On Air - Live At The BBC
Without question, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was pivotal in introducing the Beatles to the UK. From 1962 through 1965, broadcasts with the Fabs on the BBC became regular affairs, with 39 radio shows in 1963 alone, including their own Pop Go The Beatles series. Each was filled with music, more covers than originals at first, punctuated by the Beatles' own on-air antics, cheeky comments and interaction with hosts Brian Matthew, Alan Freeman, Lee Peters and Rodney Burke. After the dust settled, extensive multi-disc bootlegs of Beeb recordings were the only real evidence until 1994 when Apple issued Live At The BBC, a double CD set with 69 tracks (dialog and songs). That set has been remastered, given two extra tracks and reissued, along with On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2, another double with 59 tracks (dialog and songs) and individual Pop Profiles with each of the Beatles.
Let's break it down. Volume 2 has 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio banter and conversation between the band's members and their BBC radio hosts. There are 30 songs the Beatles performed on the BBC but never released on any of their records. Yes, there are different takes of songs that appear Live At The BBC, like "Memphis, Tennessee" (unfortunately not the first take from the first BBC appearance of the Beatles from March 7, 1962) and "I Saw Her Standing There," but then there oodles of goofy and wonderful cuts like Buddy Holly's "Words Of Love" or "Anna (Go To Him). Or how about renditions of "Lend Me Your Comb," "Sure To Fall" and "Glad All Over," all UK singles for Carl Perkins in the late 1950s? "I'll Follow the Sun" and a studio outtake of "I Feel Fine," are two Lennon-McCartney tunes on Volume 2, that signal a change, a step away from the rock and roll standards, and more ownership of their own Beatle sound.
Part of what makes a set like this, all recorded in mono, so special is how well the dynamic personality of the Beatles comes across. While they engage in witty back-and-forth discourse with the BBC hosts, never missing a beat, they are equally adept at revealing their more introspective sides in the Pop Profiles, which were recorded in November 1965 and May 1966. While Live At The BBC was put together by George Martin in 1994, On Air - Live At The BBC Volume Two was compiled by producers Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley without Martin's involvement (he's 87, as of this writing and retired). Booklets with both sets include Kevin Howlett's liner notes on the Beatles' BBC radio sessions with commentaries on all of the tracks. In 1996, Live At The BBC got a GRAMMY nomination for Best Historical Album. Maybe it's time the reissue along with On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2 get the nod and the win in 2014.
~ Shawn Perry