Unsurpassed Masters Vol.1 (1962 – 1962) (Yellow Dog Records YD 001)
1. Besame Mucho 2. How Do You Do It? [ Take 1 ] 3. There’s A Place [ Take 5 & 6 ] 4. I Saw Her Standing There [ Take 6, 7, 8, & 9 ] 5. Do You Want To Know A Secret? [ Take 8, Track 2 ] 6. A Taste Of Honey [ Take 6, Track 2 ] 7. There’s A Place [ Take 12, Track 2 & Take 13, Track 2 ] 8. I Saw Her Standing There [ Take 11, Track 2 & Take 12, Track 2 ] 9. Misery [ Takes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ] 10. From Me To You [ Takes 1 & 2 ] 11. [ Take 8 ; Take 9 – 13 ( Edit Pieces )] 12. Thank You Girl [ Takes 2, 3 & 4 ] 13. Take 7 – 13 ( Edit Pieces )] 14. One After 909 [ Take 1 & 2 ] 15. Hold Me Tight ( Remake ) [ Take 22, 23 & 24 ] 16. Don’t Bother Me ( Remake ) [ Takes 11, 12 & 13 ]
First appearing in 1990, Yellow Dog’s CD series “Unsurpassed Masters” was manna for Beatles collectors old, new & future. Near master tape quality & sounding much, much better than the Parlophone / Capitol official CDs on the market & one of the best places to hear ( at the time ) officially unreleased tracks for the Beatles cannon. Allegedly correlated from tapes once owned by British DJ Roger Scott from EMI tape archivist Roger Barrett & firstly partly bootlegged by Swingin’ Pig Records from Germany, Yellow Dog, another European label & one that had been producing high quality vinyl Beatlegs for a number of years, managed to serve up a glut of tapes & joined the CD revolution. Where as many earlier Beatlegs were BBC sessions marketed as the same or, shorn of their chatter & interviews, released as “Unreleased Studio Sessions” these were the real things. The initial issue of his CD was fraught with problems – released in the U.S. on two different labels ( possibly to deflect customs from picking up on a lead on one particular label ) as Yellow Dog on the East Coast & Sphinx in the West, the CDs were mastered with one channel wiped out so while the tracks could be heard through both speakers then, for instance, the vocal track may have been eliminated but the musical track would be heard intact but in mono making these expensive karaoke disks at best ( a theme Yellow Dog would later come back to on their Beatles & Rolling Stones “Karaoke” CD which may have been one of their worst ideas but when dealing with a Beatles market money is king & anything should have been tried once .. ) this was later rectified & the CDs were re – issued in full, dynamic stereo again in their pseudonyms over each coast. A collection of various studio takes comprising edit pieces, different tracks & remakes from the original versions.
While once it may have been the top of it’s field then many more upgrades have come along & surpassed this ‘Unsurpassed Master’ but i intend this review to be a track by track analysis of this classic bootleg & one that paved the way for the bulk of the better Beatlegs that can be found today.
1. Besame Mucho – From The Beatles first E.M.I. session on Wednesday 6th June, 1962 “Besame Mucho”, an English translation of the Spanish song by Consuelo Velázquez & a cover of the Coasters original translation, buzzes with the excitement of a band aiming to please but is also a little more tempered than the version that they’d cut on the 1st of January at their Decca audition. This version is not the version that would eventually be released on the ‘Anthology’ release.
2. How Do You Do It? – Originally given to the Beatles by George Martin as he didn’t hear a hit single in their repertoire but after being rejected by the band was given to fellow Liverpudlian band Gerry & The Pacemakers. Recorded in the same session as “Love Me Do” the bands first hit single. It’s quite a faithful reproduction as the acetate that the writer Mitch Murry brought to George Martins office one presumes as the Pacemakers version is very similar to this version too. It has a very pedestrian feel as the Beatles were obviously not putting their weight behind it ( Indeed the Fabs wanted nothing to do with it preferring to record their own material ). It’s interesting to note that this version also runs a little too slow which would become a trade make of a lot of Yellow Dogs releases & for which thy would be unfairly pilloried.
3. There’s A Place – The first track from the “Please, Please Me” sessions. During this 585 minute session the Beatles would sharpen their studio skills by running through 14 songs for the “Please, Please Me” album. 7 of which are reproduced on these next few tracks. from the morning session, the tape picks up with engineer Norman Smith’s announcement of “Take 5”, a brief pass at the “Please, Please Me”melody, a cough & a brief clip of harmonizing by John. The first take breaks down after a few seconds as Paul isn’t ready & unhappy with the intro but Take 6 is presented in it’s entirety. This is a good warm up & solidly performed with out harmonica. The harmonies are as tight as the final take & the take fades down as it will on the album.
