Live at the BBC | On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2
We did a lot of tracks for [BBC radio including] 'Saturday Club', a lot of stuff we'd been doing in the Cavern or Hamburg... There's some good stuff and they were well recorded.
- John Lennon
Live at the BBC was a Beatles double-album released in 1994. On its release it was the first new Beatles album since The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl in 1977 and was a UK number one, though only a US number 3. The album contains highlights of the live performances that the Beatles gave to BBC radio between 1962 and 1965.
The album contains 56 songs as well as linking speeches and conversations between the boys, Paul McCartney , John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr and various BBC presenters. Most of these songs were ones that the Beatles had been performing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg for many years and were cover versions of songs by their favourite musicians. 30 of these songs had never been recorded by the Beatles on any album released by record company, EMI or their own company, Apple Corps. Fans can recapturing the experience of listening to the Beatles live, but without the interference from screaming fans drowning out their act.
Track titles in Italics indicate that this is an introductory speech, not a song. Songs titles in Bold are the 30 songs not released on any EMI/Apple Beatles album when the Beatles were still together.
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Here are the recording dates as well as fascinating facts for each song.
'From Us to You' (February, 1964)
A short version of their second number one hit, 'From Me To You', used to introduce four Bank Holiday specials that the Beatles broadcast on Boxing Day 1963 and in 1964 Easter Monday, Whit Monday and August Bank Holiday Monday. 'From Me To You' appears on the sequel album, On Air.
'I Got a Woman' (July, 1963)
A song by Ray Charles that was included on the first Elvis Presley album released in the UK, Rock 'n' Roll No. 1 in 1956. A song they often sang on stage 1960-1962, The Beatles performed this song twice for the BBC. This is their first performance, with the second appearing on On Air. This is one of the 30 songs not previously available, but is also available on On Air.
'Too Much Monkey Business' (September, 1963)
A second song previously unavailable. A 1956 Chuck Berry song the Beatles performed four times in 1963 that had been part of their act since 1960.
'Keep Your Hands Off My Baby' (January, 1963)
Another previously unavailable song. This Gerry Goffin & Carole King song had been a hit for the married song-writing couple's former babysitter1, Little Eva, in 1963 and had only dropped out of the Top 40 the week that the Beatles performed it for the only time on their Saturday Club debut.
'I'll Be on My Way' (April, 1963)
An early song composed by Paul McCartney in 1961, heavily influenced by Buddy Holly, complete with 'Holly hiccup', this is the only Lennon-McCartney composition on the album that they never recorded a studio version of. Instead, this was the first Lennon-McCartney song they gave away to another artist to record; it ended up as Billy J Kramer's B-Side to his UK Number 2, another Lennon-McCartney song, 'Do You Want To Know A Secret'.
This was the only previously unreleased Lennon-McCartney song to be on the album and was considered one of the album's most interesting tracks.
'Young Blood' (June, 1963)
The B-Side to The Coaster's 1957 hit 'Searchin'', this was a song the Beatles' had regularly performed since 1958 but only performed once for the BBC. George hesitates on the vocals in the last verse.
'A Shot of Rhythm and Blues' (August, 1963)
Arthur Alexander was one of John Lennon's favourite artists. This 1962 B-Side quickly became one of John Lennon's favourites and the Beatles performed it three times for the BBC.
'Sure to Fall (In Love with You)' (June, 1963)
A second Carl Perkins hit on the album, this one from his 1956 debut album. This song was sung by Paul between 1957-1962 and had been one they had sung when they unsuccessfully auditioned for Decca on New Year's Day 1962. Despite this, it must have remained a Beatles favourite as it was later covered by Ringo on his 1981 album Stop and Smell the Roses, produced by Paul with backing vocals by Paul, Linda and Ringo's wife Barbara Bach.
This is the first of four performances the Beatles did of this song for the BBC. The second is now available on the On Air album.
'Some Other Guy' (June, 1963)
A song originally released by Ritchie Barrett in 1962 that was written by Barrett with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Beatles had been filmed by Granada Television singing this song in the Cavern back on 22 August 1962 for Know the North, however Granada decided that the footage was too poor to broadcast and so it was buried for over a year until the Beatles became famous. This is the only surviving footage of the Beatles playing the Cavern, and was even incorporated into the 'Free As A Bird' music video. The album's version dates from June 1963.
