The Beatles Are Bigger in Britain than the US

Looking at a copy of the UK version of Kevin Howlett’s The Beatles: the BBC Archives: 1962-1970 at our favourite Sydney discount bookstore we noticed something odd.

We already have a copy of the US edition (published by Harper Design) in the collection, but this UK one (published by BBC Books) looked and felt different….

Turns out it’s BIGGER (US on the left, UK on the right):IMG_0451IMG_0447

And what is printed on the rear of the box which holds the book is different, too: IMG_0454

 

The Beatles: BBC Archives – 1962-1970 – A Review

There are three distinct aspects to the Beatles’ main output and the direct connection they had with their audience. These are the band’s official studio recordings; their live performances; and (as this book examines in intricate and fascinating detail) their appearances during the height of their popularity on radio and television.

Kevin Howlett, a former BBC radio producer, has for many years been chronicling the band’s long and close association with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). If you want proof that their output on radio and TV was prolific here are some stats: the Beatles performed a huge catalogue of songs across 275 performances at the BBC between March 1962 and June 1965. They appeared on 39 radio shows just in 1963 and, on one single day, recorded 18 songs for three editions of the BBC’s “Pop Go The Beatles” series in a session lasting just under seven hours. In total they played 88 different songs, most done in one take with little time to correct mistakes.

What also has to be remembered is the extent to which the BBC was at the core of daily life in the UK. Unlike the multiple channels and sources of information we take for granted today, no other broadcasting organisation was licensed to operate in the UK until 1973. It seems extraordinary and almost incomprehensible now. There was some competition from overseas and “pirate” radio stations, but during the life of the Beatles as a band the BBC pretty much had the market to itself.

This book The Beatles: the BBC Archives: 1962-1970 isn’t the first go Kevin Howlett has had at writing about the close relationship between these two icons of British life in the sixties. It is however the most comprehensive and beautifully produced effort so far. Beatles Blog has in its collection a small 1982 softback book called The Beatles at the Beeb – The Story of their Radio Career 1962-65: 

Beatles BeebHowlett tried again in 1996 with The Beatles at the BBC, the Radio Years. However both these previous attempts are nothing on his latest effort.

What Kevin Howlett has done with this book is to significantly expand the scope and the content of his subject to produce the definitive examination of the Beatles interaction with their fans using BBC radio and television.

The new work comes packaged in an impressive look-alike (and slightly used) 1960’s BBC reel-to-reel tape box:Beatles at the BBC large

Inside is the book, which contains many pictures, examples of contracts, internal memos and letters, memorabilia and complete details of all their appearances, along with a discography of the songs that the Beatles performed. If the songs were covers then there are details of the original artists too.

We learn that some 36 of the 88 songs they performed were never issued on record and, with the exception of the Beatle original “I’ll Be On My Way”, these unreleased tracks were all cover versions. Inside the book there are lift out prints and and removable facsimile documents – making this a great collectable item in itself. Beatles BBC2-tiff

The photo (above) shows the band performing at the BBC Playhouse Theatre for Easy Beat on 16 October, 1963 – the day after news of the group’s participation in the Royal Variety Performance was announced (Photo © Press Association)

I love these sort of reproduction books, with removable documents, ticket stubs, mini-flyers and posters. I have two others which are similar: The Treasures of the Beatles, and Lennon Legend: An Illustrated Life of John Lennon.

This photo (also from the book) shows George, Paul and John with the BBC’s Bernie Andrews, producer of the show Saturday Club. It is dated 17 December, 1963 (Photo © BBC Worldwide):Beatles BBC1-tiff

Kevin Howlett is now very much an insider in the Beatles camp, having completed a number of prestigious Apple Records re-issue projects for them. He co-wrote the liner notes for the digitally remastered CD catalogue in 2009. Howlett wrote the notes and produced the ‘Fly On The Wall’ bonus disc for the 2003 Beatles remixed album Let It Be …Naked. He also wrote the liner notes for the original 1994 double CD and LP package Live at the BBC, and has done the same for the forthcoming set On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2 (to be released on November 11). Both feature previously unreleased recordings and studio chatter by the Beatles made available for the first time. The new release will include early hits and cover songs recorded at the BBC in 1963 and 1964, audio of the group talking to radio presenters such as Radio 2’s Brian Matthew, different versions of some of the songs from the first Live at the BBC album, and interviews recorded in November 1965 and May 1966 for the BBC “Pop Profile” series.

BBC Volume 2

A remastered version of the original Live At The BBC will also come out on 11 November to coincide with the release of Volume 2.

BBC Volume 1

So, Howlett knows his subject. His book The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970 is destined to become the ultimate publication detailing in every respect the the band’s interaction with it’s adoring public via the BBC – then one of the most important and dominant media outlets in Britain. It is published in the US by Harper Design (Harper Collins), and in the UK by Ebury Publishing (BBC Books).

The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970 – Coming Soon

October is shaping up to be an important month for Beatle book releases.

Two of the most respected and well-connected Beatle authors both have books due. We’ve already mentioned Mark Lewisohn’s first instalment of his Beatle history The Beatles All These Years: Tune In (UK – October 10, USA – October 29), but another Beatle insider also has an impressive book ready for release next month.

