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10

STUDIO ALBUMS

11

TRACKS

The Beatles’ First!

RELEASED: April 1964 (Germany) • August 1967 (UK) • May 1970 as In the Beginning Circa 1960 (US) / LABEL: Polydor

A compilation of The Beatles’ earliest commercial recordings, made in June

1961 at a Hamburg hall backing guitarist and singer Tony Sheridan.

Words: PATRICK HUMPHRIES

Side 1

Ain’t She Sweet

(Ager/Yellen)

Cry For A Shadow

(Harrison/Lennon)

Let’s Dance

(Lee)

My Bonnie

(Traditional)

Take Out Some

Insurance On Me,

Baby

(Hall/Singleton)

What’d I Say

(Ray Charles)

AROUND THE VILLAGE halls and ballrooms

of the Merseyside circuit, there was

little to suggest The Beatles had any more to

offer than their beat contemporaries –

indeed, for a time, the smart money was on the Big

Three or Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. But soon after

their return from Hamburg in July 1961, The Beatles

were moving up the ladder: they had cut a record. That

first single wasn’t a Lennon and McCartney original – it

wasn’t even a rock’n’roll song – and it didn’t have the

group’s name on the label. But it was a record…

Coinciding with The Beatles’ second visit to Hamburg,

from March to July 1961, German orchestra leader

Bert Kaempfert was scouting for ‘authentic’ rock’n’roll

acts to sign to the Polydor label. The search led him to

Tony Sheridan, a Norwich-born guitarist and singer who

had been playing in Hamburg since 1960. Impressed by

the dynamism of Sheridan’s performance, Kaempfert

invited him to a recording session – and, on Sheridan’s

recommendation, enlisted the five-man Beatles (John

Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe,

Pete Best) as backing group for the recording.

And so it was, that on June 22, 1961, after another

exhausting all-night session of sex, drink and rock’n’roll,

The Beatles made their first visit to a professional

recording studio. The “studio” turned out to be in a

school hall, the Harburg Friedrich Ebert Halle, but the

Liverpool teenagers were still impressed. Kaempfert

Beat brothers:

(left) Lennon,

Harrison and

Sutcliffe with

Tony Sheridan,

Top Ten Club,

April ’61.

“On the

evidence of

the seven songs

there was

nothing to

suggest a

future for

The Beatles.”

Getty

was, after all, a bona fide star. Earlier that year he had

scored an American Number 1 with Wonderland By

Night, and he would later secure a place in musical history

as the man who wrote Wooden Heart for Elvis and

gave Frank Sinatra Strangers In The Night.

The facilities were primitive, but Polydor’s mobile

studio did at least allow the luxury of recording on twotrack

stereo. With Sheridan on vocals, John and George

on guitars, Pete on drums, Paul on bass, and the musically

inexpert Stuart Sutcliffe as an observer, the threeday

session (with the last reportedly taking place at nearby

Studio Rahlstedt) yielded five songs with Sheridan:the

rocked-up trad ballad My Bonnie, Tony Sheridan’s own

Why, another amped-up oldie, When The Saints Go

Marching In, Hank Snow’s maudlin Nobody’s Child

(which George would return to decades later with the

Traveling Wilburys) and Jimmy Reed’s Take Out Some

Insurance On Me Baby.

Excited by their first contact with a legitimate producer,

Lennon and McCartney suggested some of their

own songs to Kaempfert. He was pretty underwhelmed,

but did allow them to record a version of the hoary old

Ain’t She Sweet (with John on lead vocal), and the

Lennon-Harrison instrumental Cry For A Shadow.

On the evidence of the seven songs from that session,

there really was nothing to suggest a future for The

Beatles – and by the time Polydor released My Bonnie as

a single in Germany in August 1961 (credited to Tony

Sheridan & The Beat Brothers, because ‘The Beatles’

sounded too much like the German slang for ‘penis’),

the group had already returned to Liverpool.

