WHO COULD ASK FOR MORE: The History of Beatles Bootlegs
Whenever I try and explain my chief passion in life (collecting Beatles recordings) to somebody who has limited knowledge of the music business, I always get stuck in the same spot: explaining how bootlegs come to be. “You mean you have songs that were never sold to the public? How did you get these tapes if they weren’t released?” Actually, this is a great question and one that is relatively unexamined compared with more pointless questions like “Did Paul really die in 1966?” or “Did Yoko break up The Beatles?” (No and no, in case you hadn’t heard).
So just how did these bootleggers get their hands on all those wonderful tapes? They must have incredible contacts! Well, yes and no. As we’ll see, there has only been one major leak of material directly from EMI / Abbey Road itself; the rest of the hundreds of hours of booted material comes from sources available to most members of the public – provided they were in the right place at the right time, occasionally armed with a tape recorder or enough cash.
My decision to present a vaguely chronological history of these famed recordings was made with the full knowledge that much of it will be sheer guesswork; after all, TMOQ and Wizardo do not have archives of release dates nor did they think to hand out press releases to Billboard back in the 1970’s. In other words, the timeline here will be flexible with a margin of error of a couple years either way.
This history deals only with widely available tapes; i.e. those pressed onto LP and later CD – keep in mind that tapers may have circulated these recordings at earlier dates in much smaller circles.
Even before they had broken up and ceased issuing official material, the first Beatles bootleg appeared on the market. Kum Back offered a full album’s worth of rough stereo mixes of never-before heard songs, plus two takes of “Get Back” and an alternate take of “Don’t Let Me Down“. Not bad for a debut bootleg, but then again The Beatles excelled in just about every field!
The tapes themselves come from an acetate prepared by Glyn Johns on March 10, 1969 which somehow made its way to the northeastern USA by late that summer. One long-standing rumor has John himself bringing either his copy or a tape thereof with him to Canada on 13 Sep. Within a week, by whatever means, tapes of this were wending their way slowly south and west. The entire acetate was aired on WKBW in Buffalo, NY; a WBCN Boston broadcast followed suit on 22 Sep, and by fall every underground station and its brother had a copy. Reviews began appearing in college papers and music publications such as Rolling Stone.
By year’s end, a limited run of Kum Backs were pressed – the song order was changed from the acetate itself and the quality left a bit to be desired (as did the packaging). Nonetheless, the release created quite a buzz and the first knock-off was also available by December.
A more polished line-up, compiled by Glyn on 28 May 69, also escaped and was broadcast in the fall. It offered the additional “One After 909“, “Dig It“, “Maggie Mae“, and a jam of “I’m Ready / Save The Last Dance For Me” while dropping “The Walk”. A different take of “Let It Be” was used, and the material was edited and rearranged somewhat. Bootlegs offering a mix of songs from both lineups appeared late this year and on into the next.
In the temporary absence of new material, bootleggers repackaged the Get Back acetates dozens of ways throughout the year. Popular additions to the material were uncollected singles (“I’m Down“, “The Inner Light“, “You Know My Name“, “The Ballad Of John And Yoko“), the WWF version of “Across The Universe“, and various fan-club Christmas recordings. But none of this was unreleased, just uncommon.
All issues prior to May, 1970 had to invent titles for the songs which hadn’t been officially issued yet. Some were closer to the mark than others; a couple were even the songs’ actual working titles; thus, we were presented tunes such as:
- “All I Want Is You” (“Dig A Pony“)
- “When You Walk” (“The Walk”)
- “On Our Way Home” (“Two Of Us“)
- “Sunshine And Love Girl” (“For You Blue“)
- “Everything You Are” (“Dig A Pony“)
- “Sweet And Lovely Girl” (“For You Blue“)
- “Move Over Honey” (“One After 909“)
- “Can It Walk” (“The Walk”)
- “Teddy Don’t Worry” (“Teddy Boy”)
- “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” (“The Long And Winding Road“)
…and, of course, the Beatles classic:
- “Who Knows?” (“Dig A Pony“)
One label took this notion to extremes by issuing a whole album full of mis-titled tracks pirated from singles, called Judy (a precursor to Capitol’s own Hey Jude album).
A popular variation of the material, Get Back Sessions, was followed up with a sequel, More Get Back Sessions, consisting of excerpts from the soundtrack of the film Let It Be taped during a screening with the resulting poor sound quality.
