Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tuning in to the early Beatles

I read somewhere last week that Mark Lewisohn’s second volume of Beatles history will be with us later this year and it was enough to motivate me last night to finally start Tune In which covers the Liverpool and Hamburg years. I usually find the biography’s genealogical preamble a chore to get thru but it’s good to be reminded that 3 of 4 Beatles had Irish roots and Lewisohn is particularly engaging on Liverpool, evocatively painting a picture of a grimy, polluted city that took a beating from the German Luftwaffe but remained resilient throughout. A tough town to grow up in which no doubt stood the Beatles in good stead for their hard-working days and nights on the Hamburg club circuit. This first volume doesn’t cover much recorded Beatles music, chronologically speaking – the debut single, and early sessions for the Please Please Me album, so I’m dipping into the Tony Sheridan recordings, the December 1962 Star Club show and a collection of tracks over on youtube called the “Home Recordings, July 1960”. I’m usually weary of these things when they don’t come annotated - the recording date suggests the tracks are also known elsewhere as the Forthlin Road Tapes but the youtube tracklist differs somewhat – but my leap of faith is at least paying off with some terrific embryonic rock n ’roll, the ultra lo-fi recording quality lend the guitars a real muscular shronk!, and some of the extended bluesy jams (audible fluffs and all) sound fabulous to these ears… Incidentally, I had a dream last night that my 16-month daughter was climbing up a ladder (she’s in a climbing phase at the moment) and it reminded me of John Lennon’s famous first meeting with Yoko Ono at the Indica Bookshop in November ‘66, where Lennon climbed up a ladder that was part of one of Yoko’s installation pieces – a happy bit of serendipity to kick off the book I think.

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