The Beatles: The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl


ON THIS DATE (35 YEARS AGO)
May 4, 1977 – The Beatles: The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# allmusic 4/5
The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl is a live album released on this date in May 1977 featuring songs by The Beatles compiled from two live performances at the Hollywood Bowl during August 1964 and August 1965. Even though the recordings on The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl were between twelve and thirteen years old at the time of release, the album reached number one on the New Musical Express chart in the United Kingdom and number two on the Billboard chart in the United States. The album has yet to be released on compact disc in either country.
Initially, Capitol Records considered recording The Beatles’ February 1964 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, but it could not obtain the necessary approval from the Musicians Union to record the performance. Six months later, Bob Eubanks booked The Beatles’ 23 August 1964 performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles where Capitol recorded their performance with the intent of releasing a live album in America. The sound quality of the tapes proved to be inadequate for commercial release; and, when The Beatles returned to the Hollywood Bowl a year later during their 1965 American tour, Capitol recorded two performances by the group at the same venue. The sound quality of the 1965 recordings was equally disappointing. Capitol did, however, utilise a 48-second excerpt of “Twist and Shout” from the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert on the 1964 documentary album, The Beatles’ Story.
The Beatles were among the few major recording artists of the 1960s to not have issued a live album. Consequently, among Beatles fans, pent-up demand for a concert album continued to build. In fact, John Lennon set off a minor frenzy when, in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview, he incorrectly identified an obscure Italian compilation album, The Beatles in Italy, as a live recording (“There’s one in Italy apparently, that somebody recorded there”). Despite the obvious demand for a live album, however, the tapes from the three Hollywood Bowl performances continued to sit untouched in a Capitol vault for more than five years.
In 1971, following his salvage project of the “Get Back” sessions, which was released as the group’s Let It Be album, the Hollywood Bowl tapes were given to famed American record producer Phil Spector to see if he could fashion an album out of the material. Either Spector did not complete the job or his production was unsatisfactory, and the tapes continued to sit unreleased for another half a decade. Finally, with a rival record label’s impending release of the Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 album consisting of a fifteen-year-old, poor-quality concert recording of the group performing in the Star Club in Hamburg, Capitol Records’ parent company, EMI, decided to revisit the Hollywood Bowl recordings. Beatles’ producer George Martin was handed the tapes and asked to compile a listenable “official” live album.
When Martin was asked by Capitol Records president Bhaskar Menon to hear the tapes in the mid-1970s, he was impressed with the performances, but disappointed in the sound quality. In working on the three-track Hollywood Bowl concert tapes, Martin discovered quite a challenge. The first difficulty was finding a working three-track machine with which to play back the master tapes. Once he found one, he discovered that the machine overheated when it was running. Martin and recording engineer Geoff Emerick came up with the solution of blowing cold air from a vacuum cleaner to keep the tape deck cool whilst the recordings were transferred to 16-track tape for filtering, equalisation, editing, and mixing. Martin found the 29 August 1965 recording virtually useless, and, except for a few dubs taken from the 29 August performance to augment other performances, the album compiled by Martin consisted entirely of songs recorded on 23 August 1964 and 30 August 1965.
REVIEW
by Richard S. Ginell, allmusic
This is the official record of Beatlemania in full cry, a composite of two concerts recorded a year apart in Los Angeles’ vast concrete amphitheater, the Hollywood Bowl, only about a mile away from the Capitol Records tower. It nearly didn’t get out at all. Producer George Martin had misgivings from the start about recording the band live, and those doubts were borne out by the results, an outgunned rock quartet without stage monitors trying to play over the sheer noise of 17,000-plus kids screaming their lungs out. By 1977, Martin had been cajoled into making something out of these tapes, but there was only so much a brilliant producer could do with three-track tapes recorded under conditions that were, well, unprecedented. The band sounds muffled, tentative in spots, trying to crank out the songs by rote as best they can over the constant screaming. The album opens with five songs from the 1965 concert, then picks up the 1964 concert for three numbers, bounces back to 1965 for two more, and concludes with three from 1964. In general, the 1965 performances are better the 1964 ones, and a bit more together and less prone to lapses of concentration. Perhaps the experience of playing in such chaotic conditions in 1964 proved useful in 1965; indeed, somehow, John, Paul, and George even manage to follow Ringo’s tricky rhythm on “Ticket to Ride” amidst all of the madness. In fact, Ringo was the unsung hero of these wild events, always laying down a solid beat come hell or what may. In his stage announcements, John seems to be talking only to himself, while Paul the showman does make an attempt to connect with the crowd. Though a bit late for the rush of flashback Beatlemania that accompanied the release of the Red and Blue albums in 1973, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl still managed to rocket up to number two on the album charts, thus knocking the bootleggers temporarily off their axis. However, the album has yet to be issued on CD — the probable reasoning being that the CD medium would further expose the sonic problems. But that didn’t stop EMI from issuing the Anthology series — and besides, this is history, folks.
TRACKS:
All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.
Side one
“Twist and Shout” (Phil Medley and Bert Russell) (30 August 1965) – 1:32
“She’s a Woman” (30 August 1965) – 2:53
“Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (Larry Williams) (29/30 August 1965) – 3:37
“Ticket to Ride” (29 August 1965) – 2:51
“Can’t Buy Me Love” (30 August 1965) – 2:16
“Things We Said Today” (23 August 1964) – 2:20
“Roll Over Beethoven” (Chuck Berry) (23 August 1964) – 2:28
Side two
“Boys” (Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell) (23 August 1964) – 2:12
“A Hard Day’s Night” (30 August 1965) – 3:15
“Help!” (29 August 1965) – 2:46
“All My Loving” (23 August 1964) – 2:14
“She Loves You” (23 August 1964) – 2:31
“Long Tall Sally” (Enotris Johnson, Richard Penniman, and Robert Blackwell) (23 August 1964) – 2:53
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Filed under george harrison, john lennon, Paul McCartney, ringo starr, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl

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