'Thank You Girl' (June, 1963)
A Lennon-McCartney composition that was originally the B-Side on 'From Me To You', written on their 1963 tour. It also appears on Past Masters: Volume One. John Lennon later dismissed the song by calling it One of our efforts at writing a single that didn't work.
'Baby It's You' (June, 1963)
A hit song for girl group the Shirelles in December 1961 that had been composed by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Barney Williams. The Shirelles, Shirley Owens, Micki Harris, Doris Coley and Beverly Lee, had been the first all-girl group to have a US number 1, having 7 top twenty hits in that country and three in the UK. The Shirelles' style inspired Paul's song 'Hold Me Tight'.
The Beatles included a cover version of this song on their first album, Please Please Me, although the version on that album fades out at the end whereas this has a different ending completely. 'Baby It's You' was released as the Beatles' 27th single in 1995, making it to number 7.
'That's All Right, Mama' (July, 1963)
Written by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup and Elvis Presley's first record released in 1954, the song was part of the Beatles' repertoire since 1957, when the group was known as the Quarry Men. Paul would later sing a version on his 1987 CHOBA B CCCP Russian album. This song also features in the biopic Nowhere Boy.
'Carol' (July, 1963)
A 1958 Chuck Berry song later recorded by the Rolling Stones in 1964, this Beatles cover comes from 1963 but had been a song they regularly sang since 1960, which is why it features in the biopic Backbeat.
'Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)' (July, 1963)
A second song that was a hit for Arthur Alexander in 1962, sung superbly by John.
'Clarabella' (July, 1963)
A favourite of Paul's since 1960, this was a song recorded in 1956 by the Jodimars, former members of Bill Haley's Comets Joey Di'Ambrosia, Dick Richards and Marshall Lytle.
'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)' (July, 1963)
A lesser-known Elvis song from his Rock 'n' Roll No 1 album.
'Crying, Waiting, Hoping' (July, 1963)
A 1959 Buddy Holly song that he recorded a home demo of shortly before his tragic death. The Beatles had included it in their catalogue since 1960, using the song as one of their Decca audition songs. Buddy Holly's manager, Norman Petty, once gave Paul McCartney the cuff links that Holly was wearing at the time of his death. McCartney owns the publishing rights to 38 Holly compositions.
'You Really Got a Hold on Me' (July, 1963)
A Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song from 1962, released before Motown penetrated far in Britain2. The song appears on their second album, With The Beatles, released in November 1963 yet their four BBC performances of this song predate that (May to September 1963) and the first two predate the album recording session.
Smokey Robinson described the Beatles cover version of his song with the words, it was one of the most flattering things that ever happened to me, I listened to it over and over again.
'To Know Her Is to Love Her' (July, 1963)
This song was written as 'To Know Him is to Love Him' by Phil Spector, who had been inspired by the memorial on his father's gravestone, 'To Know Him is to Love Him'. The song became a US number one for The Teddy Bears, reaching number two in the UK. The Beatles' first attempted three-part harmonies when learning this song and to make it their own, changed the 'him' in the title to 'her'. They sang this song regularly from 1960 until 1964, including at the Star Club in Hamburg in 1962. This song was later on John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album.
Phil Spector impacted on the Beatles' lives in early 1970 when he was hired to turn what the Beatles had recorded for the Get Back sessions into an album. His Wall of Sound transformation without Paul's permission of songs 'Let It Be' and 'The Long and Winding Road' was a contributing factor to the Beatles' break-up. Paul later released Let It Be... Naked, a version free from Spector's influence. George and John continued to work with Phil Spector after the break-up until the recording of John's Rock 'n' Roll album. Following a disagreement Spector took out a gun and fired it at the ceiling above John. Despite this, in 1981 he produced Yoko Ono's album Season of Glass. Spector was imprisoned for murder in 2009.
'A Taste of Honey' (July, 1963)
A song composed by Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott for the 1960 play of the same name, it was made popular by Lenny Welch. The Beatles recorded a version on Please Please Me and performed it seven times for the BBC, with this track their sixth radio performance.
'Long Tall Sally' (July, 1963)
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 1957-1966. They continued to perform even when they had stopped performing other artists' tracks. In fact, 'Long Tall Sally' was the final song sung at the final Beatles concert, San Francisco 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 only available on 1964's Long Tall Sally EP before its release on Past Masters: Volume One, though in America it was on The Beatles' Second Album, released in 1964 . They performed the song seven times for the BBC, the first four times for the BBC were released before the EP, and this is its third performance. The version appearing On Air is their sixth, with a version from a television appearance appearing on Anthology 1. The EP version has a piano. This song also appears in the biopic Birth of the Beatles.
