Half a century after they stood at the centre of a cultural revolution, Nick Bollinger asks if there is anything left to be learned from The Beatles?
More than a half a century after they sat at the centre of a cultural revolution, is there anything left to be learned from The Beatles? Or is the continual repackaging of their story and their music just the milking of a cash cow?
Last month saw the worldwide release of Eight Days A Week, a new Beatle-authorised documentary about their touring years. And with it came this album.
Recorded at concerts in 1964 and 1965 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the tapes were initially shelved due to their technical limitations. Among other things, the crowd’s incessant screaming almost engulfed the band.
Eventually in the late 70s – several years after the Beatles had broken up, and more than a decade after they had played their last show – Live At The Hollywood Bowl first appeared. The screaming was still awfully loud, but it added to the energy of an already super-charged performance, and as the first official offering from the Beatles archives it was something a fan just had to have.
Now those recordings have been revisited, with the benefit of new technology, and reissued in a remixed form.
How different are they? Well, the screaming that the late George Martin once compared to the roar of a jet aircraft remains clearly audible, though Martin’s son Giles - who oversaw these latest mixes - seems to have found a way of riding the volume of the audience while fattening the sound of the band. And listening to this new album, what we hear of the Beatles is undoubtedly clearer and more powerful than what the audiences would have heard at the shows – or, indeed, what the Beatles were hearing on stage.
It’s remarkable that, at a point where the crowds were coming not to listen so much as partake in some ritual catharsis, the Beatles bothered to play as well as they did here. Though as the film shows, over and over again, that things were perpetually on the brink of dangerous chaos, the Beatles brought a manic delight of their own to performances like these.
This album, like the film, may be another successful exercise in turning the Beatles’ myth into money. But the music isn’t just a myth. Listening to this, I still hear one hell of a good rock’n’roll band. And that John Lennon could really sing.
Songs featured: She’s A Woman, Ticket To Ride, Things We Said Today, Twist and Shout, Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
Live At The Hollywood Bowl is available on Apple/Universal Records.