Monday, November 11, 2019

The Beatles: Thirty Days (1969)

(bootleg [16CD])

RECOMMENDED [with reservations]

Certain aspects of the Beatles' story after Brian Epstein's untimely death reveal, after the fact, how much he had really been at the heart of their quality control and decisionmaking. It's true that their actual records didn't really suffer, thanks in part to George Martin's continued presence in the studio, but the entire Apple fiasco, for instance, demonstrates a lot of heart and a lot of good ideas but very little self-control. The same for the Magical Mystery Tour project, the completely all-in then thoroughly disgusted attitude toward India, and the loss of control and harmony within their personal relationships. Some would argue that even the White Album reflected a kind of artistic self-indulgence that would've been unthinkable under Epstein's regime. (I disagree for two reasons: one, I don't think that record's supposed indulgence, if that's even what it is, hurts it; two, Epstein was somewhat apprehensive even about the comparatively lean but still outré Sgt. Pepper.) And it's doubtful that the haphazard way in which Yellow Submarine was handled -- with the Beatles totally disinterested and offering up some of their weakest scraps of material, then belatedly regretful after the film turned out to be rather great -- would have met with the late manager's approval.

But none of the Beatles' "cock-ups," to use a phrase Paul enjoyed, have the outlandish severity of the so-called Get Back sessions from January 1969; again, they had ample good intentions: running with the White Album's emphasis on pure songcraft and occasionally raw-sounding guitar music over production stunts and drug-addled concepts to craft new material stripping the sonic adornments completely in favor of a return to "good old rock & roll," simultaneously filming the project to present the process itself and climax with a one-off return to live performance. But these plans hit a wall of asleep-at-the-wheel cluelessness in terms of practicality. There were several ways to make this idea work: for one thing, they might have dismantled the jumble of ideas by quickly recording a nasty, classic, slightly heavy rock LP and then later returning to the idea of filming themselves at work and perhaps separately considering the live concert. Maybe use two of these notions, or even just one, and leave the others for later.

But much more importantly, the cogent, logical route would probably have been to take some sort of a break before this undertaking, which meant in theory to be a quick-and-dirty rush job but turned out to be massive and bulky in execution. The White Album -- with its thirty songs a nearly thorough cleaning out of the backlog, certainly for John and Paul if not George -- had only just been completed in October, released in late November, and here were the Beatles up at (by their standards) the crack of dawn the week of January 1st at Twickenham Film Studios, forced to undergo the normally private rehearsal procedure with an entire film crew present (led by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who'd made excellent promo films for "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" that the band and Paul in particular had loved), the original plan for videotape and a smaller crew having been curtailed. Except "forced" is the wrong word -- the Beatles, perhaps less in their position as a band than in their status as heads of Apple, tyrannically demanding new product from themselves, chose to do it all this way: the tight schedule came from the looming threat of Ringo departing to make The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, and the hated setting and nature of the sessions as well as its timing on the heels of an ambitious and wildly successful double-album (and, for what it's worth, a soundtrack record with four more new songs, out this same month) was a concoction they arbitrarily brought on. The primary engineer of the plight was Paul McCartney, who'd taken on a leadership role during this period as much because of a vacuum created by three relatively apathetic bandmates as his own theoretical bossiness, but it put him in a ready position to be resented all the same.

It was a recipe for disaster, and in many ways it turned out to be just that: the Twickenham days were long and uncomfortable. George Martin was only sporadically present, with Glyn Johns unofficially taking the helm as "balance engineer"; although none of the recordings made at the film studio were intended for official release apart from the actual movie print itself, this still underscores how many jarring changes were happening at once -- the Beatles had always been a very insular unit, and if the virtually constant presence of Yoko Ono during the White Album sessions (John's fault for not upholding the band's boundaries, not hers) hadn't been enough of a burden for their continued professional relationship, the deliberately prying eyes of Lindsay-Hogg's cameras and all the attendant chilliness of working on a soundstage nearly broke them. When Ringo departed during the White Album sessions, it had been a wake-up call and a hiccup; you could view it as a growing pain, and it ended with an open-armed act of love on the part of the Beatles toward their drummer. When George left during Get Back due mostly to continued arguments with Paul and the problems of communicating with John (one bandmate talking too much, one not nearly enough), it not only was viewed with immediate cynicism and derision by at least one bandmate, but his tentative reentrance into the fold -- with a contentious staff meeting at Ringo's house and then his sudden reappearance with the conciliatory move to the new Apple Studios to make the actual record -- was shown little fanfare as all, just sheer apathetic business as usual.

And did we mention that Apple Studios, while a better environment in most superficial ways, was a botch job by the great "Magic" Alex Mardas, a purported expert who scarcely knew what he was doing judging by the end results? The film crew's tapes still ran all the time and caught everything, but for the proper studio takes, rental equipment had to be carted in from EMI, and even that was a crudely rigged hassle, and with the room not soundproofed, climate control proved impossible -- this record was doomed to be recorded in all the freeze of a London January. All in all, the only unqualified pleasure the band experienced was the presence of Billy Preston, an old acquaintance they'd made when they opened for Little Richard way back in 1962, during the last weeks of the sessions. Preston's calming amiability and brilliantly loose, soulful keyboard playing vastly enhanced both the mood and the music. (Along with making his own fine records later on for Apple, he came with a rich history of lighting up other people's records, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke in particular; Cooke gets so excited about Preston's work during his version of "Little Red Rooster" that he calls out the then-teenager by name.) And the only moment of classic, starry-eyed Beatles triumph is the compromise gesture -- all talk of the Roundhouse and the African temple as venues for their comeback gig long since sullied, chiefly by George -- of the spontaneous-looking (but actually carefully planned) concert on the roof of the Apple building, which admittedly turned out to be a stroke of actual magic, a final proof of the Beatles' stunning vitality as a live band, and a tantalizing hint at what could have been possible if they had gone on the road again.

Even the material, by the Beatles' standards, was a bit wanting, without enough strong songs to round out one of an LP of the length of one of their classics. The eventual released album had to be filled out with an extension of George's trifling "I Me Mine" and the long-gestating and previously released (in a different form) "Across the Universe," and lest we forget, "Get Back" itself was already over a year old by most folks' standards by then. John, apparently hooked on heroin during the sessions, is back to his Revolver-Pepper phase of slumming it -- but again, so quickly after his many tour de force contributions to the White Album, who could blame him? -- and only provides us with the sickly-lean "Dig a Pony," various weak jams like "Dig It," a complementary back half to Paul's "I've Got a Feeling," and to be fair, one of the greatest songs any of the Beatles ever wrote and subject of some of their strongest, most felt performances, "Don't Let Me Down"... which, in a crushing bit of cruel irony, didn't make it to the final album, though it did find outlet as the b-side to "Get Back" shortly after the sessions wrapped. It's telling that one of the best songs added to the canon was "One After 909," one of the first things John and Paul wrote (possibly as early as the year they met), attempted then discarded at EMI in 1963, and actually the outgrowth of a whole lot of nostalgic noodling with oldies by themselves and others, the sole initially released evidence of the longing, often inept trips down memory lane that occupied the days at Twickenham and Apple.

George's songs, the other being a bouncy blues jam called "For You Blue," are scarcely better; he ran through "All Things Must Pass," another gorgeous song with his typical chronically asshole-ish lyrics, and "Isn't It a Pity" at some length but both were set aside for his proper solo debut the next year. So ultimately, as in so many other ways, this is the Paul McCartney Show -- and he does step up to the plate, with a set of songs (heavily influenced, it seems, by American soul music of the period) marking a sincerity he'd largely shirked for several years, forgoing the verbose sardonics of his White Album material with the sole intersections between these conflicting styles being the first single "Get Back," the phoned-in absurdity "Teddy Boy" and the saved-for-later "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window." Otherwise these are some of the loveliest songs in Paul's catalog, marked by the emotions of a man newly in love and one who is finally processing the death of his mother after constantly moving without a breath for more than ten years: "Two of Us," "Let It Be," "The Long and Winding Road" all poignant stops on the road to his possible masterpiece in this vein, "Maybe I'm Amazed," plus the exceptionally credible hard rocker "I've Got a Feeling." These recordings also mark what may be Paul's peak as a controlled, confident, emotive vocalist -- as much as it may have irked the others that he had his eyes on the prize, so to speak, his consciousness of delivering powerfully resonant music is obvious everywhere, and you end up feeling some sympathy for his inability to get the others to keep up, even as we realize that other, more ominous factors (mostly business, but also personal) were driving that problem.

But the Beatles recorded so much during their grueling sessions in January '69 that you actually can construct an impressive collection of material from one angle or another. Phil Spector and Glyn Johns tried their hand at it officially -- the former's attempt is song-oriented and pleasurable but compromised (string arrangements colliding with extracts of judiciously "unedited" conversation) and fails to come off as a complete construction; the latter's is more satisfying but also more interested in the vibe of a (concocted) atmosphere of a relaxed, casual Beatles rock & roll session than in presenting the group's songs at their best. Let It Be Naked would eventually attempt to tackle the whole creation as if it were a normal Beatles album, only to use inferior mixes and over-familiar takes while placing all too much unavoidable emphasis on the relative paucity of good material. (You sort of need the ancillary evidence of original concept, as Johns provided and Spector ineptly pawed at, to make this work.)

Nearly everything you'd need to offer up your own interpretation of the Get Back project is in this legendary CD bootleg, offered up from equally legendary unauthorized label Vigotone in the 1990s, which at the time was the biggest collection of Get Back material that had ever appeared in the marketplace; constructed from stolen mono Nagra reels and full of the attendant slate calls, beeps and unwelcome noises, concentrating heavily on music rather than dialogue, it's a massive boxed set (sixteen discs, seventeen if you count its obligatory inclusion of the first unissued Get Back album master) that nevertheless isn't as overwhelming as the later complete 83-disc dump of the Get Back tapes, most often circulating under the name A/B Road (and fuck me if I'm not going to try to tackle it early next year because I love you all and hate myself). There are a few significant, fan-beloved performances missing -- some wonderful variants of "Two of Us" and (believe it or not, since there are so many versions of it here) "Get Back" and the legendary jam "Watching Rainbows," for example -- but nothing you can't easily dig up elsewhere, and more than enough to give you a representative cross-section of what the Beatles achieved, or didn't achieve, during this floundering month, and more than enough to chip away until you find the perfect playlist for your own personal Get Back.

The only problem is, well, actually listening to it. Even compressing 100-odd hours down to sixteen, there's still a lot of repetition here; from a certain angle, it's a privileged experience to hear the Beatles' normally carefully secluded methodology of bearing down and bearing down and bearing down further on each song until it's absolutely perfect and tight and magically precise, a crucial element of their studio work that couldn't ever have been easy to achieve, even when they were experimenting heavily with multitrack tape and varispeeding during the Geoff Emerick era. It's a pity that we only have this verité experience on what amounts to some of the Beatles' most lackluster material. And if you're in the mood to listen to the Beatles, let's be honest, it's very rarely even Let It Be slash Get Back itself, despite its occasional shining moments of uncollected, off-the-cuff beauty, that you're going to reach for, much less hours and hours of recording sessions from same. One exception is if you're particularly fond of early rock & roll, as I am, in which case you can get a considerable kick out of the Beatles' reverence for that material and out of hearing them attempt to align with its principles -- but even then, the joy is more theoretical than anything since the band were in such relative interpersonal duress by this period. (Yes, I realize the sessions weren't as painful as is often stated, and you can hear plenty of instances of them working well together here, especially later on in the month, but the mood is unmistakably dour compared to other studio outtakes in the vaults; I'd liken it more than anything to the vibe of their 1966 live shows -- a slog with the scattered bright spot -- except these tapes are obviously better-recorded and have a greater variety of material.) As was noted by critics at the time, what's so painful about the Let It Be project is that it's such a great idea -- The Beatles Get Back! -- and except for the glorious moment on the roof on January 30th, it just doesn't live up to the promise of that idea, and with just a few tweaks and compromises it could have been so much better.

But again, saddled with this amount of music of such varying quality, there's a reason Glyn Johns was so excited to shape it all and a reason Peter Jackson is currently having a presumptive blast doing the same: you can sort of give this whole morass whatever message you want by being carefully selective. Yet who apart from the true unstoppable Beatles obsessive -- the sort who's willing to listen to horrible quality monitor mixes for hours on end -- has time for that shit? Nobody, and that's where I come in. I will walk you through some of the highlights of these highlights, and some of the lowlights of the highlights too, going disc by disc. Some of this information may prove redundant next year when Apple reaches these sessions in its vault-scraping campaign, but I doubt much of it, and I assume Thirty Days is always going to be one of the more popular Beatles boots for the shape it attempts to give all this stuff, so I hope you will find the following handy. Presumably I will go into more detail on the individual session dates when I spend next January inebriated and listening to / logging A/B Road.

Just as a reminder, these aren't super formal notes, just some thoughts and an attempt to help give some shape to all this.

DISC ONE: Jan. 3rd (with a bit of Jan. 6th)
- Nothing here from the first day of sessions, which as I remember (I did listen to the first few discs of A/B Road at one point) is mostly uneventful anyway.
- "Adagio for Strings" is Paul solo on piano, probably waiting for others to show up.
- We get a very early "Let It Be," mostly just piano and humming with some unfinished lyrics; we now know that Paul had toyed around with the song a bit during the White Album sessions.
- A shambolic cover of Bo Diddley's "Cracking Up" that briefly comes together sets the stage for the rock & roll covers to come. This is followed with several more of the legendary oldies that peppered the sessions: everyone does Elvis impressions on "All Shook Up" which segues right into "Your True Love." There is then a "Blue Suede Shoes" much more barren and impromptu-sounding than the performance that made it to Anthology 3, plus a very very slow "Three Cool Cats," an interesting arrangement that they picked back up again late in the month. Finally for now, a cool jam on "Lucille" reminds us of how fascinating it is that the Beatles had by now met and even played with nearly all of their idols and influences.
- The oft-bootlegged Paul-sung version of "I'm So Tired" sounds mostly like a joke, and ends with him imitating the record's coda, popularly interpreted as a "Paul Is Dead" clue. The White Album is fresh on everyone's mind, with John making fun of the "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" lyrics: "Charlie has a number in the [unintelligible] and lordy lordy does he have a bag of [bones?]"... "Desmond has a sparrow in his pocketbook," etc.
- Sloppy but interesting cover of "Third Man Theme"; George does rather well on it.
- The skeletal, more upbeat early "Don't Let Me Down" is jarring without Billy Preston.
- "I've Got a Feeling" is already pretty well-formed, including John's half ("everybody got a hard-on"); this is a nice low-key runthrough.
- There's a bit of a music-hall vibe to this first-week take on "One After 909," which for now seems pretty spontaneous, probably well in advance of it actually being considered for the record. One of the most intriguing (and for historians, helpful) elements of the Get Back sessions is John and Paul's habit of trotting out ancient compositions of theirs from their old '50s - early '60s notebooks and their very earliest days as collaborators and working musicians. "Because I Know You Love Me So" is a delightful example; John doesn't remember "If Tomorrow Ever Comes" quite as well, though he does join Paul after a bit, and both of them barely recall "Won't You Please Say Goodbye."
- Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" is tackled as a dirge. The Beatles seem deliberately aimless at this juncture, with so many off-the-cuff jams like this; George takes the lead on "Short Fat Fanny" and on a barren but fun version of Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike," which segues into the "Hitch Hike"-influenced Beatles cut "You Can't Do That," the solo of which George is able to recall almost immaculately. On the onetime Cavern staple "Hippy Hippy Shake," Paul is super in control and everyone else... tries.
- Southern folk song "Midnight Special" predates Creedence's version by a few months. The 1916 standard "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" is largely unknown to American rock & roll fans but had been a major hit in the UK in 1959 when recorded by Emile Ford.
- There's a heavily electric "All Things Must Pass" with what sounds like harmonium accompaniment.
- A very early, piano-heavy rendition of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," with Paul's sardonic vocal making more of the murderous subject matter but boasting less irony than the master.
- Two jams close us out, one rather Booker T.-like and one labeled "You Wear Your Women Out."

