The Beatles: On Air - Live at the BBC Vol 2 (Universal)

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The Beatles: I'm Talking About You (March 1963)
The Beatles: On Air - Live at the BBC Vol 2 (Universal)

Just as the Beatles enjoyed that long and rare association with producer George Martin and EMI's Abbey Road studios, so too they had a mutually beneficial relationship with the BBC.

The "Beeb" as it is affectionately knows may have been the conservative face of British broadcasting, but it was also aware of its mandate to represent a wide cross-section of British tastes and culture and so, improbably it might seem, it recorded some of the nation's finest pop and rock musicians.

In the Sixties Jimi Hendrix, the Who and dozens of other seemingly unlikely characters entered BBC studios and recorded. But few had the lengthy relationship the Beatles had who recorded their first session (three songs) in March '62 -- months before they even had a recording contract -- and their final one in June '65 just before the release of Help!

During this period -- 275 recordings of 88 different songs -- they obviously played their hits but, especially during '63, they fell back on songs which had been part of their repertoire in Hamburg and the Cavern.

Which meant Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Motown songs and so on. Some of which would turn up on their early albums, but also a number (Lucille, I'm Talking About You, the Hippy Hippy Shake, a rocked up version of Beautiful Dreamer and others) which they never released or even recorded outside the the Beeb sessions.

This double disc -- rush released a mere 19 years after the previous volume sold in excess of six million copies -- includes many of those rarities alongside almost note-perfect versions of their own songs and other covers.

It is those edgy rockers -- notably McCartney on Lucille and Lennon on I'm Talking About You -- and the prominence of Harrison whose voice was more assured in the early days than it was later, make this collection as interesting as that previous one.

Sprinkled throughout is some studio banter with the various hosts (which reminds you how unusual their Northern accents sounded in the context of Beeb's received pronunciation, and they mock "posh" voices) but it is their rock'n'roll credentials which are on display.

They rip through The Hippy Hippy Shake, Lennon appealing raw on Please Mister Postman, Money and Twist and Shout, McCartney pulling that great Little Richard shouting (Lucille, Long Tall Sally)

Longtime fans will have many of these songs in similar versions (a number of equally good versions of a few were on the first volume) and there are eight minute "pop profile" interviews with Lennon and Harrison from '65 (Lennon living in the "stockbroker belt"), and Starr and McCartney in '66 which rather pad this out.

So this isn't quite the exciting revelation that first volume was, but when you consider their work ethic (these sessions fitted in around touring, EMI recording sessions, filming A Hard Day's Night and Help!) and that they could just plug in and play -- sometimes live to air -- it is a reminder that they were, as Lennon remarked, a very good little rock'n'roll band.

There is more about all aspects the Beatles career at Elsewhere starting here.

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