The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl - CD review by the Ottawa Beatles Site

Above: "The cover photo, taken by tour manager Bob Bonis, shows the Beatles boarding a flight from Seattle to Vancouver in August 1964 for their first gig in Canada" - John Earls, New Music Express

The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl

by John Whelan, the Ottawa Beatles Site

"The fans were holding their hands high, as if reaching out for manna from heaven, hoping to make a connection with their idols. The Beatles were looking far and wide, enjoying their view....Both singers and screamers were in a state of gratification." - Larry Kane, broadcast journalist, Beatles official press group 1964-1965.
"We were maybe in the second row of box seats. You could barely hear them. I remember we did have an escort up to the Bowl because it was just nuts. We had an escort back to our limo, but my mom was freaking because girls were rushing the stage and diving into the pools to get to the Beatles." - Michele Marotta (her father Randy Wood was president of Vee Jay Records.)
"I remember there were fans sitting on the hill above the Hollywood Bowl to watch the show. There was super excitement all around us, that magical happy feeling of Beatlemania....My friends and I really loved how they rocked on 'I'm Down' and that's still a special favourite for us today." - Barbara Chamberlain

EARLY CONCERT RELEASES OF THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL

My first introduction to listening to a Beatles concert was a 48-second snippet of "Twist and Shout" from a documentary called "The Beatles Story" which had been released by Capitol Records in November 1964. The musical clip from the Hollywood Bowl made me wonder if Capitol records had any plans to one day release a Beatles concert on vinyl?? Such an intriguing idea! It would be a quite a while before Capitol would decide to make that happen.

The next instance of my hearing a handful of tracks from the Hollywood Bowl would be in 1973. I received an album called "The Beatles and The Rolling Stones" as a Christmas gift. The performances were issued on the International Joker label, a company who sometimes broke copyright laws by pinching material from the more established labels. The album cover describes both bands material as "SENSATION", "ORIGINAL" and "LIVE" is somewhat misleading especially when you consider that all of the Rolling Stone tracks are not live concert recordings and that only four of the Beatle tracks are: "Boys", "All My Loving", "Twist and Shout" and "You Can't Do That."

Voyle Gilmore, Capitol Records producer who recorded the Hollywood Bowl explains how the concerts likely got bootlegged: "The Beatles heard it and they all wanted tape copies. I had five or six copies made and sent over. That's where the bootlegs must of come from. We had a system at Capitol and we knew where all our copies were. The Beatles said they liked the tapes, that it sounded pretty good, that they were surprised but they still didn't want to release it." 

George Harrison's own comments backs up what Voyle Gilmore said about receiving an acetate but George's views on the recording results were different: "I have an acetate of it, right from '64 and I had the tapes in the studio in England a few years ago. The thing is, it's only important historically, but as a record it's not very good."

He added: "While each of The Beatles was on EMI/Capitol, the LP wouldn't have been released because we didn't like it. But as soon as we left, and we lost control of our material, it was released. The sound quality sounds just like a bootleg, but because Capitol is bootlegging it, it's legitimate."

CAUSE AND EFFECT: STAR CLUB VERSES HOLLYWOOD BOWL

During April 1977, "Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany 1962" was released on the Lingasong label as a double album. It was available in the marketplace right up to May 1998 until the Beatles would legally block the album in London's High Court. George Harrison would testify during a two-day hearing process. He declared: "Every time it came up we tried to get it stopped. This thing has been floating around for 36 years and it is about time it was resolved." Mr. Justice Neuberger ruled in favour of the Beatles and Lingasong was ordered to handover the original master recordings and halt production of the album.

However, "Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany 1962" became the catalyst in getting "The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl" officially released. This was done by Capitol records to capitalize financially from the record sales and to fill in void for fans clamoring for a new Beatles product.

Capitol records got in touch with Beatle producer George Martin. As George Martin recalls: "I agreed to listen to those early tapes at the request of Bhaskar Menon, Capitol's president. The fact that they were the only live recordings of the Beatles in existence (if you discount inferior bootlegs) did not impress me. What did impress me, however, was the electric atmosphere and raw energy that came over."

