Four Sides of the Circle – A New Beatle Book

Last year saw the release of the lavish Let It Be box set. It celebrated the final Beatle LP, their swansong after a ten-year run as the biggest band in the world. The box set was accompanied by Peter Jackson’s extended 8-hour documentary Get Back, detailing the creation of the album. Despite the fact that Let It Be had been recorded more than a year earlier, its May 1970 release has forever seen it associated with the news that The Beatles were to continue no longer.

However, with an organisation as tight and complicated as The Beatles (along with their company Apple Records), things weren’t destined to just cleanly end for them overnight.

It would take until the close of 1974 before all four members had signed contracts dissolving their immense, famous and complex partnership.

This, argues author Terry Wilson, makes that period from 1970 to 1974 very much a “second phase” for the band. Despite each member pursuing solo careers technically they were still The Beatles. This continued on across a four year span. As individuals they were still very much tied together legally and financially. And they worked together collaboratively on many solo and other projects.

Wilson’s book is called Four Sides of the Circle. In it he details this often overlooked “second half” in the history of the band. It was an era of huge creativity and output. An era that gave us absolute standout releases like Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine LPs, McCartney’s RAM and Band on the Run, Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and Starr’s Ringo, along with a myriad of other great and sometimes lesser-known songs and recordings.

These happened because band member collaborations continued in a variety of forms throughout this distinct “Phase II”. Their paths inevitably crossed both in and out of the studio despite the huge dissolution process looming over them.

Four Sides Of The Circle uses a very accessible song-by-song format, stepping through (in chronological order) all the formal recordings the individual Beatles made between1970-1974. It actually begins slightly earlier with John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’ from June 1969, and concludes with Wings ‘Love In Song’, recorded in November, 1974. Every song – released and unreleased – has production details, recording location, who played what and (where applicable) the US and UK release dates. The song is then discussed by Wilson and critiqued with an appreciative eye. Each song is given a context with a clear emphasis on the music being made. This detailed and sequenced approach presents a true chronology of the period for the first time.

This is a book with something for even the most well-informed Beatle fan. Wilson is comprehensive and knowledgeable. There’s great detail here. In many ways he takes quite a scholarly approach – but the research never gets in the way of making Four Sides Of The Circle very readable. It finally completes the fascinating, long and winding story that was the Beatles. A story where – right to the last – they remained at the top of their game.

As Wilson writes on the final page of his book: “The legal conclusion of the Beatles technically occurred on 9 January 1975, when McCartney’s four-year-old case was settled, the completed paperwork having been sent back to London for the court to make its formal declaration. A cursory glance at the current edition of Billboard shows that on this day, Lennon was at 47 on the singles chart with ‘#9 Dream’; Harrison was at 16 with ‘Dark Horse’; Starr was at 7 with ‘Only You’ and McCartney was at 4 with ‘Junior’s Farm’. Appropriately, Lennon and McCartney were at number 1, courtesy of Elton John’s version of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ on which Lennon sang and played.”

“They ended at the very top.”

Four Sides of the Circle is a great read and a fantastic reference book. Not only does it contain extensive background and historic notes on each song, in the appendices there’s a complete song list, record release details (complete with US and UK chart positions), a bibliography, and what we always like to see in books like this: an Index. It is the sort of book you can dip in and out of endlessly. Here’s the blurb on the rear cover:

At over 420 pages Four Sides of the Circle is very reasonably priced. You can find it on Amazon Australia, Amazon US and on the Amazon UK site as well. The US and UK sites also have a “Look Inside” feature so you can check out sections of the book in more detail. It will give you an idea of the format and content. You won’t be disappointed.

The Story of the Apple Records Granny Smith

Late last year we were contacted by a researcher and writer named David Marshall.

David helps curate a UK website dedicated to the humble apple. That’s the fruit – not the computer company, or the famous Beatle record label!

The site Apples & People is, in part, funded by the Museum of Cider in Hereford which helps support an online exhibition program telling short illustrated stories about the apple from around the world.