'I Saw Her Standing There' (October, 1963)
The Beatles' debut song on their Please Please Me album remains one of their best rockers. One of Paul's early compositions in 1961, 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 Air, on Anthology 1 and it was one of the few McCartney songs that John Lennon later covered following their split, with a duet with Elton John released on the B-side of Elton's 1975 single 'Philadelphia Freedom'.
'The Honeymoon Song' (July, 1963)
An odd song based on Theodorakis' theme tune of the film Honeymoon (1959) with lyrics written by Marino Marini in 1959. Another song Paul remained fond of, he would later produce a version for Mary Hopkin's 1969 Postcards album.
'Johnny B Goode' (January, 1964)
Long before anyone had heard of the film Back to the Future , anyone who had listened to the radio would have heard this classic 1958 Chuck Berry song. Surprisingly it failed to have much impact on the British chart on original release, but since then many artists have covered it.
'Memphis, Tennessee' (July, 1963)
Chuck Berry's 1959 B-side to 'Back in the USA', which would later inspire Beatles song 'Back in the USSR'. The Beatles performed this song on their radio debut in March 1962, though this is their fourth performance of the song, from July 1963. Their fifth and final version of this song appears On Air.
'Lucille' (September, 1963)
Another Little Richard rocker that had also been covered by the Everly Brothers, who also appeared on Saturday Club the second and final time that the Beatles performed the song live. Their first radio performance can be heard On Air. Paul would later perform it live for the Concert for Kampuchea and on his solo album CHOBA B CCCP.
'Can't Buy Me Love' (March, 1964)
Paul wrote 'Can't Buy Me Love' in a hotel room in Paris. It 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 into the outside world. On its release, it leapt straight to Number 1. An early take appears on Anthology 1.
'Till There Was You' (February, 1964)
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 Air and Anthology 1.
'A Hard Day's Night' (July, 1964)
Opening the second disc is this number 1 hit both sides of the Atlantic. The song won the Beatles the Grammy Award for 'Best Vocal Group Performance of 1964'. The song, the title track of their first film, is slightly different for the live performance. The boys were unsure how to end it without the fade out used in the film and they had hoped that George Martin would attend to play the piano part, but he was unable to make it.
Peter Sellers later recorded a top-twenty hit version of the song. Other versions appear on 1 and Anthology 1 as well as the album of the same name.
'I Wanna Be Your Man' (February, 1964)
A song sung by Ringo that Paul had originally written for the Rolling Stones, becoming their first top-twenty hit. The Beatles performed it twice for the BBC, with this being the second. It also appears on With The Beatles and Anthology 1.
'Roll Over Beethoven' (February, 1964)
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 one being the seventh. Versions appear on With The Beatles and Anthology 1, with their third radio performance appearing On Air. It also appears in the biopics Birth of the Beatles and Nowhere Boy.
'All My Loving' (February, 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 would perform this song at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival.
'Things We Said Today' (July, 1964)
The B-side to 'A Hard Day's Night' and on the album of the same name. It 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 Fantasic album.
'She's a Woman' (November, 1964)
Another Paul song. The Beatles were informed on 8 October, 1964 that they needed to write and record a song to be the B-side for their new single that morning, and a couple hours later, this song was the result. Intended to be a 'real screaming rocker' inspired by Little Richard, despite the rush the song has a real, catchy tune.
As for the lyrics, well, the Beatles got away with them. Not only because they included the worst verse the band ever wrote3 but also because this was the first Beatles song to include a drug reference. The line 'turns me on when I get lonely' went largely unnoticed. When the last track on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 'A Day in the Life' included the line 'I'd love to turn you on' it became one of only two songs in the 1960s to be outright banned, rather than restricted, by the BBC4.
'She's A Woman' would not be released on an album until Past Masters: Volume One in 1988. Paul also performed it live for his 1991 Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) album.
'Sweet Little Sixteen' (July, 1963)
Chuck Berry's first UK hit in 1958 was a favourite song with the Quarry Men and Beatles from 1957 onwards, with John often singing it in Hamburg and the Cavern. Surprisingly, they only one gave one performance for the BBC. John later covered the song on his 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll5.
