Monday, August 31, 2009

Beatles programming abounds on BBC 2

BBC Radio 2 continues a Beatles Bank Holiday today. You can hear Beatles-related programming throughout the day, as well as hear these programs via the Beeb's iPlayer on-demand feature:

The Beatles at the Beeb
Bill Kenwright presents a two hour journey through the many Beatles songs and interviews recorded at the BBC during the 60s.

The Beatles played on 53 different radio shows between March 1962 and June 1965, giving no less than 275 performances of 88 different songs. Remarkably 36 of those songs were never issued on record while the group was in existence. With the exception of Lennon-McCartney's I'll Be On My Way, these unreleased tracks were cover versions, ranging from familiar rock 'n' roll numbers to some fairly obscure oddities which included a customised version of Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport with Rolf Harris (Don't ill-treat me pet dingo, Ringo).

Kevin Howlett produced his first documentary about the Beatles' BBC recordings as a young Radio 1 producer in 1982. It made headlines around the world because Kevin tracked down many BBC Beatles sessions not heard since their original broadcasts. Out of the 53 BBC programmes with live Beatles music, just one was in the BBC Archive. Following further investigations, Kevin produced the award-winning The Beeb's Lost Beatles Tapes in 1988.

And discoveries are still possible: This programme features an interview - unheard since 1965 - in which the Beatles talk about their second movie Help! They chatted live from a radio car at Twickenham Film Studios for the BBC Light Programme show Pop Inn. The 'lost' master tape of The Lennon and McCartney Songbook will also be heard for the first time since its original broadcast on August Bank Holiday Monday in 1966.

This show is a tantalising prospect for Beatles fans as other interviews and music recordings will be featured that have not been broadcast since the 1960s. In addition to the archive Beatles interviews with presenters such as Brian Matthew and Alan Freeman, Brian and Alan (recorded in 1988) will be heard reminiscing about their time with The Beatles at the Beeb.

Bigger than Jesus

On 4 March 1966 the Evening Standard published an interview between Maureen Cleave and John Lennon entitled How Does A Beatle Live? In the course of a description of the Beatle's everyday life in Weybridge, Cleave quoted Lennon as saying: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that. I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity."

The interview caused little controversy on publication in England, where it was regarded as just another example of the waning relevance of the church for the younger generation. But when it was reprinted in an American magazine four months later, on the eve of a Beatles tour of the States, it caused outrage and the Beatles' American tour of 1966 took place against a background of death threats and fear.

Although Lennon expressed regret for any offence caused by his remarks at an uneasy press conference in Chicago, he wouldn't withdraw them. The traditionally asinine encounter between press and pop star had been replaced by a crackling confrontation and Lennon was now cast in the role of spokesman for a generation. A new type of journalism would soon emerge that reflected this change: When Rolling Stone first appeared the following year, its cover star was John Lennon.

Paul McGann tells the story of this extraordinary event and its aftermath. It's a story of fame, the mass media, pop music and religion, of two cultures clashing. Illustrated with contemporary sound archive, listeners will hear from those who were in the Beatles' inner circle at the time and from those who protested against them.

Contributors include Maureen Cleave who conducted the original interview with Lennon; the Alabama DJs who burned Beatle records in protest; Cynthia Lennon, who helped Lennon sort the sacks of mail that arrived at their Weybridge home; press officers Tony Bramwell and Tony Barrow; Barry Tashian, whose group The Remains were the support act on the Beatles' stormy tour of North America; Lennon biographer Ray Connolly; and legendary rock 'n' roll PR (and former Lennon publicist) BP Fallon.

First broadcast in December 2005, five days before 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death.

The Day John Met Paul
Featuring an interview with Sir Paul McCartney and the music and memories of John Lennon's group the Quarrymen, this programme recreates the moment when John and Paul met for the first time at a Quarrymen gig at a sunny garden fete in Woolton, Liverpool on 6 July 1957.

Made with the help of Colin Hall, custodian of John Lennon's childhood home 'Mendips', and with the support of the Liverpool music community.

First broadcast in June 2007, The Day John Met Paul marked the 50th anniversary of a day that changed music for ever.

George Harrison: What is Life
Michael Palin presents a tribute to his friend George Harrison, who died in November 2001. It features archive interviews with George, as well as contributions from his wife and son, Bob Geldof, Jim Keltner, Jeff Lynne, Brian May, Gary Moore, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Ravi Shankar and the Beatles' producer George Martin.

The programme highlights George's contribution to the extraordinary and enduring legacy of the Beatles. Although John or Paul would usually sing the lead vocal, George played a vital role in the distinctive harmonies that enhanced the Beatles' records. Guitarist Gary Moore demonstrates the brilliance of George's solos on their records. And Ravi Shankar talks about how George's love for Indian music and culture influenced Beatles records.

After the Beatles split in 1970, all four released solo records but - to the astonishment of many - it was George who initially achieved the most commercial and critical success. His single My Sweet Lord was a worldwide number one in 1971 and returned to the top of the UK chart in 2002. He organised the Concert for Bangladesh and the triple album of the recordings topped charts around the world. This event, and George Harrison's understanding of the power and responsibility that rock musicians could wield in the world, have had a lasting influence.

George's solo career had periods of great productivity and also two phases when his profile dipped below the horizon. He enjoyed a late 1980s 'comeback' with his hit album Cloud Nine, released the number one single Got My Mind Set On You and two albums with his supergroup The Traveling Wilburys (featuring Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty). The year after George died Brainwashed was released, which featured the music he had worked on since his last solo album in 1987. Among them was the beautiful instrumental Marwa Blues, which won a Grammy Award.