DISC TWO: Jan 6th-7th
- It wasn't called for often in their career, but the Beatles were quite capable of solid jamming, as heard on the "My Imagination," "Woman Where You Been So Long" and "Oh Julie, Julia" riffs here. They're not revelatory, but they're certainly not the sludge that's sometimes reputed.
- Another oldies roll call. Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You" is just vocals and a wah wah pedal, which overwhelms many of the remaining songs. "Sure to Fall" is a mess but "Money" actually goes kind of hard. Later, a weird country version of "Rock and Roll Music" leads into another run of decade-old classics.
- The durability of "Don't Let Me Down" is remarkable, here and all over the collection. It already swings on this goround. The incessant beeping from the tape leaders or whatnot is very annoying, though.
- A soulful, rollicking variant on "Two of Us," another song that proved itself highly malleable to the Beatles' experiments.
- We get a nice, tough, surprisingly complete "Across the Universe" that's very different from any released take.
- Very skeletal version of future George Harrison solo cut "Hear Me Lord."
- Speaking of which, the attempt to adopt "All Things Must Pass" continues; this variant has weirdly prominent drums but a pleasing three-part harmony on the chorus.
- Early, barren-sounding "Long and Winding Road" with Paul alone on piano.
- Also very early: "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" are already fused together at this stage.
- The rhythm of "Get Back" is slowly coming into focus.
- Interesting early, introspective version of "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" (you'll know the arrangement from Anthology 3.

DISC THREE: Jan 8th-9th
- A piano improv opens the disc accompanied by a host of "good mornings" and such.
- There's a music-hall variant on "Stand by Me" with a highly annoying operatic Paul vocal. Other covers: Carl Perkins' "Tennessee," a nice take on Jerry Lee Lewis' "Fools Like Me," and "You Win Again" slowed down to a crawl. "Suzy Parker" is bare but fun. Cliff Richard's pre-British Invasion staple "Move It!" probably improves on the single and segues into "Good Rockin' Tonight." Lennon takes on cockney grandma mode for "House of the Rising Sun," which is nonetheless sort of fun.
- After a false start, "Two of Us" sounds kind of like "Get Back" ultimately would here, then is later heard in a rollicking rock & roll version with close harmonies well worked out but still destined to be improved.
- A very hard, screamy version of "Don't Let Me Down" -- "a sincere farewell from Rocky and the Rubbers."
- Slightly acoustic treatment on the riff from "I've Got a Feeling" plus a "good morning" scream from Paul. Another take also starts quiet but John ruins it with "weird voice."
- They're still fucking around with "Mean Mr. Mustard"; it's clearly just a novelty at this point (and forever, really).
- "All Things Must Pass" is still full band with drums, the harmony continuing to increase in sophistication.
- Still working the Anthology 3 arrangement of "Bathroom Window," here with interesting guitar work that isn't audible on that outtake.
- There's a version of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (opening up with some silly whistling) on which, improbably, John sosunds msore enthused than Paul.
- The time signature is evidently still a work in progress on "I Me Mine"; the guitar is a little more mystical at this stage.
- This disc climaxes with the infamous "no Pakistanis" version of "Get Back," a pointed response to Enoch Powell's rhetoric that was quickly discarded, probably because it risked being misunderstood. We also get the baffling "Get Off White Power," a rant-and-rave jam that seems cut from the same cloth. The political mood continues with "Commonwealth Song"; with all this anti-Powell sentiment, it's funny that their buddy Clapton would turn out to be such a fucking racist cunt.
- Odd to hear "Across the Universe" sung by John in his "everyday" voice, kind of droning and "guide vocal"-style; this take also incorporates some experimental guitar and Paul harmonies. This song had been in the can for some time (recorded nearly a year earlier at Abbey Road) so it's interesting that they were still working on it.
- Rockabilly lives: "For You Blue" into "Honey Hush" into "For You Blue." Sure would've liked to see what would have made it to a setlist on that late '60s Beatles tour that never happened.

DISC FOUR: Jan. 9th-15th
- The last disc that focuses on the Twickenham rehearsals, taking us to the point of George Harrison's temporary departure.
- "Rambling Woman" is just solo vamping with some aint vocals.
- A lovely, very basic cover of Dylan's then-new "I Threw It All Away," though it's a bit hard to hear the vocals. This is followed by a stunning version of the long-unissued Dylan obscurity "Mama You Been on My Mind," one of the best buried treasures in this set.
- Paul sings alone on "That'll Be the Day," a fun contrast to the John-led 1958 Quarrymen version. Also covered: "High Heel Sneakers"; a cabaret version of "Don't Be Cruel" with another of John's weird voices; "Take This Hammer" trad./arr.; and "Hello Dolly," surprisingly straightforward.
- One of the best of the oldies jams from these sessions appears here, the raucous Paul-led "Jenny Jenny"-"Slippin' and Sliding" medley. At one point John makes the same (gibberish?) sounds that precede "Bathroom Window" on Abbey Road; still no clue what he's saying but it may involve Mal Evans' name.
- This "Let It Be" has a nice vocal; Paul fills in a few spaces with scatting and a reference to Record Mirror!
- A super high energy proto-punk "Get Back" (really wish they'd stuck to this arrangement, though the rooftop version is good too), then another solid fast version of "Two of Us."
- "I'm Talking About You" disappoints; it's mostly footsteps.
- John flips out on his bit of "I've Got a Feeling" then starts laughing; "everybody had a socks up," etc. He then uses a super abrasive vocal style on "Don't Let Me Down," kind of a Howlin' Wolf version of the track. The latest iteration of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is essentially just Lennon making fun of the song.
- There's a very weird original called "On Sunny Island," evidently made up on the spot. The sense of things falling apart coalesces in a series of particularly aimless improvisations (interspersed with "The Peanut Vendor" and "Brazil") and some conversation during "It's Only Make Believe." Paul and Ringo fool around together on the piano at one point.
- "Back Seat of My Car," future Ram cut, is a Paul solo piano demo that goes on for ages. He also improvs, based on a Brahms melody, on something called "This Song of Love," during which he thanks Michael Lindsay-Hogg by name.
- "Madman" is an actual unreleased Lennon song.
- "Mean Mr. Mustard" here contains the lyrics "such a dirty bastard."
- Closes out with an unstructured rehearsal of "Oh! Darling," not great but slightly interesting.

DISC FIVE: Jan. 22nd-23rd
- We move into the Apple studio. This is procession of jams that are quite fun, with John in great voice, plus the reading of the famous "drugs, divorce and a slipping image" tidbit.
- Billy Preston first appears and "Don't Let Me Down" and "I've Got a Feeling" while "Dig a Pony"... stagnates.

DISC SIX: Jan. 22nd-24th
- Some interesting minor variations on familiar stuff here, but mostly just the Beatles working through and still developing the songs.
- A good four-minute jam at the halfway mark.
- Some lackluster rarities like "Child of Nature" too, although John and Paul do pull out their otherwise forgotten 1950s composition "Fancy Me Chances."
- The rapport between John and Paul, and the intuitive nature of their relationship, couldn't be clearer.

DISC SEVEN: Jan. 24th-25th
- "There You Are Eddie" is a lost Paul song. It's not awful but the rest of the band isn't really falling in line behind him.
- We get a skiffle medley, continuing with the delving into the band's roots. They also dredge up "I Lost My Little Girl," the first song Paul ever wrote but sung here by John -- surprisingly soulful!
- There's a slow blues version of "Bad Boy" and an excellent jam around "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Around and Around." A spontaneous "Almost Grown" sounds very cool, too.
- "Dig It" sucks so, so much.
- "Get Back" exclamation: "Yeah! Or should I say... no." A long jam on the song later culminates in Paul repeating "get back. Get a job. Go home."
- With Billy Preston in tow, a "Stand by Me" cover is very pretty and fun with a superb John vocal that leads everyone into Arthur Alexander's "Where Have You Been."
- "Two of Us" has gotten slower and sweeter, hence the segue into "Bye Bye Love."
- "I loved that piano the moment that I saw you" - George during "For You Blue."

DISC EIGHT: Jan. 25th-26th
- This CD is repetitive even by the standards of Beatles bootlegs; with the collection already heavily compressed down from a much longer one, one has to wonder why it's arranged in this manner that really precludes listenability.
- Paul says "back to the drudgery" after a Chuck Berry cover and John sounds angry! "It's you that's bloody making it like this!"
- Lots of scatting during these versions of "Let It Be." Also: "in my darkest hour he is sitting on the lavatory."
- A very very early "Isn't It a Pity," which sounds like a tape playback.
- Ringo's on piano, it seems, for a kind of adorable version of "Octopus's Garden."
- They goof around more on some Jerry Lee Lewis numbers.
- This disc contains every second of the interminable "Dig It" with Paul's stepdaughter-to-be Heather crying and wailing all through it. It's so many worlds worse than any Yoko jam or any of the Velvet Underground's shapeless experiments. It's as bad as the endless instrumental noodling the Beatles were recording at home in 1960.
- We find out here that the released "Rip It Up" jam starts out very meandering, though it's more complete than what came out in 1996. It also ends immediately after "Shake, Rattle and Roll," with "Blue Suede Shoes" gathered up from a bit later.

DISC NINE: Jan. 26th-27th (plus one track from the 30th)
- Incredible playing by Billy Preston on "Miss Ann."
- Yet another weird variant on "Let It Be," with Paul singing something like "Oh still my little girl / let it be."
- Compensating for the "Dig It" catastrophe, there's a Yoko Ono-fronted improvisation here.
- John is apparently trying to learn the bass in real time on one of the "Long and Winding Road" takes.
- Speaking of which, why did the compilers put so many versions of that song here and then randomly cut into the master take?

DISC TEN: Jan. 27th
- Another day, another "Let It Be" filled with a bunch of scatting.
- Early attempts at "Old Brown Shoe," which does not seem to be finished yet.
- The six-minute untitled improvisation sounds like "Helter Skelter."
- Treading water here; heaps of "Get Back" versions and too much that's similar to what we've already heard in this collection.

DISC ELEVEN: Jan 27th-28th
- Paul sings "Get Back" in phony German. Very novel! Very hilarious! Paul, you're amazing sweetie. (Okay the spoken adlibs are kind of funny.)
- The band as a whole is more focused by now; the songs are hitting their final form and the jams have more of a shape -- but are, consequently, less fun to to listen to. The alternate versions are harder to tell apart as the band gets closer to trying to lay their new compositions down once and for all.
- They experiment with going extra hard on "I've Got a Feeling"; Paul later tries a softer blues vocal, which is especially odd on the bridge. Bonus: "On your what?" "On my toes!" "That's very nice for you."
- "Moving Along the River Rhine" is a quite credible number that turns into a blues version of "The Long and Winding Road."
- John tries singing lead on the verses of "I've Got a Feeling"; it's unexpected and rather cool, and he adds some interesting melodic changes.
- John, in sing-song voice after "Dig a Pony": "Iiii think the other one was much betterrrrr / let's do Get baaaack"
- Draggy old man version of "Love Me Do," kind of a Gene Vincent cabaret burlesque thing.
- Paul does the Gorillaz "Feel Good Inc." laugh at the end of one of the "Get Back" takes.
- "Get back and put on your high heeled weater."
- Apparently the single version of "Don't Let Me Down" mixes out or alters some of the vocals; we can hear them on this isc.
- "Don't Let Me Down"; John: "You'd better not after all that."

DISC TWELVE: Jan. 28th-29th
- Did "One After 909" start off as a goof in these sessions like the other very old Lennon-McCartney songs? It sounds like it.
- Billy Preston co-lead vocal on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"; very swampy and groovy.
- An experiment with bluesier guitar on "Old Brown Shoe" approaches "For You Blue" territory.
- John sings backup on "Something" here.
- It's only a skeleton of arrangement, as it was earlier in the month, but the Beatles' backing vocals on "All Things Must Pass" do sound nice. (John and Paul don't seem to be taking the song seriously, though.)
- John during "I Want You": "Allen Klein's here. Look out!"
- There are now some experiments with making "I've Got a Feeling" quieter. Also a listless (intentionally?) version of "Don't Let Me Down."
- The sessions from the 29th are very (too?) chill and it doesn't sound like Billy is around, though he would be later on in the day.

- The first "Long and Winding Road" here offers one of Paul's loveliest vocals.
- Future All Things Must Pass track "Let It Down" shows up here in what sounds like a relatively simple arrangement. All Beatles may not be present?
- A much more elaborate, organ-oriented jam on "I Want You," with an amazing vocal by Billy Preston.
- It sounds like John briefly takes the lead on "Something."
- They're still trying to develop "Dig It" into something but it just isn't. John namedrops every song from the Get Back sessions (including "Across the Universe" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"!) in this jam.
- We get, of all things, a drone-rock version of "Three Cool Cats."
- During an attempted Chuck Berry cover, John lets loose a "fuck you" then criticizes Paul for "wasting time"!
- One more shambolic oldies medley, this one with "Cannonball" and "Not Fade Away," which leads into nice run of Buddy Holly stuff. "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," later released with a lot of editing and reverb, is the obvious highlight, but John sings "Maybe Baby" beautifully underneath the confused guitar.
- Another rare 1950s Lennon-McCartney original in the wild: "Thinking of Linking."

- One last live triumph for a band that was so often denied the chance to demonstrate their real power on stage once they became famous. Their performance on a cold midday in London atop the Apple building on Saville Row, with Billy Preston in tow, was ingeniously calculated to keep them insulated from anything that could prevent a tour de force climactic moment for the film being shot. Paul even hoped they might get arrested for noise ordinance violations and be able to end the film with that.
- For all the disharmony that existed in the Beatles' unit by now, it simply can't be denied that they sound glorious here, and every fan should hear this in complete form despite the repetition of some songs. (Since the primary object of concern was the documentary, they ran through multiple takes in many cases.) Rooftop versions of "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down" have circulated wildly through official channels, and of course "Dig a Pony," "I've Got a Feeling" and "One After 909" made it in this fleetingly sympatico, raw form to the canonical Let It Be album. But everything here is a pleasure. It's an electric moment. What else can you possibly say? The Beatles debuting new material in the most disruptive but oddly private way possible. It's magic, and as so often with this band, iconic and endlessly imitated for good reason. And of course it's the best part of the accompanying film.

- This final day of sessions has a "last day of school" feeling about it except when they're really focused (and they did lay down some masters on this day). They're generally more relaxed, therefore better, during the jam sessions. There's even a bluesy "Run for Your Life" interpolation!
- Many of these performances are also thoroughly haunting. You hear it every time he sings "The Long and Winding Road." (Takes 15 and 16 are particularly good.)
- Classic Paul quote: "couple of cock-ups in that one."
- "Try a Little Tenderness" gets invoked during a "Lady Madonna" burlesque.