'Lonesome Tears in My Eyes' (July, 1963)
A 1956 song originally by the Johnny Burnette Trio. Johnny Burnette's 1961 UK number 3 hit 'You're Sixteen' would later become a US number 1 for Ringo in 1974.
'Nothin' Shakin'' (July, 1963)
An Eddie Fontaine rockabilly number from 1958, sung by George.
'The Hippy Hippy Shake' (July, 1963)
Originally a 1959 hit for Chan Romero, this was also a 1964 number 2 hit for Mersey Beat act The Swinging Blue Jeans. The Beatles often sang it, including in Hamburg. Another BBC performance is also available On Air.
'Glad All Over' (July, 1963)
A 1958 Carl Perkins number sung by George. George had long been a Carl Perkins fan, and back in 1960 when the then 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 television playing this song along with Carl, Dave Edmunds, Eric Clapton and with Ringo Starr on drums, the first time George and Ringo had played on stage together since 1969. Another Beatles version appears on On Air.
'I Just Don't Understand' (July, 1963)
A song normally associated with Ann-Margret Olson in America and Freddie and the Dreamers in the UK.
'So How Come (No One Loves Me)' (July, 1963)
An Everly Brothers number composed by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.
'I Feel Fine' (November, 1964)
A song by John that was a Number 1 hit both sides of the Atlantic, their sixth American number one 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. A sequence showing the Beatles practising replicating the feedback introduction for their live BBC performance can be heard On Air, with another live version appearing on the album Anthology 2. The single version appears on Past Masters: Volume Two and the Red album.
'I'm a Loser' (November, 1964)
This was John's first attempt at writing an autobiographical song, rather than one about boys and girls in love with each other. Inspired by Bob Dylan, John would describe the song with the rather revealing words, Part of me suspects I'm a loser and part of me thinks I'm God almighty. It appears on the Beatles For Sale album.
'Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby' (November, 1964)
Another Carl Perkins number, sung by George, that appears 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.
'Rock and Roll Music' (November, 1964)
A 1957 Chuck Berry classic that didn't make the British chart, but was still regularly sung by the Beatles from 1959-1966. The song appears on Beatles For Sale, recorded within one take, and also features in the biopics Birth of the Beatles and Backbeat.
'Ticket to Ride' (May, 1965)
A song from Help! that gave the title to the Beatles' last BBC programme featuring specially-recorded music, 'The Beatles Invite You To Take a Ticket To Ride' in 1965. This was the first Beatles song to break the three-minute barrier. The song's title was inspired by the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, where Paul's cousin Elizabeth 'Bett' Robbins and her husband Mike Robbins were the publicans of the Bow Bars in Union Street, and it was a McCartney family tradition to work there over the summer. In 1960, Paul and John hitchhiked to Ryde to work in the pub. When Paul was asked directly whether the song was about Ryde on the Isle of Wight, he replied:
We sat down and wrote it together. I remember talking about Ryde but it was John's [song]. We wrote the melody together.
'Dizzy, Miss Lizzy' (May, 1965)
Another song featuring on Help!. A Larry Williams hit from 1958, the Beatles performed it regularly from 1960-1965.
'Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!' (July, 1963)
A medley of two songs:
A Leiber-Stoller number composed in 1952 as 'KC Loving' that became a US 1959 number one for Wilbert Harrison.
'Hey!-Hey!-Hey!-Hey! (Goin' Back to Birmingham)'
A Little Richard number from early 1959. It was Little Richard who combined the two in late 1959.
The song was performed for the BBC a year before it appeared on Beatles For Sale and was recorded by them from their Hamburg days. Another version appears On Air. Paul later recorded 'Kansas City' on its own for Russian album CHOBA B CCCP.
'Matchbox' (July, 1963)
A song originally dating from 1927, but updated by Carl Perkins in 1957. This song, sung by Ringo, was released in Britain on the Long Tall Sally EP and did not appear on an album until Past Masters: Volume One. Paul would later perform a version on his live album Tripping the Live Fantastic.
'I Forgot to Remember to Forget' (May, 1964)
A song recorded by Elvis in 1956 that is sung by George.
'I Got to Find My Baby' (June, 1963)
A 1960 Chuck Berry Number.
'Ooh! My Soul' (August, 1963)
Little Richards' 1958 hit, sung by Paul.
