Live At The BBC

The Beatles

Apple / Capitol Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I am very much an impulse buyer when it comes to music. If I find something that even slightly tickles my fancy, I'll snag it (as long as I have the funds, and as long as my wife isn't with me). I can't begin to count how many albums, tapes and discs are in the Pierce Memorial Archives - many of them from my escapades at the used CD stores - that seemed like a good idea at the time.

For example, I honestly cannot explain why I bought a new copy of Live At The BBC by The Beatles. I'm not a big Beatles junkie (although I have the entire Anthology video series), and I don't even come close to owning all their albums. This one just seemed like something I wanted at the time. And after listening to it for only the second time in a long while, it actually contains some very good material, if just a tad heavy on covers.

The Fab Four - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - are captured here over 69 tracks - some of them just spoken word - all taken from sessions they did for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Widely bootlegged over the years (according to accounts I've read), the selection of tunes here is interesting as a snapshot of what pop music was like in Britain in the early 1960's.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What is surprising is that a few of the numbers here are of bootleg quality - one such that comes to mind is "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". Granted, these are tapes that were locked away for the better part of three decades, but I find it hard to imagine that better quality numbers didn't exist, and that the only option was to put a few tracks on this set (which appears to be out-of-print) that were of dubious audio quality.

For the casual Beatles listener, Live At The BBC might be a slightly confusing portrait of the Beatles. After all, over half of these tracks are covers. But there is a lot of gold that is there to be mined in these dusty classics. It's interesting, for example, to hear a pop vocal version of "A Taste Of Honey" (a track you may know better thanks to Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass); this version breathes some new life into a track I've heard for most of my life. The obvious devotion to artists like Chuck Berry is obvious with covers of songs like "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Sweet Little Sixteen".

When it comes time for the lads from Liverpool to tackle their own material, well, that's no slouch, either. Tracks like "I Saw Her Standing There", "Ticket To Ride", "A Hard Day's Night" (I never knew that the solo was on piano - and that it was George Martin who played it!) and "Thank You Girl" are all pleasant additions to this collection.

The only real negative is that near the end of the collection, the covers tend to drag down the whole project a bit. I would have liked to have heard more originals in these sessions, or at least had the covers broken up a bit more. Still, I guess this is a small point to object to on a solid collection.

Live At The BBC is a set that the diehard Beatlemaniacs - or those who haven't been hoarding bootlegs for years - were drooling about for some time, and did seem to set off the chain reaction of a rebirth of interest in The Beatles. If you can still find this collection out there - and I didn't see a listing on Music Boulevard or CD Now - then it's worth investing in. (Editor's note: Since this writing, Music Boulevard was bought out by CDNow... and the set was re-released by Capitol.)

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Apple / Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.