- Paul singing "I Want You": not great!
- [After some microphone troubles:] "What the fuck's going on? It doesn't matter about popping... popping's in now!"
- John is very impatient to get cracking on "Maggie Mae," of all things. Apparently it's something he really wanted on the album, which means Let It Be Naked would likely have made him very unhappy.
- Some minimal backing vocals on "Let It Be," and we're back to the "Brother Malcolm" lyrics on some takes.
- Choice quotes: "What the shit and hell's going on here?"; "Don't kid us, Glyn, give it to us straight." This is as close as we get to BBC-style interplay at this late date in the Beatles' career, so enjoy it.
- John makes clear his desperation to be relieved of bass duties.
- There is a spontaneous nicely sung version of "Oh! Darling" that, alas, falls apart at the bridge.
- Everyone moves on and the story ends. They would limp along as a band for a few more months and even complete another album, but you get a feeling of real finality here. And you also feel that, blasphemous as it may be, perhaps it really was time.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Kanye West: Late Registration (2005)

(Def Jam)


Feels pretty weird to miss 2005 in any way at all -- it was a time when we were all stuck in newly validated dystopian Bush-land and steeped in the most useless of our many useless wars, the year of Katrina, and for me personally, I was working in food services and in a relationship that was enjoying a very brief respite from crumbling around me. Life now is a lot better. But as my thirties have battered me physically and got me clamoring to live in every moment, I do find myself occasionally reaching out to remember something I do associate with my early twenties: the feeling of promise and full-color giddiness, letting my mind wander because I didn't have quite so much to fuss over and worry about, and as laughable as it sounds, nothing brings back the midpoint of the last decade quite like an album I didn't even own at the time, Late Registration.

I didn't need to own it, of course, to know its major songs -- and at the time I didn't particularly like any of them, but they wafted around me, were totally inescapable, defined the grit and the inevitability of life going on with what I now see as a perspicacious expressive power. If you know the bangers, you know what a sharp and fertile period this was for Kanye West, superstar anew, victory lapping just a year after the debut, even indulging a little with the star-studded cameos and the big-budget videos and such, and beginning to dominate the dialogue of hip hop in a way no other so-called "alternative" rapper had. His singles in this early period were unstoppable: clever, radiant, oddly vulnerable, but confident and fully engaged. But yes, when I hear them I just hear that time, and I'm wrestling with how much of a compliment that is -- but I think it's a high one. Because hearing this today it's really striking, and I would say that's in large part because it's so hard to imagine this version of West ever gracing us with his presence again.

West's eagerness to please on his first three albums is remarkable considering his reputation ever since; even though his considerable ego already pays a role in his persona, as of '05 his dominant energy is still an affable confidence that emphasizes his position as a regular dude who loves his mom, loves his work and has some issues. Lord, what a relief to remember that at some point the guy resembled a human being, a flawed public figure who wore his heart on his sleeve in a way that seemed raw but not troubling -- before unfathomable riches and unchecked, titanic self-loathing swallowed him, which was already happening even on some of his good records, before he went full Slow Train Coming this year. And his quality control at this stage was almost unimpeachable, fused with the adventurousness of hiring an unorthodox collaborator like Jon Brion, whose indie rock bona fides are a stronger showcase of West's musically ominvorous impulses than the iconic Adam Levine cameo. That said, Levine's chorus on the splendidly shambolic "Heard 'Em Say" is as much a haunted evocation of its summer as Mary Wells' "My Guy" or Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" were of theirs.

It seems like there's a contradiction here; West in this era was more appealing, more "one of us," because he seemed less self-aware, but also more conscious of expressing complete thoughts. The essence is that maybe, or even probably, West's "self," the inner life he was exploring, was just more interesting then. Hardly unique to him. He had a personality. His thoughts on politics and race, spread all over this record, were somewhat coherent. (Remember that this was the year in which he called out Pres. Bush on live television.) He put as much energy into making this a cohesive album as he now does in the discs he produces for other artists, while conversely tossing off new music under his own name with only a modicum of careful attention. Back then his flaws seemed to magnify his appeal instead of pointing to his towering distance from everyday existence.

I'm sorry. So far I haven't talked enough about Late Registration in this supposed review of it. But it's a record that writes its own story; supplementing it with anything seems kind of useless. The four opening singles are glorious, peaking with the exquisitely constructed and still shocking "Gold Digger," all brilliant and offensive laugh lines and empathetic narratives bringing not just Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" (interpreted by Jamie Foxx) but Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" into a still-new millennium. West is a rapper and at this stage a good one, but he is also a master of the pop record; the hooks and indulgences alike have the force of a lightning strike, and nothing packs the mental dance floor like the "get down, girl" head-shake on "Gold Digger."

Following the hits (the others are "Drive Slow" and "Touch the Sky," in which Lupe Fiasco figures, still so promising and clear-eyed), the record leaves both instantaneous pleasure and the body-driven chaos of The College Dropout behind to launch into vibe territory. "My Way Home" is built from a sample of Gil Scott-Heron's shattering "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," and West (producing solo) is so taken with the source that he lets it play out nearly unchecked for the second half of the very brief song, not the last time the great poet would be given center stage on a West record. That's the Common cameo, but "Crack Music" reframes the concept of "I Used to Love H.E.R." as a drug rather than a sex metaphor, and it might have become a street anthem if it weren't so thorny and profane. "Roses" (with a complex lyric about grief and health care) "Addiction" and "Bring Me Down" (with an outstanding vocal by Brandy) burrow further into a surprisingly potent darkness, some of the most emotionally complex hip hop of the period.

What brings us back to earth is the all-star murderer's row of "Diamonds of Sierra Leone" and "We Major," collaborations with Jay-Z and Nas (both in 2005 still bigger stars than Kanye, so it seemed more significant then), both of which have aged poorly and attained a degree of bloat that threatens to derail the record. This is especially true of "We Major," an unfocused half-decent rant that does not deserve seven and a half minutes of our attention, but even the pretentious classic "Diamonds," revolving around a predictable Shirley Bassey sample and one of Jay's last verses that qualifies as truly arresting, feels hopelessly out of place. Already, rock star arrogance is worn dreadfully by Kanye, who never learned to speak the language of the hard-living sexually virile blues man, always too much of an angsty dork. (This is the reason all of his best anthems are either self-critical or play as fantasies even from the mind of a celebrity.)

Everything comes back around with "Hey Mama," a brilliant and gorgeous dedication to Donda West that is now very difficult to listen to but retains its immediate pleasure as a sincere, charming and beautifully constructed hip hop ballad. The indulgences of "Celebration" and "Gone" (while the latter is a slightly odd finale) feel more satisfying because "Hey Mama" precedes them, puts them in context, tells us a great deal about who this man is. In the end, it's not only that this often delightful record reels us in because of its music; it's because West's messaging is so honest, and so not the ravings of someone whose world is incomparable to our own. In its modesty, the record almost effortlessly achieves transcendence that would be out of reach to anyone who let it all get to him the way Kanye West has. According to him this is the Devil's music. I wonder when the last time he listened to Late Registration was. I wonder if he's jealous of it.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Which racist do you want on your bank note?: September 2019 music diary

I was promoted at work this month (thank you, thank you) and now that I am RUNNING A DANG LIBRARY I was unable to file a planned review of the new Beatles Abbey Road set, which I wanted to do fairly quickly in order to stay caught up as I reach the home stretches of that Essentials discography project. I will write it up and post it at some point when there's downtime in the next month or so.

Sheer Mag: A Distant Call (Wilsuns Recording Co.) [hr]
I was initially skeptical -- as this band of working class heroes has vaulted backwards from thrash to punk to power pop and finally to classic rock, spilling hooks and classically tasty guitar licks all the way, it was a concern that the emotional nuance and rebellion was fading away in an onslaught of Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy-isms; "Steel Sharpens Steel" was undeniable, but it was also placed pointedly at the beginning. The lifeline remained Tina Halladay, whose lyrics and vocals plunder through veneer and vulnerability over personal loss and defiance with wondrous, almost singular (for this specific subgenre of anthemic bar-sleaze) elegance. And as the deeper essence of the record was emerging, I caught them playing most of its songs live and, yes, I was then convinced. There was never any debate that it's a lot of fun, but Matt Seely's powerful lead guitar and the rhythm section really have crafted a series of irresistible rock performances, more focused than before; and if you miss the boundary-stretching of Need to Feel Your Love, which memorably touched on a disco sheen that only the lovely "Silver Line" evidences, the out-of-nowhere post-punk finale "Keep on Ruinnin" should compensate. There were fears all the way back to the EPs that this was inevitably going to be a short career, that this kind of specific vision couldn't properly sustain, but so far this band is proving flexible and inflexible in precisely the right ways.

Jay Som: Anak Ko (Polyvinyl) [hr]
An enormous step forward from the promising but limited Everybody Works, this finds the now in-demand producer Melina Duterte returning to her singer-songwriter well with much more variance and ambition than before while retaining the intimacy (love those White Album double track vocals) that made material like "Bus Song" so infectious. Anak Ko veers to more modernist influences than its predecessor and wears them proudly; it opens with winning, subtle dance music before moving to surprisingly deft Paisley Underground jangle and shoegaze on the new transportation narrative "Superbike," eventually all the way to countrified grunge, of all things, on "Get Well." The Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie-like trip hop sensuality on "Tenderness" and extensive layering on "Devotion" demonstrate why her sonic wisdom is already sought after, matching lovely soft rock guitar with persuasive percussion. The soundscapes being crafted are more than functional, they can be hypnotic (as on the title cut), but everything serves the song, and melodic pop like "Nighttime Drive" and "Crown" would bring the people in even if far less confidently presented. Best of all, there is exactly the right amount of music here -- it's singular and individual but attests loudly to its place in a longer narrative -- and overall is a deeply pleasing, modestly ambitious record.

Kano: Hoodies All Summer (Parlophone)
London grime pioneer's latest is a quintessential example that reminds me why the genre's never really worked for me. The production and beats are all superb, but the jagged MCing, convincingly and righteously angry as it is, feels too musically disconnected and never attains any sense of actual groove, which stops it from communicating as strongly as its far-reaching intentions deserve. Oh well.

Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Interscope) [r]
A catalog of tortured intimacies from a writer who's serious about paring down a complex inner life into language that's almost flippant in its simplicity. It's California through and through, some conception of fantasy laziness that's less about eternal youth than about the fallout from figuring out its limits, 20/20 (or Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere) more than Surfin' U.S.A.. Still not sure about her vocals, or even some of the lyrics; there's a kind of icily sulking sameiness to the thing (not unique to this artist!) that doesn't really work for me -- but there's a certain weird thrill in hearing someone reclaim Sublime from the stoner bros (do they even deserve it?), and you can sense the intensity of the kind of relationship with audiences the whole thing has cultivated in the last two songs (plus "Mariners Apartment Complex"), which are unquestionably sublime. And despite its placid tempo and the often glacial arrangements, the entire hour-plus is never anywhere close to dull, its vocal distortions and sweeping emotional crescendos well-placed and well-chosen.

Whitney: Forever Turned Around (Secretly Canadian)
You can make a case that this comparatively down-tempo, pretty but superficial country-rock suite is a bold move from a band (a Smith Westerns offshoot) that shot out of the gate with so vibrant a power pop concoction as Light Upon the Lake three years ago. But you can make a stronger one that, like most bands propagating this style historically and now and always, they just gave us every bit of what they had the first time and now the best they can offer as a cop to the past is the nice, nostalgic horn-driven "My Life Alone." And I feel like I'm still too young to cast back fondly on stuff that happened three years ago, but maybe I'm just deluded.

Black Belt Eagle Scout: At the Party with My Brown Friends (Saddle Creek) [hr]
Second album from Portland-based Native American singer-songwriter Katherine Paul eschews lo-fi in favor of sweeping, bottom-heavy, dramatic depth -- sad, strong songs of everyday emotional catharsis that have an often eerie, occasionally almost mystical quality (see opener "At the Party"), just as often capture the open-ended, tense excitement of a night drive ("My Heart Dreams"). Paul's own production and arrangements (listen to the way the drums take over "Run It to Ya") are immersive, her vocals melancholic and brutal, the entire record absorbing even in its less intense moments. The songs often settle into lyrical and musical brooding before bounding unexpectedly in another direction with rattling momentum. "I Said I Wouldn't Write This Song" is the perfect match of riff with melody and sentiment, and "Half Colored Hair" is something Michael Stipe might have called a "gut-splitter" in 1988: deliberate, breathless and obviously deeply felt. A record you can imagine carrying with you for some time.

Ezra Furman: Twelve Nudes (Bella Union) [r]
Once again, I prefer the platonic theory of this album to its actual execution, mostly because I think his inward-looking work is stronger than his conceptualizing and activism... and yet it's clearly an act of messy and new bravery to harness this raw, quick, thrashing rock & roll for calls to action of this specific sort, in this specific sociopolitical era. And when the shapeless, loud "Blown" -- sounding like the lowest of lo-fi 7" releases of early, seamy garage punk -- opens with a "trans power" shout, daring anyone to question, object or even wander past with distant bemusement, it is a moment of unalloyed jubilation. An accomplished music historian like Furman knows what he's doing; his reverence for the form is what causes him to know exactly how to use the "Sympathy for the Devil" lick in "Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone" to deny any potentially complacent audience the escapism of distance that's so inviting to, well, music historians -- middle-class, middle-aged, middle-voting listeners who may at best take pains to correct pronouns while recoiling at the idea of actual organization and social progression. As Greil Marcus recently wrote, punk isn't something a specific generation created, it's something each generation finds, and this began even before we had a name for it, even before it was associated with a specific sound and style. "The kids are just getting started," Furman warns, and these "kids" are not the arm-crossing kids of Win Butler's semi-nostalgic memories, they are as engaged and disgusted as the grimy working class punks of the Clash's "Career Opportunities." They look different, they feel different, but they know the same language, and in this respect Twelve Nudes is the perfect rock & roll album, because it establishes why this music more than any other facet of youth culture is so long-lived and so continually vital: because it's so readily mutated.

The writing, unfortunately, wavers; Furman's first three post-Harpoons albums used pop language to exhume demons even if they sometimes lifted their basic forms wholesale from his beloved older records, sources of comfort he's quite ready to recontextualize as needed, but his anxieties and close connection with the work made that phase of his career haunting in its directness and grace. Somehow, as a storyteller or as a news reporter, he seems less infallible, and his energy isn't convincing enough to completely hide the skeletal song ideas populating the record; Furman's understandably ringing alarm bells at this stage -- he does have a personal stake in the state of the world -- and he keeps dropping lyrics that drip with his usual off-kilter genius ("nobody cares if you're dying till you're dead"; "the kind of sex you want is the kind they'd like to make illegal") and finds time to cop a bit of doo wop with the southern-tinged "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" and revive the alternative nation with the unabashedly vicious "Rated R Crusaders," but there is no total escape from the crush of pastiche. Perhaps because the mood is so dour, the conviction occasionally feels strained. He's not wrongheaded or misguided about anything -- and yet, it's alarming how empty "what can you do but rock and roll?" can feel as a response to the oppression of our current moment. That isn't his fault; it's the rest of the world that's let him down. It's my fondest hope that this record quickly becomes dated and Furman returns to the raw, painful wit of introspection or even the self-actualizing of something like "Body Was Made," but it seems just as likely that we'll look back on this as prescient and I'll deeply regret this review.

Young Thug: So Much Fun (Atlantic) [r]
Not as funny as he used to be ("I can eat you like hibachi cause you're bad bad bad," o RLYYYY?), but he sounds like he's having a good sleazy time playing Atari and while indistinct, this sounds amazing on good speakers and will make you feel either much older or younger than you actually are.

Raphael Saadiq: Jimmy Lee (Columbia)
53 year-old neo-soul titan from Oakland, one of the architects of the R&B radio sound of the 1990s (and co-vocalist of Tony! Toni! Toné!); his latest record is sweet-natured but dated and excessively friendly, and despite pleasantly jazzy arrangements, the vocals are coming off as oddly rote and strained.

The Highwomen (Low Country Sound)
Knew this was a "supergroup" without looking it up and without knowing who any of these people (Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires) are, because you just don't name your band/album "the Highwomen" unless that's where you're going with it. Anyway it's fine, and very long. "I listen to vinyl for the scratches" is a good line.