More interesting material surfaced this year with the discovery of two complete Beatles concerts from their 1964 US tour. Neither were correctly identified by bootleggers as far as their sources but both were intriguing and of surprisingly good sound quality.
The first was their Hollywood Bowl concert, copied directly from an acetate of Capitol Records’ master mixdown in Los Angeles. The first rash of titles called this the Shea Stadium concert, and it appeared as Shea, The Good Old Days and The Only Live Recording.
But it clearly wasn’t the only live recording, for soon a copy of their Philadelphia show (with the same setlist) appeared. Only this time, rather than claiming this to be a concert from a different city, the bewildered bootlegger made up a location – Whiskey Flats (said to be in Georgia, maybe near, say, Atlanta?). Thus titles such as Live Concert At Whiskey Flats and Alive At Last In Atlanta popped up. Not to be outdone, one issue called this Live In Hollywood! The source was actually a reel-to-reel recording from a local radio station’s simulcast of the show way back in 1964.
The soundtrack to the Shea Stadium TV special came out late in 1971 or early 1972. Since the Hollywood Bowl boots all claimed to be Shea, the bootleggers decided to mess with things a bit more and call the real Shea boots Last Live Show (which would actually be Candlestick Park 66). This may originate from the initial 66 UK or 67 USA telecasts or perhaps a more recent repeat. In any case, it was clearly taped directly from a speaker and lacked much fidelity.
The final important batch of recordings to surface this year covered yet another aspect of their career – sessions for BBC Radio. Yet again, they were advertised by those who didn’t know better (and likely a few who did) as being studio outtakes. The first and best-known was Yellow Matter Custard (aka As Sweet As You Are), a compilation of 14 songs, only one of which (“Slow Down“) was previously issued by The Beatles. Once it was established these were not outtakes, they were thought to be from a single Nov 62 BBC broadcast for a while. But if we reverse sides A and B, we find the songs to be chronological highlights from the Pop Go The Beatles series from July-Sep 63 in poor quality. This tape probably comes from a British fan who only taped the songs not available on record (“Slow Down” didn’t come out until 64) with a home recorder.
Otherwise, the material released this year was familiar – Get Back To Toronto coupled the Mar 69 acetate with a John and Yoko “Peace Message” from Dec 69 – and of course Live At Shea 1964 (a 2 EP set) turned out to be the Hollywood Bowl again.
The first actual EMI studio outtake finally debuted this year – possibly thanks to John Lennon trading away his copy to somebody while in New York City. “What’s The New Mary Jane” was initially available in a muddy mono mix on the LP Mary Jane, shortened to just under 3 minutes.
TMOQ made their first big impression on the Beatles boot market this year by offering some new material. Complete Christmas Collection was probably a copy of From Then To You rather than the individual fan-club flexis, but either way it was nice to have them all in one place.
More intriguing was yet another Beatles 1964 show, again from a local radio station’s broadcast tapes. Vancouver 1964 was a double-LP padded out with the Vancouver press conference, interviews with locals, and a strange and unique play-by-play of the concert itself by two DJ’s. The prize here though was the clean tape of the whole show during which John and Paul were in a great mood despite several interruptions due to the unruly crowd.
Later that year two whole LP’s of BBC material arrived from TMOQ. Of course, they were sold as being EMI recordings (common titles were Studio Sessions 1 and 2 or Outtakes) or even Decca auditions, but we all learned otherwise. The 24 songs – almost all of them unheard – were a fairly strict chronological record of the Summer 63 Pop Go The Beatles BBC Radio series. What it lacked in sonic brilliance (obviously somebody’s collection of home recordings taped directly off a speaker) it made up in charm and historical importance and made a nice companion to the Yellow Matter Custard title.
Altogether more repulsive was Renaissance Minstrels which consisted of various tunes from the classic Ed Sullivan appearances of Feb 64 chopped up and overdubbed with screaming to fool buyers into thinking this was a lost concert of some sort. The sequel Renaissance Minstrels Volume Two offered another exciting lineup of Get Back acetates and pirated singles. From there the series went from useless to pointless as Volumes 3 and 4 were nothing but pirated group and solo tracks.
The Never Released Mary Jane offered some further brand-new BBC Radio recordings: three songs originally recorded for Top Gear in Jul 64, plus chat with Brian Matthew. However, the source tape here was a rebroadcast on the show Top Of The Pops which offered the best quality BBC material yet. Filling out the LP was a version of “Shout!” from the May 64 TV show Around The Beatles as well as the by-now standard selection of B-sides and out-fakes.
The final new source of material this year was BBC Radio’s 13-part documentary The Beatles’ Story. Unfortunately, the BBC were just as inept as bootleggers when it came to identifying the sources of these tracks.
The Beatles’ Story material first widely appeared early in 1973 on Have You Heard The Word – side A of which offered the title song (no Beatles involvement) plus 15 minutes of Let It Be soundtrack. Side B had the following, all taken from the BBC documentary:
- “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” (excerpt of 1 May 64 BBC) – which the narration said was sung by Paul, rather than George.
- “Twist And Shout” (24 Oct 63 Swedish radio) – which the narration claimed was from the Indra Club, Hamburg, 1962.
- “Roll Over Beethoven” (24 Oct 63) – which the bootleggers claimed was from the Kaiserkeller, Hamburg, 1962.
- “Long Tall Sally” (commercial release with overdubbed screaming) – which the bootleggers claimed to be from the Top Ten Club, London, August, 1963.
- “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (excerpt of 26 May 65 BBC) – no source given in the series, but people assumed it was a studio outtake.
- “Lucille” (excerpt of 7 Sep 63 BBC) – which the narration said was sung by John, rather than Paul.
And so with several albums worth of unreleased material to choose from in just over three years, Beatles fans had no idea what 90% of it really was, let alone where it came from.
The year 1973 saw a major resurgence of interest in Beatles recordings, thanks largely to the 1962-1970 double sets issued by Apple and solo hits such as “Give Me Love”, “Photograph”, “Mind Games”, and “My Love”. This carried over into the bootleg market which saw three times as many releases as the previous year; many reissues, but loads of newly unearthed material.
First up was L.S. Bumblebee, a grab-bag collection ranging from the common (Let It Be soundtrack material) to the more obscure (several cuts from USA TV broadcasts – “Yesterday” from Ed Sullivan, “Hey Jude” from Experiment In Television, and “All You Need Is Love” from Our World) to the ludicrous (the title track, a Peter Cook-Dudley Moore sendup of psychedelic music which had no Beatle involvement). But the one gem here was a version of “Love Of The Loved” which fans only knew as a Cilla Black tune. Most people assumed it was a demo or BBC cut, but it was in fact the first excerpt ever released from the tape of The Beatles failed Decca audition. How this tape came into bootleggers’ hands is a mystery to this day.
Abbey Road Revisited was another compilation of interesting new material, common reissues, and out-fakes. Side A compiles most of the terrible Renaissance Minstrels album. Side B has more bits of the BBC Beatles’ Story, including a pointless edit of “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (1/2 Swedish radio, 1/2 commercial version). In the non-Beatles category, we have “Bye Bye Bye”, “Have You Heard The Word”, and Kenny Everett doing a “Mean Mr. Mustard” jingle. The only really new stuff was:
- a horrible quality tape of Paul’s demo for “Step Inside Love“, from a radio broadcast
- a brief McCartney jingle from BBC Radio’s Where It’s At called “All Together On The Wireless Machine”
- John busking through “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Those Were The Days” (and as usual, unable to recall any words), probably also from the radio during a bed-in
- and a bit of “Cottonfields” from the 6 Jun 68 Kenny Everett radio show.
Though none of this material could remotely be called true Beatles outtakes, it was the closest thing available back then and was subsequently reissued to death throughout the decade.
Further BBC material, again from a recent rebroadcast rather than original tapes, was issued on Mary Jane (aka Spicy Beatle Songs) – three songs from the Feb 64 session for “From Us To You” as well as chat with Alan Freeman.
For true obscurity, nothing could top a rare one-sided single pressed late in 1973 which included “I’ll Be On My Way” as taped off the air from BBC Radio’s Side By Side. This song, however, made its way onto LP by early 1974 and soon made the usual rounds.
This year also saw the first issue of soundtrack outtakes from the Jan 69 Let It Be filming. An excellent quality 90-minute tape (almost entirely from Twickenham sessions) was stretched out to fill TWO double-LP sets called Sweet Apple Trax, Vol. 1 & 2. Despite the obvious rip-off factor, the clear sound and unique performances ensured that these albums sold well – and inspired dozens of reissues, copies and re-packagings for the remainder of the 70’s.
