The “Listen Again” series went over well enough that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we revisit The Beatles’ The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.
Whether you live in L.A, New York, Philly or Liverpool, most music fans know that The Beatles were a Brit band founded in 1960. They were one of (if not the) most critically and commercially successful groups in history. The line-up from 1962 on included: John Lennon (guitar and vocals), Paul McCartney (bass, guitar and vocals), George Harrison (guitar and vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums and vocals).
The Beatles never released a live album prior to this one. Despite an obvious earlier demand for one, it didn’t happen. There were tapes from Hollywood Bowl concerts during August 1964 and August 1965 just gathering dust in the Capitol vault.
After completing his work on the Let It Be album in 1971, Phil Spector was given the tapes in hopes he could do something with them. Unfortunately, Spector either gave up or the powers that be weren’t happy with the results and the tapes were shelved once again. Finally, in 1976, execs at Capitol caught wind of a competitor’s plan to release the Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 LP.
The tapes were quickly turned over to Beatles’ producer George Martin in hopes of he could salvage an “official” live album from them. Contrary to some information on the original record sleeve, he would be unable to use most of the material from one concert but would compile thirteen memorable moments from the Beatles’ “Bowl” performances.
The album opens on a rousing albeit brief cover of the Top Notes’ tune “Twist and Shout” previously made popular by The Isley Brothers. (It would later be covered by acts such as The Mamas & The Papas, Cliff Richard and The Who.) The second selection is “She’s a Woman” which was McCartney’s take on Little Richard and never made it past being a B-side.
The next number is a cover of Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” which McCartney considered one of their best songs due in part to the rhythmic instrumentation and Lennon’s vocals. It’s all too soon forgotten, however, as the boys break into their hit tune “Ticket to Ride”. This one includes tricky rhythm changes and obscure lyrical references to Hamburg prostitutes.
It’s followed by “Can’t Buy Me Love” which, contrary to popular belief is not about a prostitute but about material possessions. Also included on Side one are “Things We Said Today” and their famous rendition of Chuck Berry’s classic cut “Roll Over Beethoven”. The former was written on acoustic guitar for the motion picture A Hard Day’s Night and is included on the soundtrack album. The latter is a throwback to the band’s early days as well as a tribute to one of their inspirations.
The flip side opens on another cover as they break into their version of Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell’s “Boys”. The band could have cared less that this was originally a song for girls (made famous by The Shirelles). Starr took the lead and the spotlight as did Pete Best back when he was the drummer.
The title track from their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night”, quickly overshadows Starr’s song although this piece was actually inspired by a comment Starr once made to a DJ in 1964. Another movie moment, “Help!” follows. This is literally a cry for help from Lennon and is generally considered as part of a turning point in his songwriting.
“All My Loving”, written while McCartney was shaving, comes next on the platter along with one of their bigger, earlier hits “She Loves You”. The closing cut is the band’s version of the now classic rock and roll 12-bar blues song “Long Tall Sally” which was first made popular by Little Richard.
Released in May 1977 by Capitol Records, the work had a running time of over 33 minutes. Despite the fact that the recordings here were 12 to 13 years old, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl climbed to number one in the UK and number two in the US. It would even garner a five-star rating from Rolling Stone and similar kudos from other sources and finally fill the need for a live release.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.