Release Date: Nov 11, 2013
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Rock & Roll, AM Pop, Early Pop/Rock, British Invasion, Merseybeat
Nearly two decades after the first volume, the second installment of the Beatles BBC recordings arrives and, like its predecessor, On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 condenses the Fab Four's voluminous BBC sessions into an easily digestible double-disc of highlights. The generous 63-track running length is slightly misleading as this, more than the 1994 set, is peppered with dialogue, interviews, and silly sketches -- a total of 24 of them, to be exact, including the five-minute "Pop Profile" interviews tacked onto the end of each disc (CD 1 showcases John and George on the eve of the release of Rubber Soul, CD 2 Paul and Ringo prior to the release of Revolver).
This was social media in Great Britain in 1963, during the first flash flood of Beatlemania: George Harrison singing "Do You Want to Know a Secret" for Deanne and Jenny in Bedford; Paul McCartney belting "The Hippy Hippy Shake" for a student at the bassist's old grammar school in Liverpool; Ringo Starr stumbling over names on a request card from Yorkshire. That year, the Beatles ran riot over the BBC, even landing a weekly radio series of studio performances, dedications and wisecracks, Pop Go the Beatles – a vigorous innocence and outreach that propels this second culling of the group's Beeb work. The Beatles are enjoying the speed and lunacy of stardom here: tugging their roots forward in Little Richard's"Lucille" and a sparkling cover of Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" a year before they cut it for a record; going deep into their Cavern-era song bag for Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You" and Carl Perkins'"Glad All Over.
The Beatles mythos is a sum of historic locations: the Cavern Club, the Ed Sullivan soundstage, Shea Stadium, the Maharishi’s Indian retreat, the Apple Records rooftop. And yet there’s a place crucial to the band’s history that’s often left out of the narrative, probably because it doesn’t make for the most exciting Rock Band backdrop: BBC Radio studios. The lasting images of Beatlemania are ones of constant motion: of airplanes and tarmacs, of screaming teens chasing the band down the high street, of limousines that act as decoys for other limousines.
The Beatles left a pristine musical legacy, but it was also a very finite one: Only about eight years of studio recordings. Luckily, the boys kept busy doing British radio shows in the early years to solidify their popularity in their home country. Those shows, first anthologized on 1994’s Live At The BBC, provided fans with the rare chance to hear The Fab 4 playing live without the deafening screams of teenage girls drowning out their virtuosity.
“Hello there! It’s Parky, Perky, Pinky and Pongo, the Fabulous Beat Biscuits from Liddypool” – not something anyone actually says on this second Beatles Live At The BBC collection, but not a million miles away from those Fab funsters’ authority-baiting mix of wacky Goonspeak and homegrown humour, either. It might all sound a little dated now but The Beatles’ irreverent on-air banter at Auntie reminds you just how much sharper they were than their contemporaries – and how little the establishment knew what to do with them. Their hosts either gamely try to keep up (and fail), or seem bemused by what they may well have thought was still a fad in their studio.