Album Reviews

The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl (Capitol Records)

the-beatles

The Beatles
Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Capitol Records

This reissue is sort of a big deal, if you think about it. For all their live performances and worldwide acclaim, only two Beatles concerts were recorded officially by any record label. Imagine that—only two shows. It’s completely understandable why that is; have you seen the orgasmic-like screaming and yelling of teenage girls at their shows? Of course you have—who hasn’t? Thus, when the band performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Capitol Records was there, with tapes rolling. 

Unsurprisingly, the tapes sounded like crap. Recorded in 1964 and 1965, it proved to be a pyrrhic victory for posterity; the band’s performances were overwhelmed by the piercing, insane screaming of those teenage girls in the audience. One concert, the August 29, 1965 show, proved unusable due to microphone issues. The tapes were deemed poor quality and quietly stored away in the vaults.  When cash-cows break up, though, it’s not surprising for detritus to be released in the name of “posterity,” and that’s exactly what Capitol Records sought to do—give the world a “new” Beatles record. George Martin was called in, and he did the best he could to improve the sound—a daunting task, but the results were about as good as one could have hoped for, and in 1977, The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl appeared. It just sort of existed in the ether, a curiosity for the diehard fan, When the CD revolution came along, it was ignored; sure, the hardcore clamored for it to be reissued, but even then the consensus agreed: the sound was crap, and would need a serious clean-up job before it would be good enough to release on compact disc.

Enter Giles Martin, the son of the late Sir George Martin. Giles had established himself as the heir apparent to his father’s legacy when he helped remix Beatles songs for the stage production Love. Upon listening to the tapes of the Hollywood Bowl performances, he took on the challenge of bettering his father’s take on the Herculean task of cleaning them up.

And clean them up, he did: the songs have a clarity that the 1977 version lacked, and though the drone of the screaming is present, it’s not as annoying as it was on the previous release. Besides, to completely remove it would be to remove the reality of the Beatles live experience.

These tracks document just how hot of a band The Beatles had become. Originals like “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “All My Loving,” and “She’s a Woman” are potent numbers that hold their own with covers such as “Twist & Shout,” “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” and “Long Tall Sally”—covers that they’d played ever since their formation. Of course, all the studio trickery in the world can’t capture the flubs of lesser moments, such as “Baby’s In Black” and “Things We Said Today”—great songs, but imperfect live numbers. But with all of that screaming, it didn’t really matter if they went off-key or flubbed a note or two. Also worth noting is Lennon’s sardonic, sarcastic comments; one gets the feeling he saw performing live as a joke, and at that point, perhaps it was. But it’s interesting to hear the undercurrent of resentment in the band, even if all seemed fine on the surface.

Other quality live recordings exist—Shea Stadium, Budokan, Houston, Texas are three that come to mind—and maybe one day those performances will see the light of day. Until then, the small miracle Giles Martin performed on these recordings will suffice as an excellent document of The Beatles during their glory days.

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