Jenny Hval: The Practice of Love (Sacred Bones) [hr]
Has the feel of a charming art project, with the exotic intensity of something from Laurie Anderson but with the theatrical orchestrations (and therefore, pop amusements) of John Cale or Kate Bush -- it's less a square peg in a musical hole than Blood Bitch and clearly has more replay value, but doubles down on an equally strange mood, complete with Haxan-like cover art. A telling extract of dialogue focuses on childlessness resulting in a feeling of being an "antagonist" in the human race's narrative but also toys with the language of humanity itself being a "virus," which is my inclination. There is much to uncover, and much intrigue, in this dense half-hour, but there are also immediate joys in the form of the trance beat driving "Ashes to Ashes," the spectacular layering and complexity of arrangement on the transportive finale "Ordinary"... but there is more to hear, more fears and more joys, every time through.

(Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (Domino) [r]
Alex G's energetic eclecticism calls Beck Hansen to mind less because of his wide range of interest than because it seems like a way to avoid doubling down on the one thing at which he truly excels: magically plodding folk songs hooked on riffs and feelings and violins. This record's "Bobby" sequel is "Southern Shy," which is lovely. Elsewhere, he can toss pleasing guitar and a pretty melody on something called "Cow," evoke Tom Petty on "Sugar House," and waste the gorgeous verses of "Bad Man" on a facile climax. The problem is that so many of these are just sketches; the vibe on "Taking" is very specific but it's half-formed, and you need only to look at how quickly the artist hops from one idea to another to get the sense that you're listening in on classwork or an abstract therapeutic exercise. You'll keep "Hope" and "Gretel" -- loose, vague and phantasmagoric -- with you, but hunting through a short album for these treasures shouldn't feel so much like work... and maybe it won't if you're a Frank Ocean fan.

Sam Fender: Hypersonic Missiles (Interscope) [r]
There are so many albums that basically sound like this floating around, though this one (debut from pop singer-songwriter who's already found considerable success in England) has more grit than usual, sort of an arena alt-rock corporate fantasy: media-ready, heartless and stable. "The Borders" sounds like the Alarm or something; I always hated the Alarm, but somehow that comes as a respite now. "You're Not the Only One" proves that the sax solo is back in vogue as basic feature of the populist hit-factory sound. I dunno, I just don't really mind it, and it's not boring; if anything, it's a fairly interesting snapshot of where the popsphere stands at the moment, and strongly implies that guitars aren't destined to be extinct from the actual charts, at least in Europe.

Charli XCX: Charli (Atlantic)
Years on the verge of doing something great but the moment is already over and she's boring now. It sounds like a Billie Eilish album, all that watered-down SOPHIE vibe. "I feel so unstable," etc.

Chelsea Wolfe: Birth of Violence (Sargent House) [c]
Monotonous and endless. Nothing else to say.

Gruff Rhys: Pang! (Rough Trade)
One of the more creatively ambitious castaways from the '90s Britpop peak (I mean, compare whatever Liam Gallagher is doing), Rhys coasts through some productions by the young producer Muzi from South Africa and sings his latest batch of songs in Welsh. It's oddly disorienting, but not particularly appealing, but I'm not really a strong fan even of the Furrys, so I'm not really qualified. I do like "Ol Bys / Nodau Clust" a lot.

Chastity Belt (Hardly Art) [hr]
Another record I initially found incomprehensible that eventually came to feel like a warm bath; my reasons for the first response come because this is truly a mood piece, one that barely wavers in its focus -- it could practically be one single song with the occasional mild variance in riffs. The irony is that I associate I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone more than any other album with the muted sadness and loud disappointment of the early Trump days, but it was in fact recorded before his election; this is the band's actual response, and four albums in it's a major change of pace, doubling down on subtlety as though R.E.M. made Fables after Green. The defiant tower of Julia Shapiro's voice, often so soul-stirring and comforting in its boldness on the last two records, has been measured down to a morose whisper. Lydia Lund's guitar, never more committed to groove, is now crunched in with a wall of sound that resists catharsis. But there is a great deal of beauty in this extended lament; you have to listen closely for some of it. The hooks on "Effort," "Rav-4" and "Apart" are eventually striking in their boldness considering how they initially seem to wisp in and out of earshot. And the lyrics -- hmm, I'm prudish enough about bodily functions to have an aversion to the title of "Pissed Pants" but "You can have everything you've always dreamed of / but first you've got to get out of your head" is probably the sentiment I most needed to hear this month... to say nothing of the howl into the night that ends the record, when Shapiro abruptly seems to discover herself again: "Yeah, I saw it coming. I saw it coming and now it's gone."

Brittany Howard: Jaime (ATO) [hr]
Alabama Shakes are a fine band, but there was never any question that the majority of their appeal sprung from the presence of Howard, and the brilliant singer-songwriter and guitarist's highly personal solo debut is genuinely worth the buzz it's getting. Revolving around adolescent memories, the strange phenomenon of hitting thirty and thoughts of a sister who died young, it's quick, varied, remarkably confident and idiosyncratic in both its vocal and emotional ranges. It's also filled to the brim with dirty pop tunes that flirt with convention while upturning it; most striking is the way that Howard has brought a kind of vocalizing -- a raw, forceful feeling and joy -- to the mainstream that's been mostly absent from radio for decades now. But the album isn't backward-looking either, except perhaps the U2-ish "Run to Me" or the keyboard-driven Gil Scott-Heron rant "13th Century Metal," but even those are stretches. The layered, sophisticated production (handled by the artist herself) underscores just how eclectic these songs are, though at its best the record is pure funk: "He Loves Me" is kinky and glorious, "Tomorrow" is transcendently wild and the guitar on "Baby" gives it sufficient ammo to feel like a song you've been waiting to hear for the entirety of your mortal life. Most of all, it can't be stressed enough what an incredible singer Howard is -- if the amount of feeling in "Short and Sweet" doesn't trip you up, I really just don't know what you want. Whether Alabama Shakes will return is anyone's guess, but this glorious exorcism indicates that we'll be blessed as Howard continues her self-exploration, regardless of the avenue.

The Paranoid Style: A Goddamn Impossible Way of Life (Bar/None)
I like their Twitter account more than the music. Strongly indicates that Elizabeth Nelson and I like lots of the same music, and the same things about said music. Her lyrics are rock and social criticism in song form, and sometimes I find that notion appealing, but the carefully enunciated delivery here isn't to my taste even though the words usually are ("I smoked because of old fiction / I smoked because of Mojo Nixon") and little things like the surf guitar on "Turpitude" ought to send me swooning. The title track, about the Who's fatal Cincinnati concert in 1979, is perversely beautiful. "They weren't screaming for you, they were just screaming." Fuck.

Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (The Leaf Label) [hr]
An extraordinary procession of ideas, vibes, grooves and post-Brexit protestations in a jazz-fusion context from this London-based Indian percussionist, who employs an eclectic group of poets, singers and rappers to add often fast and ruthless textures to his hypnotic bed of sound. The magnificent results range from the Kuti-like intensity of "Mumbay" to the ethereal, powerful sound of Mirande's voice on "Good Ol' Vilayati" to the scathing anti-colonialist message of Zia Ahmed's spoken word passage on "Mango." The entire record is intellectually rigorous and emotionally revelatory, and not a moment among either its protracted jams or tight constructions is remotely frivolous. It feels like the rhythm of our years in the very best and most terrifying ways.

Ride: This Is Not a Safe Place (Wichita Recordings) [no longer innovators but capable of at least upstaging Kevin Shields; "Future Love"]
Shura: Forevher (Secretly Canadian) ["Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands on Me)"/"Forever"/"Skyline, Be Mine"]

Nerija: Blume (Domino)

* Rapsody: Eve
* Brockhampton: Ginger
* Missy Elliott: Iconology
* Sirom: A Universe That Roasts Blossoms for a Horse
* Frankie Cosmos: Close It Quietly
Tanya Tucker: While I'm Livin'
Modern Nature: How to Live
HTRK: Venus in Leo
Pharmakon: Devour
Joan Shelley: Like the River Loves the Sea
MUNA: Saves the World
Tinariwen: Amadjar
Chrissie Hynde: Valve Bone Woe
Bat for Lashes: Lost Girls
Velvet Negroni: Neon Brown
JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Sampa the Great: The Return
Vivian Girls: Memory

Taylor Swift: Lover
Redd Kross: Beyond the Door
Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops [NYIM]
Shannon Lay: August [NYIM]
Jesse Malin: Sunset Kids [NYIM]
Salami Rose Joe Louis: Zdenka 2080
Sheryl Crow: Threads
The S.L.P.
The Futureheads: Powers
Iggy Pop: Free
Trupa Trupa: Of the Sun
Korn: The Nothing
Mike Patton: Corpse Flower
Alex Cameron: Miami Memory
Metronomy: Metronomy Forever
Devendra Banhart: Ma [NYIM]
Life: A Picture of Good Health
Efterklang: Altid Sammen
Hiss Golden Messenger: Terms of Surrender [NYIM]
Liam Gallagher: Why Me? Why Not.
sir Was: Holding On to a Dream

Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (Fantasy 1956) [hr]

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Beatles: Get Back (1969)

(Apple [unreleased]; volumnious bootlegs from 1969 onward)


The Glyn Johns construction of Get Back, before it was rejected by the Beatles and slightly reengineered to better fit with the then-forthcoming feature film and then thrown out entirely in favor of Phil Spector's reimagined version, is a deeply flawed album -- were it in the canon, it would still have been the Beatles' weakest major LP release apart from Help! -- but it's also very clearly a better one than Let It Be. That's thanks in part to nothing fancier than its mere sense of focus: Johns is interested in the band's (or at least Paul and John's) original vision of a rock band's frayed work-in-process with no tracking, no overdubs, no bells and whistles, and he integrates dialogue, aimless studio jams, chaotic covers and flubbed false starts and such to make the strong case that the Beatles' timeless magnetism falls into place naturally.

He also focuses heavily on this being relatively "hard" rock music, at least until the back half of Side Two, perhaps to reassert the band's mettle not as strictly studio wizards but as architects of rock & roll who'd been there almost from the beginning, thus demonstrating the direct lines drawn from classic Chuck Berry and Elvis numbers to the then-explosive movement toward macho blues rock being propagated by the likes of Canned Heat, Led Zeppelin and the band's own racist buddy Eric Clapton. Not surprisingly, while the Beatles with their unabashed pop background (as emphatically worshipful of Carole King as they were of Little Richard) are less than credible as uncritical meatheads on the road to heavy metal, their wealth of unironic appreciation for black music and classicist, liberating rock & roll renders them almost automatically more interesting and soulful than those peers, which is only exacerbated by the presence of the pianist-organist Billy Preston, and their unmistakable, equimonious camaraderie with him, on many of these numbers.

If you're trying to string together a narrative throughline strictly using the Beatles' albums, Get Back as an outgrowth of the White Album and a contradiction of the forthcoming Abbey Road makes considerably more sense than the whiplash of Let It Be following Abbey as it sits in the official discography. Not to say Spector's album doesn't carry an elegiac tone, but how much of that is manufacted by us retroactively? It's always been remarked upon how much Paul resented the goopy strings Spector poured over "The Long and Winding Road," but less discussed is how he must have felt when three of his most personal songs -- "Two of Us" about his romantic relationship with Linda Eastman, "Let It Be" about his late mother and "The Long and Winding Road" his rawest-ever response to loss -- were co-opted semi-officially as narratives about the Beatles themselves, which may add an extra layer for some listeners but still feels rather trite, and seems to rob us of a bit of each song's true resonance. That I assume is why early 1969 is never thought of as one of McCartney's peaks as a composer, even though he really is firing on all cylinders here as both a rocker and as a choked-up balladeer whose passion and directness would perhaps reach its crescendo a year later with the magnificent non-Beatles track "Maybe I'm Amazed," perhaps the last truly perfect (though not the last great) song he would write.

It's instructive to look at the takes Johns uses on his assembly, how they differ from what Spector picked up on, and how he uses them. Famously, Johns had a truckload of tapes to sort through, though he took to the job with great enthusiasm, and the two albums serve as a fascinating primer on how interpretations of gathered material can differ. One of the frustrations of Spector's LP is that he violates the sense of raw, immediate presence and unmasked spontaneity by adding overdubs here and there, and venturing outside the Get Back sessions altogether for some material, but doesn't entirely, so that a few various snatches of dialogue and banter between songs remain, but not enough to make it a part of the record's general conceit rather than just odd. (His transition from John joking around after "Dig It" straight into "Let It Be" remains simultaneously bold and vaguely offensive.) Johns, on the other hand, goes all-out; he seems to want the record as a whole to feel like a single day's off-the-cuff work for the Beatles, capturing on-mike discussions and debates and gags between performances and with songs seemingly appearing out of nowhere. It sounds strikingly unprofessional from a certain POV, but there's no denying that had it been released in 1969 it would have been a rather striking innovation -- the sort of inventiveness of spirit that Let It Be would miss entirely.

Johns opens with an assertion of the Beatles going "back to their roots" by airing "One After 909" from the Apple rooftop on January 30th (Spector used the same version in a different mix); it was a John and Paul song dating from their "eyeball to eyeball" years in the late '50s and even dredged up once before for a studio recording that never made it out (until 1995), and appropriately enough it's followed by two more statements of shambolic purpose. From Jan. 22nd, "Rocker" is a standard jam that slides abruptly into a loose version of the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me" (not one of the better covers from the sessions, but a convincingly spontaneous and thus representative one) and then John's one and only great (or even better than decent) song from these sessions, "Don't Let Me Down," which John somehow would never complain about Spector cutting from Let It Be. This deeply sincere, sensual love song is one of the best cuts the Beatles ever recorded, an almost immaculate sampling of their extraordinary interplay, and there are many fine performances of it from the first half of the month -- then Billy Preston comes in and the song turns into a masterpiece, delving into genuine, unadulterated blues and soul with his influence, and on nearly every performance, John and the other Beatles completely allow Preston's soloing to define the song, which is to its considerable benefit. George Martin had prepared a minimalist mix of one of the versions from the 28th of January for release as a b-side a month before Johns completed this assembly; Johns sticks to the last several songs on his cut and includes an even less polished version from nearly a week earlier, at which point Lennon is still audibly starry-eyed and in awe over Preston's contributions, giving us his Sam Cooke moment with a shout of "Take it, Bill!" just before the closing instrumental break. It's probably as great a rendition as the one on the single, or the rooftop performance in the film; all three are extraordinary moments of pure performance for the Beatles and Preston.

We come next to one of the better versions of John's "Dig a Pony," a throwaway compared to "Don't Let Me Down," though this January 23rd take is arguably stronger than the rooftop version used on Let It Be, and benefits from the fact that the "all I want is..." intro hasn't been cut as it would be by Spector (some agree with his decision and may be right, but I rather like it, and I like very little about this song!). It's a reasonably enthused performance but there's no mistaking its half-assed wordplay and uninspired melody for top-drawer Beatles; the only thing separating it from one of the bones they threw to the Yellow Submarine film is the enthusiasm of their various performances, including George's consistently strong soloing. Johns again sticks to the same day for its very next performance, of "I've Got a Feeling," in a strong, pleasingly raw and rocking variant with great call-and-response work from Lennon that was eventually issued by Apple on the Anthology 3 disc. It's hard to conclude whether Johns or Spector, who goes with a rooftop extract, uses the "better" version since they're both exceptional performances of one of the last great moments of genuine John-Paul collaboration.