Concert recordings were well-represented, too. Albums such as District Of Columbia and First United States Performance included most of the 11 Feb 64 Washington Coliseum concert, taken from the closed-circuit film of the event.
A 24 Jun 66 TV broadcast of six songs from the Munich concert was issued on Live German Concert And US Telecasts – the US telecasts being “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour plus three songs from Shindig first aired in Oct 64.
And the Jun 65 Paris evening concert (likely taped from the TV broadcast) appeared in above-average quality as Live Paris Olympia. The afternoon performance, from a radio airing, was available on Paris Sports Palais.
A compilation album entitled Supertracks proved not to be so super, as the supposed Beatles outtake “Peace Of Mind” (allegedly recorded Jun 67 and found in a garbage can in 1970!) turned out to be merely some stoned bootleggers with a tape recorder and too much time on their hands. When the inevitable Peace Of Mind album came out, it at least offered up two new songs from the amazing 16 Jul 63 Pop Go The Beatles – “Lend Me Your Comb” and “Carol” – in abysmal sound quality.
For some reason, despite all the new material available, some bootleggers began pairing Beatles and Rolling Stones material together on single LP’s. And so we got Battle – which pitted early Stones outtakes against The Beatles Aug 65 Ed Sullivan broadcast. Not to be outdone, Beatles And The Rolling Stones Live featured not a dream concert bill but three new BBC Radio cuts from Pop Go The Beatles coupled with Hollywood Bowl material.
Last and definitely least was the first volume in a continuing series called Cinelogue which simply pressed poor-quality dubs of complete Beatles movie soundtracks. The first issued, Let It Be, made some sense as it contained unreleased performances. But the series got rather silly with the issues of Yellow Submarine and Paul’s 1973 TV special!
Not unexpectedly, with all the great recordings unearthed over the past year, things began to slow down and focus shifted somewhat to bootlegs of solo material from Paul and George’s tours and John’s various TV and concert appearances. Also inevitable were the seemingly endless re-pressings, compilations and outright pirated rip-offs of the more popular titles, often disguised to make them seem like new material.
Several new things did turn up – Soldier Of Love was important for the title track alone, a terrible quality recording, but pure gold for collectors. A segment of “I Got A Woman” also from Pop Go The Beatles appeared here, as did the first LP pressing of “I’ll Be On My Way“. These three excellent tracks helped make up for the rest of the album – side B was simply a copy of Murray The “K”’s 1964 EP (mostly interviews, and part of the song “Shout!”).
One relatively obscure release this year somehow managed to avoid the slew of reissues most other boots received, probably due to its mediocre sound quality. Still, Stockholm did offer new material which remained relatively rare over the next 15 years or so. Yet another BBC session – the first live one – offered 3 of the 4 songs from the 17 Jul 63 Easy Beat taped directly from the original AM broadcast, with the expected poor fidelity. Following this was an excellent performance by The Beatles from the Swedish TV show Drop In taped 30 Oct 63. Another, more lacklustre TV appearance filled up side B – all 6 songs from Blackpool Night Out of 1 Aug 65.
Another handful of BBC songs, this time from Saturday Club (funny how BBC songs appeared in batches), were released on titles like Rare Beatles and Happy Birthday. All poor quality, they included “Johnny B. Goode” (incomplete and with an annoying glitch of static), “Memphis” and “Happy Birthday Saturday Club”. By now it was obvious that private collectors had far greater foresight than the BBC itself and had preserved a multitude of off-air Beatles radio recordings. Just how many would not be fully realized for a few more years; until then collectors settled for the grainy treasures which leaked out in bits and pieces.
Thanks to threatened crackdowns from the RIAA and a drying-up of new material, 1975 was a year of change in the Beatles bootleg world. Previous giants like TMOQ and CBM packed up and moved shop, occasionally changing names, and leaving newer labels like Wizardo, Melvin, and TAKRL to feed off their crumbs and repackage the “best of the unreleased Beatles” for the still-ravenous fans.
Luckily, a major new release brightened things up – Five Nights In A Judo Arena set a new standard in Beatles bootlegs with a deluxe color cover, accurate song listings, and best of all, a great-sounding concert from Tokyo in 1966, direct from Japanese TV. Too bad The Beatles didn’t co-operate, turning in one of their lamest performances ever.