4. I Saw Her Standing There – Takes 6, 7, 8 & 9 : This track begins with a bit of studio noodling & Paul running through the lyrics. George plays a blues lick before Paul shushes him & the Beatles launch in to a busy & bustled “Seventeen” ( As was it’s working title at the time. ) There’s a little confusion over the lyrics at 1:03 when John wants to sing “She” & Paul Sings “I” & then the take breaks down at 1:10 with a whistle while Paul complains that the band are playing too fast George Mrtin takes paul to task mentioning that he got the words wrong but Paul is steadfast in his compliant that the track is too fast regardless. Take 7 breaks down after a few seconds for the same reasons with Paul requesting that they start again. Take 8 begins with a quiet count in & a slightly steadier paced song but still folds after a couple of seconds as George stops playing while John questions what went wrong. Take 9 starts with a more familiar shouted count in. The take continues in a perfunctory manner with Paul, sensing a good take at last, getting his Little Richard whooping out of his system during George’s guitar break.
5. Do You Want To know A Secret? – George’s contribution to the album but written by Lennon / McCartney. A lyrically slight song but it was George’s first go at singing on record & he was against the formidable might of the 2 greatest voices in British pop at that time. The take here is the same as the C.V.
6. A Taste of Honey. Beginning with the announcement “A Taste of Honey, Track 2, Take 6”. Again, not too dissimilar from the CV although Paul struggled to match up his vocal at the end leading to another pass to make it perfect.
7. There’s A Place. take 12 – Track 2 & Take 13 – Track 2. Take 12 is a break down because of the harmonica not being balanced correctly within the mix with take 13 being the full take & the best for the album.
8. I Saw Her Standing There. Starts with Paul excitedly whispering “Echoed claps!” & Norman’s announcement “Seventeen. Track 2, Take 11”. This track is an attempt at laying down the handclap rhythm to the song but take 11 breaks down when the rhythm starts to go awry which, in turn, leads to much giddying around & merry making around in the excitement of recording before the tape ramps up for another take. “Take 12” is announced & the boys are still having a bit of a giggle, clapping applause, tooting out mock trumpet sounds with their lips & taping tambourines before John starts shushing them down when he realises they’re being recorded. Take 12 is the finished article & would be added to the count in of take 10 on the album.
9. Misery ( Takes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ) – Beginning with the announcement for take 2, Paul, as usual, is still chatting about the finer details of the recordings & George strums a half remembered line before the take starts. A whistle stops the take while George Martin wonders if George Harrison has changed guitars while Harrison disagrees & mentions that he’s probably just changed the tone. Mr. Marti asks him to change it back & also turn down the volume. The Beatles warm up to the next track with a little tuning & Harrison has a little idea for a rhythm that the Fab’s had tried earlier but neither Jhn or Paul sound too enthusiastic on the idea. Take 3 is very brief too with Paul caught off guard with his harmonizing as John fumbles his chords. Take 4 takes John a little by surprise & asks if they should start but a little further in to the track then “These damn words”, as John puts it, trip them up. Take 5 gets a little further again but this time Paul mucks up his bass line. Take 6 is preceded by John going over the lyrics & a slight false start. The harmonies seem to differ a slight bit with John & Paul dodging behind each other cautiously. George & Ringo both add extra additions to their parts but obviously they were though of as too fiddly as both parts are gone by the following take.
10. From Me To You – Sessions for the single “From Me To You” were recorded on Tuesday 5th March, 1963. Straight in to another session and take one of the second single. The all familiar take announcement, John’s cough ( he’s still got a cold ) & his prompting force Paul in to starting the take. It’s certainly a perfunctory take but breaks down around a minute in as Paul believes he heard the whistle to stop the take. No one else heard it though & so take 2 is announced before Paul is day dreaming. He quickly gets his act together & after more coughing by John, Norman calls for the take to be started from the beginning again & the boys bring it on home again. Ringo forgets his big finish & Paul jokingly points this out.