"And so, together with my recording engineer, Geoff Emerick, I set to work to bring the performance back to life. It was a labor of love, for we did not know if we could make them good enough for the world to hear - let alone John, Paul, George and Ringo."


 
DJ Bob Eubanks from radio station KRLA 1110 and his business partner Mickey Brown "borrowed 25,000" against a home they owned together. This allowed Bob Eubanks to book and produce the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.
Bob Eubanks, along with DJ Dave Hull and Reb Foster (both from KRLA) introduced the Beatles to 18,700 fans. Bob Eubanks "promoted the band's return visit to the Bowl in 1965," writes Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times

RECORDING AND MIXING THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL CONCERTS      

The Beatles performed at the Hollywood Bowl on 23 August, 1964 and 29-30 August 1965. The Beatles had no "fold-back speakers" to hear themselves and so they relied on their trained musical ears and long standing camaraderie as a tight band to pull off the performances. Capitol Records producer Voyle Gilmore explains some of the technical recording aspects from those Beatle concerts: "It was recorded on three-track machines with half-inch [analog] tapes. The Hollywood Bowl has a pretty good stereo sound system so we plugged our mikes right in there. I didn't do an awful lot. There wasn't much we could do. They just played their usual show and we recorded it. It wasn't that bad. I kept thinking, 'Maybe we'll get permission to release the tapes.' So I took them back to the studio and worked on it a while. I worked on the applause, edited it down, made it play and EQd it quite a bit."

George Martin notes that three track recording was a "standard U.S. format (back) then. You would record the band in stereo on two tracks and keep the voice separated on the third, so that you could bring it up or down in the mix...In 1977, when I was asked to make an album from the tapes, I found guitars and voices mixed on the same track. And the recording seemed to concentrate more on the wild screaming of 18,700 kids than the Beatles on stage."

Transferring the concert from analog to vinyl in 1977 proved to be a daunting task. "It was very difficult to find a three-track machine that worked," said George Martin. "Eventually we found an old one which prevented from overheating by having a vacuum cleaner in reverse, blowing cool air onto it. The first thing Geoff [Emerick] and I did was transfer the original tape onto 24-track and worked from that."

There was, however, a technical problem that prevailed on the 29 August 1965 recording: Paul McCartney's microphone for his voice did not work on the first four songs that the Beatles performed: "Twist and Shout", "She's A Woman," "I Feel Fine," "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." So those four tracks could never be considered for inclusion on a vinyl release but the 30 August 1965 concert would stand for what was missed from the night before.

Voyle Gilmore's assessment of the 1964 and 1965 concerts and how the Hollywood Bowl vinyl release was handled went like this: "I thought the first concert was a little better than the second. I don't know if I would have put them together like they did because doing it that way they have sacrificed an album. They really could have made two albums."

But the album was cobbled together from the concerts and released on vinyl 4 May, 1977 by Capitol. The album did well by charting at #1 on the New Musical Express chart in the UK and #2 on the Billboard chart in the US. In Japan the album charted at #1.

COMPACT DISC TECHNOLOGY

In 1982 Philips and Sony co-developed CD (Compact Disc) technology. To support the new technology, the Sony CDP-101 audio player was released October 1982 in Japan. The new technology paved the way for Beatles albums that were once issued on vinyl, be transferred onto CD format. All of the Beatles albums but one, "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl", saw commercial release in this new format. Not having the concert release on CD format was like a gaping hole in the Beatles musical canon. Something had to be done to start addressing the problem and so this writer created an on-line petition. The support for having the album released on CD format was strong and so on April 18, 2006, the petition signatures were sent to the following executives: Andrew Slater, President and CEO for Capitol records, USA; Deane Cameron, President of Capitol records, Canada; and Neil Aspinall for Apple records in England. Capitol responded back by registered mail and had no immediate plans to release it in CD format but might one day be considered for a future Beatles project.