Kevin Howlett (you might remember his name as the co-author of all the new booklets in the re-issued and remastered Beatle CDs from 2009, and the glossy 252 page book included with the vinyl box set of remasters in 2012) has now compiled the definitive book about the Beatles interviews and performances at the BBC called The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970:Beatles BBC cover-tiff

This stylishly produced hardcover book collects the surviving transcripts of the Beatles appearances on BBC Radio and Television from 1962 to 1970. It features commentary from Howlett, alongside some fantastic photographs and memorabilia from the BBC.

We’ve been given a sneak look at the book and will provide a full review soon.

Having had the opportunity to look through it we can confirm it is beautifully packaged and extensively researched. The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970 will become the definitive guide to a unique relationship between two cultural icons. It’s published next month by BBC Books in the UK, and by Harper Design in the US.

New Beatles Radio Special – Update

Regarding my previous post about the new Beatles radio special distributed to radio stations around the world, the Beatles official site today announced they are streaming Part One from their own site.

Click here to read more about the series and to hear Part One, which is called “Meet the Beatles!” , streamed in full.

The Beatles site will start streaming Part Two (which is called “Ask Me Why”) the week beginning December 7th, and Part Three (which is called “The Beatles on the Record”) the week beginning December 15th.

Just to keep you ahead of the game, here’s a short preview extract from Part Two – “Ask Me Why”:

New Three Part Beatles Radio Series – “Here, There & Everywhere”

Coming soon to a radio station near you – a new radio special about the Beatles as a musical phenomenon.

Officially sanctioned and distributed to radio stations by Apple and EMI Music, “The Beatles: “Here, There and Everywhere” is a three-part radio special featuring exclusive new interviews with a variety of artists and producers talking about the influence of the The Beatles on their individual careers. Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Dave Grohl, Jeff Lynne, Anne and Nancy Wilson, Peter Asher, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, T-Bone Burnett, Cameron Crowe and Rick Rubin all take part. The series is narrated by veteran British presenter and music writer Paul Gambaccini.

Written and produced by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett (he researched and wrote all the liner notes for the new Remastered CDs), the three 48 minute installments each take a different thematic approach. The website FMQB has this summary of each episode:

Part One: Meet The Beatles!

The interviewees recorded exclusively for this series reveal the impact made upon them by The Beatles’ records from throughout their career. We hear Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, film director Cameron Crowe and Ann & Nancy Wilson (of Heart) talking about their first-hand experience of The Beatles’ phenomenal 1964 breakthrough in the United States. Dave Grohl, Mark Ronson and Slash discuss the enduring influence of albums such as Rubber Soul, Revolver and Abbey Road.

Part Two: Ask Me Why

The interviewees focus on the various elements within the group that combined to make The Beatles so musically powerful: their strengths as performers – both instrumentally and vocally – plus the brilliance of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison as songwriters.

Part Three: The Beatles On The Record

We hear how The Beatles’ music was captured on record with the help of innovative arrangements and adventurous production by George Martin. Some of today’s leading record producers – Peter Asher, Joe Boyd, T-Bone Burnett, Jeff Lynne, Mark Ronson and Rick Rubin – marvel at the dazzling creativity evident in recordings made more than 40 years ago.

If you didn’t get to hear it over the Thanksgiving holiday, or its still to come to a radio station nearby, here is a short extract from the opening sequence from Part One:


 

Stereo/Mono Remastered – Revisited

In an earlier post I included an audio extract from a US National Public Radio podcast featuring Beatles historian and writer Kevin Howlett. He was talking about some of the fascinating differences between the  Stereo and Mono versions of the Beatles Remastered CDs.

Then the  other day I stumbled across this website where a guy called Jake Brown has gone to a lot of trouble to detail a lot more.  He’s spent time cutting together actual audio examples and palcing them side-by-side so we can all quickly hear what differences are. He’s also detailed in text form some other variations.  Have a read and a listen.  Thanks Jake!

Beatles Remastering Process & Mono v Stereo – Discussion

In my last post I was bemoaning the fact that the official Beatles radio special released to promote the new Remastered discs didn’t go into very much detail at all about the actual process of remastering, nor the differences between the Stereo and the Mono box versions.

Well, just after that I discovered the sort of detail I was looking for in a podcast from America.

It’s a weekly show called All Songs Considered. Produced by the National Public Radio network (NPR), the program looks at all aspects of newly released music – and they have over the last few weeks (perhaps understandably) run a couple of shows about the latest Beatles releases.

One of them features a lengthy (22 mins 32 secs) and very interesting interview with Beatles historian and writer Kevin Howlett.

Howlett is the man responsible for all the words in the new booklets that accompany the new remastered stereo discs, and he wrote the essay that appears in the booklet that can be found in the Mono box set.

So, he’s an insider who knows what he’s talking about!  The All Songs Considered podcast goes into quite a lot of detail and gives frequent audio examples of the remastering process AND the difference between the stereo and mono versions.

Here’s Kevin Howlett talking specifically about the differences between mono and stereo in Sgt Pepper – an album he says was made to be heard in MONO:

Beatles historian Kevin Howlett there talking to NPR’s Bob Boilen.

If you’d like to hear the whole NPR podcast click here.