|Album cover for The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 2016.|
|The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, 1965.|
The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl fills an important gap in the band’s discography. Remastered by Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, and released to coincide with Ron Howard’s new documentary, Eight Days a Week: the Touring Years, which I reviewed here, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl was originally released in 1977, and has remained the group’s only official live album. And until now, it had never been released on CD. As a die-hard Beatles fan, I actually bought it on cassette around 1993, just to complete my Beatles collection. I idly wondered over the years if it would ever see the light of day on CD, and I’m glad that it finally has.
The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl is a time capsule, an artifact of that brief period when the group played countless concerts to stadiums full of screaming teenage girls. Recorded at the band’s three performances at the Bowl in 1964 and 1965, the album features good performances from the band, and a lot of screaming from the enthusiastic audience. Even with Giles Martin’s work, which allows us to hear the Beatles in greater clarity, the group is still overpowered by the audience. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy how good the Beatles were live. There’s a dynamic energy to their music that comes across strongly on these recordings. There’s a reason these girls were going nuts over the Beatles.
As I mentioned in my review of Eight Days a Week, what’s so striking is how good the Beatles were live, despite the fact that they couldn’t actually hear themselves on stage. The album opens with the excitement of “Twist and Shout,” featuring John Lennon’s superb vocals. Unfortunately, the Beatles made this version shorter than their studio recording by omitting the guitar solo, meaning it’s only a minute and half long. Paul gets his turn to tear up a rocker next with “She’s a Woman,” followed by the group’s cover of Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” Lennon changes some of the lyrics, as he implores Lizzy to “love me till I’m satisfied,” and “love me till the end of time,” lyrics not found on either the studio version of the song or Williams’ original recording.
“Ticket to Ride” is a challenging song to play live, but Ringo nails the song’s distinctive drum pattern. George plays a great solo on “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and Paul’s vocal is loose and almost jazzy. As described in the liner notes, the moment when the band moves into the bridge on “Things We Said Today” and the crowd unleashes their screams is electric. “Roll Over Beethoven” is taken at a much faster tempo than the studio version.
Lennon has a funny bit as he intros “A Hard Day’s Night,” adding a Scottish burr to the song’s title. George nails the distinctive guitar solo, yet more proof of his live prowess. John sings the wrong line on “Help!” instead of singing “I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before” during the second chorus, he sings “Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.” As fans of the Beatles’ live performances know, “We’d like to carry on now with our next number” is the standard Beatle intro for a song, usually spoken by Paul, and here both George and Paul say it. The standard concert closer was Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” which also closed their last official concert at Candlestick Park in 1966. Fortunately we get four bonus tracks, John’s rocking “You Can’t Do That” and a rather ragged take of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from 1964, George’s cover of Carl Perkins’ “Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby” and John and Paul duetting on “Baby’s in Black” from 1965.
The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl gives those of us who weren’t around in the 1960’s a taste of what Beatlemania sounded like, and it’s a glorious jolt of adrenaline.