New Beatles BBC Book Spotlights The Group's Performing Era
Released in conjunction with the latest Beatles collection of BBC tracks is the companion book, called The Beatles: The BBC Archives, written by one of the album's executive producers, music historian Kevin Howlett. Howlett, who over the years has been the "go to" man for anything connected to the Beatles' performances at the BBC between 1962 and 1965, has uncovered dozens of transcriptions from the "Fab Four's" radio and TV interviews, along with publishing unseen internal memos and rare photographs detailing their work at the BBC.
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2, which peaked at Number Seven, includes a whopping 63 tracks, none of which overlap with 1994's Live At The BBC, and features 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio banter and conversation between the band's members and their BBC radio hosts.
Howlett explains that the BBC tapes show the Beatles during their golden years as a live ensemble -- a period which is often overshadowed by the dizzying heights of their later studio work: "You get the feeling of what it was like in 1963 and 1964, in the early years of the Beatles' career. I think sometimes we focus on the second half of the Beatles' material, more than the first half, so that we think of them as a studio band doing amazing adventurous things in the studio -- Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, that kind of thing -- Abbey Road. And (here) you just hear them as a live group. Most of these recordings are either live straight on to the air, or straight down to mono tape. So, you're hearing the energy and spirit of the Beatles performing live."
Kevin Howlett told us that if nothing else, the BBC appearances proved the Beatles to be heads above the other players in the British music scene -- a fact not lost on Paul McCartney: "In the end, Paul had to acknowledge, 'Y'know, by the way, we were brilliant' (laughs). Yeah, y'know, undoubtedly. 'Cause, y'know, who else was given their own radio series? Who else could do 39 music sessions in just one year in 1963? Who else had that opportunity at the BBC and deliver? Who else could turn up on Saturday morning and play live on Saturday Club, y'know, to at least 10 million people straight live on to the air? So they did really stand apart from their contemporaries, I think. I think it was very clear to everybody, y'know, there was the Beatles -- and then there was everybody else."