Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl revisited

The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl.
Still not out on iTunes or CD, and, perhaps more importantly: not out on Universal Music.
Rumour has it that the audio in the films below of The Beatles playing live at the Hollywood Bowl has been cleaned up by a renowned producer and Beatles fan, surpassing the efforts made in 1977 by George Martin. Of course, technology has improved immensely since then, Martin cleaned it up as good as he could for the 1977 LP and cassette release of the combined Hollywood Bowl 1964 and 1965 concerts.




Initially, Capitol Records considered recording The Beatles' February 1964 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, but it could not obtain the necessary approval from the AFM to record the performance. Six months later, Bob Eubanks booked The Beatles' 23 August 1964 performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles where Capitol recorded their performance with the intent of releasing a live album in America.

The recordings were no secret, as this cutting from the New Musical Express from two days before the concert shows.

It's funny that the album was only considered for the American market, due to the fact that "it will consist primarily of their standard material", as the NME put it. Clearly, the mere fact that it was a real live concert performance wasn't enough to impress the British particularly. Although the news item mentions that George Martin had flown over to supervise the recordings, the de facto producer was Capitol's Voyle Gilmore, and Martin was a foreigner who didn't have any influence over how the recordings were done, miked or mixed.

The sound quality of the tapes proved to be inadequate for commercial release, and when The Beatles returned to the Hollywood Bowl a year later during their 1965 American tour, Capitol recorded two performances by the group at the same venue. The sound quality of the 1965 recordings was equally disappointing. Capitol did, however, utilise a 48-second excerpt of "Twist and Shout" from the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert on the 1964 documentary album, "The Beatles' Story".
In 1971, the Hollywood Bowl tapes were given to Phil Spector to see if he could fashion an album out of the material. Either Spector did not complete the job or his production was unsatisfactory, and the tapes continued to sit unreleased for another six years.

Probably as a reaction to the imminent independent release of the infamous 1962 "Star Club tapes" from Hamburg in 1977, Capitol felt that they had to release something on their own. When George Martin was asked by Capitol Records' president, Bhaskar Menon to listen to the tapes again with an album in mind, he was impressed with the performances, but disappointed with the sound quality, and the fact that vocals and guitars were interlocked on a single track. In working on the three-track Hollywood Bowl concert tapes, Martin discovered quite a challenge. The first difficulty was finding a working three-track machine with which to play back the master tapes. Once he found one, he discovered that the machine overheated when it was running, melting the magnetic tape. Martin and recording engineer Geoff Emerick came up with the solution of blowing cold air from a vacuum cleaner to keep the tape deck cool whilst the recordings were transferred to 16-track tapes (some sources say 24-track tapes, Martin's sleeve notes just uses the phrase multitrack tapes) for filtering, equalisation, editing, and mixing. The album cover mistakenly showed the 29 August recordings as the second date used, but Martin had found the 29 August 1965 recording lacking, as a technical fault left Paul McCartney's vocals and introductions inaudible during the first four songs, and just two songs, "Ticket to Ride" and "Help" from that concert was in fact used. A third song, "Dizzy Miss  Lizzy" is a composite using parts from both nights in 1965. Otherwise, the album compiled by Martin consisted entirely of songs recorded on 23 August 1964 and 30 August 1965.

Hollywood Bowl 1964
Voyle Gilmore, who was the American producer during the original recordings of both the 1964 and 1965 concerts downplayed Martin's problems with cleaning up the tapes in 1977:

"George Martin made such a speech. It sounds like he changed it but I doubt it. There's not much he could do. It was recorded on three-track machines with half-inch tapes. The Hollywood Bowl has a pretty good stereo sound system so we plugged our mikes right in there. I didn't do an awful lot. There wasn't much we could do. They just played their usual show and we recorded it. It wasn't that bad. I kept thinking, 'Maybe we'll get permission to release the tapes.' So I took them back to the studio and worked on it a while. I worked on the applause, edited it down, made it play and EQd it quite a bit. The Beatles heard it and they all wanted tape copies. I had five or six copies made and sent over. That's where the bootlegs must have come from. We had a system at Capitol and we knew where all our copies were. The Beatles said they liked the tapes, that it sounded pretty good, that they were surprised but they still didn't want to release it. I thought the first concert was a little better than the second. I don't know if I would have put them together like they did because doing it that way they have sacrificed an album. They really could have made two albums."