That new project would later become "The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl," CD release date September 9, 2016. It would dovetail with a new Beatles documentary called "Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years" and was directed by Academy Award-winning film maker Ron Howard. The world premier was on September 15, 2016 and opened in theatres the next day. The DVD became available on November 18, 2016.

"The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl" on CD contains all of the songs found on the vinyl release but would include four new bonus tracks: "You Can't Do That," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby," and "Baby's In Black." Overseeing the musical restoration process of the Hollywood Bowl concerts was Giles Martin, son of late Beatles musical producer George Martin.

Giles Martin recalled how it all came about: "A few years ago Capitol Studios called saying they'd discovered some Hollywood Bowl three track tapes in their archives. We transferred them and noticed an improvement over the tapes we've kept in the London archive. Alongside this I'd been working for some time with a team headed by engineer James Clarke on demix technology, the ability to remove and separate sounds from a single track."

James Clarke is a systems analyst at Abbey Road who "developed a 'demixing' process to separate each instrument and vocal track from the cacophony," writes Tim Moynihan. "He isolated everything Ringo, Harrison, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon played and sang, separated it from the din of the crowd, and effectively created clean tracks to remaster. Fittingly, Clarke's audio-modelling process used spectograms -- imagery you might associate with ghost-hunting--to bring the spirit of these live performances back to life.

"It doesn't exist as a software program that is easy to use," Clarke says. "It's a lot of Matlab, more like a research tool. There's no graphical front end where you can just load a piece of audio up, paint a track, and extract the audio. I write manual scripts, which I then put into the engine to process," writes Tim Moynihan. One of the end results from this process: "he was able to algorithmically remove 95% of the crowd from the recordings when working on the remaster of the album, " wrote the CBC.

"With Sam Okell [senior recording engineer at Abbey Road], I started work on remixing the Hollywood Bowl tapes," said Giles Martin. "Technology has moved on since my father worked on the material all those years ago. Now there is improved clarity, and so the immediacy and visceral excitement can be heard like never heard before. What we hear now is the raw energy of four lads playing together to a crowd that loved them. This is the closest you can get to being at the Hollywood Bowl at the height of Beatlemania. We hope you will enjoy the show."

WORLD REACTION TO THE CD RELEASE

Re-issued after 29 years out of print, "The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl" is released and distributed through Universal/Apple on 9 September 2016.  "The Beatles' "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" debuts at No. 7 on the Billboard chart 200 (dated Oct. 1). It is also the group's 32nd top 10 album," writes Wish 107.5 FM radio. "With a 36,000 equivalent album units launched in the week ending Sept. 15, 35,000 were in traditional album sales, according to Neilsen Music. Most popular albums in the U.S. are being ranked based on multi-metric consumption that includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA)," added Wish 107.5 FM.

'The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl' Offers Raw Frenzy
The band sounds raw and light at the same time, the sting and snap of George Harrison's lead guitar reveling in the space cleared by the clench-fist punch of Lennon's rhythm guitar and McCartney's bass on "She's a Woman" and "Everybody's Wants to Be My Baby." And for 45 minutes, the frenzy never lets up, a direct line into the sexual hysteria at the heart of early rock & roll." -- Rolling Stone
Remastering the One Beatles Live Album Finally Made It Great
Live at the Hollywood Bowl...squeezes astonishing clarity out of the source tapes. You can finally hear an exceptionally tight band grinding out infectious blues-based rock propelled by a driving beat, wailing guitars, and raspy vocals. This album never sounded so lucid, present, or weighty. -- Tim Moynihan, Wired
Album review: 'Hollywood Bowl' proves Beatles were unbeatable live
Truly, it's probably the best sonic representation of Beatlemania at its peak, both in the way the animalist howls of crowd are captured, and in the way the Beatles' absolutely magical chemistry and musicianship is displayed....As an artifact of one of the most important times in pop music history, it's absolutely indispensible. As proof that The Beatles were once one of the best live bands going, it's absolutely indisputable. -- Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune

From this fans perspective, Giles Martin, James Clarke and Sam Okell aced the re-mastering of the concert tapes and truly made them an enjoyable listening experience. Given the technical problems that were fixed and cleaned up, the surviving Beatles should have no embarrassment over the finished product. "The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood" will be a testimony held with great reverence even 200 years from now in understanding why the bands early musical career was dubbed as "Beatlemania!"

