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This magic period saw the Beatles "break through" which led to Beatlemania. (Full story below)
During 1963 and 1964, the impact of the frequent radio and TV broadcasts around the globe fuelled the global Beatlemania phenomenon and propelled The Beatles to new heights. These rare recordings feature a string of immortal hits, performed during live broadcasts in the UK, & the USA all of which were played live and broadcast straight to air. This is the powerful proof of just how accomplished The Beatles actually were as live performers.
The track list is below and a short history of this magic period is shown below.
- A Hard Day’s Night ( Blackpool, 19 July 1964)
- Things We Said Today ( Blackpool, 19 July 1964)
- You Can’t Do That ( Blackpool, 19 July 1964)
- If I Fell ( Blackpool, 19 July 1964)
- Long Tall Sally ( Blackpool, 19 July 1964)
- I Saw Her Standing There (BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
- Misery ( BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
- I’m Talking About You ( BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
- Please Please Me ( BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
- Hippy Hippy Shake ( BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
- I’ll Get to You (The London Palladium, 13 October 1963)
- From Me to You (Miami, 16 February 1964)
- This Boy (Miami, 16 February 1964)
- All My Loving (Miami, 16 February 1964)
- I Want to Hold Your Hand (Miami, 16 February 1964)
- She Loves You (Miami, 16 February 1964)
- Till There Was You (New York, 9 February 1964)
- Can’t Buy Me Love (Philadelphia, 2 September 1964)
- Twist and Shout (Philadelphia, 2 September 1964)
- Too Much Monkey Business (BBC Saturday Club, 16 March 1963)
On Jan. 1, 1963, The Beatles flew to London from Hamburg, Germany, having just completed a two-week run of shows at the Star Club. Their first single, “Love Me Do,” released the previous October, had been a modest success, reaching No. 17 on the U.K. charts, and they were hoping that the follow-up, “Please Please Me,” set for release on Jan. 11, would fare better.
They could hardly have guessed that “Please Please Me” would be the spark that lit the fuse that would result in their busiest year to date. By Dec. 31, 1963, The Beatles released four singles, three EPs, two albums; appeared on radio 49 times and on television 35 times; and made 287 additional live appearances. Paul McCartney turned 21. John Lennon became a father. Both were hailed by the London Times as the Outstanding Composers of 1963.
For most Americans, the Big Beatle Year is 1964, when the group took the country by storm. But there would not be a 50th anniversary celebration if the Beatles hadn’t become stars in their native Britain in 1963. And The Beatles achieved their stardom the old-fashioned way — they worked for it. What’s amazing is the consistently high standard of work they created during a year of intensive activity.
Consider the recording of their debut album, “Please Please Me.” In February 1963, the band joined a tour opening for British singer Helen Shapiro. After opening on Feb. 2, the first leg ran from Feb. 5 to 9. On Feb. 11 — after a day off —the Beatles entered EMI Recording Studios and knocked out 10 songs in just over 10 hours. (The facility wasn’t known as “Abbey Road” until the ’70s, after the Beatles released the album of that name.)
“Please Please Me” is neatly bookended with two of The Beatles’ most classic recordings, opening with McCartney’s lively rocker “I Saw Her Standing There” and closing with Lennon’s bravura performance of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout.” The cover songs were drawn from the band’s substantial repertoire, with an emphasis on girl groups (the Shirelles’ “Boys” and “Baby It’s You”) and R&B (Arthur Alexander’s “Anna”). Of the other new original numbers, “There’s a Place,” is the strongest, hinting an introspection that would surface in future songs. As Beatles historian Mark Lewis John put it, “There can scarcely have been 585 more productive minutes in the history of recorded music.” The band’s first two singles were used to fill out the album.
By the time the “Please Please Me” album was released on March 22, the “Please Please Me” single had topped the charts — at least some of the charts. “Melody Maker,” the “New Musical Express,” and “Disc” all had “Please Please Me” at No. 1, but the single only got to No. 2 in “Record Retailer.” And as it’s turned out, “Record Retailer” is today used as the “official” source for nationwide charts, so “Please Please Me” is listed as only reaching No. 2 — explaining why it’s not on the “1” album.
“Please Please Me” was also the first Beatles single released in the U.S., on Feb. 7. The Beatles’ U.K. label, Parlophone, was a subsidiary of EMI, and it offered the band’s releases to the U.S. subsidiary, Capitol. But Capitol passed on both “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me,” so the latter single was released on Chicago-based Vee Jay. It failed to make an impact.
But the Beatles had little time to worry about their lack of progress in the states. On March 9, the band headed out on another package tour, only to end up replacing the ostensible headliners, Tommy Roe and Chris Montez. The same thing happened in May, when the group began a tour on the 18th headlined by one of their idols, Roy Orbison. The crowd’s response was such that The Beatles again were placed at the top of the bill, but Orbison was gracious about making the switch. In the 1980s, Orbison found equal footing with Harrison in the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
Another sign of The Beatles’ growing stature came when the band was given its own radio series, “Pop Go the Beatles,” with the first episode recorded May 24 and broadcast June 4. There were a total of 15 episodes in the series, which had the Beatles performing a number of songs they never recorded for their records, including Chas Romero’s “The Hippy Hippy Shake,” Arthur Alexander’s “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues,” and Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right,” which makes their radio appearances especially entertaining.
