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Monday, 23 November 2015

Source of the Nagra tapes

De Volkskrant Magazine
During the weekend, a story in Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant and elaborated upon in their Magazine edition has shed some light on the circulating Nagra tapes from the Beatles' recordings in January 1969.
As you know, nearly everything the Beatles did while filming the "Let It Be" film was recorded by two mono Nagra tape recorders, as the soundtrack to the film. The tapes captured every rehearsal, discussion between the Beatles etc for a whole month.
The website DutchNews summed up the articles in English:

Dutchmen fight for Beatles Let it Be tapes; claim wrongful arrest in 2003.

Two Dutch Beatles fans are involved in a legal wrangle over their claim to own 504 tapes made during a Beatles recording session in 1969, the Volkskrant reported at the weekend. The two men say the recordings were illegally taken from them by Dutch and British police 12 years ago and should be returned. They also want €700,000 in damages from the Dutch state in compensation for wrongful arrest. 

The tapes feature members of the Beatles composing and in conversation during the Get Back sessions, which became the basis for the film Let it Be. The recordings were made on Nagra tape recorders and are thought to be the basis for a large number of bootlegs. 

Stan Snelleman and Jos Remmerswaal say they bought the tapes from former Apple Records worker Nigel Oliver for the equivalent of €36,000 in 1992 after being outbid by Apple for other tapes at a memorabilia auction. Twelve years later they were caught in a police sting when Oliver got in touch again and claimed to have a serious buyer to take the tapes off their hands. In January 2003, Snelleman and Remmerswaal were arrested and charged with money laundering and fencing stolen property. The case against them was formally dropped in 2007. 

According to Rolling Stone magazine at the time, ‘the arrests in Holland and London climaxed a year-round intercontinental hunt for the tapes, which have been missing since the early 1970s.’ The two Dutchmen deny they were in possession of stolen property and describe the charges of money laundering and fencing as ‘extremely curious’. In addition, they want to know why Apple Records never reported the theft in the first place. ‘Apple wanted the tapes back and theft has nothing to do with it,’ Snelleman told the Volkskrant. ‘We are the victims in all this and we want the tapes back. They belong to us.’ Apple Records would not comment on the case, the Volkskrant said.

So it appears that Stan Snelleman actually got wind of these tapes at the 1992 "Rock & pop memorabilia" auction at Phillips in London. Snelleman and Remmerswaal were Beatles fans regularly organised Beatles days in Holland, where they were selling rare memorabilia and were franchisees of a series of record stores, as Silverlux Music. Unofficially, they also ran their own bootleg record label, Yellow Dog Records, which was in the business of distributing unknown Beatles material. The tapes they were interested in buying at this auction, was a set of tapes from the 1969 Get Back recording sessions. They were, however, outbid by a representative from Apple Records.

Busy making Nagra tapes: John and George.
After the auction, Snelleman was approached by a man who had been noticing what he had been bidding on. The man told him that he was in the possession of lots more of the same material, was Snelleman interested? Of course he was! It turned out that the tapes at the auction were mere copies of a fragment of what the unknown man had at home. The man lived in Slough, and his name was Nigel Oliver. As it turned out, he was a former Apple employee, office boy and tape library assistant at Apple studio. And the Nagra tapes were being kept at the studio. When the studio was shut down, Oliver asked if he could take the remaining Nagra tapes. No one objected to this, and he took them all back home with him.

Snelleman struck a deal with Oliver and bought all the tapes for about 80 thousand guilders (now 36 thousand euro), and loaded them into his Opel Omega. They drove to the ferry to Harwich Hook of Holland. Back in Holland, the contents of the tapes were transferred to digital, and divided into two file folders, the A-rolls and the B-rolls. Their bootleg company Yellow Dog was used to distribute discs of the material. In the early 2000s, Yellow Dog Records created Day by Day, a 38-part CD series comprising the Nagra tape recordings in their entirety.

Halfway through 2002, Nigel Oliver got in touch with them again. He said that he had found a new and serious buyer, who could pay 140 thousand euros or so for the original tapes. Since they now had all the tapes in digital form, Snelleman and Remmerswaal fell for it, and after negotiating the price up to 170 thousand euros, a new deal was struck in January 2003. Of course, this "new deal" was a set up, the participants were all arrested, and the tapes were seized. At the same time, Oliver was arrested in England. Later he was given a suspended sentence and put under psychiatric treatment, and the charges against Snelleman and Remmerswaal was eventually dropped in 2007.