The four bonus tracks are a worthy inclusion, proving once again that the Beatles are trying to give their fans full value for their product. The bonus track "Everybody Is Trying To Be My Baby" is a knock-out performance from George Harrison that showcased how brilliant his guitar playing and singing is. And Paul's bass playing is phenomenal on it. The John Lennon rocker "You Can't Do That" featuring the "two measure guitar riff" is a mind-blowing experience to hear as it was for the fans at the concert. Given the technical glitches that James Clarke had to overcome, it resembles as closely as possible the studio version. Certainly, without question, a far better outcome is presented here than the one found on the "Beatles and the Rolling Stones" bootleg by International Joker.

"It's hard to think, now, about the technology they had then and how unprepared the world was for the onslaught of rock and roll," said Giles Martin. He added that "The Beatles were the first stadium band" using "100-watt amplifiers" made by Vox. Despite what might be considered prehistoric conditions to work under, John Lennon commented on the Beatles Anthology that "The Hollywood Bowl was marvellous. It was the one we enjoyed most, I think, even though it wasn't the largest crowd -- but because it seemed so important, and everybody was saying things. We got on, and it was a big stage, and it was great. We could be heard in a place like the Hollywood Bowl, even though the crowds was wild: good acoustics."

Rating for "The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl" *****/5

Bibliography:

"Remastering the One Beatles Live Album Finally Made It Great" - Tim Moynihan, Wired, October 3, 2017
"Remixed & Expanded: The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl due in Sept" - Paul Sinclair, superdeluxedition.com, July 20, 2016
"The Beatles to release live album of historic Hollywood Bowl shows" - John Earls, New Music Express
"The Beatles releasing 'Live at the Hollywood Bowl' album on CD for first time" - Steve Marinucci, AXS contributor, July 20, 2016
"Read how Abbey Road's best engineers brought the Beatles' Hollywood Bowl recordings back to life" - Happy News, March 13, 2017
"The Beatles' Iconic Hollywood Bowl Concerts: Two Fans Look Back on Seeing (And Even Meeting) The Fab Four in the '60s" - Steve Marinucci, Billboard, September 9, 2016
"The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl" - The Beatles Bible, 2018
"Beatles win court battle" - British Broadcasting Corporation, May 8, 1998
"Ticket To Ride" - Larry Kane, Running Press, 2003
"The Beatles Recording Sessions" - Mark Lewisohn, Hamlyn, 1988
"Album review: 'Hollywood Bowl' proves Beatles were unbeatable live" - Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune, September 20, 2016
"Review: 'The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl' Offers Raw Frenzy" - Rolling Stone, September 7, 2016
"Abbey Road's James Clarke Speaks to CBC Radio" - Abbey Road Studios, May 2, 2017
"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: Giles Martin on the Beatles and the 'At the Hollywood Bowl' Album/Film (Interview)" - Ken Sharp, Rock Cellar, October 7, 2016
"The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl' album upgraded for Sept. 9 reissue" - Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2016
"'Live at the Hollywood Bowl' is The Beatles' 32nd Top 10 Album on Billboard 200 Chart" - Wish 107.5 FM radio, September 24, 2016
"You Can't Do That" - Dave Rybaczewski, The Beatles History!
"Compact Disc", Wikipedia
"50th Anniversary of Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl" - Irene Ojdana, Culture and Art, Los Angeles, August 29, 2014
"Bob Eubanks on Bringing the Beatles to Hollywood Bowl in 1964" - Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times
"The Beatles Announce DVD Release Details of 'Eight Days a Week: Touring Years'" - Steve Marinucci, Billboard, September 19, 2016

Published by the Ottawa Beatles Site, May 24, 2018.