And if collectors but knew it, there were some rarities being created throughout the year. In the U.K., the “Love Me Do” single carried the songwriting credits “John Lennon-Paul McCartney.” But the name order was reversed on subsequent releases: the “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You” singles, “Twist and Shout,” “The Beatles’ Hits,” “The Beatles (No. 1),” EPs and “Please Please Me.” The same was true of the U.S. “From Me to You” single (and subsequent Vee-Jay releases in 1964). These were the first in a series of variations that would keep future collectors busy sorting them out for years to come.
There was no rest between the package tours. Manager Brian Epstein kept The Beatles on the road as much as possible, squeezing in recording sessions along the way. On July 1, the band recorded the single that later became its first million seller, “She Loves You.” The single, released on Aug. 23, was destined to become the best-selling British single of all time — until it was surpassed by the release of McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre” in 1977.
“She Loves You” was The Beatles’ most invigorating single to date, kicking off with a great burst of drums from Ringo Starr, and with the trademark “Yeah, yeah, yeah” of the chorus. In the U.S., the single was released on the Swan record label on Sept. 16. But even a good review in Cash Box couldn’t help it to chart.
The band began work on its second album in July, with recording dates held between July 30 and Oct. 23. The album that eventually would be called “With The Beatles” was a remarkably assured and mature work in comparison to the “Please Please Me” album. It features some of Lennon’s best-ever covers (“Please Mr. Postman,” “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” and the ferocious closing track, “Money.”) while Harrison acquits himself nicely on Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and The Donays’ “Devil in His Heart.” The album also features Harrison’s first foray into songwriting, “Don’t Bother Me,” which follows the killer opening trio of Lennon’s “It Won’t Be Long” and “All I’ve Got to Do,” and McCartney’s “All My Loving.”
The album’s cover, shot in August at the Palace Hotel in Bournemouth, where the Beatles were playing a week of shows, was decidedly “arty” in comparison to the high-spirited “pop idol” look of the “Please Please Me” album. Photographer Robert Freeman had the Beatles facing the camera with neutral expressions on their faces, which are cast in half shadow.
“I couldn’t have one of them smiling, or all of them smiling,” he explained. “I just went for a kind of relaxed, natural look.” All of them are wearing black turtlenecks, making them look like serious art students.
The end of an era came Aug. 3. It marked the last time The Beatles played the Cavern. Though they’d once been regulars at the Liverpool club — the first known footage of the band performing live was shot at the Cavern almost a year before — they hadn’t played at the venue since the previous April. The Beatles wouldn’t have appeared this night either, except Epstein hadn’t been able to get them out of an Aug. 2 date in Liverpool, so he decided they might as well get some other work in the area.
A full show had already been booked for the evening, but the Beatles were readily added to the bill. The overflow crowd spilled into the street, and the heat and condensation inside was such that the equipment shorted out during The Beatles’ set. While the problem was being repaired, McCartney broke into a rendition of “When I’m Sixty-Four,” which the Beatles recorded in December 1966 for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
But The Beatles weren’t especially happy to have returned to their one-time stomping grounds. Billy Kinsley, a member of The Merseybeats, who were also on the bill, remembered McCartney saying backstage, “I told you we shouldn’t have come back.”
August also found The Beatles branching out into the media, when The Beatles Book launched. Created by publisher Sean O’Mahony, The Beatles Book came about after he featured The Beatles in his magazines “Pop Weekly” and “Beat Monthly” and realized that interest in The Beatles was such that the band could sustain a magazine of its own.The first issue had profiles on each Beatle, as well as Epstein and producer George Martin. Other features included “This Month’s Beatles Song” (the lyrics of “Love Me Do”), and a “Beatle News” page, featuring such short items as a story about the band’s van catching on fire, and that Linda Bailey of Stevenage had sent the group a greyhound as a present. The print run of the first issue was 110,000 copies; at its peak, that figure climbed to 350,000 copies.
Although The Beatles had been getting more media coverage as the year wore on, they received little national coverage aside from the music press. That changed for good after the group’s appearance on “Val Parnell’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium” on Oct. 13. The show was Britain’s top-rated variety program, and it was broadcast live from the Palladium theater in London’s West End theater district. (Brian Epstein would later set up management offices next door.) It was a clear sign that the group had truly arrived.
“There was nothing bigger in the world than making it to the Palladium,” said Starr, who also recalled how a friend of his mother’s would encourage him as a young musician by saying, “See you on the Palladium, son. See your name in lights.” Now, it was about to come true.
Throughout the day, fans had gathered outside the theater, turning out in such force The Beatles were forced to remain inside all day. The fans’ screams could be heard inside the theater, and a few fans even managed to break through the police barricades and run into the auditorium before being escorted outside. Starr later admitted that he was so nervous, he threw up before taking the stage.
By then, an estimated 2,000 fans had gathered outside the Palladium, and the news media wrote about the frenzy that followed when The Beatles tried to leave. “Screaming girls launched themselves against the police, sending helmets flying and constables reeling,” was one typical report, written by the Daily Herald. And the Daily Mirror summed up the night’s events in a single word: Beatlemania. The phrase stuck.