The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl was released in May 1977, at a time when Beatlemania was a far cry from current musical fashions. Nonetheless, the public appetite for live Beatles recordings was proven when a set of bootleg recordings from Hamburg’s Star-Club was released in 1977.
Once the technical work had been completed, EMI needed approval from the four Beatles before the album could be released. I had to go to New York anyway, so I rang John Lennon and told him about the recordings. I told him that I had been very sceptical at first but now I was very enthusiastic because I thought the album would be a piece of history which should be preserved.
I said to John, ‘I want you to hear it after I’ve gone. You can be as rude as you like, but if you don’t like it, give me a yell.’ I spoke to him the following day and he was delighted with it. The reaction of George and Ringo was much cooler.
The Hollywood Bowl recordings were issued with a gatefold sleeve, inside which was a selection of live photography and memorabilia. The back cover featured sleeve notes written by George Martin.
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.
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 on the album sounds just like a bootleg, but because Capitol is bootlegging it, it’s legitimate.
The album was a commercial success, selling more than a million copies worldwide. It topped the New Musical Express chart in the UK and reached number two on the Billboard chart in the US.
The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl was reissued in the UK in September 1984 on EMI’s budget label Music For Pleasure. However, it was given minimal promotion and failed to chart, and was deleted the following year.
I haven’t heard it. Geoff [Emerick] keeps tellign me to, because he did it. He thinks it’s good, but I’m just not that bothered. I’ve got a lot of those tapes anyway in my private collection. I’ve got original demos and original tapes so I’ve heard a lot of them. But I must have heard it, because I’m on it.
Despite the warm public reception, the album is yet to be reissued digitally. Needle-drop transfers from original pressings of the album have been traders by bootleggers, although the complete recordings from all three concerts are also in circulation.
Other releases of the Hollwood Bowl recordings
The Hollywood Bowl recordings were also used to bulk up the sound of the film The Beatles At Shea Stadium, and were incorporated into the soundtrack on 5 January 1966.
Over twelve years ago the Beatles appeared for the first time at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. It was not long after they had made their first impact on the United States, but already two years after I had signed them to a recording contract for EMI. Frankly, I was not in favor of taping their performance. I knew the quality of recording could not equal what we could do in the studio, but we thought we would try anyhow. Technically, the results were disappointing; the conditions for the engineers were arduous in the extreme. The chaos, I might almost say panic, that reigned at these concerts was unbelievable unless you were there. Only three track recording was possible; the Beatles had no “fold back” speakers, so they could not hear what they were singing, and the eternal shriek from 17,000 healthy, young lungs made even a jet plane inaudible.
A year later, in 1965, John, Paul, George and Ringo appeared again at The Hollywood Bowl and again Capitol taped the show for posterity, and there the tapes remained for over a decade. Neither the boys nor I considered they should be used because they consisted of titles that had already been issued as studio recordings, we often spoke of making a live recording, and in fact the ill-fated Let It Be album began as an attempt to make a live record of new material.
It was with some misgivings therefore that 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.
We transferred the vintage three track tapes to modern multi-track, remixed, filtered, equalized and generally polished the tapes. Then, by careful editing from the two performances, we produced the performance that you hear now, obviously there has been no overdubbing. All the voices and instruments are the original performance (some of the vocal balances, with three singers on one track are evidence enough). But it is a piece of history that will not occur again.
Those of us who were lucky enough to be present at a live Beatle concert – be it in Liverpool, London, New York, Washigton, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Sydney or wherever – will know how amazing, how unique those performances were. It was not just the voice of the Beatles: it was expression of the young people of the world.
And for the others who wondered what on Earth all the fuss was about, this album may give a little clue. It may be a poor substitute for the reality of those times, but it is now all there is.
In the multiplatinum, sophisticated world we live in today, it is difficult to appreciate the excitement of the Beatles breakthrough. My youngest daughter, Lucy, now nine years old, once asked me about them, “You used to record them, didn’t you, Daddy?” she asked, “Were they as great as the Bay City Rollers?’ “Probably not,” I replied. Some day she will find out.
Those who clamour for a Beatle reunion cannot see that it can never be the same again. The boys in their own way gave a great deal of their lives to us by being Beatles. And now they have found their own individual selves. Good luck to them. I am very proud to have been part of their story.
Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo.