The Hollywood Bowl was marvellous. It was the one we all enjoyed most, I think, even though it wasn't the largest crowd, because it seemed so important... We got on, and it was a big stage, and it was great... even though the crowd was wild.
- John Lennon
The Beatles, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were the most famous band of all time. The late 1960s and into 1970 was the era in which the live album phenomenon was born, with famous live albums including Cream's Wheels of Fire (1968), The Who's Live at Leeds1 (1970) and The Rolling Stones' Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970). Yet during their active years, The Beatles never released a live album. The album, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl was released in 1977 only to become out of print until it was remastered, extended and renamed The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl in 2016.
Recording The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl
And now, here they are; The Beatles!
In 1964 the Beatles embarked on their first US tour. This consisted of playing 29 shows in 24 cities in 33 days, including a 29-minute gig at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday 23 August in front of over 18,700 fans. This performance was recorded as EMI's American record label Capitol had hoped to release a live album of this concert exclusively for the US market (EMI believed that British fans would not want to buy songs they already owned). However, Capitol chose not to proceed when it was realised that the fans' screams, sounding like the constant roar of a jet engine, all-but drowned out the sound of the Beatles.
The Beatles returned to the Hollywood Bowl the following year2, performing two sold-out shows on Sunday 29 and Monday 30 August for half an hour as part of their second US tour - 16 performances in ten cities in 16 days. Again, Capitol Records tried to record the performances. Sadly there were technical problems, especially affecting Paul's microphone on the Sunday during the first four songs. Again the sound quality was judged to be too poor for Capitol to release as an album3.
So by September 1965, Voyle Gilmore at Capitol Records had recorded three Beatles concerts at the Hollywood Bowl on three-track tape, but concluded that the recordings were not of a good enough standard to release. Beatles producer George Martin later said:
The Hollywood Bowl tapes weren't issued at that time. The Beatles didn't think it was right to do so... They were great as a live band, especially when you consider that one of their problems was that they couldn't hear themselves. In concerts today, everyone has a fold-back speaker at their feet so that they can hear what's going on. They didn't have that.
Ringo later described his experience of the performances with the words:
I couldn't do anything clever. I couldn't do great drum kicks or rolls or fills, I just had to hang onto the backbeat all the time to keep everybody together. I used to have to follow their three bums wiggling to see where we were in the song.
Rivalry and Initial Release
Although the recordings had been considered to be abysmal quality in 1964 and 1965, in 1971 Phil Spector, the producer who had controversially transformed the Get Back project into the Let it Be album4, was given the tapes in the hope that he could create something from them. Once again the project stalled due to the poor sound quality caused by the noise of constant screaming.
In 1977 Bellaphon, a small German record company, had bought early recordings of the Beatles performing in a West German nightclub and released them as an album. Although The Beatles tried to prevent this album's release in court, the judge declared that The Beatles! Live at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962 was of genuine historical interest and allowed it to be put on sale.
Although EMI could no longer prevent this release, they could sabotage the album's success. With a rival release in sight, the previously rejected Hollywood Bowl material was quickly brought out, the dust was blown off, and work began on polishing it up a bit. The Beatles' producer George Martin was brought in to oversee its development. He quickly concluded that although the Beatles were drowned out by the crowd's incessant shrill screams, to the extent that at no point during the concert could they actually hear themselves, they were playing well. He alternated between the best performances from both years to create the atmosphere of a long concert. This leads to a few minor contradictions when both A Hard Day's Night and Help! are called the latest album depending on whether the particular track dates from 1964 or 1965; however this is of little consequence. George Martin stated:
The fact that they were the only live recordings of The Beatles did not impress me. What did was the electric atmosphere and raw energy.
EMI released The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl within a week of the release of The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl became a UK number one and US number two on the album charts while The Beatles! Live at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany: 1962 flopped. Having successfully diverted attention away from the rival release, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl was quickly consigned to EMI's budget bargain bin label, Music for Pleasure, and then quietly deleted from EMI's sales catalogues a year later. When The Beatles' back catalogue was released on CD in 1988, no effort was made to release this album at all.
The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Although the 1977 album has long been considered to have a great atmosphere but terrible quality due to constant screaming, music technology has since moved on. George Martin and his son Giles Martin had worked together to create 2006's Beatles Love album of reworked tunes. This featured some of the Hollywood Bowl recording of 'I Want to Hold Your Hand'. Shortly afterwards, Giles had been involved in making The Beatles: Rock Band computer game. This had used a 'demix' computer program developed by Abbey Road Studios' James Clark that could separate already-recorded tracks by isolating frequencies, and the instruments within them, to put them on separate tracks. Giles wondered whether this technique could be used to remove the screams from the Hollywood Bowl recording. He described the process by saying:
There are inherent problems removing the crowd, which is basically white noise. For example, a snare drum's snap is at around 2 kHz, roughly the same frequency as the crowd. Once we'd managed to demix the crowd, we could equalise the snare by itself, but it only sounds good once we re-instate the sounds we took away. All the constituent parts need to be put back together for it to sound correct.
Listening to the album it is quickly apparent that at no point do the screams end, but they continue throughout each and every song. George Martin had described the screams as 'like putting a microphone on the tail of a 747 jet' and 'eternal shriek from 17,000 healthy, young lungs made even a jet plane inaudible'.
Giles Martin worked closely with Clark on this project using the newly-rediscovered three-track tapes from Capitol's archives. The fruit of their labours mean that the screams, though still present, have faded into the background, allowing the Beatles themselves to be clearly heard. After the process was completed, Giles Martin realised that the strongest songs were the ones that had been chosen by his father. It was therefore decided to release an expanded version of the 1977 album, although curiously Capitol's marketing department have been keen to stress that this is an entirely new album. They have emphasised this by stating that the 1977 13-track album was called The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl while the 17-track demixed and remastered version is The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl, a title that is one word longer. It also has a different cover. This album's release was timed to coincide with the new Beatles documentary film edited by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard5, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016).
The timing of this album also coincided with the US copyright expiring on the Beatles 1966 US tour. Previously unreleased live performances by the Beatles recorded over 50 years ago in the United States are now being openly advertised and sold by small record companies. Capitol Records, by selling an official and best-quality live album, presumably again intended to distract record buyers from the unofficial releases that they are powerless to prevent.
The album cover shows the Beatles enjoying a sunny day and wearing shades, while the two tickets that appeared on the original album's cover appear on the inner sleeve. The album contains a booklet that contains many photographs from the concerts, as well as newspaper clippings and other related paraphernalia. For example, there is an article from the Los Angeles Times from April 1964, which states that all 17,256 tickets for their August 1964 performance sold out within three hours of being on sale. This disappointed 200 girls who had been queuing since 4am, so they started a riot. Among the girls purchasing tickets was 14-year-old Natalie Cole, daughter of Nat King Cole, who stated, 'I like my dad's singing better than the Beatles, but the Beatles are cuter than my dad.'
One thing that is apparent is that The Beatles were unfamiliar with their strange American albums; American record company Capitol Records chose to cut and paste the songs from the albums they had released in Britain into albums of their own devising, leading the Beatles to introduce their songs with Paul saying 'We'd like to sing a song that was our record before this last one, oh hang on?' and 'we'd like to carry on with a song from our first Capitol album' and even 'this song was on one of our albums over here'. George also gets confused, stating at one point 'I think it's on the new album here'. Yet as Capitol Records had released five Beatles LPs within seven months in 1964, it was easy to get confused as to which song was on which one.
The Beatles' Play Lists
Songs in Bold were sung both in the 1964 and 1965 concerts.
|1964 Play List||1965 Play List|
The Beatles sang 21 different songs at the Hollywood Bowl, with 17 being available on the new The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl album. The four songs that the Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl that have not been released on the album are 'I Feel Fine', 'I Wanna Be Your Man', 'If I Fell' and 'I'm Down'.
'Twist and Shout' was the opening track on Side A, and the track 'Boys' opened Side B of the record.
The four songs in Bold were not available on the original 1977 album.
|The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1977)||The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl (2016)|
'Twist and Shout' (30 August, 1965)
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 it never being released as a single in the UK, in the US the song was a number one for the group on the Cash Box and Record World charts, though a Billboard number two.
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 four 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.
A live radio performance appears on On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2. A short extract from the 1964 recording of this song from the Hollywood Bowl had been available on the 1964 American Album The Beatles' Story.
'She's a Woman' (30 August, 1965)
The B-Side to 'I Feel Fine', Paul wrote this as a screaming song similar to Little Richard's style. This was also the first Beatles song to contain a drug reference. John commented,
We put in the words 'turns me on'. We were so excited to say 'turn me on' – you know, about marijuana and all that.
This may explain the opening couplet, 'My love don't give me presents, I know that she's no peasant.' Paul described composing the song by saying,
This was my attempt at a bluesy thing. We always found it very hard to write the more rock 'n' roll things. It seemed easy for Little Richard to knock 'em off, penny a dozen, but for us it wasn't quite so easy... So instead of doing a Little Richard song, whom I admire greatly, I would use the style I would have used for that but put it in one of my own songs, so this was about a woman rather than a girl.
'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' (29 & 30 August, 1965)
Another song featuring on Help!. A Larry Williams hit from 1958, the band performed it regularly from 1960 to 1965. This version was spliced together from both 1965 concerts.
'Ticket to Ride' (29 August, 1965)
Paul introduces this song by asking 'Can you hear me?' only to be rewarded by even more screams. This, the first song written by the Beatles on the album, was also the first Beatles song to break the three minute barrier. The lyrics were partly inspired by Ryde on the Isle of Wight, a town that Paul and John had hitchhiked to in 19606. Paul has said
We sat down and wrote it together. I remember talking about Ryde but it was John's [song]. We wrote the melody together.
As well as appearing on the album Help!, the song is on A Collection of Beatles Oldies.
'Can't Buy Me Love' (30 August, 1965)
Paul wrote the 1964 hit 'Can't Buy Me Love' in a hotel room in the George V Hotel, Paris. Wanting to quickly follow up their success in America, they recorded it in the Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris, with George Martin flying over from London to produce the song. On its release, it leapt straight to number one.
The song was also the first Beatles song to be taken seriously when jazz diva Ella Fitzgerald released a cover version. This made music critics suddenly realise that the Beatles were perhaps more than a passing teen phenomenon. In the UK it was the first of two songs in 1964 to sell over a million copies and, like 'I Want To Hold Your Hand', over a million copies were sold in advance of release. It was also the Beatles' first simultaneous transatlantic number one. In the US it was the first ever single to jump straight into the chart at number one, and on 4 April the US top five were:
- 'Can't Buy Me Love' by the Beatles
- 'Twist and Shout' by the Beatles
- 'She Loves You' by the Beatles
- 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' by the Beatles
- 'Please Please Me' by the Beatles
The following week 14 songs in America's Hot 100 were by the Beatles. 'Can't Buy Me Love' was also included in the A Hard Day's Night film, replacing 'I'll Cry Instead' at the last minute, in a delightful sequence where the Beatles escape from a press conference into the outside world. This led to its inclusion on the album of the same name, released in July. It also appears on A Collection of Beatles Oldies.
'Things We Said Today' (23 August, 1964)
The B-side to 'A Hard Day's Night' and on the album of the same name. A live radio version appears on Live at the BBC. The song was written when Paul was on holiday with Jane Asher, knowing that their schedules meant they would not have much time together in the near future. Paul later described it with the words,
I wrote this on acoustic. It was a slightly nostalgic thing already, a future nostalgia. We'll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future, so the song projects itself into the future. It was a sophisticated little tune.
Paul later included a live version on his 1990 Tripping the Live Fantastic album. This live version starts quietly and builds in volume and intensity so both times the song reaches the chorus in a way absent from the original recording.
'Roll Over Beethoven' (23 August, 1964)
A Chuck Berry 1956 song that failed to make much impact in the British chart, but a song George Harrison frequently sang. The song opens side two of With The Beatles and the Beatles often performed it in BBC sessions, with performances appearing on Anthology 1, Live at the BBC and On Air. The song features in the biopics Birth of the Beatles, In His Life: The John Lennon Story and Nowhere Boy. This live version is much faster than the version on With The Beatles.
'Boys' (23 August, 1964)
This song sung by Ringo about how wonderful boys are was the B-side to the Shirelle's number one hit, 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow'. Ringo first sang the song before he joined the Beatles, when he 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, Anthology 1 and On Air. Ringo's introduction here generates what are quite possibly the biggest screams of the album.
'A Hard Day's Night' (30 August, 1965)
I came up with the phrase 'A Hard Day's Night'. It just came out. We went to do a job and we worked all day and then we happened to work all night. I came out, still thinking it was day, and said: 'It's been a hard day...' looked around and saw that it was dark, and added '...'s night'.
The John Lennon song was written, arranged, rehearsed and recorded all within 24 hours on 16 April, 1964. John commented:
I was going home in the car and Dick Lester7 suggested the title... from something Ringo'd said. I had used it in In His Own Write, but it was an off-the-cuff remark by Ringo... A Ringoism, where he said it not to be funny, just said it. So Dick Lester said: 'We are going to use that title' and the next morning I brought in the song.
George Martin, the Beatles' producer, also produced Peter Sellers' unforgettable cover version of the song, released before Christmas 1965. It also appears on A Collection of Beatles Oldies. John introduces this song by saying it is the title track from the film they had made in black and white, not the film in colour.
'Help!' (29 August, 1965)
'Help!' was written by John and Paul in John's house in Kenwood in April 1965. In John's words the song really was a cry for help. 'The song was about me', he admitted. 'I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for help.' He later stated: 'the only true songs I wrote were 'Help!' and 'Strawberry Fields'. They were the ones I really wrote from experience.'
John introduces this with the words,
We'd like to do another film song now, from a different film, as we've made two.
In the film Help!, a recording of the Beatles singing this song is projected onto a screen while the head of a religious cult throws darts at the group — a wonderful example of the Beatles not taking themselves too seriously.
