Saturday, 1 November 2008
Top 20 unreleased Beatles
1. Live at the Cavern, mid-1962: Auctioned to Paul McCartney on August 29,1985, this tape contains 18 songs, mostly covers, including a few of which no Beatles version circulates. Those covers, and the versions on which they were modeled, are: "Hey! Baby" (Bruce Channel), "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" (James Ray), "Sharing You" (Bobby Vee), and "What's Your Name" (possibly Don & Juan's doo-wop hit of the same title). As McCartney owns it and nothing was used on Anthology 1, however, we can probably assume the sound quality's not too good.
2. "Sheila," October 26, 1962, BBC: Occasionally at their BBC sessions, the Beatles taped numbers that weren't used in the actual broadcast. This cover of Tommy Roe's chart-topping Buddy Holly soundalike "Sheila" is one of them, and though a poor-fidelity live version that the group taped a couple of months later in Hamburg was issued as part of the Star-Club tapes, this would presumably be both better sounding and a better performance. It's likely, however, that the tape was erased or has vanished forever.
3. "Three Cool Cats," January 16, 1963, BBC: Another instance of a Beatles song taped at a BBC session, but not broadcast. There is a version of "Three Cool Cats" from their January 1, 1962 Decca audition that's easily available. But it's a shame this BBC version doesn't survive, as presumably it would be a considerably improved rendition, the group having improved so much in general in the ensuing year.
4. "Hold Me Tight," studio outtake, February 11, 1963: It's known the Beatles attempted an early version of "Hold Me Tight," later redone for With the Beatles, at their Please Please Me sessions. It's likely the tapes (along with about half the session tapes for Please Please Me) no longer exist, but stranger things have miraculously turned up.
5. "Do You Want to Know a Secret," demo tape, early 1963: Billy J. Kramer remembers hearing a demo tape of this song before he covered it for his debut single on March 21, 1963. As he revealed in the liner notes to the CD The Best of Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas: The Definitive Collection, "I had this tape given to me, and it was John Lennon singing it with an acoustic guitar. On the tape he said, 'I'm sorry for the sound quality, but it's the quietest room I could find in the whole building.' Then he flushed the toilet."
6. "Three Cool Cats," July 2, 1963, BBC: Yet another version of this Coasters cover, taped at a BBC session in July 1963, but—like the one they taped for the BBC in January—not broadcast.
7. "World Without Love," demo tape, circa early 1964: Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon has said he has a tape of Paul McCartney's demo of "World Without Love" without the bridge, before it was covered by Peter & Gordon for a #1 hit.
8. Beatles-Carl Perkins session, June 1, 1964: The late rockabilly great Carl Perkins claimed on several occasions that he and the Beatles recorded in the studio together on June 1, 1964. The songs they did varied according to the account, but they might have included "Blue Suede Shoes," "Honey Don't," "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," "Your True Love," "Sawdust Dance Floor," and others. No tape has surfaced, however, and it seems possible that if such a session took place, it might not have even been taped. For while Perkins remembered staying in the studio until almost three in the morning, no Beatles recording session officially ran past midnight until October 13, 1965.
9. "You're My World," studio outtake, June 3, 1964: A strange song for the group to be covering, "You're My World" was not a Beatles original, but a song that had just gotten to #1 in the UK for Cilla Black. As it turns out, however, it's reported that the version lasts just 33 seconds.
10. "It's For You," demo, mid-1964: Cilla Black has remembered getting a demo of this Lennon-McCartney song that she covered on a 1964 single (and of which the Beatles never released their own version), featuring just Paul and guitar.
11. "No Reply," demo, mid-1964: Before the Beatles recorded this for Beatles for Sale, there had been thoughts of "giving" it away to another Brian Epstein-managed act, Tommy Quickly, though Quickly never did release his own version. Colin Manley, who played guitar on Tommy Quickly's unreleased cover of "No Reply," told Kristofer Engelhardt in Beatles Undercover that "I don't think the Anthology 1 version is the demo we heard; it's too complete. I wish it would have been the one we heard. I'd back my life that the demo we used had no middle eight; it didn't have any clue as to the rhythm we should use. It contained the sound of a toilet flushing at the end which we thought was hilarious because it was typical of John's humor. I think we were told it was recorded in a hotel room. We immediately noticed when the Beatles put it on their album Beatles for Sale that it had a middle eight."
12. "In My Life," private tape, 1965: In his 1980 Playboy interview with David Sheff, John Lennon said he probably had an original (presumably home) tape of "In My Life." John's memory wasn't always faultless, but in the same answer, he also remembered having tapes of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "We Can Work It Out," both of which did turn up. Like "Strawberry Fields Forever," "In My Life" is known to have mutated considerably in the course of its composition—in an early draft, it referred to numerous Liverpool landmarks by name—which could make pre-studio tapes of the song fascinating.