Martin counteracted that "We recorded it on three-track tape, which was standard US format then. You would record the band in stereo on two tracks and keep the voice separated on the third, so that you could bring it up or down in the mix. But at the Hollywood Bowl they didn't use three-track in quite the right way. I didn't have too much say in things because I was a foreigner, but they did some very bizarre mixing. In 1977, when I was asked to make an album from the tapes, I found guitars and voices mixed on the same track. And the recording seemed to concentrate more on the wild screaming of 18,700 kids than on the Beatles on stage."
Martin's comment is from Mark Lewisohn's book, "The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions".

Hollywood Bowl 1965

Hollywood Bowl 1965
Because "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl" included songs from two tours recorded a year apart, a number of songs performed were not included on the album. Songs from the 1964 show not included on the album are:
"Twist and Shout", "You Can't Do That", "Can't Buy Me Love", "If I Fell", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and "A Hard Day's Night".
Songs from the 1965 show not included on the album are:
"I Feel Fine", "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", "Baby's in Black", "I Wanna Be Your Man", and "I'm Down".

They still had to get approval from the four Beatles in order to release the album. Paul seems to have approved it without hearing it, John was given a tape from George Martin and was delighted, Ringo and George were more lukewarm to it, George likening it to a bootleg, albeit an official one.

The album was released in May 1977, in the middle of the punk rock and disco era, but still sold over a million copies worldwide, topping the NME chart in the UK, and stopping at the no. 2 spot on the Billboard chart in the USA.

1984 re-release.
In the UK, the album was re-released in September 1984 on the budget "Music For Pleasure" label owned by EMI, but still only on vinyl and cassette and not on the new CD format. In comparison, Paul McCartney's album that same year, "Give My Regards to Broad Street" was released on LP, cassette and CD, with the cassette and CD utilizing the extra space available to include longer versions of the tracks, and the CD even included a bonus track not available in the two other formats. In my mind, this proves that Paul was still a groundbreaker, whereas the collective Beatles had become quite conservative.

"Baby's in Black" from the 1965 Hollywood Bowl concert was finally issued as the B-Side of the 1996 "Real Love" single, splicing together John's spoken introduction from the 29th of August followed by the performance of the song from the 30th.

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" from the 1964 concert was mixed into the studio version of the song for the 2006 Love album.

With "The Beatles Live Project" due out later this year (rumours have it that it will be realised for the Christmas market), an offspring of the project could well be a remastered, remixed and improved "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl". Certainly the stereo audio from these professionally recorded concerts would be of good use in the Ron Howard produced documentary.

9 comments:

jeffhitz said...

Thanks for posting these. I have never seen this with such improved sound quality before. Even more surprising, how could over 205,000 people watch the first part, but only 467 watch the second part?

Brian Fried said...

One comment missing from this is George Martin's assertion that the Hollywood Bowl tapes' crowd screaming would be too harsh for transfer to compact disc. It was his way of saying why this album of original material (the only one of the 70s and early 80s) was not released by EMI-Capitol with the initial wave.

"Baby's In Black" on the "Real Love" CD single invalidated that claim, and a lot of fans picked up on that as well to wonder if Hollywood Bowl will ever get released.

I've not doubt at all in my mind that the live project by Ron Howard will see this released, possibly in conjunction with the Shea Stadium show remastered for DVD as well.

If so, you can bet that release coupled with whatever Yoko has planned for John this year (every 5 years we get a big promotion of his life), Let It Be will be postponed to 2016 — unless something else comes up, then it's 2018 because 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, and you can bet that someone will be wanting to capitalize on that!

heyfatalbert said...

Great article, Wog! There's a lot of stuff I didn't know before!

@Brian, I very much doubt we'll get a complete Hollywood Bowl or Shea Stadium release in conjunction with "The Beatles Live Project". In my mind, the idea behind the film and, presumptuously, an accompanying soundtrack is to release a "best of" collection along the lines of "Live At The BBC". In other words, *both* the film and soundtrack will be a compilation of highlights throughout their time as a live band, and won't include any concert in full. We'll get tracks from both, but not the full performances of either.

If they'd wanted to re-release the "Hollywood Bowl" tapes or the Shea film/soundtrack in their entirety, they would have done so already. The "Live Project" gives them an opportunity to give us a "new" release, and only show us their performances as flawlessly as possible. And you know how protective they are of their image. Par for the course.

