I only asked for one specific gift this Christmas, the Beatles 1s video collection. I have all these videos already. I’ve been a Beatles bootleg collector since before I was even a teenager and leapt right in when videos became available at record stores like Revolver Records or Sound City that specialized in bootlegs.
Of course the quality was usually worse than horrible. Duped over and over from bad sources, sometimes the images looked like abstracts of the band. I bought them anyway, and duped them so my cousin could have even worse quality Beatles music videos than I did.
That all changed after The Beatles Anthology video series, where the band dropped a bunch of those videos in their entirety into the discussion. YouTube made it even better, but now the Beatles are putting up those videos again on YouTube and they’re the clearest and the cleanest I’ve ever seen.
Okay, yes, I know, David Letterman said it best when he once riffed that the Beatles were going to release a whole new Anthology Series because Ringo just remembered another anecdote. But I was one of those who would have run out and bought it. I’m still waiting for it. But I don’t have to wait for these.
“Don’t Let Me Down” is one of funkiest Beatles tunes ever. The late, great ex-Drifter Ben E. King covered it and he probably didn’t even know the Beatles covered his “Stand by Me” solo hit when they were in Hamburg. Lennon covered that on his Rock and Roll covers album.
This version of “Don’t Let Me Down” is from the Let It Be rooftop sessions. It’s a very slightly sonically delivered performance. Listen to the interplay between those guitars. The high point, for me, is the falsetto exchange between John and Paul and the bloop bloop bit from the original taping, which seem to be missing, but it’s so clear and clean.
“Hey Jude” is probably the most popular Beatles tune. It was written by Paul for Lennon’s son Julian, who was dealing with his parents’ divorce. This version comes from the Robert Frost show, which you can hear the Beatles jamming on the theme at the beginning.
It’s obviously not entirely live, what with McCartney’s oddly double-tracked vocals and acoustic guitars, but it captures enough excitement to bring the entire audience to their feet and get the band buried in overzealous zealots.
You think McCartney’s being cordial on “We Can Work it Out” but no, he’s the one who says, try to see if my way, it might be right. But why do you see it your way, our friendship lies in the balance. Lennon’s part, in that urgent minor key, is actually the part that’s trying to work things out while there is still time.
This was one of the first music videos made while the Beatles were helping invent MTV. They’d heard about Elvis sending his pink Cadillac around on tour when he couldn’t be bothered to do it himself and thought this was a great way to continue the tradition. Check out the time change to 3/4 time. The Beatles were just beginning to invent Prog Rock.
“Penny Lane” is one of the warmest remembrance songs The Beatles ever did. Flawlessly produced and so clear, it put a surrealistic spin on one of the McCartney’s favorite streets in Liverpool. The Beatles are probably at their most British in this song.
The video is fun and looks like it was all done impromptu, but that’s what happens when you bring on the horses. This was paired with the song “Strawberry Fields” as the single that preceded Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the band forever rewrote what collaboration with a producer could be.
“A Day In The Life” closed Sgt. Pepper on both a dark but hopeful note. The recording was a great party, according to all who assembled, including Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, Donovan and Marianne Faithful.
They even had Mike Nesmith to Monkee around with, I mean, everybody’s got something to hide, right? The orchestra all wore funny masks and were instructed not to listen to what the rest of the ensemble was playing. And those chords, wondrous things that progression, fully suit the Lennon’s plaintive voice.
“Hello Goodbye” is another one of McCartney’s subversive masterpieces. Built around the idea that the word “aloha” means both hello and goodbye in Hawaiian, he uses it to confuse a lover with one of the band’s most radio-friendly hits.
You say you want a “Revolution?” The Beatles were actually undecided about which way they felt about the sixties countercultural reaction to wars and their government, but the fabs weren’t down with violence. At least not all the time. Jagger was going to protests and committed the band to fighting in the streets, Lennon was an empathetic songwriter who worried about just who might be getting hurt, especially when those people might be the ones who were buying Beatles records. This was also recorded at the David Frost Show.
Happy Christmas, War Is Over, if you want it, regardless of what the candidates might tell ya.