11. From Me To You ( Take 8 ; Take 9 – 13 – Edit pieces ). A different session altogether. The track starts with the announcement. John imploring Paul to start, a tape slip of the harmonies then the tape seems to slip back to John’s “Go on” before Paul counts in the track proper. The take is balanced with the musical track & echo louder in the right channel & the vocals a little lower in the left. After this take we’re presented with a series of edit pieces for the coda. The first begins with a short count in, an extended beginning & a choppier guitar than the CV before stopping abruptly. Edit piece take 2 is for the coda & again ends abruptly with John asking afterwards “Was i meant to be playing then?”. take 10 ramps up, plays a few seconds & stops. take 11 begins with the Fabs rehearsing their harmony hums, a little prompting by John & then the band recording those hums for adding at a later time. Take 12 is nothing that hasn’t been added to the mix before & take 13 begins with a short amount of studio chatter & then finds a rather maniacal “Da, da, da” harmony being chopped out that was, mercifully, never used.
12. Thank You Girl ( Takes 2, 3 & 4 ) – Take 2 is preceded by a stray bass note, a smatter of studio chat, a quiet count in & then the band start only to stop a second later when paul realises that has missed the beat. Take 3 is stopped by the same omission & track 4 runs through for it’s entirety but it is just a run through with various mistakes being made within the last quarter. The group obviously thought they had the makings of a master take but the mistakes had to be covered up so ..
13. Thank You Girl – ( Take 7 – 13 – Edit Pieces ) – the track starts with George Martin announcing the take & John reminding Paul that he strums a certain part 3 times before switching. Paul obviously forgets & the take breaks down almost immediately. The next take is perfect & hits the nail on the head first time. Take 9 is for the songs end but Ringo gets his first drum fill wrong & so the band take again .. after Ringo goes out of sync with everyone else the next time then there’s another 3 attempts at getting it right which he does by take 13. Everyones happy & they decide to move on to the next track.
14. One After 909 – ( Takes 1 & 2 ) – The tape here starts off a little rough. Beginning with George Martins announcement & some studio chatter. a brief riff is played then John asks if the band are OK to record, getting the green light the band almost stumble in to it all. The track is rather bass heavy & rougher than it would be in it’s 1969 reincarnation. Take 1 lasts up until the second chorus when Ringo plays through what the band consider a break. John is obviously getting a little excited, tired & a little snappy as he lambasts Ringo for messing it up but Ringo points to Paul & blames him too. Paul’s not been forthright with his instructions though & didn’t tell Ringo exactly which drum to use .. Take 2 is a complete take but George is obviously winging it when it comes to his solo much to John chagrin & he berates George at the end of the take. All in all, not a bad take but it would take another 3 takes & a few edits before the Fabs realised that it just wasn’t good enough for the album.
15. Hold me Tight – [ Remake ] – ( Takes 22, 23 & 24 ) – Skipping forward to the next albums sessions ( “With The Beatles” ) the band spent a small part of the morning recording Christmas messages for Australian radio & use the rest of the afternoon’s session running through 29 takes of the one particular track. A McCartney ditty which we catch up with a little later on in the session & tempers are fraying once again as mistakes are still being made. The track here starts with a truncated announcement, a brief cough & straight in to the track which breaks down as John & George are a little late with their vocals. Paul tries to talk the band in to remembering before the tape stops by asking a rhetorical “So, what are you going to do?”. It’s Paul’s turn to slip up on track 23 by fluffing his opening line & trying to make light of the situation by mentioning that he always makes that mistake. Mr. Martins’ getting frustrated now as he shouts “24!” at the band to which the band prepare a good enough base for the released take ( baring a few overdubs & claps. )
16. Don’t Bother Me [ Remake ] – ( Takes 11,12 & 13 ) The rest of the day’s session is taken up by another ‘Harrisong’ from the second album. From 15 takes only 5 are bootlegged & 3 appear here. the tape starts with a clipped announcement, a quick run through the riff before George shouts that he’s ready but the take quickly folds as Harrison complains that it’s going too fast & he can’t keep up. Take 12 lasts a little longer before George loses his way & stumbles over his own lyrics. Take 13 is chosen as best take before the eventual overdubs although George is audibly a little weary of rushing through the track & this can be heard just under the intro.
Although this tape duplicated a few tracks from “Ultra Rare Trax” & would be deemed unnecessary in future as more of these session tapes appeared & were upgraded then this CD can’t be ignored for the fact that it was one of the first to offer tracks in this quality for collectors & would also help Yellow Dog’s name become a formidable force within collectors circles. As a historic piece it stands as one of a select few. The cover art is quite simple featuring it’s title & the artist in a black border with a shot by famed Beatle photographer Dezo Hoffman of the Fabs at the beach dressed in swim wear with the back cover a stark white background with clean black lettering. The Yellow Dog font was designed with the Beatle collector in mind with it’s font closely resembling the font of the “Yellow Submarine” film.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)