Things get a bit less noteworthy for a spell: "Get Back" is the same January 27th performance as the single (which I to this day don't understand; there are at least half a dozen stronger, harder rocking performances of the song, including one in the film and one from the roof on Anthology 3); "For You Blue" is the same take Spector would use, except the latter would have George record a totally new vocal including various ad-libs breaking the monontony of his robotic original lead. And the dreadful "Teddy Boy," a Paul fake-folk trifle he was inexplicably proud enough of to record it himself on McCartney, was (mercifully) cut down a bit and featured on Anthology 3. "Two of Us" is one of the few cases in which Johns makes a significantly worse choice than Spector, who picks a far stronger (though overdubbed) take from the last day of sessions for Let It Be; one wonders why Johns didn't spring for the wonderful rock version heard in the film, which would have fit much more snugly into the overall aesthetic of the sessions, though he is maybe wiser to pair it with the acoustic "Teddy Boy" than Spector was to open the LP with it. Next comes the nadir of John's tomfoolery from this period; he was oddly excited to throw together a brief take on the mythological Liverpool prostitution ballad "Maggie Mae" for the sessions (you can hear him repeatedly reminding the others he wants to get around to it on some of the tapes), but it's really just an energized throwaway that Spector buried on the end of the first side, and the organ-based improvisation "Dig It" -- which Spector also used, though he cut it to less than a minute -- is worse yet, an aimless, opiate-addled jam that could only be seen fit for release by a band paranoid about a dearth of material.

Out of that sad detour comes the record's sudden climax, the one-two punch of Paul's anthems "Let It Be" (written for Aretha Franklin to sing, which she did) and "The Long and Winding Road," and perhaps inevitably it's on this last performance that the massive advantages of Johns' approach come into play. Spector really would ruin this song by drenching it with an orchestra, robbing it of the modesty and loneliness of its despair; as heard on the radio in 1970, it must have seemed like the Beatles' worst-ever moment of schlocky melodrama, but as played without Spector's contributions, it's a stunning, impressively desolate creation, as heard when the same take found a home on Anthology 3. "Let It Be" here resembles the eventual Martin-produced single, though I've always quite liked the harsher overdubbed guitar solo on the Spector version. Placing the two songs back to back emphasizes their gracefulness as ballads and strengthens them both. The structure of Johns' album is overall quite impressive; all that's missing is better songs from Lennon, or better acoustic material to place in the run of quieter stuff on Side Two.

Get Back was on the cusp of being released at least twice in 1969, with schedules penciled in, a cover prepared and orders taken, but it was vetoed by Beatles on every occasion, and Let It Be might well have suffered the same fate had there been enough of a unit to protest it by 1970. For years it was a strong candidate for slight cleanup and official release, but Apple took a different and wholly more frustrating approach with Let It Be... Naked in 2003. Not only did this skirt the existence of the perfectly fine Get Back album cover, an ingenious homage to the cover of Please Please Me emphasizing the "back to roots" mythos and all the clutter of disorganized rehearsals, replacing it with a photoshopped monstrosity, it attempted to treat these sessions as though they were those for a regular Beatles album, completely ignoring the unorthodox setup and very different intentions. The songs were processed, cleaned of any evidence of the original "warts and all" purpose, and thereby missed the point just as much as Spector did with all his confusion of motives. Worse yet, it didn't have the good sense to use any of the various alternate takes Johns employed, instead going either with the canonical Let It Be performances or with jarring hybrids of varying recordings from the Jan. 30th rooftop gig. The only new performance was one of "The Long and Winding Road," employed presumably because Apple had already released the Spector-less version a few years earlier; for all the considerable hype accompanying the release, it was shameful that only one actual complete new Beatles performance made it to the public; and thus, Get Back still stands up as a worthwhile candidate for official deployment by Apple in the next year or so as the fiftieth anniversary of Let It Be approaches.


When I want to hear this material, I've long used Get Back as my go-to, but I still find it a bit wanting. Part of this is, yes, that this was a misguided idea, thrown together too soon after the White Album, and the songs -- apart from some of Paul's -- just aren't top-drawer. But I also think one could make a Get Back album that, if not great, might come closer than the other attempts, and with the wealth of material available, there are a decent number of prisms in which we can view the process while still presenting an end result that might be more satisfying than what either Johns or Spector (or Martin, or Apple) was able to give us. I've always been too lazy to make my own personal Get Back, but here's my attempt, allowing myself to violate canon rules a few times by incorporating things that would get worked up on Abbey Road and other official releases:

Two of Us ["rock" version from the film]
Jenny Jenny/Slippin' and Slidin' [studio jam from Jan. 9th]
One After 909
I've Got a Feeling [Glyn Johns version]
Dig a Pony [Glyn Johns version]
For You Blue [Phil Spector version]
I Want You [from Jan. 28th, with Billy Preston co-lead vocal]
Don't Let Me Down [rooftop version (30.06)]
Blue Suede Shoes [studio jam from Jan. 26th]
Get Back [rooftop version from Anthology 3]
She Came In Through the Bathroom Window [slow version]
Stand by Me/Where Have You Been All My Life [studio jam]
Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues [studio jam from Jan. 29th w/o Anthology 3 editing]
Mama, You Been on My Mind [cover of a then-unissued Dylan song, recorded by George on Jan. 3rd]
Because I Know You Love Me So [very early Lennon-McCartney played on Jan. 3rd]
All Things Must Pass [full band version with drums from Jan. 8th]
Watching Rainbows [studio jam from Jan. 14th, for the fans]
Let It Be [Spector album version]
The Long and Winding Road [Glyn Johns version]
Two of Us [reprise, Phil Spector version]

bonus tracks:
I've Got a Feeling [Phil Spector version]
Don't Let Me Down [original b-side]
Across the Universe [Anthology 2 version]
I Me Mine [Anthology 3 version]
Sweet Little Sixteen/Around and Around
Get Back [harder rocking rehearsal from film]
Don't Let Me Down [Glyn Johns version]

sorry, no sale:
Dig It
Maggie Mae
Teddy Boy

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Beatles capsules: live bootlegs

The surviving recordings of the Beatles on stage -- including TV performances -- are a hit and miss crop, but have been dutifully compiled over the decades so that there's considerable representation in bootleg form of all of their major tours from mid-1963 onward. Said recordings vary as much in quality as the performances themselves. Famously, the overenthusiasm of audiences eventually took its toll on the band and their work suffered in this context; that said, they played together brilliantly at the start and, even if there's precious little variance between shows in the post-fame era, there are often interesting little things to hear for hardcore fans in the shows that were captured.


The only legally released Beatles concerts, apart from extracts on the Anthology series, are the two (or three) Hollywood Bowl shows -- first issued in condensed form in 1977 -- and the Star-Club tape most extensively described elsewhere; only the former was a band-sanctioned, proper "official" album. (The Budokan, Shea Stadium and Washington DC shows were filmed and have been variously issued in that form but aren't readily available through normal channels at this writing.)

The Beatles: Live: Star-Club Hamburg, Germany - December 1962 (Purple Chick bootleg [2CD] 1962) [r]
As noted in my full review of the Live at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany album, this free download is the definitive edition of the Beatles' most unfiltered live performances that survive, with what sounds like the entire source tape apart from the missing second version of "To Know Her Is to Love Her," presented in what seems to be the correct running order and is definitely the correct speed. It does add a bit of intrigue with a rather slapdash version of "Money" that no one seems able to agree is even the Beatles; it's certainly none of them singing. And in a possibly unnecessary twist, PC adds five "bonus tracks," in this case the songs from the tape that various cash-hungry labels over the years misidentified (accidentally or maliciously) as the Beatles, the thought being presumably that since many fans have come to think of these as "part of" the story, but it seems a little silly when I Hope We Passed the Audition didn't bother with all those Beat Brothers tracks, or Magical Mystery Year with the George Martin orchestrations, etc.; but who am I to carp about so splendidly complete a realization of this vital, unfairly stigmatized part of the Beatles' music and history.

The Beatles: Purple Chick deluxe- The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (bootleg [2CD] 1964-65)
Purple Chick's "deluxe edition" of The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl is probably the most pointless item in their bootleg series, though it wasn't always thus; for decades, the Beatles' lone official live album was out of print in all formats, and it left a gaping hole in their discography filled by counterfeits and downloads like this. Disc one is just the original album with the subsequently released b-side "Baby's in Black" (and John Lennon's hilarious introduction of it), first heard officially in 1996 on the "Real Love" single, edited in at the halfway point. The LP sequence is followed by some barely distinguishable alt mixes: the '64 "Twist and Shout" as heard in mono and stereo on The Beatles Story, and the Anthology DVD mix of "All My Loving." This half of the package is made redundant by the widespread rerelease of the album itself in 2016. Disc two, meanwhile, is made redundant by PC's own live series (see below) which offers complete recordings of all of the band's Hollywood Bowl concerts. Still, the presentation of Capitol's vintage mono mix of the 1964 concert has a certain interest going for it, with more banter and a few songs that didn't make the final cut ("If I Fell" most significantly); it pretty much proves that the problem with the record at the time wasn't the performances or even really the audience but the haphazard method of recording it. The August 30th, 1965 show, on the other hand, is offered here in a crudely duplicated stereo mix that may or may not be vintage, and on the whole doesn't seem to me like an essential addition to the canon. There are simply better, more comprehensive ways to hear the band's Hollywood Bowl shows; and holding the LP up as some important fetish object no longer makes much sense. I was thrilled to have this when I first located it, though, so hats off.


There exists at least partial tape of a little under ninety live shows and live TV performances by the Beatles recorded between 1963 and 1966, though a large number of these -- indeed, speaking technically, the majority of them -- are incomplete, and quite a few are mere fragments. Tackling this less rewarding segment of the band's legacy is a bit tricky in terms of rating or reviewing. Apart from the December 1962 Star-Club performances, the band's live tapes don't tend to be revelatory in terms of volume in the way we might expect from any given one of our favorites from the late '60s onward, because the more generous traditions of rock concerts weren't in place yet and Beatles shows tended to be barely half an hour in length and to shirk any deviations from a carefully arranged setlist that lasted all across each tour. Add to that the well-known qualifiers of the Beatles' loud, frantic audiences and the absence of proper monitor equipment and you get a sense of why they're not exactly Hendrix or the Dead.

That said, one rumor that does need to be put to rest is the notion that the Beatles were not "good" live; even official releases like the Anthologies plus Hollywood Bowl and Live at the BBC are a challenge to such assertions. It was not until 1966 that the malaise of coping with the massive stresses of Beatlemania and its many attendant inconveniences and crises seems to overtake them. Up to then, in the right conditions, the Beatles were as extraordinary on stage as they were in the studio. Purple Chick has graciously gathered all of the band's non-BBC live or broadcast material together on their Live series, which supersedes previous collections of individual shows, though its strict chronology does make for a less than cohesive listening experience since you can quickly move from a well-recorded corker of a show to thirty seconds of a poor rendition of one of their hits on a TV show to a dire audience recording.

Nonetheless, if you're not interested in following this page and slogging through the entirety of the band's official and booted live tapes, I suggest that you use these files or Youtube to make a sort of best-of compilation. First of all, if you have time for just one Beatles show and you already know all the official stuff (most of their very best live recording, Stockholm '63, is on Anthology 1), then make it their 1965 Atlanta performance, at which they first encountered monitor speakers, could actually hear themselves, and tore through blistering versions of many classics; I sent the closing rendition of "I'm Down" to Greil Marcus and even he was impressed! But if you're more interested in a full-on highlights reel of mostly complete concerts, I suggest (in chronological order):
1. Stockholm '63 (partially released on Anthology 1; there's also a superb TV gig from the next day)
2. Washington '64 (officially released on film)
3. Adelaide '64 (no Ringo)
4. Melbourne '64 (afternoon show)
5. Blackpool Night Out '64 (partially released on Anthology 2)
6. Los Angeles '64 (partially released on The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl)
7. Philadelphia '64
8. Indianapolis '64
9. Shindig '64
10. NME Poll Winners' Concert '65
11. Paris '65 (afternoon show)
12. Shea Stadium '65 (partially released on film, though with overdubs)
13. Atlanta '65
14. Los Angeles '65 (second night; partially released on The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl)
15. San Francisco '66

Other historically significant shows, like the Sullivan performances and the 1963 Royal Variety gig, are worth consideration but are best experienced with the visuals, which are readily available -- in color, in the latter case.

But if you're interested in hearing more about these and the rest of the Beatles' live tapes, what follows are the informal notes I took this spring while listening to each and every one of the shows that exist. I've provided dates, venues and setlists and have given each show a letter grade where applicable, in {braces}, with judgment of the quality of the Beatles' performance followed by the quality of the tape itself. Because I'm using the PC sets to rate these, I've also averaged out a rating for each of their individual two-disc sets and have divided the shows accordingly. Also, if you want to hear any of these tapes, you almost invariably can type the year and venue along with "Beatles" into Youtube and listen (and sometimes see) the show without having to seek out these sets. Enjoy!

The Beatles: Live: Before America (bootleg [2CD] 1963-64) [r]
As you can also tell from the Anthology documentary, before the U.S. gigs began, the Beatles actually played before a lot of reasonably well-behaved and respectful audiences... though not always, with the second Palladium show particularly maddening and chaotic.

1963-05-16 "Pops & Lenny" TV series (BBC - Television Theatre, London): From Me to You [fragment, intrusive voiceover] {A-/C-}
- 39-second tidbit from a children's BBC show called Pops & Lenny

1963-08-27 "The Mersey Sound" TV documentary (BBC - Little Theatre, Southport): Twist and Shout [portions missing, voiceover]/I Saw Her Standing There [fragment]/She Loves You {A-/B+}
- from the Mersey Sound documentary produced for BBC by Don Haworth
- the Beatles played at a theater in Southport with audience dubbed in later
- a real pounding version of "She Loves You"

1963-10-13 "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" TV series (ITV - Palladium, London): From Me to You/I'll Get You/She Loves You/Twist and Shout {B+/D+ exc I'll Get You, B+/B-}
- Beatlemania day 1.
- the famous Sunday Night at the London Palladium, a watershed moment, which is funny because it's (mostly) not a spectacular performance; still, this established them as an actual phenomenon and you can hear it happening
- dreadful quality except the song that's been officially released on Anthology 1
- surely the only band that would announce on national television that the next song is "in E"
- the screaming is infectious, real sublime joy in this moment on "I'll Get You"
- ... though John tells them to shut up

1963-10-24 "Pop 63" radio series (Swedish National Radio - Karlaplansstudion, Stockholm): I Saw Her Standing There/From Me to You/Money/Roll Over Beethoven/You Really Got a Hold on Me/She Loves You/Twist and Shout {A/A}
- as noted above, this is partially on Anthology 1, which only misses the last two songs and reverses the order on the two prior
- at a Stockholm studio in front of an audience, well-miked
- one of the best Beatles live shows ever recorded; and if you require better than decent recording quality, surely the best, certainly making the strongest case for how vicious and hungry they could still be as of the early Mania period
- Ringo's really laying into the drums on "From Me to You"
- the heavy distortion makes the performance sound extremely immediate
- "You Really Got a Hold on Me" is truly stunning here
- fierce guitars on "She Loves You" too, and John is endearingly sloppy on "Twist and Shout"
- note that the With the Beatles songs weren't actually released yet

1963-10-30 "Drop In" TV series (Sveriges - Arenateatern, Stockholm): She Loves You/Twist and Shout/I Saw Her Standing There/Long Tall Sally {A-/B+}
- the recording is very clear but the vocals are miked heavily over instruments; George is really hard to hear
- John sounds a little listless on "I Saw Her Standing There," probably exhaustion from the prior song!
- the last two songs weren't planned; host Klas Burling persuades them to keep going
- this "Long Tall Sally" is pre-EMI and the solo is sloppy but forgivable because the performance overall is so thunderous and manic!

