CCCP.
'I Feel Fine' (November, 1964)
A song by John that was a number 1 hit both sides of the Atlantic - it was their sixth American number 1 hit in 1964, and was the UK's 1964 Christmas number 1. The song is also famous for its revolutionary use of feedback, which was tricky for the Beatles to replicate in the BBC studio. This sequence shows the lads trying to perfect the introduction using the BBC's equipment. The finished version was later overdubbed by another lead vocal track, which can be heard on Live at the BBC. The single version appears on Past Masters: Volume Two and the Red album.
On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2 was released in 2013, at the same time that the original album Live at the BBC was re-released, having been digitally remastered. Due to what is almost certainly an amazing coincidence, this release date was exactly the right time to extend the copyright on these songs for a further 20 years following a change in the EU's copyright regulations.