Though 'Help!' sold just under a million copies, it is an Ivor Novello Award winning song for being the second-best selling single of 1965. It can also be found on the album of the same name, The Red Album: 1962-1966, The Beatles Anthology 2, 1 and A Collection of Beatles Oldies.
'All My Loving' (23 August, 1964)
A song on their With The Beatles album, this was written by Paul one day as he was shaving, and he later described it as 'the first song I ever wrote where I had the words before the music'. Paul later performed this song at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival.
'She Loves You' (23 August, 1964)
John introduces this song as 'an oldie some of you older people might remember from last year'. Originally released in 1963, in the UK this was the bestselling single of the 1960s and the best-selling song of all time until Paul McCartney's 'Mull of Kintyre' in 1977. It was also the first song to get to number one twice, between September and early October 1963, and again at the end of November to early December. In America it reached number one following on 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'.
'She Loves You' was written in a hotel room in Newcastle8 on 26 June, 1963 as part of their tour supporting Roy Orbison9 alongside Gerry and the Pacemakers. 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.
The song won two Ivor Novello Awards in 1964 for Most Broadcast Song and Top-Selling Record. It was also the first Beatles song to sell over a million records in the UK. In the US it replaced 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' at number one in 1964, which was the first time the same act had had two consecutive number ones since Elvis in 1956. In 2005 it was named one of the three records that most changed the world.
The song also appears on The Red Album: 1962-1966, Past Masters: Volume One, The Beatles Anthology 1, 1, On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2 and A Collection of Beatles Oldies.
'Long Tall Sally' (23 August, 1964)
Introduced as 'the last song of the evening, sorry', this was a Little Richard rocker dating from 1957. This was the very first song that Paul ever sang solo on stage, at a Butlin's holiday camp in Wales, and consequently was a favourite of Paul's and a regular part of the Beatles' set between 1957 and 1966. In fact, 'Long Tall Sally' was the final song sung at the final Beatles concert, in San Francisco's Candlestick Park on 29 August, 1966.
The song appears in the biopic Backbeat being sung by 'John', much to Paul's disappointment as he always had sung it. Though it did not appear on a UK album, this Beatles cover was available on 1964's Long Tall Sally EP before its release on Past Masters: Volume One. In America it was on The Beatles' Second Album, released in 1964. The song also appears on Anthology 1 and On Air and in the biopic Birth of the Beatles. The last words of the Beatles' performance were, appropriately enough, 'We're gonna have some fun tonight'.
'You Can't Do That' (23 August, 1964)
The first bonus track on the Live at the Hollywood Bowl album that hadn't been on the original 1977 version, this song was 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 this number.
'I Want To Hold Your Hand' (23 August, 1964)
There have been many songs sung about kissing, sex and hugs, but the ultimate paean to hand-holding is this song by the Beatles. Their fifth single, 1963's 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' was the first song to sell over a million copies in Britain before it was released. Globally this was the Beatles' most-successful song, with over 15 million copies sold.
This was the song that finally brought them success in America, becoming a number one in January 1964. Only the fourth British record to top the US chart, the previous chart-toppers were 'Auf Wiedersehen' by Vera Lynn (1952), Acker Bilk's 'Stranger on the Shore' (1961) and The Tornadoes with 'Telstar' (1962). Within six years the Beatles had 22 further US number ones10. This record paved the way for other acts too. Before 'I Want To Hold Your Hand', between 1955 and 1963, only 1.25% of hits in the US Top 20 were by British artists; from 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' onwards throughout 1964, 26% of hits in the US Top 20 were by British artists, in what became known as the 'British Invasion'.
The 'I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide' line was inspired by the idea of a stuck record playing the same thing over and over again. As The Beatles rarely included their singles on albums in the UK, 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' was not released on an album until A Collection Of Beatles Oldies. It now can also be found on compilation albums The Red Album: 1962-1966, Past Masters: Volume One, 1, The Beatles Anthology 1, Love and On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2.
'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby' (30 August, 1965)
A Carl Perkins number sung by George that appeared on Beatles For Sale. A version played live for their 1965 record-breaking Shea Stadium performance, then the world's biggest ever concert, appears on Anthology 2 while a radio performance is on Live at the BBC. In this version, when George sings about 'fifty women knocking at my door', you can hear how he considers that a comparatively quiet night when he is used to being screamed at by tens of thousands.
'Baby's In Black' (30 August, 1965)
The first song John and Paul composed together for over a year, this song from 1964, composed as the Beatles' first waltz, was released on Beatles For Sale. It is believed that the 'baby in black' is a reference to Astrid Kirchherr, whose fiancé and John's best friend Stuart Sutcliffe had died in 1962.