These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
"They are the toughest recordings the Beatles ever made, the rawest, the most fun..." - [RollingStone 2017] .. .. .. "An incredible insight into the earliest music of the Beatles" - [This review]
This is album review number 203 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
If I was choosing an album for the quality of the recording, this album might be toward the bottom of the list.
However, if I was (and I was) looking for an album from my collection that is pretty rare, and is not just probably the first album by the Beatles (albeit Ringo was not a permanent member yet) and one that represented an incredible insight into the earliest music of the Beatles – then I could go no further.
This album is to titled ” A piece of History … The Beatles LIVE! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962“
Released on the Lingasong label in 1977 it features 26 tracks on two LP’s and it claims to include 13 never before released Beatles tracks.
So what can be said about the Beatles that hasn’t been said over and over – not much!
So I’ll concentrate on info relevant to this album and the period.
Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 is a double album featuring live performances byBeatles, recorded in late December 1962 at the Star-Club during their final Hamburg residency.
The album was released in 1977 in two different versions, comprising a total of 30 songs by the Beatles.
I have the English version which I was fortunate enough to pick up while in Liverpool attending a Beatles festival in 2017, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Sgt Peppers release.
The performances were recorded on a home tape machine using a single microphone, resulting in a low fidelity recording.
Wikipedia claims Ted “Kingsize” Taylor began to investigate possible marketing of the tapes in 1973.
The tapes were eventually bought by Paul Murphy and subjected to extensive audio processing to improve the sound, leading to the 1977 album.
Although the poor sound quality limits its commercial appeal, the album provides historic insight into the group’s club act in the period after Ringo Starr joined but before the emergence of Beatlemania.
The Beatles were unsuccessful in legally blocking the initial release of the album; the recordings were reissued in many forms until 1998, when the group were awarded full rights to the performances.
The late 1962 Star Club residency, from December 18th to December 31st, was to be the Beatles’ third and final stint in Hamburg.
Earlier in the spring, at their first Star Club stint, they had been informed of the death of original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe.
Ringo Starr had come aboard in August.
Discounting a few times Starr sat in while with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes as a temporary member, this marked the only time the Beatles, as the world came to know them, would take the Reeperbahn stage.
We do not know exactly what night or nights these club recordings come from – though New Year’s Eve seems likely – but for all of their shady provenance, there is little doubt with some matters.
Former manager Allan Williams, responsible for the Beatles’ first Hamburg gig, claimed that the tapes were recorded over three or four nights.
They were made by Adrian Barber, stage manager for the Star Club, at the bequest of Ted “Kingsize” Taylor, leader of the Dominoes, apparently sensing that these Beatles were up to something, and might become commercially viable.
The Star Club was easily the best Hamburg club the band played, with a capacity of 2,000 and theater seating.
It was certainly relatively posh compared to the Indra Club, their first Hamburg sojourn in August 1960. (Rolling Stone. December 29, 2017))
The album credits are as follows:
John Lennon: vocals, guitar, harmonica Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar George Harrison: vocals, guitar Ringo Starr: drums Horst Fascher (Star-Club owner): lead vocals on Hallelujah I Love Her So Fred Fascher (Star-Club waiter): lead vocals on Be-Bop-A-Lula
LP #1 – Side 1
Introduction/I Saw Her Standing There Roll Over Beethoven The Hippy Hippy Shake Sweet Little Sixteen’‘Lend Me Your Comb Your Feet’s Too Big
Twist And Shout
Mr Moonlight A Taste Of Honey Besame Mucho Reminiscing Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!
LP #2 – Side 1
(Aint‘Nothin’ Shakin’ To Know Her Is To Love Her Little Queenie Falling In Love Again (Can’t Help It) Ask Me Why Be-Bop-A-Lula Hallelujah, I Love Her So
Red Sails In The Sunset Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby Matchbox I’m Talking About You Shimmy Like Kate Long Tall Sally I Remember You
Ok, so we know the original recordings were made with a single microphone in mono in less than ideal conditions.
The audio has been cleaned up as much as was possible in 1977 and having got all that out the way, we turn to the music and what is being featured.
I think a selection of tracks that they went on to re-recorded later as well as some that were never re-released seems to be a reasonable way to deal with their music on this album.
So Track 1 on Side 1 is a logical place to start, as it allows us to time-trip back to that period and be in the audience for that introduction and for an energetic, although much rawer, version of the track, I Saw her Standing There.
let’s not forget, it is 1962, not only had they not even begun to become the biggest name in English music, they hadn’t even had a recording contract yet, here they are singing their own composition.
In fact in many ways the track would undergo little change when eventually re-recorded under George Martins direction.
The track would go on to be the B-side of the 1963 single with the A-side being “I Want To Hold Your hand”. I Saw Her standing There not only went on to reach a healthy #14 on the US Charts, was the opening track on their first album – Please Please Me.
I just couldn’t go past Track 5 on Side 1. Your Feet’s Too Big.
OK! originally composed by a guy called Fred Fisher with lyrics by Ada Benson, in 1936 it’s hard to know whether the Beatles first came across the track recorded by the Ink Spots or, Fats Waller.
