Back in 1994, Apple Records released The Beatles compilation album Live at the BBC, collecting various radio performances the band recorded between March 1962 and June 1965. Now, Columbia Records has unearthed even more goodies for the November 11th release of On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2. Because you can never, ever have too many golden or platinum records, folks.
As The New York Times reports, the collection includes a whopping 63 tracks over two discs: 23 dialogue tracks — interviews, intros, and witty studio banter — alongside 40 songs, most notably early hits like “She Loves You”, “Please Please Me”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “And I Love Her”, and “This Boy”. While there’s no crossover between this set and the 1994 release, several songs that appeared on 2011’s The Beatles Anthology, most notably “I Saw Her Standing There”, “I Got A Woman”, and “Hippy Hippy Shake”, can be heard now in different performances.
Along with many standards, the compilation features the official debut of many of the band’s noted early covers. These include a rocking version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer”, a solo Paul McCartney tackling Little Richard’s “Lucille”, and John Lennon’s downtrodden rendition of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You”. There’s also a version of “Happy Birthday”, which the Fab Four recorded in celebration of a Saturday Club radio show anniversary.
Among the bounty of dialogue material included are individual interviews with each band member from the Beeb’s Pop Profile program in November 1965 and May 1966. The collection is rounded out by liner notes from former BBC producer Kevin Howlett, who wrote 1996’s The Beatles at the BBC – The Radio Years 1962-70. (The book is being re-released as expanded edition in November).
During the mid-1960s, The Beatles recorded 88 different songs for the BBC, usually as multiple performances and some directly from Abbey Road. According to the Times, these performances, which feature minimal vocal overdubs, “represent the group’s concert style, which had an edge that their polished studio productions sometimes lacked.” They added, “although a few of the BBC recordings were made before live audiences, most were not, and are therefore free of the hysterical shrieking typically heard on even the most professionally recorded Beatles concert tapes.”
A remastered version of the 1994 set will be released at the same time as Volume 2. In the meantime, enjoy a stream of Volume 1 below.