Vale Bruce Hamlin – Australian Beatle Collector

Some very sad news has come through that the well-known and repsected Australian Beatle expert Bruce Hamlin has passed away.

Bruce ran the The Beatles Records Information Service, and he issued regular and comprehensive updates to his many email newsletter subscribers – right up until the last.

In 1981 Bruce wrote a compendium, the first of its kind for this country. It details the Beatles’ released catalogue in Australia. Called simply The Beatles Records in Australia, his book pulled together their complete discography to that date. It was self-published and limited to just 450 copies, but it stands as a unique record for collectors.

Bruce was also a supporter and regular at the many record fairs in the greater Sydney area, always there with a Beatle-themed stall and always willing to chat and share his considerable knowledge of the Beatles and their solo releases. 

Like me Bruce lived on the northside of the city and I would regularly bump into him at local garage or yard sales. Like me too he was always on the lookout for second-hand treasures, and to be honest my heart would sink if I saw that Bruce had arrived before me at a sale as I knew it would have been well picked over and that he would have found anything worth finding there! We’d still stop and have a chat and pass the time of day though. We’d talk about the latest Beatle news, and then be on our way.

The local representatives at EMI would often utilise Bruce’s expert knowledge and his extensive record collection, not only for sound but also vision. They’d come to him for advice and in 1983 he helped compile a unique Australian LP release called The Number Ones. It contained 23 Beatle songs (including three songs on a special bonus EP) that made it to the number one position on the Australian charts.

EMI Australia would also sometimes ask Bruce to appear in local promotional videos – like this one from May last year for the 50th Anniversary Edition release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Looking back at the video again it’s clear that Bruce had not been well. However, in his regular newsletters he never overtly came out and said that he was in a life and death battle. On the contrary, he always appeared eternally optimistic. Take this email from as recently as January 15 this year where he lists all the significant Australian Beatle release anniversary dates for 2018, and is looking forward with enthusiasm to likely new releases and reissues:

Well here we are at the beginning of another Beatles year..

First up, our Australian 50th anniversary of releases in 1968:

8 Feb – GEPO 70044 Norwegian Wood (EP)

22 Feb  – PCSO 7533 The Beatles Greatest Hits Vol 1 – after 20 months, finally in stereo!!

14 Mar – MMT 1 Magical Mystery Tour (EP)

14 Mar – SMMT 1 Magical Mystery Tour (EP in stereo)

29 Mar – A 8293 Lady Madonna/The Inner Light

16 May – PMCO 7016 A Collection Of Beatles Oldies – held over for a year

16 May – PCSO 7016 A Collection Of Beatles Oldies – and in stereo

4 July – GEPO 80045 Penny Lane (EP)  (the last of the original ep’s)

20 Sept – A 8493 Hey Jude/Revolution

26 Sept – APPLE 8526 Those Were The Days/Turn Turn Turn – Mary Hopkin

10 Oct – APPLE 8537 Sour Milk Sea/The Eagle Laughs At You – Jackie Lomax

4 Dec – PMCO 7067-8 The Beatles (the double white album)

4 Dec – PCSO 7067-8 The Beatles (double White in stereo)

So that’s 13 reasons to party down in 2018. Especially for those of us who were around then.

For those not around here are some 40th Anniversaries to celebrate – 1978:

9 Jan – 2001 751 Sneaking Sally Through The Ally/Tango All Night – Ringo

23 Mar – A 11687 With A Little Luck/Backwards Traveller-Cuff Link – Wings

3 Apr – PAS 10012 London Town – Wings

29 May – 2310 599 Bad Boy – Ringo

19 Jun – A 11746 I’ve Had Enought/Deliver Your Children – Wings

21 Aug – A 11787 London Town/I’m Carrying – Wings

28 Aug A 12000 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends/Within You, Without You

9 Oct – 2001 787 Lipstick Traces/Bad Boy – Ringo

29 Nov – BC 13 The Beatles Collection (13 lps in imported box)

29 Nov – PSLP 261 Rarities – included in the above box set.

4 Dec – P 256 Wings Greatest – Wings

Another 11 parties to be had.

So what can we expect in 2018 ?? I very much doubt we will get another Beatle to tour our country.

Ringo’s 2 most popular albums are due for the 180g treatment on 26 January, Ringo and Goodnight Vienna. So that will really kick the year off.

There should be another new album from Paul probably mid year. Supposedly with a TRUMP comment included on it.

Another Archive Series box set – maybe Red Rose Speedway – it’s overdue.

After the Christmas singles box set just released, expect the album for next Christmas, the American version for America and the UK version for the rest of the world, so you have to buy it twice. If we are lucky the CD release will wait until 2019 and again with the 2 different covers. Double dipping into our pockets yet again.

3 more of Yoko’s early albums, on white vinyl, black vinyl and CD, all nicely remastered by Sean.

John’s Imagine album is due for the ‘Archive’ style treatment, I wonder if they will do a good a job as Vigotone did with 5 CD’s worth of unreleased material!!

Expect Sean to have several more side projects popping up and Dhani probably will have at least one new release in 2018.