1963-11-04 Royal Command Performance - Prince of Wales Theatre, London: From Me to You/She Loves You/Till There Was You/Twist and Shout {A-/B+}
- 3/4 of this is on Anthology 1
- considering their nerves, they do quite well here, and really charge at the rockers
- some real emphasis on the "woos" on "She Loves You"
- Paul's "Sophie Tucker" bit goes over well but not as well as John's "rattle your jewelry" line
- George actually murders the solo on "Till There Was You"
- what an optimistic, pure moment for the band, you can hear how thrilling it was -- and things just kept getting more intense after this
- slower version of "Twist and Shout" but it still rocks, has kind of a dramatic lumbering quality
- listen to Ringo's drumming on "Twist and Shout"!
- they go over tremendously with a much older/more "dignified" audience

1963-11-09 Granada Cinema, London: I Saw Her Standing There [fragment] {?/D}
- all you can hear is count-in and bass, and very faint singing; it's almost all screams, a situation that will become more familiar as we press on

1963-11-16 Winter Gardens Theatre, Bournemouth: From Me to You [fragment] {?/D-}
- just the cacophonous hissing of the crowd and someone talking: "these guys have these crazy hairdos" and some sexist stuff about female fans
- there were several camera crews from U.S. networks there, which was presumably the source

1963-11-20 ABC Cinema, Manchester: She Loves You/Twist and Shout [fragment]/From Me to You [fragment] {B/B-}
- some screams are very loud ("JOOOHNNN!") but the band is quite audible; the source is the film of a Pathe newsreel
- "From Me to You" sounds awful, like something's actually wrong -- the guitar seems to fall apart

1963-12-02 "The Morecambe and Wise Show" TV series (ATV - Elstree Studio Centre, Borehamwood): This Boy/All My Loving/I Want to Hold Your Hand {B+/B+}
- all of this except "All My Loving" is on Anthology 1, as is the "Moonlight Bay" comedy bit
- the mikes are popping badly
- John can't quite make the bridge of "This Boy" here
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" is very tight

1963-12-07 "It's the Beatles" TV special (BBC - Empire Theatre, Liverpool): From Me to You/I Saw Her Standing There/All My Loving/Roll Over Beethoven/Boys/Till There Was You/She Loves You/This Boy/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Money/Twist and Shout/From Me to You [reprise] {A/C-}
- a Liverpool show, which makes it a a very important and atypical homecoming
- muffled and washed-out, very badly balanced/recorded by the BBC, a lot of buzzing; but the band is outstanding
- "From Me to You" starts with a long drum-only bit
- great "WOWWW YEAH" from Paul on "I Saw Her Standing There," also boasting a good solo by George
- a looser than usual "Roll Over Beethoven"
- Ringo "was gonna learn the new number but he hasn't learned it"; his vocals are mixed too low to hear well... Paul's bass drowns out everything, the engineer seems to be trying to fix it in real time; the solo sounds ridiculous from what we can hear
- "a song from the musical The Muscle Man, sung by Peggy Leg; you'll probably remember it from the Cavern"
- interesting effect with half the vocals missing from "This Boy"!?!? the audience screams on "CRYYHIHIHIIII" are something else, though
- the tape wavers badly near end of "This Boy"
- the reprise of "From Me to You" is instrumental and... weird, with a little touch of "Third Man Theme"!?

1964-01-12 "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" TV series (ITV - Palladium, London): I Want to Hold Your Hand/This Boy/All My Loving/Money/Twist and Shout {B/D}
- how can this be such dreadful quality? the tape is godawful
- hard to tell how the performance is... it sounds a little draggy
- "This Boy" sounds like old-ass men singing
- banter: "shut up!!!"... "at this point we normally have a joke"
- the screaming is insane, almost insufferable

1964-01-15 Cinema Cyrano, Versailles: From Me to You [fragment] {?/B+}
- quite clear actually! but incomplete, cuts all around the song

1964-01-16 [afternoon] Olympia Theatre, Paris: From Me to You/I Saw Her Standing There/This Boy [fragment]/Twist and Shout/From Me to You [reprise fragment]/Long Tall Sally/From Me to You [reprise? fragment] {A-/B+}
- only a partial show, "This Boy" is only the spoken intro
- "Long Tall Sally" is pre-EMI, and possibly an actual encore?
- French guys chanting "BEATLES" at the close

1964-01-16 Olympia Theatre, Paris evening: From Me to You/She Loves You/This Boy/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Twist and Shout/From Me to You [reprise fragment]/Long Tall Sally [fragment]/From Me to You [reprise? fragment] {B+/B}
- slightly distant, echo-filled recording, but very clear
- "From Me to You" has something like a "Pretty Vacant" riff in the midsection
- noticeably quiet crowd (older), which means they actually can hear themselves on "This Boy"
- sharp guitar sound on "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

The Beatles: Live: Conquering America (bootleg [2CD] 1964) [r]
Historically, probably the most significant of these sets and also one of the most consistently listenable... though again, the Sullivan material is better experienced in its original context; however, the Washington show is a great enough listen even without the accompanying footage, though I recommend watching the whole package, which I really wish Apple would properly release on DVD or something.

1964-02-09 "Ed Sullivan Show" TV series (CBS - Studio 50, New York): Twist and Shout/Please Please Me/I Want to Hold Your Hand {B+/A-}
- broadcast as their third appearance, not live on air

1964-02-09 "Ed Sullivan Show" TV series (CBS - Studio 50, New York): All My Loving/Till There Was You/She Loves You/I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand {A-/A}
- the iconic first Sullivan appearance, "Till There Was You" is a weird choice but the rest cooks, and you know it by heart
- the Mania has fully translated to these shores; I like Paul's reflective vocal on "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- he changes the melody a bit, even

1964-02-11 Washington Coliseum, Washington: Roll Over Beethoven/From Me to You/I Saw Her Standing There/This Boy/All My Loving/I Wanna Be Your Man/Please Please Me/Till There Was You/She Loves You/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Twist and Shout [fragment]/Long Tall Sally {A/B}
- badly recorded, at least initially; screams prominent but guitars are great when you can hear them
- George's microphone cuts out a lot on "Roll Over Beethoven"
- frenzied version of "I Saw Her Standing There," terrific solo
- John and Ringo ruin the whole building on the bridge of "This Boy"
- you can really hear the backing vox on "All My Loving," which incidentally takes flight on the instrumental break
- Ringo can't catch his breath at all on "I Wanna Be Your Man" which is total chaos
- "it's doing something, you know" - Paul on "Please Please Me" and its U.S. chart performance upon rerelease
- excellent version of "Please Please Me"
- Paul can't quite nail "Till There Was You" in this environment, it sounds kind of peculiar with screaming all over it
- no intro or setup to "She Loves You," which is effective; they should've done that more
- John is 100% saying "I get high" on "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
- Paul shouts out the Isley Brothers before "Twist and Shout"!
- once again, "Long Tall Sally" is pre-EMI (they recorded it there a few weeks later); Paul kills it as usual

1964-02-16 "Ed Sullivan Show" rehearsal (CBS - Deauville Hotel, Miami): She Loves You/This Boy/All My Loving/I Saw Her Standing There/From Me to You/I Want to Hold Your Hand {B+/B-}
- full audience present
- soundcheck so the microphones do lots of weird stuff
- it sounds like John and Paul are trading off lead vocal lines on SLY here!? George is also super prominent on vocals
- Paul's vocal inaudible on "I Saw Her Standing THere"

1964-02-16 "Ed Sullivan Show" TV series (CBS - Deauville Hotel, Miami): She Loves You/This Boy/All My Loving/I Saw Her Standing There/From Me to You/I Want to Hold Your Hand {A-/A-}
- Ed mentions the Beatles gathering the largest TV audience ever the previous week
- clearer sound on band/instruments! almost no screaming!
- "This Boy" is a nice performance
- Ed talking to Sonny Liston???
- Paul still isn't miked properly on "I Saw Her Standing There"!
- the Sophie Tucker joke is here again, and makes no sense
- really cool shuffling rhythm on "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

1964-04-26 [NME Poll Winners' Concert] Empire Pool, London: She Loves You/You Can't Do That/Twist and Shout/Long Tall Sally/Can't Buy Me Love {B+/B+)
- really great Murray the K intro
- band sounds a little under-rehearsed; they'd just wrapped filming on A Hard Day's Night
- close-miked on vocals, instruments harder to hear; clarity is fine
- John gets verses mixed up on "She Loves You"
- early performances of "You Can't Do That" (kind of awkward and poorly timed) and "Can't Buy Me Love"; they'd done both at the BBC
- Paul has no idea what to say before "Twist and Shout": "we made it as a record a few months ago"!?
- triumphant, fraying vocal on "Twist and Shout" from John
- giving love to Little Richard before "Long Tall Sally," also a tour de force lead vocal, here Paul's of course, though the rhythm guitar is very... clinky??

1964-04-28 "Around the Beatles" TV special (ITV - Wembley Studios, London): Twist and Shout/Roll Over Beethoven/I Wanna Be Your Man/Long Tall Sally/[A Midsummer Night's Dream skit]/Medley/Can't Buy Me Love/Shout {A-/B+}
- the band recorded new versions of the songs live in a studio, then lip-synced those versions before the audience; fairly sound technique actually!
- a very rare live-with-audience performance (rare, period, in 1964 and after) of an unrecorded song, namely the Isleys' "Shout"
- these recordings sound totally natural with audience reaction; Anthology 1 presented a few of them unadorned and in awful stereo mix
- George gets the lyrics right on "Roll Over Beethoven"; they're even wrong on the record!
- excellent performances, if only dubiously "live"
- the Shakespeare skit is totally worthless but whatever; it is funny when Ringo shows up
- the hits medley is an odd choice, clearly carefully put together but... why? and a major chronological outlier when it comes to the Beatles playing "Love Me Do," which they never trotted out on stage after '62 and hadn't played at the BBC since October

1964-06-04 KB Hallen, Copenhagen: I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand/All My Loving/She Loves You/Till There Was You/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/This Boy/Twist and Shout {A-/F}
- barely audible
- distant recording, probably from within the crowd, and tape degraded
- Jimmie Nicol is here on drums; this was their first show of several on this tour without Ringo, who was absent because of a tonsilectomy
- you can tell they're on fire still despite the personnel shakeup

The Beatles: Live: Adelaide Reaction (bootleg [2CD] 1964) [r]
Runs through the famous 1964 world tour -- including the largest-scale gig of all in Adelaide -- during the first portion of which Ringo was replaced by temporary Beatle Jimmie Nicol, who experienced the biggest short-lived whirlwind, and biggest cruel comedown, of probably anyone's life.

1964-06-05 TV special (Netherlands VARA-TV, Treslong, Hillegom): She Loves You/All My Loving/Twist and Shout/Roll Over Beethoven/Long Tall Sally/Can't Buy Me Love {C-/A-}
- in an interview, we meet "John Leopard"
- "it's like a football match"
- quite a weird one; it sounds like they are singing along to a record
- ... because they are; confusingly, it's a mimed performance for TV but with live sound!

1964-06-06 [afternoon] Veilinghal Op Hoop Van Zegen, Blokken: I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand/All My Loving/She Loves You/Twist and Shout [with voiceover interfering]/Long Tall Sally {A/B}
- still with Nicol in tow; "Jimmie, John, Paul and George"
- a bad audience recording but it's really fun to hear the audience singing along with enormous gusto to the songs, kinda brings home what it was all about
- I actually love this for some reason, though it's incomplete and some of it has irritating radio voiceover

1964-06-06 [evening] Veilinghal Op Hoop Van Zegen, Blokken: I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand [fragment]/All My Loving [fragment] {A-/B+}
- very incomplete show, obviously sounds a lot more clear (on the band) than the afternoon show... but less fun!

1964-06-12 Centennial Hall, Adelaide: I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand/All My Loving/She Loves You/Till There Was You/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/This Boy/Twist and Shout/Long Tall Sally {A/A-}
- the largest audience they ever played to (I think)... but alas, no Ringo
- the emcee demands "complete silence"!
- Paul loves saying that they recorded "All My Loving" "not so long ago"; why!?
- aside from George's vocal, "Roll Over Beethoven" sounds a little tepid; just the tape?
- John: "CRYYYHIHIHIIII" = that's a moment defined

1964-06-17 [afternoon] Festival Hall, Melbourne: I Saw Her Standing There/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Till There Was You/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/This Boy/Twist and Shout/Long Tall Sally [intro only] {A-/B}
- tape is wobbly but not a terrible mix, kind of vocal-heavy
- "if i have to tell you bout that boy again"
- pretty jaunty version of "Till There Was You" (but bad solo); surprised how huge a response this song alwayss gets
- great backing vocals on "Roll Over Beethoven"
- "I think it's our latest record here. It is in England, anyway." - John, sounding tired, on "Can't Buy Me Love"
- they're having fun in a half-assed way on "This Boy"
- Ringo gets reintroduced!
- nice shout-out from Paul to the fan club presidents

1964-06-17 [evening] Festival Hall, Melbourne: I Saw Her Standing There/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Till There Was You/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/This Boy/Twist and Shout/Long Tall Sally {A-/A-}
- alternate mix of this also included ("video mix" from The Beatles Sing for Shell), kind of pointless (and incomplete in places) but PC is nothing if not thorough
- they sound a tad fatigued but give it a lot of gusto, and it's a good sound mix
- reintroduction of Ringo is repeated here
- terrific versions of "Long Tall Sally," "You Can't Do That" and "All My Loving"

1964-06-19: Sydney Stadium, Sydney: I Saw Her Standing There [fragment]/You Can't Do That [fragment] {?/F}
- almost inaudible, with voiceover distorting it further

The Beatles: Live: Seattle Down (bootleg [2CD] 1964)
Two good shows -- Blackpool Night Out and Hollywood Bowl -- and a lot of garbage in between, with the usual added problem of repetitive setlists making it a difficult listening experience. General advice for all of the Beatles' live performances: if you choose to go through all these, take it a show at the time.

1964-07-19 "Blackpool Night Out" TV series (ITV - ABC Theatre, Blackpool): A Hard Day's Night/Things We Said Today/You Can't Do That/If I Fell/Long Tall Sally {A/B+}
- a fine gritty, raw performance, premier live Beatles
- a lot of hiss and some distortion on the tape, otherwise fine
- "Things We Said Today" is rollicking!

1964-07-28 Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm: [intro only] {?/?}
- John and Paul both shocked by microphones at this show

1964-08-19 Cow Palace, San Francisco: Twist and Shout/She Loves You/A Hard Day's Night/Can't Buy Me Love [fragment]/You Can't Do That [fragment] {?/D-}
- band is almost inaudible; so is the tape, generally, it seems to have been recorded from some distance
- you do get a clear shot of the sheer insanity of peak Beatlemania at least
- some girl yells "OH BABY!"

