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Review: The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963-iTunes release

Updated on August 14, 2014

With very little fanfare, a new collection of Beatles outtakes and radio performances has just been released on iTunes. "The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963" consists of 59 tracks for two and a quarter hours of music.

But why are The Beatles releasing this compilation just a month after their “On Air-Live At The BBC Volume 2” collection went on sale? It comes down to copyright protection. A new European Union law has gone into effect in which the copyright holder keeps the rights to the recorded work for 70 years as long as it was published within 50 years from the time it was made. The Beatles first album, 1963’s “Please Please Me” would be protected, but their unreleased session tapes from the time period would not. So to extend the copyright on these recordings, they’re being sold very quietly. However, The Beatles first single, 1962’s “Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You” did enter the Public Domain, and both tracks can be found on a couple of British Hit Parade CD compilations as well as on colored vinyl records in the shape of an apple, star, and heart.

Studio Tracks

The 15 studio tracks are all in stereo, and on the whole, sound pretty good. In a way, they’re very similar to the 1988 Beatles “Ultra Rare Trax” bootleg releases, which made news at the time for their excellent sounding outtakes of The Beatles recording sessions. In fact,the same studio outtakes of “Misery” Take 1, “One After 909” Take 2, “From Me To You” Take 2, and “I Saw Her Standing There” Take 2 on “The Bootleg Recordings 1963” made their first CD appearances on the first two “Ultra Rare Trax” volumes. Four of the 12 non-BBC recordings in the iTunes release appear in multiple takes. You hear a couple of the songs break down, a bit of chatter among the band, and the announcement from the control booth of a song’s take number. It is like being a fly on the wall during parts of the “Please Please Me” and “With The Beatles” recording sessions.

One highlight of “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” is the John Lennon demo for “Bad to Me”. While clocking in at just a minute and a half and not the clearest recording audio-wise, regardless, it’s a great song that stands up to repeated listening. It would have fit in well as a track on “The Beatles Anthology 1” album. Although Billy J. Kramer had a number one U.K. and top ten U.S. hit single with his cover of the tune, hearing Lennon singing it is still a treat. Lennon’s demo of “I’m In Love”, later recorded by The Fourmost, follows “Bad to Me” on this iTunes release.

John Lennon's demo for "Bad to Me"

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon 1964
Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon 1964 | Source

BBC Radio Tracks

As with both BBC collections, the 41 radio sessions songs featured on“The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” show that The Fab Four were a tight, musically strong rock and roll band at the time. The “Pop Go The Beatles” version of “Money” heard here, while spare in instrumentation, rocks harder and sounds nastier than the officially released “With The Beatles” track. It begins with howls from Lennon and McCartney, and George Martin’s piano intro and chords are missing. Ringo Starr’s singing is particularly enthusiastic on “Boys” , from a May 1963 “Side By Side” broadcast. In a nod to the band’s Hamburg days, Lennon begins “I Saw Her Standing There’ with an enthusiastic 1,2,3,4 count in German (Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier), Later in the song, Harrison performs a particularly rocking guitar solo, different from the one in the studio recording.

A lot of the band’s BBC live performances (“I Saw Her Standing There”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “The Hippy Hippy Shake” , and “Till There Was You”, for example) appear on both “On Air” volumes and now “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963”, albeit from different radio broadcasts. No new, unreleased cover songs from the group are found in the iTunes set. The band's "From Us To You" December 1963 rendition of "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" with Rolf Harris isn't included, no doubt due to Harris's serious legal troubles. If any more official BBC recordings are to be released on online, it would be nice to have more of the aforementioned speech tracks included.

The Beatles in Stockholm, 1963
The Beatles in Stockholm, 1963 | Source

There are no speech tracks per se with these iTunes BBC recordings, but six of them include brief intros from the particular show’s host. Before “Love Me Do”, from the band’s January 1963 appearance on “Saturday Club”, host Brian Mathew tells the radio audience,“At the moment the majority of The Beatles fans are in their hometown of Liverpool and I have a very strong suspicion it won’t be long before they’re all over the country”. Little did Mathew and the band know that a year later, The Beatles would be the most popular rock group in not just England, but the world.

The Beatles-Baby It's You-Live At The BBC Vol. 1

The price for all 59 “Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” iTunes tracks is a bit costly, at nearly 40 U.S. and 70 Australian dollars, 40 Euros, and 35 British pounds. So unless you’re a hardcore Beatles fan who wants to own every one of their recordings, this new iTunes collection isn’t a must buy. In fact, some listeners might find the multiple takes of the studio recordings to be repetitive. If you don’t want to splurge for all the tracks, I’d go for the “Bad To Me” and “I’m In Love” demos as well as perhaps one take each of the unreleased recordings. Then choose a few of the BBC performances to go with them.

With the recent “copyright extension “ releases by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, I think we’ll be seeing more of these type of unreleased recordings for sale in the very near future. The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, whose music were first issued in 1964, could be the next artists to join this group.

The Beatles in Manchester, 1963


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    • MarshFish profile image

      Marshall Fish 4 months ago

      Thanks GuitarHazer. I appreciate the comment.


    • GuitarHazer profile image

      GuitarHazer 4 months ago

      Good Insight

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