Now that Paul’s current world tour is almost over, perhaps a live album and DVD!

And it’s still only mid January.

Hurstville Record Fair on 14 February.

Cheers till next time,


I think you can detect above an essence of optimism in that newsletter, a continuing energy and love of the band that he’d followed so closely since his early teens and for all his adult life.

I was very saddened to hear the news of Bruce’s passing and my condolences go out to his family for their loss. Bruce will be missed. His energy, enthusiasm and knowledge about the band he loved so dearly was extraordinary.

Ringo Starr – Vintage LP Finds

For some reason or other our Ringo Starr collection has grown exponentially over the last couple of weeks….

For a long time we’ve had an Australian pressing of his 1976 outing, Ringo’s Rotogravure

Below is the rear cover of the Australian pressing. US readers will note that the track listing for Side Two is five tracks instead of six. That’s because it is missing the short song, ‘Spooky Weirdness’: ‘Spooky Weirdness’ is however listed on the inner bag liner notes:

Like the rest of the world, this album came out housed in a gatefold sleeve. Here’s how it looks:

And here are the Australian labels. Note no ‘Spooky Weirdness’ listed on Side Two here either, and that the record company is different to the US release. The LP was issued Down Under on Polydor:

So anyway, we were picking around the bins at a favourite local second hand store when we randomly came across some variations of this LP.

First up was the aforementioned US pressing. It has the exact same front cover image, but there are few details on the rear cover that differ to the Australian: Note the Atlantic logo bottom left (above); a pink box at the bottom for the record company details/place of manufacture; and ‘Spooky Weirdness’ is listed on the tracklist for Side Two. The label is the famous green and red Atlantic Records too: Then, further into the bin, we noticed two more distinctly different pressings of this same title. First was a fairly rare budget edition that only ever came out in Australia. It was in really good condition and is on the now defunct Rainbow label. (You can find it listed on page 27 of this document):

The gatefold sleeve inside is printed in a much lighter blue to the original Australian and US releases:Because it’s a budget release there is no inner bag with the lyrics, but it is on a Rainbow Records label:Sitting just behind the Rainbow re-issue was an original New Zealand pressing of Rotogravure. Again, it has the exact same front cover image to the Australian and US pressings. Only the rear is a little different: And the labels (also on Polydor) mention “Made in New Zealand” – its in the small print at top left:

Lastly, a Canadian pressing of Ringo’s Bad Boy LP (from 1978) popped up in the bins as well.

As you can see, its a little beat up (writing on the cover; ‘cut out’ hole bottom left; foxing to the rear cover and inner bag from age, etc.), but worth grabbing at $5.00: 

So, not one – but four additions from the Ringo Starr back catalogue end up in our collection.

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

More adventures in collecting Beatle records soon.

Strange/Unusual Find of the Month – George Harrison’s ‘Poor Little Girl’ Promo

Paid a visit this week to a new and second-hand record/book store we’d not visited before. It’s called Title, and they specialise in music, books and film.

One item in their “1/2 Price” sale bins caught our eye: 

It is a 12″ promotional-only single from Brazil containing two versions of a rare George Harrison solo song from 1989 called ‘Poor Little Girl’. Oddly enough the flip side of the disc is Rod Stewart singing a Tom Waits-penned song, ‘Downtown Train’:

Harrison’s ‘Poor Little Girl’ was only ever released on a 1989 compilation called The Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989, and it looks like this promo disc was issued to promote that album. The 12″ promo contains two versions of the song – an edited version that runs 3:25, and the LP version with a running time of 4:32.

As you can see, there was not great attention to detail by whoever prepared both the cover and label as they misspell George’s surname both times in the songwriting credits.

Strange to have come across this 12″ tucked away in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills – but that’s sometimes the way record collecting goes…..

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

New George Martin Biography – Maximum Volume

We have reviewed author Ken Womack’s work previously on

He’s a recognised authority on The Beatles and their enduring cultural influence. His latest work is the first in what will become a two-volume biography devoted to Beatle producer, Sir George Martin.

First published last year in the United States, then quickly followed by a UK edition, the first installment is called Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years: 1926-1966).

Here’s the US jacket:

And here’s the somewhat more tame UK cover

This book is long-overdue. There have been surprisingly few in-depth studies of the life of one of the most influential figures in popular music, a career spanning more than 60 years.

In Womack’s book we learn that George Martin scored his first real job in the music industry pretty much by accident when he joined the recording giant EMI as an A&R man for Parlophone Records and that in the 1950s being in A&R (or Artist and Repetoire) didn’t mean you were a producer – it was more about talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the artists signed to your label.

Martin had a natural musical talent and great training, and he’d had some success with comedy and novelty records for Parlophone. But he needed more than that. By the early 1960s to keep his label afloat George Martin needed to hit it big with a pop group – and soon.

Though he had tons of creativity, drive, and a solid musical background, Martin’s main handicap was that he had little knowledge or experience of the world of Rock & Roll.

Then, into his life walks a young, four-piece outfit from Liverpool.

These guys knew a lot about Rock & Roll, but had no knowledge about studios and how to record their music. The pairing of the two was a marriage made in heaven. What George Martin was able to bring to the table fitted perfectly with what the Beatles needed – and together they went on to make magic.