13. "What Goes On," private tape, late 1965: In the April 1966 issue of The Beatles Monthly Book, Neil Aspinall reported that "when Paul wanted to show Ringo how 'What Goes On' sounded he made up a multi-track tape. Onto this went Paul singing, Paul playing lead guitar, Paul playing bass and Paul playing drums. Then Ringo listened to the finished tape and added his own ideas before the recording session."
14. "Love You To," take 1 (studio outtake), April 11, 1966: The most intriguing of the Revolver outtakes known to have been taped is an acoustic version of George Harrison's "Love You To" with Paul McCartney on backing vocals that must have been considerably different in this early form than the Indian-flavored final album track.
15. Paul McCartney home tapes, circa 1966: In the biography Many Years from Now, Paul remembered using a studio in Montagu Square in London to "demo things. I'd just written 'Eleanor Rigby' and so I went down there in the basement on my days off on my own. Just took a guitar down and used it as a demo studio." A very brief snippet of Paul on acoustic guitar singing "Eleanor Rigby" has shown up that might be from this period, but no other such tapes have circulated.
16. "Carnival of Light," studio outtake, January 5, 1967: One of the most legendary never-heard Beatles "songs," "Carnival of Light" was actually an experimental sound collage, lasting almost 14 minutes, made for (and played at) a countercultural media event of the same name at the Roundhouse Theatre in London on January 28 and February 4 in 1967. There's an entire 12-page chapter on the recording in Ian Peel's book The Unknown Paul McCartney: McCartney and the Avant-Garde, for further details. Since it was compared by McCartney biographer Barry Miles to the Mother of Invention's searingly jarring, side-long 1966 Freak Out! avant-garde cut "The Return of the Monster Magnet" in Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, however, it can be assumed that it's neither too tuneful nor too characteristic of the Beatles, even in their psychedelic period.
17. "Good Night," mid-1968: Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick's memoir, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (co-written with Howard Massey), mentions that John made a demo of "Good Night" for Ringo that was played back a couple of times in the studio. "It's a shame that this particular tape has been lost to the world, and that nobody will ever hear the gorgeous way John sang his tender little song," wrote Emerick. "In comparison, I really don't think Ringo did the song justice."
18. "Helter Skelter, take 3 (studio outtake), July 18, 1968: Perhaps the Holy Grail of unheard Beatles outtakes is this legendary 27-minute version of "Helter Skelter," at a session also producing ten- and twelve-minute versions. In The Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn noted that "each take developed into a tight and concisely played jam with long instrumental passages." The four-and-a-half-minute edit of take 2 on Anthology 3 lowered expectations, however, as even this truncated version both veered on tedium and was far inferior to the final arrangement, with its dragging tempo and rote blues-rock guitar licks. Explaining why a longer version was not chosen for the Anthology CD compilations in a 1995 Dutch interview (as seen in the bonus disc of the bootlegged director's cut of the Anthology documentary), George Martin was blunt: "I think it gets boring." His elaboration perhaps gave away more than he would have liked about the core philosophy behind the Anthology collections: "In making these records, my consideration has been to put in works that are interesting to the majority of people. Not to Beatle fanatics. And I have to look at the public as a broad, interesting thing. And I don't want to put anything that people are going to say"—here he yawned for emphasis—"'I wonder when this is gonna finish.' And that's what that would do. Now, there are the hardcore Beatle fanatics who would love to have this. But they already have it on bootleg." Most Beatles fanatics love George Martin for what he did with the group, but most could have told him that he was wrong—we don't have it on bootleg, as none of the long versions have ever made it onto that format. (In fact, the over-halved edit of take 2 on Anthology 3 is the only version of "Helter Skelter" from this session to have made it into circulation.)
19. "Etcetera," studio outtake, August 20, 1968: The second most sought-after outtake from The White Album is Paul McCartney's "Etcetera," recorded as a one-take demo by the composer. Recalled by EMI technical engineer Alan Brown as a beautiful ballad, the tape's apparently no longer in EMI's vaults. That could be because Paul, contrary to Brown's estimation, didn't rate the song highly when he spoke about it in Barry Miles's McCartney biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, where he remembered it has having been written with a Marianne Faithfull cover in mind.
20. "The Long and Winding Road," studio outtake, circa late 1968: It's also known that Paul, playing piano, did a demo of "The Long and Winding Road" at some time during the White Album sessions, in advance of it being rehearsed and recorded at the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in January 1969.
Honorable mention: George quits the band, January 10, 1969: The tape was rolling at the precise moment when George Harrison quit the Beatles (for just a few days, as it turned out) during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions—but the discussion/reaction immediately following that moment is missing from the circulating unreleased tapes.