The Beatles, ‘Rare, unseen and Unheard’ (TMOQ / His Masters Choice – HMC 050)
After we were sent the very first trailers to promote this set and the Lennon ‘Holy Grails Vol. 5’ set, the internet pounced – Much was made of this fantastic bundle of videos and audio that was due – especially as rumours of the latest incarnation of the fabs’ self-titled 1968 double album were muted around the internet – This HMC set was rumoured to launch after the summer – Would it take away from the excitement of the deluxe White Album? Reasonably, it should, such a stack of visual and audio goodies in the same package hadn’t been seen in a while – Sure HMC has been busy gobbling up a few Lennon oddities that were new or seriously upgraded but they were unique in the way that they all came from the same era or were solo efforts – There’s a force in the Beatles that some folk just don’t see in their separate incarnations.
First off, we were right to bounce around and get enthralled over this set (Vaunted as featuring some ‘rare as a bowl of unicorn’s teeth’ visual treats) – The video presentation just nips past the post for me and I’m usually more of an audio fan – There’s still a lot to be said for the CD though, I will clarify my comments here however by saying you should get around 65% excited for it unless you’re such a Beatle freak that the sound of Paul McCartney drumming his fingers on a train table makes sense in your collection.
The DVD set begins with 3 takes of ‘Rain’, two of ‘Paperback Writer’ bundled up under the headline, ‘Chiswick Park outtakes, 20th May, 1966’. Shot by Intertel on 35mm color film, these outtakes are the latest in a string of visuals that have appeared over the past few years from HMC and again consist of unseen material – the three edits of ‘Rain’ are synched up entirely to their counterpart takes utilising shots from each of the 4 locations that the videos used. In each we see 4 cool / bored and jaded looking Beatles standing at the base of an old cedar tree, between the foliage of the gardens, etc. While the fabs are mainly miming to a musical bed, some of their lip-syncing is off-kilter – Especially John who, if you watch him for cues, won’t sing the higher parts of the chorus but is happy to try reform the bit of backwards speech from the coda. We have long range shots from left and right of the band, close up shots of their faces and a long form of the Fabs at that cedar tree – Ringo sits on a pedestal at the left of the screen, John and Paul ease on one of the branches and – as an added metaphor – George has to be content to stand.
The two shots of ‘Paperback Writer’ moves the action to the grounds conservatory and a ring of statues close by. Footage of the band miming along is cut up with clapperboard shots, a funked-off band who are waiting for Michael Lyndsay-Hogg to give them their call to start, and the star of this show, Ringo, who does pretty much nothing but lean and bob his head or wag a finger in time to his beat.
‘More Colour Films from the Sixties’, the second part of the trio, is a comp of pro-shot and super-8 film from the makings of 4 different films – We begin with an alternate to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Apparently sent to the label as an ‘alternate edit’ of the promo (Who knows if this is true?) – The video is indeed top-notch. Full colour video of the band sprawling around on those very same fields that we’re used to – The coda is certainly the most interesting part as we have clapperboard action and a singular outtake to the ‘running backwards’ scene. It’s not Ringo that trips and falls first (Not, at least, at first) but someone else instead ..
Our next gem is another alternate version of ‘A Day In The life’, More and more super fast cut material featuring the fabs and their collective of guests chatting, socialising and recording the orchestral overdubs for the track. The party atmosphere from the studio, you all know, bright lights, fun balloons, party prosthetics, etc. along with a bucketful of celebrity-spotting never fails to amuse. Lots of new footage here. There were obviously many cameras in the room that night. Following this, we’re one step forward to the Magical Mystery Tour – New outtakes to the making of ‘I Am The Walrus’ shot at the airfield that the song was performed at. This features more new shots of the band from the right – both in furs and in psychedelic outfits, a few new shots from the rear, some extraneous footage from super-8 and some shots of the Eggmen and Eggwomen from the right of George. There’s a nice new fisheye, close-up shot of Ringo towards the end revealing that he was the one who was holding John’s glasses that day too.
The premier of a video for ‘The Inner Light’ follows – Stunning quality footage of George chatting, joking and recording with Indian musicians (Neil Aspinall also features, Fabs fans!) from the period that the pair were stationed out at EMI India while George investigated his passion (and actually recorded the backing track for this song).
Stepping back but forward, what do you do with 9 minutes of never-before-seen ‘ADITL’ footage other than repeating the same track again (Or substituting it with another outtake)? Why, set it to ‘Revolution No. 9’ of course! For all of us that love this block of musical concrete, this is the perfect way to spend the time, for the few that are non-believers, you’ll find that just watching with the sound at the 50% level will suffice as you’ll be watching the visuals more than taking in the noise. It does, as the booklet suggests, fit well with the spiralling psychedelic madness of the night’s event.
Finally, a ‘new’ promo for ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’. Possibly the least impressive of the set visual-wise, this is a bleached copy of the film rather than the pin-sharp imagery that we’ve been served up otherwise. The notes claim this to be an unidentified clips promo. It certainly looks that way as one assumes that the ‘stop’ signs slotted in between footage of the recently married couple wouldn’t just be shunted in by HMC (who’s archive features shots of 1969 roadsigns from around the world that they can just pick out for a 10th of a second, anyway?). Justifiably, it probably is authentic but looks like it has been rescued from a waterlogged skip. It’s main draw is the new footage of J&Y – Much can be made of the honeymooning couple in shots that have never been seen before.
“I Should Have Known Better” from ’Scene at 6:30 is great. Presumably set to a bed of the CV, the footage seems to be a recording of the control room monitors while the film was shot. The footage is great though, it’s certainly another side of the Beatles rarely seen this side of the ‘AHDN’ film
A few scenes from the ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ – Featuring the opening of two ‘bumpers’ (Scenes that would take us in to the advert brakes), both shot in conjunction with Brian Matthews – Which are short but great to see as the Beatles ape around in the studio behind Brian. The four mimed videos are in the absolute best quality yet. As opposed to being muddied or clouded as they may have been viewed before, here, they’re much more DVD quality and sound just as good. My initial impression was of how much fun John was having – Aping about after takes, he should have been used to the cameras by this point but is obviously not.
The ‘This Week’ interview is brilliantly cool to watch. A black and white scene in the back of a London cab or limo as Ringo and George then Paul and John are interviewed about their fame is great to watch – both pairs, looking tired and disgruntled in their stage uniforms, give tired and disgruntled answers to some of the standard questions from the time while the camera rolls and some of the shots are re-taken. At 10+ minutes, it’s an easy watch you could easily relax into. The fact that a great deal of this material has never been seen before makes it exceptional.
The CD that we’ve been given is a mixed bag of curiosities. The first 9 tracks are different mixes intended for the 09 / 09 remasters where the studio bods tried playing god. Tinkering around in miniature ways – like trying to make a working grandfather clock for a dolls house – They are the ‘Where’s Waldo / Wally’ of the Beatles cannon. Not outtakes as such but filed down and filled in versions of the minor dinks in Beatles tracks. I had to bend my ears to catch some of these changes and that’s after a near-full life time of listening to the Beatles (Not specifically trying to dissect them though) – I really had to strain to identify any changes. Though prepared, these tracks obviously f*cked with the formula and were rejected by the Beatles and their respective estates.
‘If I Fell’ Featuring a ‘corrected’ vocal mistake where Paul’s voice cracks. ‘Twist and Shout’, the same. Though it’s slim work trying to inch out just where these increments are, they are possibly only discoverable under the keenest headphones.
‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ – A dry mix, fixing the amount of reverb on John’s voice. Not immediately earth shattering though it will be helpful for those that prefer a less Dexterised image.
‘With A Little Help ..’ Markedly different beginning as it starts from a studio start rather than fading in from the last tracks outro. It also sounds clearer around the middle-eight, as if the fuller instrumentation and some of the harmonies drop out from underneath.
‘For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite’ and ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ – The second features George’s guitar pushed down in the mix (Certainly less clear than 2017’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’ remix) and ending on the final chicken’s squark as opposed to fading in to ‘ADITL’
‘Savoy Truffle’ and ‘Long Long Long’ are different stereo mixes than the album versions – The former almost buries George’s vocal while pushing up the horns and guitars – AND HOW! – The rasping buzz of George’s guitar work is cutting, the Memphis squeal of the horns much busier. On the latter, a much prominent feature for Ringo’s thundering drums – This is a much more fierce beast than the over-watered, sallow, shrunken version of the CV – It certainly rocks harder than what eventually became.
‘Mean Mr. Mustard’ features a clean ending a la, the full ‘Her Majesty’, It’s nice to hear rather than earth shattering in it’s premise. Fans of a mix tape will be pleased to hear that you can now include it without breaking off the end.
‘12 Bar Original’, that long anomaly in the Beatles canon appears here without the fluff and fold of noise reduction that seemed to be laboured upon it in the old ‘Ultra Rare Trax’ days. It sounds just a little more ‘bootleggish’ as it were with a few crackles and sparks from the acetate. I’ve never minded this track though I’ve never loved it. It’s great to have it raw, even if you don’t return to it very often.
‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – Reprise’ as first heard on the Yellow Dog double set, ‘Acetates’ (YD 082) This ends without the fade into ‘ADITL’ with a longer coda. Unfortunately, it sounds like it has been played over the tannoy in the Brazilian rainforest in monsoon season and caught on a dictaphone (such is the wear on the acetate). It would have been a brilliant pinnacle for the audio side of the set but sounds a little less impressive for it.
‘Blue Jay Way’ is another unprocessed acetate from the same collection.
Admit it, you only bought this set for 9 minutes of Macca warming up his vocals for the ‘Oh! Darling’ session didn’t you? No? Ah. It’s the session that no one ever asked for, yet, here it is in brilliant speed-checked glory. Running a god-awful 9 and a half minutes, it’s questionable as to how many people may actually want this upgrade, but HMC has decided to give it to us anyway.
So the reason that HMC gave us the rehearsal marathon was that they could include ‘Oh! Darling’ (Take 26 and rough vocal)? No, not really! Though, I admit, it’s done with more skill than I could muster from my computer.
Finally, a reproduced stereo mix of ‘Sheik Of Araby’. There you go.
I won’t go in to the packaging too much – You know what to expect – A paper-folded gazette, rare photos, extensive liner notes and a short write up of what to anticipate – Though the reviews online reveal more obviously! Oh, and that ad for Meat Free Mondays which seems fair game by now.
You will enjoy this set after the interminable wait between announcement and release. It was most certainly worth the wait for it to arrive – I dare suggest this time, both will get equal spins – The supplementary 09 / 09 mixes are interesting to hear (Certainly in light of the forthcoming ‘The Beatles’ deluxe box set this year) and the acetates (That’s as far as THAT goes – To have more visual outtakes is a dream and between previous volumes and the “1” official DVD, we can now cultivate quite an extensive library of Beatles footage – Let’s hope HMC can finish out 2018 with one more zinger.
Thanks for the great review Stu. I am really enjoying this release.
Thank you, Solly! Great to see you back again!