It wasn’t always plain sailing though, and Martin often had to be tough and give as good as he got because the Beatles were hard task masters. They were ambitious, confident, and didn’t suffer fools lightly. But George Martin had the chutzpah and the musical knowledge and ability to carry it off:

Martin: “Let’s have one more go at the backing, then we’ll record your voices separately. This time, we’ll get it exactly right.”

McCartney: “Why—what was exactly wrong?”

Martin: “The tuning sounded wrong. And you, George, should be coming in on the second beat every time instead of every fourth beat.”

Harrison: “Oh, I see.”

In its essence, this brief exchange demonstrated what people in the Beatles’ inner circle understood implicitly: namely, that George was possibly the single most influential person in their world, really the only one who could impinge upon the nature of their music. Even Brian [Epstein], whom they held in extraordinarily high esteem, held little, if any, sway in terms of influencing the direction of their creative lives. At one point, when Brian dared to offer an opinion about their efforts in the studio, John coolly replied, “You look after your percentages, Brian. We’ll take care of the music.” (pg. 252)

In Maximum Volume Womack candidly – and comprehensively – tells the story of George Martin from his very humble childhood and early adulthood, through to the heights of success he and the Beatles enjoyed globally. It’s a great read, a real page-turner in fact as the detail behind that enormous success unfolds.

As one reviewer put it, the book contains enough fresh information and informed insight about the group’s early years to satisfy [even] the most devout Beatlemaniac.

Maximum Volume takes a similar approach to that of Mark Lewisohn’s well-researched and highly regarded multi-volume telling of the Beatles story: there are footnotes detailing where Womack is getting his information and where his quotes come from; there’s an extensive bibliography; and there’s a comprehensive index. All these things point to the thorough research undertaken by Ken Womack and the efforts he’s gone to to put the life and work of George Martin into a context that can be supported by facts.

The importance of this approach to writing about the Beatles, or any subject or person for that matter where so much has been written over many years, is imperative. Sifting through the mass of it to find those kernels of truth about your subject before forming it into an accurate and entertaining narrative is paramount – and Womack pulls it off. For a great reflection on this subject it’s worth a listen to the Something About the Beatles podcast episode called “The Beatles and the Historians“. See too the show’s interview with Ken Womack himself: “George Martin – Maximum Volume“.

Womack’s second and final volume on the life and work of Sir George Martin will be published in September this year. It’s to be called Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016).

In the meantime, enjoy Volume One – Maximum Volume. It is highly recommended.

McCartney – Eight Coloured Vinyls Arrive

Like a lot of collectors around the world, we have been waiting patiently for Universal Music to sort out the delays and confusion around the supply and delivery of the recent Paul McCartney vinyl re-issues on coloured vinyl.

We ordered ours last year, weeks before the advertised shipping date – but it is only in the new year that they have finally arrived, and in two separate shipments. Ram clearly was in very short supply and it is pretty obvious that a pressing of more copies had to be hurriedly arranged. That LP came in a separate package a few following the main batch.

Having said all that, these look absolutely fantastic. Here are some images of the collection – the front “hype” stickers and record labels: 

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

Paul McCartney – ‘Music of the Spheres’

On Christmas Day, two keen music fans leaked their version of the as-yet unreleased original symphonic music composed for the the video game, Destiny.

There is of course a Beatle connection here in the form of Sir Paul McCartney who contributed to the soundtrack for the game, most notably the end-credits song ‘Hope for the Future‘.

The Destiny: Music of the Spheres suite is the work of Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, but it took the fan duo of Tlohtzin Espinosa and Owen Spence to bring it to the public. They spent more than a year pulling together all the elements they could get their hands on to compile what is essentailly a complete soundtrack album of Destiny:

You can hear it on Soundcloud, and on YouTube. Download links are out there on the World Wide Web too if you are interested.

There’s more background on how all this came to be in an article on the Ars Technica site, plus you should also see this Reddit post by the two fans who took the risk of putting it out there in the first place.  

Yellow Submarine – 50th Anniversary Celebration Ideas Taking Shape

This year, being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine LP and animated film, we’ll see some official Apple-backed activities to mark the occasion.

There’s to be a new graphic novel adaptation of the film story from comic-book artist, writer and editor Bill Morrison. This will be released on August 7 and is available for pre-order now from Amazon US and Amazon UK. See more on the background to the book hereAlso, The Beatles official site today also announced that, in the UK and Ireland at least, Yellow Submarine will be making a return to cinemas for one day only. It’s planned to show the film in multiple locations on July 8. Tickets go on sale from April 17. More details about this here – and you can keep up with the event on a new Yellow Submarine Film Facebook page.

Meanwhile, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Pro-Ject turntable company leaked some teaser vision of their latest collaboration with Apple – a Yellow Submarine themed turntable:

The company has already issued two Sgt. Pepper turntables (in Drum and Limited Edition versions); a Beatles 1964-themed player; plus a George Harrison commemorative model. No further details about availability or pricing of the Yellow Submarine model are available yet.