With that said, it will be interesting to see what a "Live Project" album will contain. "Anthology 1" and "Anthology 2" already contain cuts from the Royal Command Performance, Morecambe & Wise, Sweden, Ed Sullivan, Blackpool, Shea, and Tokyo. If my assumption is right and the "Live Project" album does turn out to be a compilation, surely a lot of that material will be re-used, albeit remastered.

Which begs the question, "Then what of the Anthology?"

In my optimistic moods, given the EU copyright issue, I have a hunch we're going to see these releases from Apple this decade, approximately along this sort of timeline:

1. Beatles Live Project (Christmas 2015, or at least by Summer 2016, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Candlestick)

2. Anthology albums, re-mastered with revised tracklistings or else with bonus tracks, to coincide with the Anthology documentary re-released on Blu-Ray (Christmas 2017, in time to copyright "Carnival of Light")

3. Official release of Esher Demos, if not already rolled into an Anthology re-release (Christmas 2018, in time to copyright the circulating but unreleased tracks)

4. Let It Be Blu-Ray (Sometime in 2019, or possibly 2020, in time for the 50th Anniversary, and to copyright the unreleased Twickenham/Apple rehearsals for an accompanying compilation album)

In my less optimistic moods, I think none of this will happen aside from the "Live Project", especially given the absence of "Bootleg Recordings 1964". It would mean Apple opening the vault way more than they have before, even if most of it has been partially released already on the "Anthology" albums.

Then again, with "Live At The BBC Vol. 2" and "Bootleg Recordings 1963" already released and the "Live Project" all but a done deal, it seems like they might finally be taking the opportunity to cash in on the bootlegs before all their first generation fans die off and people stop buying physical albums altogether.

Time will tell, but I think the truth lies somewhere in between. The tracklisting of the "Live Project", I think, will give a huge clue as to what lies ahead.

Brian Fried said...

@heyfatalbert:

The American collection was introduced on the anniversary of that momentous occasion.

I suspect that, on the anniversary of Shea in 2015, we'll get a live set of Hollywood Bowl and Shea together, with a disc of Ed Sullivan appearances and a few other oddities missing from the previous releases.

If 2016 is the anniversary of Anthology they want to celebrate, it won't be with an expanded edition. They would have expanded it earlier with the digital version…. If anything, they'd do an additional set of Anthology (maybe a 4th disc?), but that would be acknowledging there's little left beyond live performances, Esher and Get Back.

2017 is the anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's, so that's when I expect we'll get a super deluxe edition of the album with the stereo, mono, and outtakes… including possibly "Carnival Of Light."

2018 would then be Let It Be on DVD.

2019, the 20th anniversary of "1," will at last see the video collection. ;-)

Internotional Tomes said...

I never cease to be amazed at how Beatlemaniac collectors seem to miss basic points about the items they buy.
Surely among the key facts of Apple releases is that they NEVER repeat NEVER celebrate anniversaries as EMI had been wont to do in the 80's before Apple regained full control over the presentation of the group and its catalogue.

Why do we have the buyers of Beatle product in some kind of delusion that things are, have been or will be oriented around anniversaries. You can readily observe in recent and old interviews that Paul reacts with boredom to news of Beatle anniversaries, often saying that 'every day is some kind of a Beatle anniversary'.

AIN'T. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.

EUES Ireland said...

Hi,

I saw your very interesting website and thought that you may be able to help me locate this item.

Have you ever heard of a contemporary Capitol Records in-house issue of the Beatles’ 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert pressed on 2 x 7” records?

Thanking you,

Best Regards,
Brian O Kelly
irishrecordfairs@live.ie
www.irishrecordfairs.com

Daniel Whiteley said...

This showed up on database today at a record shop I work in (17 July 2016):

The Beatles - Beatles Live at The Hollywood Bowl
Distributed by Universal
LP: Cat No. 5705499 [Barcode 602557054996]
CD: Cat No. 5705497 [Barcode 602557054972]

No other details... Other than release date as 19th July 2016 (Tuesday???!)

Mark Pankratz said...

Just found out about this today!
https://www.amazon.com/Live-At-Hollywood-Bowl-Beatles/dp/B01IO7OHTU/ref=sr_1_4?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1468891037&sr=1-4&keywords=beatles+live+at+the+hollywood+bowl

kathy wolf said...

I have the original negatives from the original printing of the Hollywood Bowl album. My mother worked at the print shop and her boss let her/me have them. Any ideas on how to sell them?