Continuing from post #113 in Music I Love…
Before listening and thinking about all the songs the Beatles recorded from 1962 to 1970, it will be helpful to say a few things first. I’ll break this long “preface” into three parts.
• U.S. ALBUM RELEASES
The Beatles recorded 307 songs on 18 albums. Seventy of these were “cover” songs, 237 were original—mostly Lennon/McCartney—songs. Just for the sake of clarity, a “cover” song is a song previously written and recorded by another artist or artists, and then recorded, in this case, by the Beatles. As I’ve previously mentioned, the order of album releases and the contents of each album were different in the U.K. and the U.S. up until the release of SGT. PEPPER. This was caused by the hesitancy of U.S. record distributors, 1962-64, in acquiring the rights to sell Beatles’ records—they felt the Beatles were probably a passing fad and not worth the financial risk. However, at the same time that they were passing on the Beatles, the Beatles were causing the same kind of fan pandemonium in Britain in 1963 that they ultimately caused in the United States. It took some persuading, capped by three appearances (two live, one taped) on the Ed Sullivan show here in the US, for the record companies to see the financial light in terms of the profit potential in distributing Beatles records in the US. Capital Records, which was the U.S. arm of EMI—the large British record label which “owned” the Beatles—finally said “yes”, and MEET THE BEATLES became their first Beatles release.
Although I know I have some readers of my blog outside the US (primarily in Turkey), as well as readers who are much younger than myself—both of which would probably not be familiar with the U.S. release chronology—I think that the majority of my readers will have purchased their Beatles albums in the order I’ll be presenting them, the U.S. order. In any event, I will be commenting about every song the Beatles recorded, regardless of where and when the song (or album) was released.
In addition to the albums, I will also be talking about a number of Beatles singles—the ones that propelled them to U.S. fame, but did not appear on albums until much later. Leaving a discussion of these singles out would be senseless.
Beatles aficionados know that quite a few of the Beatles’ earliest recordings were done in mono sound. A number of mono and stereo releases of the same song have been available. In some cases, more than one “take” of a particular song is also available. I won’t be entering the mono/stereo debate. Rather, I’ll just be commenting on the songs as most of us heard them on the radio and then on our record players. If details of how a particular recording session of a particular song are interesting, I will include that.
Recently, I discovered that, although Beatles songs—tracks released for public consumption—are not available on YouTube, they ARE available in their entirety on Spotify. If you are familiar with Spotify, you know it is an app that one downloads, installs, and then uses either in a “free” or “premium” (not free) version to listen to hundreds of thousands of tracks, from all genres of music. You do NOT have to have the Spotify app, in either of these versions, on your computer to listen to the albums I will be citing. What should happen is that when you click on a link, a new browser tab will open—what you will be looking at is called the Spotify Web Browser. You will be able to pick and choose whatever you want to hear for as long as you wish. When one track is over, it will automatically advance to the next. If you DO already have the Spotify app on your computer or phone, it WILL NOT open when you clink on my Spotify links. You would think that it would, but the Spotify people have designed it otherwise. So, you truly do NOT need the Spotify app already installed on your device. Just click on the link.
If you’d like to try it now, this will be the first link we will be referring to, later in our MEET THE BEATLES post:
And just as a reminder—or caution—the recommended web browser to using is either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox or Apple Safari or Opera. Internet Explorer has fallen far behind these others in being able to communicate well with many web sites. If you attempt to use Internet Explorer with these Spotify links, you will get an error message and will only be able to hear 30 seconds of any track.
• THE BEATLES STARTED AS A COVER BAND
It is absolutely imperative to know this about the Beatles. John Lennon and Paul McCartney became friends as teenagers and began playing everything they could sometime around 1957—country/western, rhythm and blues, and American rock and roll. Neither McCartney or Lennon—or a bit later, when George Harrison was asked to join the group in 1959—did any of the future Beatles have any musical training—no instruction on any instrument, no ability to read music, no theory or composition training—nothing. Everything they were to do and accomplish was without these abilities, but rather through sheer natural musical talent, endless practice and perseverance. But more about this later…
The personnel in this group—The Quarrymen—changed pretty rapidly. George Harrison joined Lennon and McCartney as its youngest member. At this point, Ringo Starr was not yet a member of the group. As it happened, Liverpool groups, of which there were literally hundreds (about 260!)—and of which the Quarrymen were but one—the best of these Liverpool groups were popular as guest performers in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, which was, like Liverpool, another rough seaside port. The Quarrymen performed in these Hamburg clubs and became extremely popular and well-known there. They would perform for several months at a time, for 4-5 hours every weeknight and 6 hours every night. They logged hundreds and hundreds of hours performing covers of every conceivable style for audiences that ranged in size from a few tables full of patrons to 1,000 people in seats. The Quarrymen accumulated a repertoire of nearly 300 songs—all played (and learned), of course, by memory and with great precision.
Returning to Liverpool after each of these Hamburg excursions, they became more popular with the locals after each trip, soon becoming THE top band in Liverpool. In Liverpool—and in the north, on tours of Scotland—the Quarrymen were playing concerts at least every night, week after week, month after month—hundreds of concerts, from small venues to large.
Ringo joined the group last, in 1962, and he too became part of the Hamburg experience.
The point to observe here is that the Beatles were incredibly EXPERT and SEASONED performers by the time any of them were 22 or 23 years old. They were literally the best cover band in the world, maybe the best cover band that has ever existed. Two years later, when they stepped onto the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York, they were no amateur act—they were experienced performers, calm under any circumstance.