The Beatles “Shea!”
DVD: Shea documentary 1991 remaster / Shea! Beatles portion only.
CD: Introduction / Twist and Shout / She’s A Woman / I Feel Fine / Dizzy Miss. Lizzy / Ticket To Ride / Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby / Can’t Buy Me Love / Baby’s In Black / Act Naturally / A Hard Day’s Night / Help / I’m Down – Stereo remasters / the ‘It’s Only Rock And Roll” auction tape.
The Beatles Abroad: Twist And Shout / Tell Me What You See / I’m Down / I’ve Just Seen A Face / Sounds Incorporated / You Like Me Too Much / Act Naturally / The News / Yesterday / Dizzy Miss Lizzy / Help – Broadcast on August 30th, 1965
If I mentioned HMC’s release “Revolution .. Take Your Knickers Off” once, I’ve mentioned it a thousand times. In collectors circles that version of ‘Revolution’ that was liberated was already known about for several years previous. I assume we all knew that Apple had been working on Shea for a long while prior to this release too so the release of this concert film should have the label running wringing their hands to their lawyers, right?
There was much made of this release right before it dropped, a lot of hubristic chatter about it being one of the biggest Beatles releases in a while – Well, that bit is true. It’s by far and away the biggest band release since that other HMC release. There have been exciting releases for Lennon and Macca fans since (Unfortunately Harrison and Starr fans haven’t been offered quite as much as a needle-drop) but bar dribs and drabs of news worthy items, no singular piece stands out.
The excitement afforded to this release is around 95% of the real thing. While we still don’t have a glorious, solid gold mastering of the whole show, this is by far the best thing so far.
For the purpose of this review, I first watched the DVD through my TV. I have a fairly acceptable set up, using my PS3 for playback, I selected the Stereo version of the video (It was a tossup whether I’d get it right using the slightly clunky menu screen but that’s a small problem really) and, well, it’s fantastic. It is Shea as you remember it however, the documentary rather than the show as it was played, it begins with the raucous version of “I’m Down”, Paul is taking this very serious indeed, John and George are obviously playing for laughs and so John’s turn at the keyboard falls in to near chaos as he falls about laughing, bringing George down with him, the track finishes, the Beatles charge in to a waiting car and drive from the field and a cloud of dust, fade to a photo of Shea.
A fantastic piece of period pop documentary, the film is not short of brilliantly snappy and sarcastic comments by the fabs as they appear to tire of life on the road. To say that the doc would have had to been to have appeared as a promotional vehicle for the Beatles relentless touring, they also liked to moan a little about their fame – indeed, it would only be four months after the transmission of this film that the band would cease touring altogether.
The Doc centres around the Beatles main show as you’d expect but also taking in the support acts of the show – the brilliantly saucy Discothèque Dancers and a bullishly exuberant Sounds Incorporated amongst others, with several sound bites from the Beatles and crowd shots (Especially cute to see some of these girls getting worked up over their favourite band who are stood on a ramshackle stage several feet away) featuring crowd shots a plenty and some splendid backstage aping about and rehersals.
The source for this DVD is a hitherto unreleased clean up job on the film and soundtrack by Ron Furmanek, a cleaner, sharper upgrade that falls just short of being Anthology quality but, as this version seems to have been taken from a VHS recording, it may very well have been played for pleasure and for friends a few times and so the tape has lost a little of it’s lustre over the years. Short of an Apple remaster (Yeah, I know ..) or bit inclusions in the Ron Howard directed concert film, this is the closest upgrade we’ll see towards the real thing.
The second version of this show is the complete show as played that night – a mish mash compilation that was originally put together by fans and released for free on the internet from both colour and black and white sources and using the common mono soundtrack. While it may not sound as bold as the new stereo mix, it does a very nice job of presenting the show as a whole piece putting “I’m Down” back at the end where it belongs.
The CD version of the show is a glorious stereo/mono hybrid version of the tape. It’s only fault being that the speech comes from the “It’s Only Rock And Roll” audition tapes and both “She’s A Woman” and “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” are in mono. The label have tried their best but the clash between mono and stereo is very clear and rather than the two sources cross fading they bump up against each other like rutting dear. Unfortunatley, Shea, as it was recorded, doesn’t seem to exist either, this new set featuring the over dubs that the band made after the fact to beef up the sound.
The BBC programme, “The Beatles Abroad”, appears here in the best quality ever. It was released 15 years ago by the Strawberry label on their Mythology boxed set but as a frankenstein mixture of sources that sounded horrid. Here, it’s straight from the broadcast, songs included and it fits in very well with the theme of the set. As a tie in with the rest, it works a treat.
The set as it stands then won’t please everyone. All of us want a souped up, turbo charged Shea release, with the news of a Ron Howard produced documentary of the Beatles live era, this pipe dream seems just as far away now. The HMC label, however, have produced an excellent release around the remaster. Hopefully, there’s a few more of these beauties to come.