Monday, March 19, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 4: The Beatles - Stars of '63

The Beatles are easily the most bootlegged band of all time -- in fact, I'd love to know what percentage of their lives between 1962 and 1970 wasn't caught on tape and can't be had on a CD these days -- so as this series continues, I'm sure we'll revisit them often. But let's begin with something early, short and really, really sweet.

John Lennon often said that this was his favorite live recording of The Beatles. In October of 1963, with Beatlemania in full swing in Britain and swiftly spreading across Europe, the group appeared on a Swedish radio show called "Pop '63" and played a wicked 7-song set before a small studio audience. As was typical at the time, the setlist was a mix of Lennon-McCartney originals (McCartney kicks things off with a rollicking "I Saw Her Standing There") and covers of American rock and roll hits (by artists like Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson) of the sort that had inspired the boys to pick up their guitars in the first place. The special thing about this performance -- other than the sound quality, which is pretty amazing, especially given the vintage -- is that it was recorded in a studio, away from the thousands of screaming girls who no doubt made the actual concert in Stockholm impossible to hear. So what strikes you with this tape, unlike other live recordings of The Beatles in this period, is the stunning musicianship -- the frequently overlooked fact that the early Beatles were, first and foremost, a shit-hot bar band, forged by hundreds of little club gigs played in places like Liverpool and Hamburg over the better part of 2 years. Friends, these cats could flat-out play. (Check out George's blistering leads on "Roll Over Beethoven".) By the grace of God, they also just happened to possess a magical chemistry and unparalleled charisma, not to mention two of the most gifted songwriters and vocalists who ever plugged a guitar into an amplifier.

Two-and-a-half months after this performance, The Beatles would hit New York, play the Ed Sullivan Show and, well, you know the rest.

Although the translation is a little spotty, you can learn more about this historic recording here.


Front cover
Back Cover

01 intro
02 I Saw Her Standing There
03 From Me To You
04 Money
05 Roll Over Beethoven
06 You Really Got A Hold On Me
07 She Loves You
08 Twist and Shout
09 interviews*

(*The interviews on this disc, at least one of which was recorded post-Shea Stadium about 2 years later, have nothing to do with this performance. I guess the bootleggers at Swingin' Pig felt guilty about the brevity of this set and wanted to throw in some bonus material. In any event, since the interviews are listed in the artwork, I've included them here.)