1964-08-20 Convention Center, Las Vegas: Twist and Shout [fragment] {?/F}
- almost nothing here except the most horrendous hissing sound you've heard in your fucking life and the very faint opening strains of "Twist and Shout"

1964-08-21 Coliseum, Seattle: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Long Tall Sally {?/F}
- even more faint than the last two, a very very distant audience tape
- ...but an actual complete show at least; still pretty much worthless as a listening experience

1964-08-22 Empire Stadium, Vancouver: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Long Tall Sally {B/C-}
- wildly overdriven guitar sound on "Twist and Shout"
- severe distortion on tape, but you can actually hear the band
- the band is OK, not at their most professional, but this would be unlistenable if not for the fact that the prior two shows sound so awful
- John busts out laughing during "She Loves You"
- Paul screws up "Things We Said Today" lyrics: "be my one and only / if you say you're mine"... they're gettin' sloppy, man!
- George's voice cracks badly on "Roll Over Beethoven"
- "two kids crushed already"; the emcee asks people to back up: "the Beatles want to perform for you but they can't do it if you don't sit down"
- John: "we gotta hang on a minute while George changes a guitar... mmm mmmmm mmm mmm"
- they're cracking up again on "If I Fell," they just can't hold it together!
- Paul sings the word "pain" in country accent, then they totally wreck the harmonies, seemingly on purpose, which, okay, is pretty funny
- "we'd like to feature somebody who doesn't sing very often... BUT HE'S GONNA SING NOW!"
- someone comes onstage and warns the crowd again about moving back
- Larry Kane said this was a very rough night in terms of crowd control; show was cut short as a result

1964-08-23 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Long Tall Sally {A-/A}
- stereo sound! siren.gif
- pro recorded show, and they sound a lot better than they did last night
- golly these concerts are short (29 minutes!)
- "it's an oldie some of you older people might remember; it's from last year" - John on "She Loves You"
- vocals go out of sync briefly on "Things We Said Today," but the sudden acceleration on that song makes the crowd go crazy
- Paul says joining in for "Can't Buy Me Love" is "dead easy"
- John does the same "George changing his guitar" bit again, and will repeat it a lot from here on out
- crowd chants "WE WANT THE BEATLES" for some time after they leave the stage

The Beatles: Live: Convention Hall Wisdom (bootleg [2CD] 1964-65)
Another scattershot collection thanks to varying tape quality, but the actual complete shows and the TV appearances are nice.

1964-09-02 Convention Hall, Philadelphia: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Long Tall Sally {A-/B+}
- John at the start, in what will become a calling card: "hello?"
- some tape drag but overall pretty clear, and the band is extremely loud and tight here (except on "Things We Said Today" and "If I Fell")
- excessive rhythm guitar sound on "All My Loving"
- "Things We Said Today" gets screwed up vocally, and is a bit listless except the bridge which really kicks into gear again
- they really cannot nail the words to "If I Fell"
- splendidly wild "Long Tall Sally"

1964-09-03 State Fair Coliseum, Indianapolis: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/I Want to Hold Your Hand/Boys/A Hard Day's Night/Long Tall Sally [fragment] {A-/A-}
- unusually well-balanced recording for a bootleg
- John's sounding a little tired by this point; of course, was he ever really into playing for these huge crowds? could also just be vocal strain
- the banter is getting repetitive, it's nice when the cracks show ("the song is called... [off-mic] ready?... 'All My Loving'")
- "Things We Said Today" is far better than last night
- very strong, forceful drumming on "If I Fell"
- "thank you Ringo" "thank you John" "thank you Ringo"
- timing is fucked at the beginning of "A Hard Day's Night"
- bad tape flaws (digital transfer issues?) during "A Hard Day's Night"
- cuts off near the end of "Long Tall Sally"

1964-09-05 International Amphitheatre, Chicago: Twist and Shout [fragment]/You Can't Do That [fragment] {?/F}
- voiceover is an annoying Wolfman Jack-like freakshow
- band is basically inaudible, and only for nine seconds anyway

1964-09-06 Olympia Stadium, Detroit: Can't Buy Me Love [fragment] {?/F}
- radio news show voiceover
- also pretty much impossible to hear, like a homeopathic hint of them playing

1964-09-07 Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto: You Can't Do That [fragment]/All My Loving/She Loves You [fragment] {?/F}
- just tiny and very distant, boomy bits and pieces
- "All My Loving" is the whole song, but you can scarcely make it out; mostly crowd noise, recorded some distance from the stage

1964-09-08 Forum, Montreal: Twist and Shout/You Can't Do That/All My Loving/She Loves You/Things We Said Today/Roll Over Beethoven/Can't Buy Me Love/If I Fell/Boys/A Hard Day's Night [fragment] {B+/D-}
- pretty much miserable to listen to because of bad tape
- ... though it seems like it was recorded close to stage (very clear vocals), problem is mostly the reproduction quality
- super muffled banter
- doesn't seem like a bad show but the quality is so so tinny and abrasive
- cuts off midway thru "A Hard Day's Night"

1964-09-12 Boston Garden, Boston: Twist and Shout [fragment] {?/F}
- mostly 30 seconds of screaming with irksome voiceover

1964-09-16 City Park Stadium, New Orleans: All My Loving [intro only]/She Loves You [intro only]/Things We Said Today [intro only]/Can't Buy Me Love [intro only]/If I Fell [intro only]/Boys [intro only]/A Hard Day's Night [intro only]/Long Tall Sally [intro only] {?/D}
- the banter alone, effectively pointless and difficult to hear under static-like sound (multiple generations?)

UNKNOWN: She Loves You [fragment] {?/F}
- a mess of bass and very faint singing and a crowd belting/screaming along

1964-10-03 "Shindig!" TV series (ABC - Granville Studio, London): Kansas City/I'm a Loser/Boys {A-/A-}
- finally something interesting...
- "Kansas City" and "I'm a Loser" hadn't been released yet at this point
- considerable clarity on these versions, which are simple, scaled-back and impressive
- one of the last handful of really excellent Beatles live performances
- "Kansas City" first heard w/o (most of the) audience interaction
- "I'm a Loser" is stunning here, a calm and reflective and appropriate performance... and the audience respects it! (maybe because they don't know it)
- a bold song for them to premiere on a big TV show, too
- "Boys" is kind of an antique here, weird choice, but enthused as always

1964-10-29 ABC Cinema, Plymouth: Twist and Shout [fragment] {?/F}
- 16 seconds, nothing to it

1965-04-11 [NME Poll Winners' Concert] Empire Pool, London: I Feel Fine/She's a Woman/Baby's in Black/Ticket to Ride/Long Tall Sally {A/A-}
- pretty much all new material except "Long Tall Sally," a relief to hear the band start to develop new stuff, and they sound relieved too
- "I Feel Fine" is a bit of a mess at this point vocally, otherwise terrific, and interestingly low-key
- obvious renewed enthusiasm on the part of the band in the banter
- "the song's called Baby's in Blackpool"
- extremely spirited version of "Ticket to Ride"
- Paul's wrecking the microphone on "Long Tall Sally" and there's an unusually improvisatory solo by George; one of the best versions of this they recorded

1965-04-28 Grammy Award presented by Peter Sellers on the set of Help! - Twickenham Studios, London: It's a Long Way to Tipperary {?/B+}
- "present them with their grandma that they have won from America"
- not much of a performance, not sure why it's here

The Beatles: Live: Les Beatles en Europe (bootleg [2CD] 1965) [r]
Documenting yet another long hot summer for the Beatles, their European tour and then the post-Help! publicity rounds in the runup to their most iconic live show ever, at Shea.

1965-06-20 afternoon Palais des Sport, Paris: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I'm a Loser/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Rock and Roll Music/I Feel Fine/Ticket to Ride/Long Tall Sally {A/A-}
- a lot of screaming but decent clarity on the band, who really pound thru "Twist and Shout" and "She's a Woman" to start out
- a surprisingly polished performance, and a slightly more respectful than usual audience (only slightly); this would've been a great show to see
- Paul speaks French: "un chanson qui s'appelle 'I'm a Loser'"
- "I'm a Loser" sounds... angry here! and killer harmonica solo
- "merci beaucoup, everybody"
- "Baby's in Black" and "I'm a Loser" are such weird choices to join the regular setlist, were the Beatles havin' a laff?
- impressively assured version of "Baby's in Black" too.
- "a haaard dayyy's NOIGHT"
- great band interplay and vocal on "Rock and Roll Music"
- John flubs the lyrics to "I Feel Fine", and Paul exhausts himself on "Long Tall Sally," but it's fun

1965-06-20 evening Palais des Sport, Paris: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I'm a Loser/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Rock and Roll Music/I Feel Fine/Ticket to Ride/Long Tall Sally {B/A-}
- the announcer only mentions Paul and Ringo, a premonition!?!?!?!
- audience singalong on "Twist and Shout"
- Paul wrecks the first verse of "She's a Woman" and they extend it
- they're a little weaker but it's forgivable on the second show on the same day
- John's voice is a bit worn out and doesn't seem to know where he is: "our new LP, Beatles '65 or something" [note: as it turns out, this isn't a reference to the Capitol LP; Beatles for Sale was called 1965 in France, and George mentions it as well]
- "Baby's in Black" is still pretty good though
- "A Hard Day's Night" has a cool, slightly slowed-down, almost bluesy vibe
- John forgets the second verse of "Ticket to Ride" and is off-key
- "Long Tall Sally" seems to be an encore, which is not something the Beatles typically did

1965-06-27 afternoon Teatro Adriano, Rome: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I'm a Loser/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Rock and Roll Music/I Feel Fine/Ticket to Ride/Long Tall Sally {B/D}
- the band is a muffled mess underneath crowd noise and hobnobbing, though you do get a feel for the atmosphere I guess
- the timing is really fucked on "She's a Woman," is this the band or a tape glitch?
- some girl yelling in Italian starting just before "Can't Buy Me Love" is the most amusing element of the tape
- severe tape problems on "A Hard Day's Night"
- ... and finally, tape hiss overtakes during "I Feel Fine"
- the tape gets severely bad again during "Ticket to Ride," stops and starts and drags, a terrible transfer of an already poor quality recording

1965-06-27 evening Teatro Adriano, Rome: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I'm a Loser [fragment] {B+/B-}
- "Twist and Shout" sounds fantastic and is a wonderful performance (though still the abbreviated version), would love this level of clarity on the afternoon show
- sadly, the tape gets muffled again after that, though stronger than the afternoon show, and of course most of this one is missing anyway

1965-08-01 "Blackpool Night Out" TV series (ITV - ABC Theatre, Blackpool): I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside/I Feel Fine/I'm Down/Act Naturally/Ticket to Ride/Yesterday/Help! {B+/A}
- starts out with a weird comedy sketch, the usual contrived goofiness
- this is partly released on Anthology 2; it's a middling performance at times (great intro on "I Feel Fine") but has excellent moments and the tape quality is terrific
- "I'm Down" would eventually be so sloppy live but it's still fresh here and sounds pretty close to the studio version
- Ringo introduces himself in Paul's usual language ("someone who doesn't normally sing"). a very sweet moment.
- ...and he pokes fun at himself for being out of key but actually sings "Act Naturally" better than on the record.
- quite surprised "Act Naturally" wasn't included on Anth2
- the famous premiere performance of "Yesterday"; George: "so for Paul McCartney of Liverpool, opportunity knocks"; and after the song finishes, John's best-ever joke, which again won't be spoiled here
- anyway, it's a totally acoustic solo performance of "Yesterday" with canned strings and occasional insane screams
- John gets very exasperated at the screams
- an audibly bored or pissed off John: "our latest record, or our latest electronic noise depending on whose side you're on"

1965-08-14 "Ed Sullivan Show" TV series (CBS - Studio 50, New York): I Feel Fine/I'm Down/Act Naturally/Ticket to Ride/Yesterday/Help! {B-/A}
- a fairly workmanlike performance but not bad, without the flashes of inspiration in Blackpool -- and with an identical setlist
- far from a triumphant return to Ed's studio
- Paul does an Ed Sullivan "shoe" then starts I'm Down with "man buys ring woman throws it away" for some reason; John is already fucking off on the electric organ
- the song has clearly devolved in just 13 days, and Paul keeps cutting up and laughing, on coast to coast TV!
- Ringo's self-intro is virtually the same as at Blackpool, but a lot less affectionate and more rushed
- Ed, ending the first half: "now be quiet!"
- it sounds like John misses his cue at the start of "Ticket to Ride" but this is actually because the series producers wanted the band to vamp for a few bars for a video effect they were doing; you can see this on the Sullivan DVD
- George's intro of Paul for "Yesterday" has far less flavor than in England, but the performance is almost exactly the same; same stupid strings that wreck it
- John completely loses it on the lyrics to "Help!", and there's really no excuse cause he could probably hear himself here; also, didn't they rehearse!?
- Ed takes time out to speak to the band: "... just want to congratulate the four of you on the way you've handled yourselves"... !?!?

The Beatles: Live: Sheaken, Not Stirred (bootleg [2CD] 1965) [r]

1965-08-15 Shea Stadium, New York: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/Act Naturally/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {A-/A-}
- obviously, one of the most famous shows the Beatles ever played, with highest attendance (55,000) recorded for a single-headliner rock concert in the U.S. until 1973
- Ed Sullivan introduces, just a day after their return to his series
- this was filmed for a TV film so we get a professional recording, with screams muted, but there are surprisingly a lot of minor screwups on the band's part
- perhaps because of the outsized and unusual nature of the event, there's a lot of tuning on stage here; they all yell out "HELLOS" and then start greeting each other
- whatever the flaws of their performance, it is a pretty singular fucking moment in time
- "our album, Beatles VI I think"; "the album before last"... the Beatles sucked at banter by this point
- a rollicking "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"; though John's (amazing) vocal is a tiny bit out of sync, he seems to be having a better time today than he has in a while
- "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is on Anthology 2 but this is a different mix
- pretty nice bass sound on this tape
- some odd pseudo-jazz phrasing by Paul on "Can't Buy Me Love"
- "it's also off Beatles VI or something. I don't really know what it's off. I haven't got it."
- fucking hell "Baby's in Black" is a weird song, so macabre!
- interesting that "Act Naturally" got 86'd after this, though it seems to come off well enough here
- John's in such a weird state here but he's fun to listen to, especially on "A Hard Day's Night"
- some confused chat from John just before "I'm Down"; there is famous footage of him playing the keyboard with his elbows while cracking up
- we are treated to the sound of someone dicking around with the microphone or recorder at the end

1965-08-18 Atlanta Stadium, Atlanta: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/Help!/I'm Down {A/B}
- intro: "make all the noise that you like, wave all the banners you have, but please take good care of yourself"
- "how you doin' there, Mal?"
- although this is perhaps the best Beatles performance we have aside from Stockholm and tape is very listenable and loud, it is a bit distorted/degraded, and there's some dropout during "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and hiss during "Baby's in Black"
- George's guitar is a little sloppy on the "Twist and Shout" opener
- this was the Beatles' first show with monitors, and you start to hear the difference right away with "She's a Woman," which sounds actually good here; the Beatles -- or rather, Brian Epstein -- tried to hire the sound engineer!
- quotes from the band about the situation: "ooh, it's loud isn't it? great" - Paul; "it's great, you can hear it!" - John
- maybe the best-ever performance of "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," especially in terms of George's vocal
- they're really very clearly enjoying themselves on this show
- "we bring this song to you at great expense" re: "I Wanna Be Your Man" (something to do with the discarding of "Act Naturally" maybe?), an extremely raucous performance
- Paul breaks a string and John has to cover for him but says he can't think of anything to say
- did they play "A Hard Day's Night" and it's missing? can't tell, but before "Help!" John says "another song from a film"
- man they are ferocious and messy at this show!
- best "I'm Down" ever by far too. actually it's incredible, you can barely catch your breath when it's finished
- things could have been so different if every show was this well orchestrated

1965-08-19 afternoon Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {B/B+}
- there's an opening announcement that Help! will open in Houston a week later
- emcee has bad crowd control skills
- you can tell John's frustrated that he can't hear himself anymore when he steps to the microphone a day after Atlanta
- very bass-heavy tape
- John's voice sounds shredded on "Twist and Shout"
- some serious feedback emanating from somewhere during "She's a Woman"
- did we mention the outro from "She's a Woman" that was lopped off the master always shows up in live versions? groovin'
- Paul says "howdy, y'all"
- the backing vocals sound dreadful on "I Feel Fine," like an old-man chorus or something
- more banter about LPs: "Beatles 5 or '65 or '98 or something"
- George breaks up several times during "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby"; vive la difference when unable to hear oneself
- "though it's only a whim, I think of him"... this kind of sloppiness permeates
- John wonders if anyone's listening and scats
- "our last single but one single but one single but one single"
- the tape starts to fray during "A Hard Day's Night"