The inverse to this release was Live In Melbourne Australia which offered a high-energy radio concert from 17 Jun 64 in shockingly poor sound quality.
“False advertising” would be a good term to describe the EMI Outtakes album, which did begin with the only available EMI outtake at the time, “What’s The New Mary Jane” (making its stereo debut!), but quickly ran out of steam with common alternate mixes and gave up all together on side B (a rehash of the Around The Beatles TV show).
A special place in hell is also reserved for the makers of Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Certainly The Beatles played there in 1964 but this LP would have you believe they played songs they hadn’t yet written and broadcast the whole mess on WBOX radio in New York. In actuality the “concert” consists of 5 songs from the Shea Stadium documentary recorded from the next county over, plus a BBC recording of “Lucille” layered with a tape of screaming fans.
A newcomer to the scene, Melvin Records, made an undistinguished debut with Their Greatest Unreleased, a hack job if there ever was one, assembled from BBC cuts, the Let It Be soundtrack, and various poor-quality tracks with two out-fakes thrown in for bad effect. Their second LP, entitled 21, bore a slightly different line-up to their first album and offered nothing new or interesting.
A second wave of Beatles nostalgia swept over fans in 1976 – even bigger than the one three years previous. Numerous factors contributed to this resurgence, led by EMI’s ability (now that The Beatles’ last contract with them had finally expired) to begin repackaging and promoting their back catalogue. Releases of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Music double-LP and a reissue of the entire collection of Beatle singles (followed soon by the Star-Club, Hollywood Bowl, and Love Songs albums) along with Paul’s first tour of North America ensured that the group were in the public eye more often than at any time since they disbanded.
Bootleggers kept up with this public demand with several gimmicks – chiefly re-releasing the same tired material but in attractive covers, often pressed in “limited editions” (as if ALL bootlegs weren’t limited) or on colored vinyl. Another new trend was the issue of several 45-RPM discs – both singles and EP’s – in greater numbers than before or since, often distributed through fan clubs or magazines.
The chief example of this marketing ploy was a series of 7″ records distributed through Joe Pope’s magazine Strawberry Fields Forever. These singles, sold throughout 1976-1977, were quite a double-edged sword: while they offered important new material in good sound quality, they were expensive (all the material would have fit on a single LP and sold for less money), released as a series rather than simultaneously, and worst of all, pressed in colored vinyl which is ALWAYS inferior in fidelity.
First up was a single which coupled “How Do You Do It” with “Revolution” (the Smothers Brothers version in best sound quality yet). “How Do You Do It” was the first Beatles’ studio outtake to surface in a few years, and the tape originated in a syndicated RKO Radio broadcast
Just as exciting were the series of singles which gradually (two songs at a time) gave the world some idea of why Decca Records turned The Beatles down back in 1962. Eventually, 14 of the 15 Decca audition songs were issued as singles, but to hear the 15th track, one had to wait until 1978 when the entire tape was released on LP. By which time, most collectors had blown a good deal of money on the 7 singles. Apparently, Joe Pope attended some Capitol Records marketing seminars or something.
The final disc in the SFF series was the least essential – an EP (colored vinyl, again) of the 4 Nov 63 Royal Variety Show, taped from a TV speaker and incomplete (fading in halfway through “From Me To You”).
Otherwise, 1976 was a fairly dreary year for new material – labels such as ZAP/SODD, Mushroom, Shalom, Berkeley, and Wizardo served up leftovers both plain and goulash (ugly compilations slapped together from the bootleggers’ collections of OTHER labels’ LPs).
Occasional new items turned up amidst the garbage, though none of it was very interesting. ABC Manchester (aka Four Young Novices) included the soundtrack of a Pathé newsreel, The Beatles Come To Town, which featured two live Beatles songs filmed in Manchester, 20 Nov 63.
A new, but horrible-quality audience tape of the 4 Jun 64 Copenhagen concert (released on John Paul George And Jimmy) was the first chance we had to hear Jimmy Nicol filling in for Ringo. And a second 1966 Tokyo show, also from videotape and identically uninspiring, made its debut on The Beatles Tour: The Great Take-Over.
Finally, it just wouldn’t be a Beatleg year without some head-scratchingly bizarre and just plain dumb releases: Away With Words was somebody’s idea of torture – 3 LP’s of the soundtrack to a Beatles slide-show taped on a cheap home recorder. Apparently not part of the show were a jumble of BBC interviews (mostly with Kenny Everett) thrown in on Side 6 to fill up the package.
Dr. Robert had the worst of both worlds: pirates of alternate mixes (mostly from EMI Outtakes) coupled with “maybe-if-we-release-them-often-enough-people-will-think-they’re-by-The-Beatles” classics like “Peace Of Mind”, “L.S. Bumblebee” and “Have You Heard The Word”.
Two dreadful compilation series also began: The Very Best Of The Beatles Rarest Volume One (up through Seven) simply proved the equation, well known to film students: long in title = short in quality. And a strange series on ZAP (subtitled 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, etc.) overlooked the obvious title A Waste Of Vinyl in calling its first volume No Obvious Title.
With EMI finally able to fight back at bootleggers by releasing The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl (including tracks from the two 1965 shows never bootlegged), some of the wind was taken out of the underground market’s sails. 1977 was basically another year of killing time with reissues and repackaging.
Radio was once again an important source for new material as two new outtakes appeared from a recent Radio Luxembourg broadcast of two 1967 acetates. Unfortunately, the songs (“I Am The Walrus” and “The Fool On The Hill“) were each spliced together with the regular releases, so we only got half a new version in both cases. Still, half a song is better than none, and they have since turned up complete from direct tape sources. Coming from a French radio broadcast was the first new Get Back material in four years – “Watching Rainbows”, “Mean Mr. Mustard“, and “Madman”, all from 14 Jan 69. More of this tape would soon appear. Finally, a US radio broadcast of a Summer 76 Beach Boys documentary (narrated by Wolfman Jack no less!) offered “Spiritual Regeneration” and “Happy Birthday Mike Love” from Rishikesh, India. (This had previously appeared on the Strawberry Fields Forever fanzine’s 1976 Xmas Flexi).
So anxious was somebody to release all the new material that they threw together an album called Indian Rope Trick. Aptly named, for like that famed fakir’s stunt, it was not all what it seemed. (Note: some of this album may have originated on a very obscure fan-club LP, Apple Slices, which may have also debuted the 17 Jul 64 BBC session tape – see From Us To You for further details.) Besides the aforementioned stuff, we got the following bunch of “goodies”:
- one channel of the stereo mixes for “Savoy Truffle” and “Hey Bulldog” (called “outtakes”)
- one channel of the stereo mix for “It’s Only Love” (called an “acoustic version”)
- a song by The Fourmost, “I Love You Too” (called “Paul singing with The Fourmost”)
- “Frenzy And Distortion” from Apple’s Raga LP, by Ravi Shankar (called “Not Guilty” (!))
- “My Bonnie” with English and German intros (only problem is, underneath the German intro you can hear the English one again at about half the maximum volume)
- Ron Nasty (Neil Innes) doing “Cheese And Onions” on Saturday Night Live
- Linda McCartney doing “Oriental Nightfish” from the film of the same name
Not exactly good value for money, but there was also a Jan 69 “All Things Must Pass” rehearsal to make up for it. More of THAT tape would turn up soon, as well, leaving the Rishikesh segment as the only bit of this LP still useful today.
Twickenham Jams, in EP form, offered more from the 8 Jan 69 session (which produced “All Things Must Pass”) in so-so quality. The LP called Twickenham Jams simply compiled the EP on side A and offered over six minutes of the 6 Jun 68 Kenny Everett interview (from a rare Italian Apple promo) on side B.
Tobe Milo, a label started the previous year, dominated 1977 with a series of “collectors’” EP’s with well-designed packaging and mediocre material. Still, they had something to offend all tastes – for John fans, you got Life With The Lennon’s (sic), outtakes of his and Yoko’s second album. And Paul fans could groove to fifteen (count ‘em) versions of “Now Hear This Song Of Mine” on Brung To Ewe By.
Picking up where we left off, Tobe Milo finally turned up interesting original material in their second full (and final) year of operation. Ironically, the first new tape was teased in brief extracts on the album The Best Of Tobe Milo Productions (ironic since their best was yet to come). Somehow they had acquired soundboard master tapes of BOTH Beatles Houston concerts from 1965. After the previews here and on a further single, the entire shows finally appeared on Live From The Sam Houston Colosseum, a double-LP, and In Person Sam Houston Colosseum (evening show only).
