Anyone interested in studying the musical influences of the Beatles and how wide-ranging they are will be interested in the wonderful “Beatles Beginnings” series put out by the Rhythm & Blues Records label that's available in the U.S. and in the UK. According to series producer Nick Duckett, the series just added its seventh volume, “Beatles Beginnings: Northern Songs,” currently just available in the UK but will be soon in the U.S. And there are others to come.
“I started the record company initially to put together the history of R&B and these 'Beginnings' discs. The first six volumes aim to take you through the Beatles early years chronologically. Volume 7 looks at the influences behind their songs,” he said in an interview
The newest disc, the seventh in the series, focuses songs that influenced the Beatles' songwriting. It features 32 tracks with such diverse titles as “Plum Nelly” by Booker T. and the M.G.'s, “House of the Rising Sun” by Bob Dylan, “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals,” “September Song” by Johnnie Ray, “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven and “Answer Me” by Nat King Cole.
“Plum Nelly,” for instance, bears a startling resemblance to “12 Bar Original,” an instrumental that the group recorded in 1965. “Love Letters” by Ketty Lester, also on the album, was a highlight of the movie "Good Ol' Freda” and has a similar sound to John Lennon's “God.” “Stewball” by the Greenbriar Boys reminds the listener of John and Yoko's “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” A 20 page booklet is included that goes into the history of the songs and their connection to the Beatles.
Each of the series of "Beatles Beginnings" CDs is organized by themes. Here is a rundown of each earlier volume: "Volume 1: Quarrymen One: Skiffle – Country -Western” features 28 tracks and a 32-page booklet. The songs include “Bad Penny Blues” by the Humphrey Lyttleton Band, “Maggie May” by the Vipers, “Puttin' On the Style” by Vernon Delhart, “Match Box Blues” by Blind Lemon Jefferson and “Falling In Love Again” by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.
“Volume 2: Quarrymen Two: Rock 'n' Roll” also has 28 tracks with a 36-page booklet. Songs include “Baby Let's Play House” by Elvis Presley, “Raunchy” by Bill Justis,” “Honey Don't” by Carl Perkins, “Hallelujah! I Love Her So” by Eddie Cochran and “Lucille” by Little Richard.
“Volume 3: Silver Beetles: From Liverpool To Hamburg 1960-1961” features 28 tracks and a 32-page booklet. Many of the songs are the originals of tracks they did for the BBC, including “Bad Boy” and “Slow Down” by Larry Williams, “Ooh My Soul” by Little Richard,” “I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You” by Elvis Presley” and “Glad All Over” and “Sure To Fall” by Carl Perkins.
“Four: The Cavern Club 1961-62” continues the originals of the BBC tracks and adds others they recorded for EMI, including “Hippy Hippy Shake” by Chan Romero, “Besame Mucho” by the Coasters, “Leave My Kitten Alone” by Johnny Preston, “Lonesome Tears in My Eyes” by Johnny Burnette, “Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby” by Carl Perkins and “So How Come” by the Everly Brothers.
“Five: The Star Club 1962-63” has 29 tracks generally associated with the Beatles from that era. They include "Mr. Moonlight” by Dr. Feelgood, “Soldier of Love” by Arthur Alexander, “A Picture of You” by Joe Brown, “Sheila” by Tommy Roe and “Red Hot” by Ronnie Hawkins.
“Six: Beatlemania 1963” features original versions of songs when they were starting to become a worldwide phenomenon or after they became world famous. The tracks include “You've Really Got a Hold On Me” by the Miracles, “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “Some Other Guy” by Ritchie Barrett, “Devil in His Heart” by the Donays, “Boys by the Shirelles, “Anna” by Arthur Alexander and “Chains by the Cookies.”
Along those same lines, the company also produced two volumes of “Rolling Stones Beginnings,” plus “Kinks Beginnings” and “The Who Beginnings.” And Duckett says more “Beatles Beginnings” are in the works. “There will be two more but this time in double CD format. One will look at Beatles solo cover versions, and the other puts together all the Parlophone issued covers plus a further disc of Quarrymen covers.”