The site is dedicated to exploring “the astonishing story of the apple, connecting its diverse history to humanity and culture. Based upon a specially commissioned global map of the apple which traces a network of stories from the ancient world to the present day, this online program and associated social media reveals just how significant and iconic this humble fruit has become.”.

So, they wanted to do a feature on the Granny Smith apple, specifically about it being photographed to become the celebrated, and much-loved, Apple label.

David had read our April, 2011 article which touched on how that apple image came to be, and he wanted to know more. We helped out a bit, but David is thorough and contacted many more people – especially those involved in the concept and creation of the Apple label in the very beginning.

You can read his findings here: https://applesandpeople.org.uk/stories/records/

We think his article came up very well and is a very interesting read.

We particularly liked the section on Billy Apple, and the statement: Apple Records was also transformative branding. Interpreted by the Beatles, the apple also came to be a symbol of independence and artistic freedom. It brought about a diverse artist-orientated approach to recording. We had never thought about it in those terms before.

You can see all the Apples & People stories about apples here.

A ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ Collector Extraordinaire

Most collectors of Beatles (and solo) records, CDs, books, magazines and the like will have a broad cross-section of albums and items, ranging from the earliest Please Please Me LP in 1963, right up to the latest Paul McCartney coloured vinyl variation.

Sometimes though a collector will get fixated on one particular thing.

That’s what happened to one of our readers named Simon.

A few weeks ago Simon sent us a photograph of the cassette variations he owns of one particular album – Magical Mystery Tour. They are laid out on the floor and to reproduce them here it is going to take two photographs to show you:

And that is just the cassettes.

Simon has what he believes to be one of the world’s most extensive if not the largest collections of Magical Mystery Tour items (hereafter referred to simply as MMT).

He owns over 60 MMT EP records from different countries around the world, as well as around 150 different versions from the MMT LP. And that’s not to mention the piles of MMT VHS movie tapes, 4-Track and 8-Track recordings, PlayTapes, DVDs, and CDs….He also has Betamax video tapes of the movie, and Reel-to-Reel music rarities.

So, we had to ask him two things.

One is why did the Magical Mystery Tour become Simon’s main thing, the one he must have more and more copies of?

Two is could he send some images of a couple of the more interesting EP versions he has of MMT from around the world?

For the first question here is his answer:

The reason for me collecting Magical Mystery Tour items is because as children in 1967 my sister and I took part in the film as extras. We were in the “Tug of War” and “The Marathon” scenes, and also in “Your Mother Should Know” in the hanger at the RAF West Malling Airfield Base, in Kent, England.

However, my story actually took off in 1978. That year I had to have surgery on both knees. Because the ward where I should have been sent for recovery was being repainted I was instead operated on and put in a ward for children who were terminally ill with cancer. Needless to say these children died.

I said to myself if possible I will try to do something in my life to give aid to children with cancer.

I then met my wife in 1982 and she just happened to be a Beatles fan. Of course the subject of me being involved in the MMT film came up and my wife asked if we could see the film on video. So one day we went to a video store and bought a video tape.

This led to buying an LP, then an EP, and a cassette.….

During this time we were also both very much into Volkswagen Beetles and in 1996 I organized what was to become the largest, most well-known vintage VW show of its kind.

The proceeds were donated to a hospital ward in Hanover in Germany to aid children with cancer.

In the meantime my Beatles MMT collection was growing.

In the early 2000s I left the VW hobby and decided to concentrate entirely on my MMT hobby instead – and to try to put my collection to good use.

I  am always looking for  items that I don’t have yet from MMT. I do not sell anything from my collection. 

Any doubles are swapped for other MMT items that I don’t have yet in my collection.

So, I have been collecting MMT for the past 40 years and nothing else from The Beatles.

I have only ever looked at the entire film once in one go! But I’ve spent hundreds of hours going frame by frame through DVDs and outtakes looking for tiny details on the famous MMT bus as I bought an original Bedford VAL Plaxton Panorama (the exact same model as the MMT bus) from Liverpool. It’s being restored in the UK and hopefully will be used world wide in aid of different cancer charities. Today I also hold not for profit exhibitions of my collection to help charities, such as for children with cancer.