1965-08-19 evening Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {D+/B+}
- announcement of safety concerns at outset; interesting!
- John's voice is 100% shot
- two shows in one day not good for John... he sounds awful (and Paul doesn't sound great either)
- solid guitar sound on "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" anyway
- John gets confused on the "Lizzy" lyric and they don't know when to end the song
- "my baby don't care" with miserable strain from both John and Paul / afterward, Paul: "ahem. Thank you, sorry about that"
- George's amp is barely miked?
- "Baby's in Black" comes off a llittle better, but even on the banter you can tell John is hoarse and miserable
- re: Ringo -- "someone who doesn't sing often, drunk much... etc."
- Ringo is totally silent vocally after the halfway point of "I Wanna Be Your Man" (not microphone dropout because you can hear him on the chorus)
- "Help!" is a train wreck, "I'm Down" actually isn't nearly as bad as I'd expect in this context
- the worst they've sounded, as a band, on any bootlegged show up to this point; there were no dressing rooms and it was hot, which probably aggravated the problems

The Beatles: Live: Bowled Over (bootleg [2CD] 1965-66) [r]

1965-08-21 Metropolitan Stadium, Minneapolis: She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {B+/D}
- they skipped "Twist and Shout" due to John's voice still having problems
- this stadium was located in the spot where the Mall of America now stands
- this is an audience tape recorded from seemingly quite far away; you can hear the band a bit but you can hear the crowd chattering a lot more; still, there's a certain sociological appeal to this
- the band seemed to really cut loose on "She's a Woman" around this stage
- can't make out the banter but the crowd seems to really love it
- the screams are somewhat sporadic but enormous when they arrive, and it's usually hard to tell what prompts each big uproar
- a chunk of "Ticket to Ride" is missing
- some dad in the crowd is asking his kid to "pick ONE" of something
- at some point a girl near the recorder just says "BEATLES!"
- George prompts hysteria at the end of the Perkins cover
- "clap your hands! stamp your feet!... not now." gets a big laugh
- "Can't Buy Me Love" (the oldest single they're still playing at these shows) gets a thunderous reaction; there are tape glitches during the song
- "we'd like to do a song with that helicopter"... which you can hear on the tape

1965-08-29 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {B+/B+}
- a complete three-track recording in stereo; since it's official, it's obviously much better quality and closer up with the band than usual
- only John is miked at first (on the tape), kind of interesting to only hear his harmonies... so "She's a Woman" is essentially instrumental until the chorus (which John sings on), you can just faintly hear Paul echoing
- John: "we can't really see you down here, you know"
- John's sardonic "Baby's in Black" intro is here and grafted onto the next night's performance, which is why it's not on the Giles remix, a source of consternation from yours truly when the reconstructed Hollywood Bowl album came out in 2016 -- whatever, I still miss it!
- despite the problems, one of the better "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" performances
- "we'd like to carry on with a song from our Beatles '93 album" - George
- George's timing gets all wacked out on the Perkins cover
- Paul's audio is finally fixed roundabout "Ticket to Ride"
- John says "nice boy, Ringo. we get on well with Ringo"

1965-08-30 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/I Wanna Be Your Man/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {A-/A-}
- source for a lot of the official live album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (and if they'd just offered this night and the 1964 show in complete form, it would've been a better record)
- mostly impeccable sound quality (some tape wavering here and there) and a really solid performance
- nice, rough John vocal on "Ticket to Ride"
- banter: "a little bit of trouble with the amplifier"; "thank you Paul, it was great working with you"; "featuring somebody who doesn't normally sing, except every night"
- John seems to be having serious trouble with his microphone (he says "hello?" about 40 times toward the end), but we can hear him fine

1965-08-31 afternoon Cow Palace, San Francisco: Twist and Shout/Dizzy Miss Lizzy [fragment]/Can't Buy Me Love [fragment]/I Wanna Be Your Man [fragment]/A Hard Day's Night [fragment] {?/D-}
- just bits and pieces, and very bad quality
- Greil Marcus was at one of these shows, as he mentioned when I wrote him about the Atlanta gig; he recalled "I'm Down," which doesn't survive, as the highlight

1965-08-31 evening Cow Palace, San Francisco: Twist and Shout/She's a Woman {?/C-}
- only the beginning of the show is preserved

Jan 1966 - sweetening for Shea Stadium TV special: Twist and Shout/I Feel Fine/Dizzy Miss Lizzy/Ticket to Ride/Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby/Can't Buy Me Love/Baby's in Black/A Hard Day's Night/Help!/I'm Down {B/B+}
- doesn't sound like they did much to improve this, and of course it removes some of the spontaneity/authenticity
- "A Hard Day's Night" is interrupted by interviews from the TV show (lots of Brian Epstein)

The Beatles: Live: Far East Men (bootleg [2CD] 1966) [c]
Things start to go south here; if you care, you'll want to hear this anyway, but don't say we didn't warn you. Whether because of tape quality or (largely) lackluster performances there's nothing here a non-hardcore fan needs to hear, and even obsessives can stop with Budokan, which is best experienced with the visuals anyway.

1966-06-24 afternoon Circus-Krone-Bau, Munich: Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/I'm Down {C/B}
- a bit under-rehearsed perhaps? they sound super ragged and disorganized
- on "Baby's in Black" they sound like old-ass men, and it's draggy
- kind of cool guitar sound in this setup, a bit more abrasive than usual
- "I Feel Fine" is wildly out of tune but it's kind of punk?
- George claims "Yesterday" is from Beatles for Sale
- extremely strange version of "Yesterday" with Paul straining to stay in key and a Paul Westerberg-like overdriven guitar!
- "I Wanna Be Your Man" is just a (highly aggressive and chaotic) clip preceded by radio voiceover
- "I'm Down" is mostly audience screams but Paul does his best, the rest of the band sounds tired

1966-06-24 evening Circus-Krone-Bau, Munich: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/Nowhere Man/I'm Down {D+/C-}
- tuning for a while, then it does not a bit of good as "Rock and Roll Music" starts in insane disarray
- I think John sings "I'm tired of playing that rock and roll music"
- "She's a Woman" is just a fragment of wildly out of tune guitar
- they're really not together on the "Nowhere Man" harmonies, who thought this would be a good live number? it gets worse as it goes along, sounding like an intentionally warped My Bloody Valentine tape by the bridge
- this is the show at which the band intensely discusses how "I'm Down" starts then Paul completely fucks up every verse; John can barely hide his amusement
- the "I'm Down" guitar solo makes no sense, it's two steps from being a Dave Davies thing but of course not quite good enough!

1966-06-25 afternoon Grugahalle, Essen: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/I'm Down {?/F}
- band is only faintly audible behind a wall of screams, and indeed it's impossible to determine whether they're any good here; it's quite a pity since this is actually a complete show
- note that they've started playing two songs from Rubber Soul plus recent singles "Paperback Writer" and "Day Tripper," and that "Twist and Shout" has finally been retired
- despite the claims including from yours truly that the setlists totally stagnated, this tour incorporates nothing older than Beatles for Sale except Ringo's sole centerpiece number
- synergy: the terrible harmonies on "If I Needed Someone" kind of resemble the fade of "I Want to Tell You"
- audience singalong to "Day Tripper" is kind of fun

1966-06-25 evening Grugahalle, Essen: Paperback Writer {?/F}
- band just faintly heard in background underneath German conversation

1966-06-26 afternoon Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg: Day Tripper {?/D-}
1966-06-26 evening Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg: Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer {?/D-}
- also: alternate sources with voiceover for "Nowhere Man" and "Paperback Writer"
- really disappointing you can't hear either of the Hamburg shows at all, as they'd be fascinating to hear
- some truly freaky acoustics in this place; random audience members' individual shouts are louder than the band
- what we can make out of "Paperback Writer" sounds like... rockabilly!? mach shau!

1966-06-30 Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/I'm Down {C-/A-}
- these were the shows that sparked controversy in Japan because staging a rock show at this venue was widely considered disrespectful; maybe, maybe not, but playing this badly in it certainly was
- raw and unkempt but sort of interesting in its fashion -- Paul wrings soul out of the situation, John is a bit listless
- audience sounds much more excitable than oft reported, though they do stay quiet for brief stretches unlike American crowds
- "our guitarist George"; his vocal is terrible on "If I Needed Someone"
- "Day Tripper" is an ungodly mess
- they were so exhausted of touring at this point and it's readily apparent, but they did take it to heart enough to try harder the next night
- okay but I really like "Yesterday" with drums
- "Paperback Writer" also sounds like shambolic trash though
- that this was pro-shot and recorded (and years later, officially released) makes it more distressing how rough-hewn they are

1966-07-01 Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/I'm Down {B+/B+}
- right out of the gate the band's a lot tighter; sadly the sound isn't quite as good
- this is an excellent representative stage show for this Beatles era but of course they are still sort of imprisoned in their live concerts
- George is still off-key here on "If I Needed Someone"; no wonder I saw this clip in Compleat Beatles and came to feel like "live" recordings sucked
- they still can't hack "Day Tripper" live either, though hellish menacing guitar sound
- one of the better live versions of "I Feel Fine," oddly; John sounds actually passionate on it
- this also is my favorite version of "Yesterday" pretty much anywhere, Paul is frayed in a nice way and the full band arrangement is cool
- Ringo's a little more relaxed on "I Wanna Be Your Man" too
- lyric problems on "Nowhere Man," otherwise a nice version
- ... and nice guitar stuff on "I'm Down"

The Beatles: Live: The Last Tour (bootleg [2CD] 1966) [NO]
Probably the worst Beatles disc you can listen to; pretty much nothing redeemable to hear till the very end, reflecting the misery among the band during the period in which these recordings were made. Useful only as a very convincing argument that they were right to cease touring when they did. That said, whatever method you must use to hear the Candlestick Park show is worth it -- though I must confess, it's more interesting if you are aware of how listless they are on the other shows that circulate from the tour.

1966-08-14 Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland: Day Tripper [fragment]/I Feel Fine [fragment] {?/D}
- the show has to stop because the crowd broke through the barrier; this is a bad, distant audience tape of just some bits but there's also a radio annoucement
- "some of the equipment has been broken"; this was the show where Mal had to save the instruments from the crowd at the end
- there was a 30 minute break before the Beatles returned to the stage
- "it was just an emotional show of Beatlemania, which proves the fans still love the Beatles!"

1966-08-17 afternoon Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto: If I Needed Someone {?/F}
- can barely hear them, mostly audience noise, which you can hear in better detail than the music!

1966-08-17 evening Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/Long Tall Sally {?/F}
- even more crowd chatter, even further from stage! it's like the homeopathy-style impression of a Beatles show.. though you can make out the bass well!
- would only mean anything to someone who was there
- person who's making the tape says something about a camera flash, and the intrigue of wondering what's being said outweighs the musical value here
- from what little we can hear it sounds like a blistering version of "Day Tripper"!
- the crowd is very very into "Yesterday"
- "remarkable, isn't it?" some guy says

1966-08-18 Suffolk Downs Racetrack, Boston: She's a Woman [fragment]/Long Tall Sally [fragment] {?/F}
- a panicked sounding announcer: "the Beatles are continuing to play while the police try to restore order"

1966-08-19 afternoon Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/Long Tall Sally [fragment] {?/F}
- girl close to recorder keeps repeating that the Beatles are "beautiful" and then proceeds to freak out on a continual basis
- already bad tape starts to wow/flutter badly during "If I Needed Someone"
- the screaming is really annoying, one of the worst tapes for that

1966-08-19 evening Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/Long Tall Sally {?/F}
- one of the most nightmarish shows, and one of the most nightmarish recordings, in the Beatles (non-)canon
- it's basically another audience tape, but this one is exceptionally distorted (like the Italian one from '65) and idle chatter far from the stage overtakes
- vocals are very hard to make out except during quiet instrumental moments; and again, what we mostly get is bass
- because of the breathless reporting of John's supposedly anti-Christian remarks, the KKK was picketing outside the venue
- there's something fascinatingly hellish about the whole situation, and then the explosion happens
- this is the show (during "If I Needed Someone") at which some idiot set off a firecracker and each Beatle thought one of the others had been shot
- given what happened later, it's a chilling moment, which you can hear very clearly here; you can tell they're shaken by how frenzied the rest of the song sounds and by the comments afterward
- the tape starts to waver badly during "Yesterday" and it sounds fucking insane

1966-08-21 Busch Stadium, Boston: Rock and Roll Music [fragment]/She's a Woman [fragment] {?/F}
- barely anything here, just the segue between the two songs, bad watered-down MP3 quality

1966-08-23 Shea Stadium, New York: She's a Woman [fragment]/If I Needed Someone [fragment]/I Feel Fine [fragment]/Yesterday [fragment]/Paperback Writer [fragment] {?/D}
- opens with massive chorus of "We Love You Beatles"; radio announcer mentions "Yellow Submarine" which of course they never played
- all we hear is a radio news piece and a woman freaking the fuck out: "oh they're so great I love them" and "how can you just sit there when they're in our atmosphere?"
- some guy says the girls are screaming less this year; "they're not as popular as they were before"
- it's kind of a fun listen in a way but nothing musical
- typical sexist shit when radio announcer is talking to female fans about Beethoven and such
- someone talks to a "38 year-old Beatle fan"
- "we didn't pay $5.75 for nothing"
- a girl wishes they played longer, hear u sweetie

1966-08-29 Candlestick Park, San Francisco: Rock and Roll Music/She's a Woman/If I Needed Someone/Day Tripper/Baby's in Black/I Feel Fine/Yesterday/I Wanna Be Your Man/Nowhere Man/Paperback Writer/Long Tall Sally {A-/B+}
- last-ever Beatles concert, recorded by Tony Barrow; relatively low attendance
- they knew it was the end, hence the tape, and hence the photos they took
- George is having a lot more fun with guitar fills than usual during "Rock and Roll Music"
- Paul gives a rough-hewn, reflective vocal on "She's a Woman" as though he won't ever sing it again
- Paul typically refers to "If I Needed Someone" as a Rubber Soul track though of course it wasn't in America; a better than usual live take on that song, sort of mournful
- "this one's about the naughty lady called Day Tripper" - John
- "Day Tripper' has an interestingly lumbering, heavy classic rock quality on this tour, and this is the only tape where you can really hear it, with huge guitar and screams; more "what could have been" in re: their live presence
- the end of "Day Tripper" is a dirge, with a little guitar improv... great version; "Baby's in Black" is jarring afterward and suffers from tape distortion
- you can't really hear the screaming on this tape, apparently because of where Barrow was standing
- Paul says "oh very good" during "Baby's in Black" solo
- George sounds elated, announces "I Feel Fine" as being from "about 1959"
- drums aren't audible on "Yesterday"; Paul's vocal is excellent, more pained and less overly controlled than studio version, nice electric guitar too
- "it's a bit chilly" and it was, Candlestick Park was freezing at night
- a nostalgic "all right, George" during "I Wanna Be Your Man"
- John and Ringo thank each other several times; "lovely working with you, Ringo"
- "from our BBC album" ???
- the harmonies are weird on "Nowhere Man," is the microphone just not catching them? it sounds so out of place in a stadium anyway
- "we'd like to carry on... I think.. not really sure yet"
- "we'd like to say that it's been wonderful being here... sorry about the weather" then the craziest Paul intro to "Long Tall Sally" ever then it cuts off abruptly, and that's it, it's all over