“The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” became available around the world the morning of Dec. 17. By 12 a.m. ET Wednesday, it was the top-selling rock album and the fourth best-selling album on the service overall.
There was no fanfare, not even a press release when the release finally did come. The closest thing to an official announcement was this description posted on iTunes:
“With more than two hours of previously unreleased material, 'The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963' tells the story of the band during a period of remarkable transformation: a year that begins with the Liverpool quartet working out arrangements during the 'Please Please Me' sessions and culminates in the BBC Radio sessions. With subtly different lyrical phrasing and instrumental performances, the 15 alternative studio versions of tunes like 'From Me To You,' 'Do You Want to Know a Secret,' and 'I Saw Her Standing There' are deeply rewarding, as is the richly harmonized pop standard 'A Taste of Honey.' But, the 42 live performances for BBC underscore the transition from local starts to the peak of Beatlemania in Britain. They respond to a call-in request with a crackling version of 'Love Me Do,' burn through a cover of Chuck Berry's 'Got to Find My Baby,' and offer a bright, uptempo reading of 'All My Loving.” This compilation is rounded out by two demos of songs the group never released: the midtempo 'Bad to Me' and the lovely, piano-accompanied closer, 'I'm in Love.'”
But events Monday, when it started popping up on iTunes stores in various parts of the world then later disappearing, had some fans wondering if it would show up at all, though the launch had been planned for Tuesday, as we had reported. The rollout came on a day of other Beatles developments after Brian Epstein was announced as being honored by the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
The big question is are “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” worth the $39 price? The tracks we have compared have less compression than the bootleg versions and sound much cleaner. One Beatles expert said, however, that several of the BBC tracks had been mislabeled. "Track 18 should be from 3/16/63, track 20 is from 5/25, track 21 is from 6/24 and track 22 is from 6/29," they told Beatles Examiner. They also said there were a few tracks that sounded better on bootlegs, but a lot more were upgrades.
For Americans, this was really a Christmas present, since the law that caused the release of TBBR63 is European. (American copyright protection for songs written during the years of the Beatles is 95 years.) The Beach Boys released also their own bootleg recordings Tuesday as "The Big Beat 1963." The album included early Brian Wilson demo tracks and Beach Boys outtakes, as well as rarities with the Honeys, which Wilson produced.
But what's next? Is another '63 collection on the way before Christmas, a wild and unconfirmed rumor floating around the Steve Hoffman forum we mentioned yesterday?
Even better, if the Beatles continue this and release a 1964 collection next year, what could be in store the next time around? One thing could be those 1964 Hollywood Bowl tapes that everyone so desperately would like to see out.
But make no mistake this wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for that pesky European law. And if you're an American and complaining about the $39.99 price, be aware that in Australia, according to the Herald Sun, it's going for $69.99.
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