So, as you can see it is quite a story!

What about some of the gems, some of the rarities from just the MMT EP part of his vast collection?

As already mentioned Simon has over 60 copies of this release from different countries. Of course he’s got many of the Made in Great Britain variations (he owns around 15 different versions of these in Mono and in Stereo), but we asked him to show us some of the more unusual examples. You know this one, most often it comes in a gate fold cover with two 45rpm EPs (or extended play) vinyl discs and a booklet with the story and lyrics stapled inside:

To begin, Simon sent us images of four different examples from Argentina which has a number of different versions of the MMT EP. These below (in order) are from 1968, 1970, 1973, and one of unknown year of release. It’s the one on the red and brown EMI label (it is probably 1975). The song titles are translated from English to Spanish:

Greece has two different versions – one with a large jukebox center (which Simon doesn’t own yet), and the other with a smaller push-out centre: 

From Uruguay, Simon owns two versions. There’s the regular release, and this rare blue test pressing below that he has never seen for sale again in 40 years:

One really cool looking label is this Odeon version from Brazil, released in 1968. It is the Mono version:

Italy has a number of different pressings on Parlophon in blue, black, and this Juke Box one on a beige label:

Germany has at least three different versions, as does Denmark. Here’s one of them – a Stereo most probably from 1967:

One of the more unusual and hard to find is this one from Israel. Simon says Israel has two variations. One came as a 2 EP set in a cover much like the rest of the world. The records inside are like the Stereo example below). For the other Israel released the two discs as separate singles in picture sleeves (which Simon doesn’t have yet):

Holland two different editions, France has four versions at least, and Finland has two variations, of which Simon only owns one, this one – a Stereo pressing – is from 1967:

Japan has many different versions on both black vinyl, and this one, from 1968, on red wax:

Spain has at least three versions. This is one of the later re-issues on a teal coloured Odeon label. Notice it is the Mono edition:

Yugoslavia has at least four versions. Africa has several versions (with round and triangular push-out centres) that Simon still doesn’t own yet. But he does have this example from the Philippines, issued in Mono in 1967:

In regards to the lyric sheets stapled inside the MMT EP gatefold cover, these too have their variations from country to country, and across the different re-issue years. Simon sent us an image that illustrates this as well:

In the photo above you can see some of the different colour variations of the lyric pages. There are of course several different shades of each of the colours too.

This is just a taste of Simon’s collection, but he writes that there are still numbers more that he still does not own yet. For example Chile, Greece with larger centre, Rhodesia with the triangle push-out centre, and the very first Japanese version. He’s not sure if Turkey and India ever pressed a set.

Should anyone have an EP or anything else rare from MMT that may help Simon complete his collection he would love to hear from you. They will all be put to good use in aid of others less fortunate in the world. Drop us a line using the Leave a Reply link below and we can put you in touch.

Also, if you or someone you know has a specific area of Beatle collecting – where someone has concentrated on just one particular release – please let us know! We’d love to hear from you and see some of your collection too.

The Beatles ‘Revolver’ – Full Details Announced

The Beatles, Apple and Universal Music have jumped a little earlier than expected. Overnight they officially announced all the details of the forthcoming Revolver re-mix and remaster project, due in stores on October 28.

The full story, complete with a full track-list for each edition is on the The Beatles official site, but suffice it to say that there will be a 4LP + 1EP vinyl super deluxe slipcase box set with a 100-page hard cover book:

There’s also a 4CD + 1EP CD super deluxe slipcase box, also with a 100-page hard cover book:

There’s a 2CD edition with the new stereo mix of the album plus a unique ‘Session Highlights’ disc:

A 1CD edition with the new stereo re-mix:

And a 1LP edition featuring the new stereo re-mix:

And, just as they did with the Sgt Pepper, the White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be re-issues, there’s to be a Revolver picture disc:

The rumoured Dolby Atmos Mixes will only be available as Downloads and on Streaming.