Ten months after the seizure of the tapes, in late 2003, "Let It Be ... Naked" appeared as an official Apple release. Part of the package was a bonus single disc, "Fly on the wall", with all material taken from the seized Nagra tapes.

Compiled and edited by Kevin Howlett, this is the track list for that bonus single. All songs credited to Lennon–McCartney except where noted.

"Sun King" – 0:12–0:31
"Don't Let Me Down" – 0:32–1:05
"One After 909"– 1:30–1:38
"Because I Know You Love Me So" – 2:42–4:15
"Don't Pass Me By" (Richard Starkey) – 5:03–5:06
"Taking a Trip to Carolina" (Starkey) – 5:32–5:52
"John's Piano Piece" (Lennon) – 5:53–6:13
"Child of Nature" (Lennon) – 6:29–6:53
"Back in the U.S.S.R." – 6:54–7:06
"Every Little Thing" – 7:20–7:30
"Don't Let Me Down" – 7:31-7:51/8:00–8:31
"All Things Must Pass" (Harrison) – 9:00–9:38
"John's Jam" – 10:07–10:26
"She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" – 10:58–11:03
"Paul's Bass Jam" – 11:16–11:30
"Paul's Piano Piece" (McCartney) – 12:59–13:59
"Get Back" – 16:01–16:15
"Two of Us" – 17:03–17:24
"Maggie Mae" (Traditional, arranged by Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starkey) – 17:25–17:47
"Fancy My Chances with You" – 17:48–18:15
"Can You Dig It?" (Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starkey) – 18:39–19:10
"Get Back" – 19:35–20:08

A bit over twenty minutes then, is what Apple Records was willing to share from the "Get Back" sessions, which had already been distributed in full by the bootleggers. In comparison, Columbia Records recently released an 18 disc collection of Bob Dylan's recording sessions from 1965-66 in their ongoing official bootleg series.


Anonymous said...

i had read about some film of the beatles being stolen and found was film from the let it be sessions in jan 69.has anyone else heard about this?

wogew said...

That's just a mistake made by the general media when this was in the news. They thought it was film reels from the Get Back recordings, but it was in fact tape reels.

Martin said...

Michael Lindsay-Hogg has been interviewed by Esquire magazine about the 1+ DVD. He was obviously asked about Let It Be and he had this to say:

Esquire: It has been years since the film Let It Be has been shown in the U.S. Will we ever see it again?

Lindasy-Hogg: Apple has the definitive word in this. Let It Be is ready to go but it probably will be 18 months at the earliest. My hope is that it will be the original movie, which looks and sounds great.

Full interview here:

Johnnov277 said...

I was glad that "Because I Know You Love Me So" was included on the bonus "Naked" disc; I've always wanted to know where it, and some of the other Nagra songs ("Woke Up In The Morning", "Won't You Please Say Goodbye") figured in their history. They seemed like early songs, one of the many they never "reckoned" or "recorded". Mebbe they were noted somewhere, but I ain't never seen nuttin 'bout them nowhere.

Nice to see the story come out at last. Yellow Dog always went out of their way to put out quality stuff with nice covers, etc. The early BBC lp's were especially great, and set new standards at the time.

db said...

Yellow Dog were quality releases, brought me a lot of joy... hours of stuff I would never have got to hear via Apple.
It's good to know deze twee Nederlanders were putting out discs made straight from the tapes. Shows they cared about the content.

Unknown said...

At the time this story was first printed in 2003, I don't believe the accused were quoted as having any comment. Its interesting to read that they actually purchased these tapes from someone they saw as an agent of Apple. I love the Day by Day series and had started collecting them a few years before the arrests. I still need the last five volumes of the original silver pressed CDs so I keep looking. A lot more fun than downloading and cheap CD-rs.

Unknown said...

Yellow Dog's Day by Day series is wonderful . Only a label as passionate about The Beatles and their hardcore fans would make available such an exhaustive archive. I wish the guys well in their legal endeavor.

Unknown said...

You honestly have to ask what good are these tapes doing behind a locked gate at Apple? I just don't get it. Why not release every single tape to fans who clearly want to hear this stuff. The Rockband multi-tracks are probably the greatest release in over a decade. To hear the sounds and vocals never heard before was astounding. We have already lost John and George. What is the point of keeping them locked up?

Unknown said...

What good are these tapes doing locked behind a gate at Apple collecting dust? We've already lost two of the Beatles why not release all of these tapes to fans who clearly do want to hear this stuff.

Unknown said...

Save The World . Nigel.