'Don't Ever Change' (August, 1963)
Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, this was a 1962 top five hit for the Crickets, Buddy Holly's backing group. When Stuart Sutcliffe named the group The Beatles, he had been inspired by the Crickets.
'Slow Down' (July, 1963)
A 1958 Larry Williams number that the Beatles performed for the BBC a year before they recorded for the Long Tall Sally EP. This song eventually appeared on Past Masters: Volume One.
'Honey Don't' (August, 1963)
A song that was the B-side to Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Though sung by Ringo on Beatles For Sale, this performance stars John on lead vocals. Another live performance appears On Air.
'Love Me Do' (July, 1963)
The Beatles' debut single was performed nine times by them for the BBC, with three different versions recorded for EMI. A very simple song, most words are only one syllable, and the 'Love' is sung 21 times. Although not a national Number 1 hit in the UK, it later became a US Number 1. This song can also be found on Please Please Me, The Red Album: 1962-1966, Past Masters: Volume On, Anthology 1 and 1.
Although since the 1970s the potential of releasing an album based on the BBC's radio recordings had been recognised, the main reason for the album's delay was that of sound quality. The BBC in the 1960s did not recognise the value of the recordings that the Beatles made for their broadcasts, and so only one of the Beatles' sessions, that of Easter Monday 30 March, 1964 was preserved and then they kept only five of the ten songs performed.
Despite this, poor sound copies of the Beatles' BBC broadcasts were frequently bootlegged and sold. Although unofficial and poor quality, the fact that this was occurring proved that there was demand for the Beatles' BBC material.
A wide variety of sources were used in order to complete the album. These included tapes unofficially saved by producers and overseas broadcasters, and in numerous cases off air recordings were the only surviving source. These were simply individuals at home recording the radio with whatever equipment they had to hand. It was not until the 1990s that the team headed by long-term Beatles producer George Martin was able to restore the surviving material to a sufficiently high quality. Since 1994 the album had been digitally remastered and released again in 2013.
The song introductions included interviews and corny links presented by:
- Rodney Burke
- Alan 'Fluff' Freeman
- Brian Matthew
- Lee Peters
These give listeners to the album a taste of the flavour of the original broadcasts, and demonstrate that Lee Peters does a remarkable James Mason impersonation.
Some of these have been slightly edited, for example in the track entitled 'Riding on a Bus', recorded for Top Gear on 26 November, 1964, several comments are edited out. These include:
- After Paul's comment 'People writing rubbish about you, which you get often' he went on to say 'Especially in America, to roll a few points into one.'
- John also states that the American press accused him of attacking young girls.
- John states he doesn't miss riding on buses, but likes red ones, and Paul responds that he likes red and green buses.
Samples of the full dialogue from some of these interviews can be found in Kevin Howlett's book, The Beatles at the BBC The Radio Years 1962-70.
Live at the BBC's universal acclaim and commercial success was a perfect stepping-stone for the following year's more ambitious project. Having proven that there was a market for old Beatles material, regardless of record quality, in 1995 the Beatles Anthology project involved the release of three double-albums of early home demos, live performances, unfinished takes and hidden gems, with a tie-in television series and book.
Before the Beatles released Live at the BBC, only two albums of live BBC-recorded material had previously been available, Jimi Hendrix's Radio One (1988) and Queen's Live at the Beeb, released in 1989. Yet even in the 1990s other bands followed where the Beatles led.
Queen's album was re-released in America in 1995, now tweaked and re-named Live at the BBC to match the Beatles' title, with Jimi Hendrix's album expanded and renamed BBC Sessions four years later. Other acts followed. Acts that have released albums entitled Live at the BBC or similar include:
- The Beautiful South (2001)
- David Bowie's Bowie at the Beeb (2000)
- Cream's BBC Sessions (2003)
- Deep Purples' BBC Sessions 1968–1970 (2011)
- Dire Straits (1995)
- Electric Light Orchestra (1999)
- Fairport Convention (2007)
- Fleetwood Mac (1995)
- The Housemartins (2006)
- Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessionsalbum (1997)
- Pixies at the BBC (1998)
- Siouxsie and the Banshees (2009)
- Slade (2009)
- Soft Cell at the BBC (2003)
- The Specials' BBC Sessions (1998)
- Status Quo (2010)
- Texas' BBC Sessions (2007)
- The Who album BBC Sessions (2000)
- The Yardbirds' album BBC Sessions (1997)
- Yes album Something's Coming: The BBC Recordings 1969–1970 (1997)