The original mono mix will be part of the super deluxe boxes and accompany never-before-released session recordings and demos, plus two singles from the era, ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’ are on the four track EP that is in the vinyl and CD boxes (in 2022 re-mixed versions and in original mono too).

Each edition is available for pre-order now and all the the physical product hits stores on October 28.

The opening song on Revolver, ‘Taxman’, has been chosen as the teaser 2022 mix sample song and it is available now on streaming media and in Dolby Atmos where that is supported.

There’s also a second promo YouTube clip too:

It’s Confirmed: ‘Revolver’ is the next Box Set Re-Issue

A lot of people jumped on the Variety article published last week stating that The Beatles’ Revolver is to be the next album to get the full box set re-issue/remix treatment.

One key sentence in that article made us hang back: “An official announcement of the project is not expected to come until some time in September….”, meaning that while it was interesting (and probably true), the Variety article was still just speculation. There was no independent confirmation from someone within the Beatles/Apple Records circle.

But, over the weekend we got that confirmation – and from the horses mouth so to speak.

On Sunday none other than Giles Martin Tweeted:

We think you can take that as proof-positive a re-mixed, remastered Revolver will definitely be on the shelves sometime in October or early November.

Of course details of exactly what we’ll be getting are still scarce, so we await the official announcement with great interest.

A subsequent Giles Martin Tweet indicates that a 5.1 surround mix is definitely on the cards:

So, it’s happening!

MJQ ‘Space’ – South African Pressing

There’s a great little book/second-hand record store in the Sydney suburb of Manly called Desire Books and Records.

The store is a wonderful place to poke around in as its walls are literally stacked floor-to-ceiling with books while much of the floor space is taken up with wide selection of good quality used vinyl. There are two large “Recent Arrivals” bins, plus extensive Pop & Rock from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, a good selection of Jazz, and sections for Folk, Soundtracks, Hip Hop, Spoken Word/Comedy – you name it.

We visited there the other day and found this little treasure, an original South African pressing of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s album Space on the Apple label:

Here’s the rear cover:

Space, which was released in 1969, comes in a cool gatefold cover:

And of course comes on the famous green Apple label. Interestingly, the word STEREO plus the title and track information on many South African Apple pressings is printed in silver:

As usual, click on the images above to see larger versions, and if you’re interested in the many an varied Apple Records pressings from around the world why not visit the amazing Worldwide Apple Records Discograghy page. It’s an incredible repository of images and info on Apple, Dark Horse, and more.

Mary Hopkin ‘Post Card’ – A Hong Kong/Malaysia Pressing

A recent trip to the New South Wales south coast town of Berry turned up an opportunity for a little crate digging.

It was a nice feeling. Since the advent of COVID-19 the chances to get out and about and hunt for records in the wild have really been few and far between.

On the first Sunday of every month the town puts on a big market at the local Showgrounds. There are all sorts of stalls set up with people selling home made goods like candles, local produce, handcrafted items, food and second-hand goods – including a couple of stalls selling records! This allowed us to get back to what this blog is all about: adventures in collecting Beatles music.

One thing we’re always on the lookout for are Apple Records artists – and we found an interesting variation of the Mary Hopkin LP Post Card, produced by Paul McCartney and released in 1969. This one was different because it was manufactured by EMI in South East Asia for the Hong Kong and Malaysian markets:

There are a couple of things to note here about the differences between this and the US and Australian pressings of this release.

First is that it follows the original UK vinyl track listing. Notice that there is no ‘Those Were The Days’ – which was hit single for Hopkin in 1968 – included on this edition.

Second is the printing in blue at the bottom of the rear cover (which by the way has a very nice glossy finish on both sides):

This South East Asian edition also comes with an original black paper inner sleeve:

To compare the differences, here’s the US release:

Notice that the title of the LP is at the bottom of the front cover photo – whereas on the Hong Kong/Malaysia and UK pressings the title is at the top of the photo of Mary.