In their absence, the single did make its mark on the

German charts; it was also, crucially, the record that first

alerted Brian Epstein to The Beatles, having been issued

in Britain and other territories in early 1962 with the

band’s proper name replacing ‘The Beat Brothers’.

In February 1962, discovering his protegés were

under contract with Kaempfert, Epstein asked for them

to be released. Kaempfert replied: “I do not want to

spoil the chance of the group getting recording contracts

elsewhere…”; but he did request one last crack. This

last Kaempfert session happened on May 24, 1962,

while the now four-man Beatles, without Sutcliffe, were

playing a residency at Hamburg’s Star-Club. Once again,

they tackled standards – Sweet Georgia Brown and

Swanee River – which have joined the My Bonnie

session on numerous different compilations down the

years. (Sweet Georgia Brown actually first made it to

vinyl in October 1962, on Sheridan’s German-only EP,

Ya Ya, with a new vocal overdubbed by the singer.)

With no interest, Kaempfert let the group go. Two

weeks later they would be auditioning at Abbey Road.

Available: CD (currently as The Early Years via Hallmark)

/ DL (in several guises)

Side 2

Sweet Georgia

Brown

(Bernie/Case/Pickard)

The Saints…

(Traditional)

Ruby Baby

(Leiber/Stoller)

Why

(Compton/Sheridan)

Nobody’s Child

(Coben/Foree)

Ya Ya

(Dorsey/Robinson)


120

FILMS

1+

RELEASED: November 6, 2015

Words: PAT GILBERT

When the 1 album was remixed and remastered by Giles Martin in 2015, it was accompanied

by a new collection of no fewer than 50 Beatles promo films, several entirely unfamiliar to

fans and others unseen since they were first aired in the ’60s…

IN THE LATE ’90s, when Beatle-ology was in its

pre-internet infancy, the group’s trusted ex-roadie

and head of Apple Corps, the late Neil Aspinall,

made a remarkable discovery. During a shout-out

for footage filmed at Abbey Road Studios, a box turned

up containing the original rushes for The Beatles’ Lady

Madonna promo video.

It had always been obvious that the material in that

film, showing the band at work in Studio 3 in February

1968, didn’t actually capture them recording Lady

Madonna. But Aspinall twigged that if the rushes were

re-edited, something very different would emerge – a

complete film of the funky Yellow Submarine track Hey

Bulldog being laid down, from a mutton-chopped John

Lennon pounding away at the grand piano, to George

Harrison picking out the riff on his Gibson SG and

a cackling Paul McCartney ad-libbing dog woofs at the

song’s finale. All shot in vivid colour.

The promo for Hey Bulldog – pieced together in

1999 but never made commercially available – is one of

the crown jewels in this package of digitally restored,

hi-res promo films that constitute The Beatles 1+, a

somewhat belated audio-visual companion to the 1 collection

of the bands chart-topping singles, which first

appeared to much brouhaha in 2000

The fact that 1 was the biggest-selling album globally

in the first decade of this century, shifting an extraordinary

30 million-plus copies, might beg the question why

Apple didn’t assemble this package sooner; but being

The Beatles, of course, their promo films needed to

meet the highest standards demanded by a Blu-rayminded

world, which has meant years sourcing better

prints than many of those existing in Apple’s own and

others’ vaults. A BBC employee in the ’70s who spirited

away a pile of Beatles material from the broadcaster’s

library that was due to be destroyed apparently deserves

a special pat on the back.

The whole idea of making promo films to popularise

your singles in territories you didn’t have time to visit

was a novel idea when The Beatles arrived in 1962. Yet

although they were early adopters of the form, it wasn’t

until almost halfway through their record-making

“A BBC

employee in

the ’70s who

spirited away

a pile of Beatles

material that

was due to be

destroyed

deserves a

special pat

on the back.”

Snow joke:

miming to Help!,

Twickenham

film studios,

November 23,

1965.