However, the Beatles rocked it to whichever version they had been exposed to. As i listened it certainly seems to me that the Beatles also incorporated some of the riff from Shirley and Lee’s 1955 version of “Feels So Good”.
The vocals are (sadly) far too back behind the music, but we get the feel.
Your Feets Too Big
SIDE2 Track 1 is Twist and Shout.
“Twist and Shout” is a 1961 song written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns, later credited as “Bert Russell”.
Up until the Beatles released it the Isley’s had the better version, and while there will be some who would still want to debate this, despite the fact that both the Isley’s and The Top Notes were black, Lennon just made the colour of the singer irrelevant.
This would always be a crowd pleaser and Lennon holds nothing back in this version.
In a later re-recorded version he almost ripped his vocal cords on the last take.
Now is it my ears, or are those guitars just a little out of tune – surely not?
Twist and Shout
Track 5 is Reminiscing.
Witten by King Curtis it was released previously by Buddy Holly. The track was never re-recorded by the Beatles.
It features Paul on vocals and while Buddy Holly was perfect for the track, it has to be said that it was probably only a “filler” for the Beatles, who being Holly fans, would have picked it up from him.
Despite an attempt to put some “oomph” into the the piece, this version is quite honestly a cheesy syrupy “pop” tune.
It’s only 1 minute 41 seconds and the abrupt ending is as it was recorded.
Side 3, Track 4 is Falling In Love Again.
Originally recorded by Marlene Dietrich around 1930’s, it features Paul on vocals.
The story goes that possibly because he learned the original German version (and therefore did not know the words), McCartney wrote his own lyrics to the tune.
Believe it or not, the group “rocked it up” to make it more palatable in the club scene.
It was never released on any other “official” recording by the group, and it is fascinating to see that the Beatles had the stage smarts to not just call on the music of their USA “rock/Blues hero’s”, but to call upon revered singers of the country they were resident band in.
It was probably just as well that their stay in Germany was coming to an end and the track disappeared into the “never never”.
Falling In Love Again
Track 5 on this side of the album is – Ask Me Why.
Written primarily by John in 12962, it was a brilliant composition, again, for a group with little exposure and no contract.
The song is in the key of E major, with some leaning to its relative minor of C#, and is in 4/4 time. Structurally, the song is complex and the American Musicologist as Alan Pollack states – “… it contains three different variants of the verse. The song also contains “jazzy parallel sevenths” in most of the chords, and has a live ending.”
The track would be re-recorded and indeed was one of the songs performed at their first Parlophone recording session in EMI’s Abbey Road studio two on 6 June 1962.
Yet despite the poor recording quality there is something about this track/this version, that is very appealing and it’s no wonder they continued to use the track.
Ask Me Why
So we come to Side 4 (on Disk 2).
Track 3 is Matchbox. “Matchbox” was recorded as a rockabilly song by Carl Perkins in December 1956 and by fellow Sun Records performer, Jerry Lee Lewis, yet its origins – lyric wise, can be traced back to around 1927, when Blind lemon Jefferson recorded a track by the same name.
Musically it is different, yet there are lyrically, many similarities.
The Beatles were fans of Carl Perkins and the song suited Ringo’s style of singing and he sung it on their Live at the BBC recording.
However it was originally sung by Pete best, and when he got booted, John took over the vocals.
It was re-released twice, first of all on the UK released Long Tall Sally EP, and again on the 1994 compilation Live at the BBC.
Ironically Perkins claims the Beatles got his lyrics wrong and yet Perkins goes onto claim the similarity between his lyrics and those used by Jefferson was only coincidence!
TRACK 5 is Shimmy Like Kate – correct title being “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate”.
It was is an up-tempo jazz dance song, written by Armand J. Piron and published in 1922.
The original lyrics of the song are narrated first person by Kate’s sister, who sings about Kate’s impressive dancing skill and her wish to be able to emulate it.
The Beatles remove any semblance of jazz and turn it into a raucous uptempo piece which we can only imagine had the audience whipping themselves into a frenzy.
It features a nice rock lead line by George.
Shimmy Like Kate
So, is it an album an audiophile would want? No!
Is it an album that showcases the writing skills and the playing skills of the Beatles? No!
Is it of historical importance and provides music lovers with a snapshot of how a mighty talent was developing just prior to a mega breakthrough? Yes!
This Beatles recording happened almost this almost 60 years ago. It is an important part of the development of popular music and of what is, still in my mind, the group that had the greatest impact upon popular music, fashion and galvanised an entire generation (or two).
It was an album I purchased in 2017, right in Liverpool, where I bought it for the equivalent of Au$30 and thought I had a bargain.
I still think so today.
The album is available in many forms through Discogs, but the original version that I have reviewed is a little less frequently available and depending on its quality can be up to $60.00.
There are a variety of re-releases, that I doubt had access to the already dubious quality original tapes and so, chances are the audio has been taken from the original vinyl.
There is no know live footage of the Beatles playing in Hamburg in 1962.
However, there is a wonderful clip of them playing in that same year in The cavern – and absolutely worth watching. As a person commented ,it’s like watching someone invent fire.
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.