TheBeatlesRarity marches forward with another round of #askNat. This week’s question comes from Christopher Spier who keeps up with the latest on the site via Facebook. He has this to say:
I was wondering if you could tell us the origin of the Beatles bootleg recordings. I know some come from private collection acetates. But there are some I’ve heard that must be sourced from the master tapes. Such as the many takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” or more recently RM 20 of Revolution 1 (I think that’s the right number). Does that mean someone inside of Abbey Road let these slip out? I’ve always been curious about this and figured if anyone would have an answer it would be you. Thanks for the great site Nat. Keep posting!
Thanks Chris! Well, speaking in general terms, most Beatles bootlegs come from one of the following sources:
Live recordings – Many of the these were from concert appearances. Of these some were professionally recorded, such as the gigs recorded in Tokyo on June 30 and July 1, 1966. There are also some that were recorded by someone in the audience that have now made there way onto bootlegs. One of the earliest of these was made from a mic suspended above the stage while The Beatles were performing at the Star Club in Hamburg Germany in December 1962, prior to their first number one single, “Please Please Me.”
Television appearances – Many television appearances including dialog and performances have made their way onto bootlegs and some of these have gone on to be issued on official releases, such as the Ed Sullivan Show appearances of 1964 and 1965 that appeared on a special DVD set called The Four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows starring The Beatles as well as The Beatles Anthology.
Studio sessions – As you’ve asked, many of these have “leaked” from the vault at Abbey Road studios by means of people that have had access over the years. This is the case with the “Strawberry Fields Forever” sessions mentioned by Chris, as they were bootlegged prior to being partially shared on The Beatles Anthology 2 CD set. Some were originally sourced from acetates that at one time were only in the possession of producer George Martin, one of the EMI sound engineers, or even one of The Beatles. There is a large amount of Beatles material out there within this category giving us insight into the evolution of many of the famous recordings and alternate takes leading up to the creation of the masters.
BBC radio sessions: Between March 1962 and May 1965, The Beatles made many appearances on the BBC Radio in the U.K. and made exclusive studio versions of many tunes from their repertoire for broadcast. The BBC studios were not capable of multi-tracking but The Beatles still were able to do overdubs by recording them live during tape-to-tape copies. Some of the best of these were included on the Apple 2-CD compilation Live At The BBC released in 1994, but a much larger collection of these has been widely bootlegged.
Get Back Sessions: In January 1969, the Beatles documented on film the recording of what ended up being the sessions for their Let It Be album. Although their is a lot of conflict within the group during this period, there are plenty of good moments as well. Nearly 100 hours of material exists from these sessions as a result of 500 reels of tape stolen from Apple in the 1970′s. Most of the material is sourced from camera film rolls recorded in mono and including slate announcements and roll announcements heard by the camera crew. Much of the bootleg material is an unorganized collection of scattered and fragmented pieces of rehearsals as well as discussion from the band.
Since the widespread practice of media exchange over the Internet has become so commonplace, it is becoming harder to determine where some of this material has come from. For example there is a lot of uncertainty about the circumstances behind the leak of “Revolution 1″ Take 20 that you mention (hear this recording here).
I could elaborate much further on the various categories I have listed above but I think I will wrap it up here so that this doesn’t turn into something the size of very comprehensive book. Feel free to add anything you like in the comments.
Thanks for a good question Chris and to everyone for reading!
Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:
1) There is a designated form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks), but modfied to do both BROW requests and #askNat questions.
2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB wall at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.
3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.
4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) Anthology 2 – 1995 2-CD collection of Beatles out-takes, extras and live recordings from 1965-1968.
2) Live at the BBC 1994 2-CD compilation of recordings from the Beatles 1962-1965 broadcasts for BBC radio.
3) Let It Be 2009 remaster of original 1970 Beatles LP.
4) The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles 2010 2-DVD set featuring 4 episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show that starred The Beatles.