We have enough Beatles music already, thank you
The sound you hear beneath the timeless voices of John and Paul (and, okay, fine, George and Ringo)? That's the scrape against the bottom of the barrel.
Thu Nov 14 2013
The mildly fascinating bits of On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2, the latest posthumous barrel-scraping of the Beatles vault released earlier this week, are the interviews with John, Paul, George and Ringo. That's never a good thing, when the radio-chat fluff outshines the familiar sounds of the greatest band of all time banging through its early repertoire.
We hear Ringo on babies: "They're good fun, you know, they sort of crawl around and break all the ashtrays." John on his favorite color, black: "If I'm going to make a choice of colors, it saves me thinking of another color scheme… it's always black." George on his home in the country: "It's an Australian ranch house… a wandering bungalow." And George again on, um, babies: "I like some kids; I dislike some others." Yep, this is the interesting stuff.
Paul says something that underlines the pointlessness of this two-LP release: "We record everything that we write." Meaning, it's all out there already. With some artists, legends remain of shelved demos, lost tapes, drastically alternate versions. Hell, the Beatles never really toured, which is why the closest thing to a live album Capitol can cobble together in 2013 is this hodgepodge of dusty broadcasts. The sound won't blow your mind on vinyl. No hidden gems are mined. The studio settings—BBC programs such as Saturday Club and Top Gear (a pop music show in the 1960s, not the one about cars)—were far too formal to document the ripping live act of the Cavern Club and Hamburg. Do you need a lesser take of "Twist and Shout"? Were the Beatles ever sex-and-speed–charged rock & roll ramblers once they swapped the leather for gray suits?
Two decades ago, I drove a Pontiac to a record store (yeah, that's how old I am) to eagerly snatch Volume One of these BBC recordings. It blows my mind to think that was 20 years ago. The Beatles Anthology followed shortly thereafter. Which is to say that we are now trading in Beatles nostalgia for Beatles nostalgia.
As a nostalgist and Anglophile, I am warmed in my sappy parts when listening to the charmingly slick BBC presenter here. But let's be real: This is a $20 stocking stuffer for Boomers. I'm not naive enough to suggest or believe that Beatlemania will ever go away. But how about a Super Beatles Cart game, or an Xbox One fighter that lets you pit Ringo against Paul in the bowels of the Yellow Submarine, or something new?