Live In Italy, an EP released by Tobe Milo incognito, included the first few minutes of the 24 Jun 65 Milan show (from an audience tape) coupled with an Italian TV interview. And Man Of The Decade,a one-sided LP, concluded with several mysterious new minutes from the Get Back sessions of 3 Jan 69. Again, this proved to be only a sample from a longer tape which turned up later.
Melvin Records also began to salvage their reputation, slowly but surely, with a string of releases. First came When It Says Beatles Beatles Beatles On The Label Label Label You Will Love It Love It Love It On Your Turntable Turntable Turntable. Well, unless it also says Melvin. At any rate, most of this sounded as if it had been taped from various screenings at fan conventions on a really cheap cassette. Relatively exclusive was a radio broadcast of 30 seconds of “Red Hot”, a Dec 62 Star-Club outtake.
Their next release was actually worthwhile – Ed’s Rrally Big Beatles Blasts compiled listenable versions of all three classic 1964 Ed Sullivan appearances – unedited and untampered with. But it was back to the bottom of the barrel with The New 21 (21 Big Ones) which were basically the old 21.
The single most important album of the year was an amazing collection of great-quality Abbey Road alternates called No. 3 Abbey Road N.W. 8. Highlights were longer versions of “You Never Give Me Your Money“, “Something“, and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer“. Even “Her Majesty” had the final chord intact! Nearly as good was the album’s other side, 20 minutes of Paul and Donovan informally crooning acoustic favorites from 1968. (Again, some of these tracks had actually debuted on the Strawberry Fields Forever 1977 Xmas Flexi, but this was their first wide distribution).
Albums such as 20X4 instantly pounced upon this new material and served it up re-heated with a side of out-fakes (“Peace Of Mind”, “Penny O’Dell”, an “unplugged” “Every Little Thing“) and solo flotsam and jetsam.
Watching Rainbows offered some of the Abbey Road tape plus a slew of new Get Back material from the EP of the same name, plus a bit from 10 Jan 69 (after George had walked out). It was becoming clear that SOMEBODY was sitting on several hours of Let It Be soundtrack reel outtakes and only releasing them a bit at a time. This practice would continue unabated for the next ten years at least before some full reels finally began to turn up.
On other fronts, Youngblood contained a complete and previously-unheard Dec 63 TV show, It’s The Beatles, along with some further new (or more complete) BBC Radio material. More exciting was the full tape of the recording session for a 17 Jul 64 “From Us To You” BBC recording date. This appeared on a 10″ EP called From Us To You: A Parlophone Rehearsal Session (ah, truth in advertising!) and included such goodies as a flubbed take of the title tune and a false start of “I Should Have Known Better” plus basic tracks for the latter and for “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You“.
Finally, the previously-mentioned Decca Tapes album finally appeared, 16 years after it was recorded, collecting all 15 songs in one place at long last. Now it just remained for another 16 years to pass before the tape was pressed at the correct speed!
Melvin Records unearthed some new material with their most eccentric bootleg yet (which is saying something, given the nature of their releases). Entitled The Beatles Vs. Don Ho, the sleeve was a clever parody of Vee-Jay’s The Beatles Vs. The Four Seasons; the disc itself opened with a tape of the bootlegger legitimately attempting (and failing) to give away a free copy of the LP over the phone. Closing side one was a bit of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with somebody mumbling “I buried Joel” – a dig at “Paul-is-dead” theorist Joel Glazier. And of course, Don Ho himself makes an appearance at the end of Side 2, singing “Tiny Bubbles”.
Oh yes – there was some Beatles material on the LP, notably a version of I’m Down (Hollywood Bowl 1965) from a radio broadcast which has pretty much turned up nowhere else. Also new were a rehearsal take of “Give Peace A Chance” from the Montreal bed-in, and a version of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” from 7 Jan 69.
Other than that, the 1979 market was largely solo material, picture discs of older titles, and compilations. It seemed the sources of good Beatles material had dried up, but this was merely the calm before the storm. Just around the corner were some incredible releases during what was probably THE golden decade of Beatles bootlegs – the 1980’s. Thanks to goings-on behind closed doors concurrently at Capitol, Abbey Road, and the BBC, fans would be treated to more class-A material than they had ever dreamed possible (and more than we perhaps deserved).
Originally posted to the rec.music.beatles.moderated newsgroup in May 1998. Reprinted with permission from the author.