Also, as already mentioned, that Side 2, Track 4 has ‘Those Were The Days’ in place of ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ which is found on the UK and and South East Asian pressings. Here are the US labels:

Just by way of interest, we also have an Australian pressing of Post Card issued by the World Record Club. It has completely different artwork for the front and rear covers, and labels:

This Aussie World Record Club release also follows the US track listing, with ‘Those Were The Days’ as Track 4, Side 2.

(As usual, click on the images above to see larger versions).

For an exhaustive look at the differences between the UK and US editions, check out BeatleDave’s Beatle Channel.

Billy Preston’s ‘Encouraging Words’ Gets an Apple Records Reissue

We weren’t even aware of this until alerted yesterday by Instagram poster @applerecordspictures…..

Billy Preston, currently wowing viewers for his keyboard prowess in The Beatles: Get Back documentary on Disney+, recently had his 1970 Apple Records LP Encouraging Words re-issued on vinyl by the label.

It was released in October as a way to celebrate Preston’s induction for Musical Excellence into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and will only be available for a limited period.

First issued in the UK on September 11 1970, the album was co-produced by Billy and George Harrison. Encouraging Words contains covers of two of George’s songs – ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ where they appeared for the very first time, two months before George’s own recordings of those tracks appeared on his album All Things Must Pass. The LP also contains a cover of the Lennon/McCartney track ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, from The Beatle’s Let It Be LP.

So, while it is timely of Apple to mark his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, this reissue of Billy’s album is also a great tie-in with the release of Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back film too.

I wonder if we’ll be seeing any other Apple Records artists getting vinyl reissues?

The Beatles, Get Back and London: On the Trail of a Timeless Story

In the lead-up to the release next week of the Peter Jackson film The Beatles: Get Back, John Harris, editor of the new book of the same name, takes us on a fascinating journey to the three key locations in the making of the Let It Be album. It is delightful:

At Last – A Blue Box for The Beatles Singles Collection

For quite a few years now we’ve had in the collection a complete set of all the Beatles UK singles that go inside the 1982 box set, The Beatles Singles Collection.

Only thing is, we didn’t have the lovey blue box with gold embossed writing to hold them.

Until now.

We’ve been searching on eBay and other places for quite some time to find an empty box in excellent condition. Have even bid on a couple over the years, but have never been successful.

Then, a few weeks back, a very nice example came up for sale, and here it is:

This box has the catalogue number BSCP1:

That BSCP1 marking means that the box should contain all 22 singles The Beatles released between 1962-1970, plus 4 singles that were issued following the break-up (‘Yesterday’ from March, 1976; ‘Back In The USSR’ from June, 1976; ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends’ from September, 1978; and ‘The Beatles Movie Medley’ from May, 1982). Each should also be housed in unique paper picture sleeves, plus (and this is what delineates this release from the earlier BSC1 Singles box), a picture disc of ‘Love Me Do’ should also be included.

So, that’s 27 discs in all.

It should also have a blue paper insert detailing the complete list of singles with recording dates, release dates and chart positions.

Each single has labels reproduced just as they would have been in the UK at the time of original release too. That means the first two singles, ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me’, are on the red Parlophone label:

From the singles ‘From Me To You’ through to ‘Lady Madonna’, the labels are the black and silver Parlophone/EMI:

Then, from ‘Hey Jude’ through to ‘Let It Be’, we get the green Apple label:

Here are the covers and labels for the four additional singles, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Back In The USSR’, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends’, and ‘The Beatles Movie Medley’:

The final single in this set is a ‘Love Me Do’ picture disc, housed in its original clear plastic sleeve:

Here’s the picture disc image on the flipside:

So, at last a blue box for The Beatles Singles Collection (BSCP1). See also our posts on the 1978 edition of 25 singles called The Beatles Collection; the Australian edition blue box containing all the LPs – also called The Beatles Collection. And the CD Singles Collection (two versions), and The Compact Disc EP Collection.

As usual, click on the images above to see larger versions.