Robert Whitaker


122 FILMS

FILMS

123

life that their first examples were made. Four of the films

on the first disc here (featuring the Number 1 hits) and

three more on the second disc (all the other promos,

and by far the more interesting for fans) were taped at a

marathon session at Twickenham film studios on

November 23, 1965.

That day the group mimed to I Feel Fine, We Can

Work It Out, Help!, Day Tripper and Ticket To Ride,

and though readers may well be familiar with the amusing

set-up for I Feel Fine where Ringo rides an exercise

bike and George sings into a punch-ball, they’d have

never seen the extraordinary footage on Disc 2 where

The Beatles greedily eat their fish-and-chips lunch to the

same playback. Ringo blithely making a chip butty and

Paul’s shiny, grease-covered fingers? Fab.

The Beatles were, of course, well-schooled in the art

of miming to their songs in a surreal, filmic setting, not

least because, by the time of the Twickenham promo

material, shot by future The Magic Christian director

Joe McGrath, they were already veterans of A Hard

Day’s Night and Help!, in which the boundaries between

the real and imaginary were effortlessly blurred by

director Richard Lester. In fact, one wonders whether

the group would so easily have acquiesced to the

anarchic alternative performance of Day Tripper, where

they charismatically goof around the set (in threemonth-old

Shea Stadium jackets), if it hadn’t been for

their presumed confidence in the arty and absurd.

The Twickenham films capture The Beatles in their

Help!/Rubber Soul mid-period high, when the group

were experimenting with pot and LSD (OK, maybe not

yet McCartney with latter), and as such were wearing the

strange smiles of young men who’d experienced otherworldly

things most normal mortals hadn’t; and, of

course, who had no doubt enjoyed more earthly

pleasures than many individuals ever will.

Y

ET THE BEATLES on those ’65 films were in

black-and-white, and despite their growing

hair, roll-neck tops and a more manly bearing,

were still extensions of the eccentric

moptopped creatures that populate the TV performances

used on 1+ to represent early hits like Love Me Do

and She Loves You.

But all that would change in May 1966 with the

appointment of Anglo-American TV director Michael

Lindsay-Hogg, who was tasked by Brian Epstein with

shooting videos for Paperback Writer and its B-side, the

psychedelic Rain, which he wanted filmed “straight”.

The latter track survives in a rare monochrome version

shot as a simple mimed ‘live’ performance on May 19 at

Abbey Road’s Studio 1, and can be seen in this package

for the first time in almost 50 years. The colour take of

Paperback Writer, with The Beatles looking ineffably

cool in Carnabetian Paisley mod threads, tinted shades

and with McCartney sporting a rakish chipped front

tooth after a moped accident, is also included from this

session. It is here preceded by a short skit, itself filmed

in colour and with the band covering their faces in tinted

plastic sheets, in which Ringo apologises to Ed Sullivan

for The Beatles being “very busy” and thus unable to

appear on his programme – the first sorry-for-not-being-able-to-be-there

video, perhaps.

The following day, Lindsay-Hogg filmed the group

in multiple set-ups miming to Paperback Writer and

Rain in West London’s botanically green and bountiful

Chiswick House. Shot on film in full colour, these two

promos are instantly recognisable as prototypes of the

modern pop video, and digitally restored their peerless

music-plus-stunning-visuals punch is undeniably emotive.

It’s as if for the first time you can actually feel

The Beatles as real physical presences, such is the rich

colour and texture of their expensively conditioned

brown/black hair, Ringo’s vivid aquamarine eyes, the

worn, burnished brown leather of Paul’s bass guitar

strap, or George’s vibrant ketchup-red Gibson SG,

emerald-green sports jacket and grey button-down shirt.

This trip into a sensual mind-space reaches an

apotheosis – as you might expect – on the films for

Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, neither of them

“straight” performance videos but instead surreal filmic

glories in which Beatles ascend skeletal oak trees in

Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent in a single bound, walk

“The promos

for Paperback

Writer and

Rain, shot

at Chiswick

House, are

instantly

recognisable

as prototypes

of the modern

pop video.”