The Great Beatles Songbook Vol. 1
Ken Bruce presents The Great Beatles Songbook: Volume 1, a countdown of the Top 30 biggest selling Beatles tracks in the UK as compiled by the Official Charts Company.

The Great Beatles Songbook Vol. 2
Craig Charles shares the Radio 2 listeners' Beatles stories, with choice tracks from the Fab Four's albums and solo projects. I

In the Beginning
Holly Johnson visits Hamburg to explore how marathon sessions in smoky cellars, and friendships with local teenagers, helped create the incredible chemistry that turned a British beat group into the all-conquering Beatles.

The invasion of British bands into the red light district of Hamburg began in 1960 when German promoters realised that British rock 'n' rollers were cheaper to hire than American ones. They were a five piece group when they arrived in the Reeperbahn in the back of manager Allan Williams' van in August 1960. John, Paul and George were accompanied by Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best on drums.

From August to October 1960, the Beatles were the house band at the Indra Club where they played four hour sessions every night for 30 marks each and slept in a tiny room above a local cinema. From October to the end of the year, they were promoted to the nearby Kaiserkeller. Not only were the Fab Five improving their sound during these marathon gigs, they were also developing friendships and the identity that would set them apart.

At the time, young people in Hamburg were typically members of one of two distinct tribes: the Rockers and the Exis (Existentialists). They were 'enemies' occupying separate territories - the 'rock caves' and the jazz clubs. When Exi Klaus Voorman was walking through the Grosse Freiheit on night in October 1960, he stopped outside the Kaiserkeller club to listen to the music. Liking what he heard, he went inside to see Rory Storm & The Hurricanes (featuring Richard Starkey on drums) in full flight. After the break, fellow Liverpudlians The Beatles took to the stage. Klaus was so impressed that he turned up for the group's next gig with girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr and best friend Jurgen Vollmer in tow.

The day after first seeing The Beatles at the Kaiserkeller, Astrid arranged a photo session with them at the city fun-fair. These stark candid images, which would be endlessly reprinted, established a distinct style for the group, as would Jurgen Vollmer's photos of the band. A Vollmer picture of John standing in the doorway in the port district would later adorn the cover of Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album, accompanied by the strap-line: 'You shoulda been there!'

It was an unlikely collision of young people from different cultures that would create a world-beating chemistry. Where The Beatles had the sound, the Exis had the style. Exis always wore black, with white collars or ruffs and their hair was "pilzen kopf" - "mushroom head" in style. "The Beatle haircut was in fact a Jurgen haircut" says Paul McCartney.

Astrid began a relationship with Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe and they were engaged by the time The Beatles returned to Liverpool in November. They were back in Hamburg the following spring for 98 performances at the Top Ten Club. And in June, they made their first professional recordings, with fellow British rocker Tony Sheridan. The band recorded Ain't She Sweet, the instrumental Cry For A Shadow (a rare Harrison/ Lennon composition) and backed Sheridan on his version of My Bonnie. Sheridan's single would reach the German Top 30 and would alert Brian Epstein to the existence of The Beatles when he was asked for a copy in his record shop in Liverpool.

Stuart Sutcliffe left the Beatles to stay in Hamburg with Astrid and pursue his career as a painter. The Beatles returned to the city in April 1962 for a final residency at the Star Club only to learn of Sutcliffe's premature death when they met Astrid at Hamburg airport. Love Me Do was just six months later.

The impact of Hamburg on The Beatles and the friendships they made there would endure. Astrid continued to photograph the group after Sutcliffe's death while Klaus Voorman designed the sleeve for Revolver and later became a member of the Plastic Ono Band. Richard Starkey left Rory Storm and The Hurricanes to become Ringo Starr. And as far as John Lennon was concerned, the band were never better than when in the thick of an all night session on the Reeperbahn.

The documentary includes new interviews with, Astrid Kirchherr, Tony Sheridan and Stuart Sutcliffe's sister Pauline.

Sgt. Pepper Recreated
Another chance to hear the special re-recording of Sgt Pepper, broadcast on Radio 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of the classic album.
Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, Stereophonics, Bryan Adams and Jamie Cullum, are among the artists who joined original multi-award winning audio engineer Geoff Emerick in the studio to record their own interpretations of the famous album tracks.
Using the original analogue four-track equipment Geoff demonstrates the innovative techniques employed for the recording at Abbey Road studios back in 1967. The programme also hears from the artists about the importance of Sgt Pepper and listens in on the recording in action to see just how different the experience is for them.
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Bryan Adams
With A Little Help From My Friends - Razorlight
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - Athlete
Getting Better - Kaiser Chiefs
Fixing A Hole - The Fray
She's Leaving Home - Magic Numbers
Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite - Jamie Cullum
Within You Without You - Oasis
When I'm Sixty Four - Russell Brand
Lovely Rita - Travis
Good Morning Good Morning - The Zutons
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) - Stereophonics
First broadcast in June 2007 (when it was called Sgt Pepper's 40th Anniversary).

Sounds of the 60s
Brian Matthew presents the programme for all fans of the music of the 1960s.

This week Radio 2's Beatles Bank Holiday continues with The A-Z of The Beatles reaching The Long And Winding Road. There is also a unique 4-in-a-row featuring each of Liverpool's finest taking turns on vocals.

The Record Producers
Richard Allinson and Steve Levine profile the man often labelled 'the Fifth Beatle': Sir George Martin. They examine his work as a producer, arranger and technical innovator.

Radio 2 Live
Paul McCartney talks about his songwriting method and also de-constructs many of the Beatles songs. Recorded at Abbey Road's Studio 2, the famous 'Beatles' studio.

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