Many thanks to Peter Silverton for furnishing the link to Chuck Klosterman’s alternate-universe review of the latest Beatles reissues, which actually conveys several truths about the “real” recordings within its tongue-in-cheekiness. However, in respect to full karmic disclosure, your reporter must point out that he did a rather similar review of the then-current Beatles repackages 36 years ago, as published in the July 1973 issue of Phonograph Record Magazine. Great minds evidently snark alike, to wit:
The Beatles: 1962-1966, 1967-1970 (Apple)
by Richard Riegel
In the rock-reissue coup of the record-publishing season, Capitol has released (on its progressive English subsidiary label, Apple) two double albums of the previously little-heard recordings of the original Beatles. With attractive packaging, thoughtful song selection (coordinated by long-time Beatles Preservation Society president Allen Klein), these Beatles sets have all the qualities any intelligent ex-punk could ask for, and are gonna give Elektra’s Nuggets a real run for the money as the best Sixties reissue of the year.
The Beatles’ history is a classic tragedy of rock and roll: a callous audience, a rhythm guitarist whose eccentricities outweighed his brilliance, five record companies who did not give a hot damn, and, finally, they gave up — and who could blame them? Genuine English mods, from up Liverpool way, the Beatles got their start in 1961 as a back-up for pop phenomenon Tony Sheridan. The Beatles’ first recording, a rousing rock rendition of that exuberant standard “Ain’t She Sweet,” featured Sheridan, and was eventually released on Atco in this country. Unfortunately “Ain’t She Sweet” ain’t included here, due to contractual hassles with Sheridan, who doesn’t want to alienate his current Vegas fans, but you get the idea.
Moving along to band one of album one, you’ll find the fantastic “Love Me Do,” the first composition of the Beatles’ incipient geniuses, rhythm guitarist John Lennon and bassist-vocalist Paul McCartney. Released on Parlophone (with which the Beatles’ hustling manager Brian Epstein had landed a contract), “Love Me Do” did tolerably well in England, but Capitol declined to exercise its first option on EMI material, and “Love Me Do” appeared on the obscure Tollie label in the U.S.. Inadequately promoted, “Love Me Do” made it only to No. 98, and even Tollie didn’t want the next single, a brilliant exposition of frustrated teenage lust, so Vee-Jay picked it up. “Please Please Me” didn’t make it either, despite lead guitarist George Harrison’s slashing chops, and the next single, “She Loves You,” appeared on Swan. (A genuine rare bird, the original 45 of “She Loves You” has been known to fetch up to $100. from latter-day collectords, or “Beatlemaniacs,” as they are sometimes known.) “She Loves You” didn’t even reach the American charts, a failure paradoxical in the face of the monster success of so many other English beat groups during 1963, such as the Nashville Teens, the Honeycombs, and the Moquettes. “She Loves You” proved to be the last Beatles single released in the U.S..
Thus, from 1965 on, the Beatles’ recordings were available only on Parlophone, in severely-limited quantities just sufficient to supply that hardy clique of Beatles fans bucking the general Kinkdom sweeping the British Isles. Among the rarified Lennon-McCartney masterpieces from this fecund period are the poignant folk blues “Yesterday,” the protest anthem “Eight Days a Week” (which described the horrible working conditions of Liverpool longshoremen), the courageously anti-fascist “Paperback Writer,” and that apocalyptic ode to existentialism. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” all of which are included on the first album of the new set, along with many other esoteric Beatles gems.
Disillusioned by their continued unpopularity, the original Beatles finally broke up in early 1967. John Lennon hung himself, George Harrison entered a Benedictine order, and Ringo Starr accepted a job drumming for Rory Storme and the Hurricanes at 2 pounds more per week than he had made with the Beatles. Paul McCartney chose to stay on in the new group of Beatles handpicked by Epstein to capitalize on the new “psychedelic” style of rock. The new members, John Q. Lenin, Jorge Harrleston, and Richard Starkey, were rather different-looking blokes than the original Beatles, as one can see by comparing the cover photos on these two albums, but, like the replacement husband on Bewitched, not all that different.
Propelled along by McCartney’s characteristic ebullience, the new Beatles recorded a series of psychebaroque singles for Parlophone, including the reverent, neo-Christian “Lady Madonna”; the Stones-like put-down-of-an-aristocratic-bitch, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”; and the searing, heavy-metal “Long and Winding Road.” But the purist fans wouldn’t accept this new group, in spite of its accomplishments, and Parlophone finally dropped the Beatles in 1970. McCartney then married his life-love, actress Jane Asher, and retired to a simple cottage to ponder the injustice of it all. When last heard from, the remaining Beatles, Lenin, Harrleston, and Starkey, were barnstorming the Midlands as a power trio, playing third billing at Screaming Lord Sutch concerts.
Popular or not, the Beatles left a fine legacy of recorded tracks, which you will now have the privilege of hearing at 33 1/3 rpm for the first time, in these superb reissue packages. But would you believe it, someone has already bootlegged the Beatles, in a two-record set in a plain white jacket, an album containing outtakes of some of the numbers represented on the official reissue, along with numerous studio cuts of doubtful parentage. Allen Klein is rightfully incensed, as well he might be, but stick with his collections and you’ll get the real thing!
[Author's Note: This review of "the red and blue albums" generated the first-ever hate mail from a reader in my rockcritical career. He wasn't going to have his sacred Beatles' legend tampered with, no sir! I'd arrived!]