Robert Whitaker

East London’s streets in moustachioed hippy excess, and

bombastically ride mostly white horses (on the commentary

‘extra’ by Paul and Ringo, they draw attention

to Harrison’s particularly naughty and skittish mare –

a ‘dark horse’, naturally), again in Knole Park.

After this, the videos only get better: the September

4, 1968 performance of Hey Jude for the Frost On

Sunday show, taped in colour – but like most of these

promos broadcast at the time in black-and-white – was

The Beatles’ first live public appearance in over two

years, and is kicked-off by a short jam of the theme for

David Frost’s ’66 TV show that excites the titular host

to introduce the group to the studio audience as “the

most wonderful tea-room orchestra in the world!”.

On the same day, Lindsay-Hogg filmed a coruscating

version of Lennon’s over-driven insurrectionary rocker

Revolution, with John and the other Beatles singing live

(including ironically jolly show-wop backing vocals) to a

pre-recorded mono backing track.

Action: shooting

alternative

promo videos

for Paperback

Writer and Rain

at Abbey Road,

May 19, 1966.

Polishing up such the sound to Blu-ray specifications

has been the job of Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer

George and these days The Beatles’ sonic custodian.

For each track on 1+, which including the second

rarities disc totals 50 in all, Giles Martin created a new

stereo and 5.1 surround mix, which has meant – and

let’s be clear about this – changing the music his father

put his name to five decades ago.

Martin, as self-effacing and charming an individual as

you’ll ever meet, tells MOJO that remixing is a necessity,

since the original ’60s stereo mixes – cut mostly as an

afterthought and intended for bass-light vinyl – simply

don’t stand up to the 21st-century cinematic standards

of Blu-ray. Indeed, in his defence, he cites his pioneering

work on the soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s George

Harrison film documentary, Living In The Material

World, released in 2011. The initially outraged Scorsese

eventually wholeheartedly embraced Giles’s remixes –

once he’d heard how utterly weedy and underwhelming

Harrison’s original ’60s and ’70s tracks sounded in a

surround-sound Hollywood screening room.

On this project, Martin issued several sensible edicts,

chief among them being that the mimed videos (including

the promos for Paperback Writer) originally running

too fast were slowed down to fit the original studio

recordings, and not the other way round, which in some

cases meant adding extra frames from available rushes to

imperceptibly lengthen the visuals.

THUS 1+’S FILMS are not only now corrected

to the right tempo but also have added

heft: primarily because Martin’s sonic guide

for the new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes

was the band’s preferred original mono mixes. “The

sound’s a lot narrower than the original stereo; it’s about

creating that intensity, The Beatles sound,” he says. “It’s

stereo with a mono feel.”

The Beatles story, as reflected by this package, all

ended messily, of course: when the band play Get Back

and Don’t Let Me Down live on Apple’s rooftop, there’s

a strong sense of their unity under attack, and when the

video to Something shows them all individually with

their female partners, four discrete entities, you know

it’s all over. But then again, all you have to do to regain

your spirits is to scroll to one of Disc 2’s alternate,

unseen cuts of Hello Goodbye, filmed for Magical

Mystery Tour, where an evidently myopic John and grinning

Paul wildly dance the twist, before indulging in a

corny Morecambe & Wise-style dance routine.

The Beatles’ story is complete: it has a beginning,

middle and end; but, pointedly, we also know the tragic

truth of what happened afterwards. And it’s this knowledge

that helps make these painstakingly resuscitated

and remixed promo films, charting the journey of four

Liverpool musicians from boys to men, none of them yet

30 when the band split up, such an emotional and

enriching experience.

And though some of the material on these discs is

here to anneal the basic 1+ concept – post-split animation

videos, the arguably extra-canonical promos for

Free As A Bird and Real Love – the memory of John,

Paul, George and Ringo’s collective singular genius

deserves nothing less.

Available: DVD / Blu-ray

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