Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Another year, another glimpse of everyone’s favorite mop tops — the Beatles! It’s really quite astounding that during their short reign in the 1960s, the Beatles made an impact so intense, so world-changing, we’re still talking about it 50 years later. Is it because today’s music doesn’t stack up? Did they possess a tongue-in-cheekiness no one’s been able to replicate? There’s no real answer to why they continue to overshadow virtually every other musical entity of the last half-century. Compared to the concerts of today, their stage act wasn’t a flashy affair partly because their massive popularity wouldn’t allow it. That and the fact that they came before the lasers, the pyrotechnics and the state-of-the-art sound systems. The point is driven home watching Ron Howard’s Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years. The real evidence, however, lies in the grooves of Live At The Hollywood Bowl.
First released in 1977, seven years after the Beatles called it a day, and never reissued in any form until 2016, Live At The Hollywood Bowl isn’t exactly in the same league as essential live albums like the Who’s Live At Leeds and the Allman Brothers Band’s At The Fillmore East. It’s more of a document of what the band endured night after night in the short span of three years — simple, no-frills gear by today’s standards, sets that lasted 30 minutes or less, and utter chaos brought to a head by the shrilling screams of fanatical teenage girls. Even Elvis didn’t fetch this kind of reaction. The screaming was so loud and obtrusive, producer George Martin was hesitant about putting it out — “young lungs made even a jet plane inaudible,” he said on the album’s liner notes. The technology just wasn’t available to transform the 12-year-old, three-track tapes into a sonically vibrant live album.
Fast-forward to 2016, and Martin’s son Giles, who ten years earlier remixed select Beatles tracks and turned them into mashed-up ear candy for the Love show in Las Vegas, was willing to revisit the recordings his late father agonized over. A bit of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from the Hollywood Bowl shows was actually included in Love, so the younger Martin was aware of the magnitude behind such an undertaking. The key, of course, was to minimize the screaming, add the right amount of EQ to the guitars, pump up the vocals, and fill in the bottom end with more bass and drums — all while capturing the spirit and raw energy of the original recordings from the shows recorded in 1964 and 1965 at the famous Southern California venue.
Martin and engineer Sam Okell remixed and mastered the three-track tapes at Abbey Road studios, including the 13 tracks from the original album, plus four more previously unreleased songs. Utilizing what’s called “demix” technology, which removes and separates sounds from a single track, the songs on Live At The Hollywood Bowl come alive like never before. The opening “Twist And Shout” brings John Lennon’s powerful vocal to the forefront. Paul McCartney is equally ferocious on “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” The bassist even manages to kick the somewhat subdued “Things We Said Today” into overdrive.
Ringo Starr arouses the biggest response when he takes a vocal turn on “Boys,” while George Harrison gets his due on Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and Carl Perkins’ “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby.” Lennon reminds everyone “A Hard Day’s Night” is from the group’s movie shot in “black and white.” It’s followed by “Help!,” the title track from the movie “in color.” Hearing the whole band on a more ominous tune like “Baby’s In Black” simply solidifies their ability to keep it together, despite the fact that they couldn’t hear what they were doing. Live At The Hollywood Bowl comes with a 24-page booklet featuring an essay by music journalist David Fricke, while its cover is adorned by a Bob Bonis photo taken on August 22, 1964, as the band boarded a chartered flight to Canada. If you’ve seen Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, then the go-to soundtrack is undoubtedly Live At The Hollywood Bowl.
~ Shawn Perry