The Beatles – Live At The Hollywood Bowl

The Fab Four raise fan worship to new heights on historical live recordings

In June 1965, The Beatles began a two-week tour of France, Spain, and Italy, where they played fifteen shows in just eight days (eight days a week indeed). It was a tour which, while not exactly disastrous, hadn’t been properly planned much less adequately promoted, resulting in them performing in half-filled venues and outdoor arenas (often in the blazing Italian sun). In August, the band flew to America, as part of a ten concert commitment aimed at cashing in their ever growing popularity across the Atlantic.

The band’s first gig, at the recently constructed Shea Stadium in New York, was The Beatles biggest ever. 55,000 screaming adoring American teenagers exploding in hormonal hysteria from the moment they walked on stage to the moment they left (in an armoured car no less). At the time, such histrionics, at least for a pop group, was unprecedented. The downside to this of course was that The Beatles themselves could barely hear the sound of their own instruments, having been drowned out by a wall of screeching that was of near ear-shattering proportions.

It was near the end of this tour, that The Beatles emerged from a week long holiday in Benedict Canyon, just outside Los Angeles, to perform at The Hollywood Bowl, on 29th and 30th August 1965. The band had also played there the year before (on 23rd August), and it is from these shows that Live At The Hollwood Bowl is taken.

Originally released as an official album by Capitol in 1977, for the 2016 version, the original tapes were remixed and remastered, no mean feat considering that none of The Beatles’ stage performances were adequately recorded, even by that era’s standards. But as far as sound is concerned, Hollywood Bowl is about as good as it will likely ever get – screams and all.

Throughout, The Beatles’ playing is confident and expressive. “Twist And Shout” kicks things off in typical high-decibel fashion, with the boys obviously determined to be heard despite the thick drapery of fanatical adolescents in front of them. Paul McCartney puts in a fine vocal performance on “She’s A Woman,” followed by a sizzling “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” On some tracks they come across as slightly jaded (“Ticket To Ride,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” in particular), although whether this was due to fan fatigue, or the boredom of having to play the same tunes night after night, are both factors which would ultimately lead to their eventual withdrawal from touring altogether.

“Roll Over Beethoven” and “Boys” are both boisterous affairs, while “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!,” and “She Loves You,” are each greeted with rapturous approval by the crowd, especially on the latter song, the moment when McCartney “oooohs” during the chorus, after which there was probably not a dry seat in the house.

Apart from the much improved fidelity, thanks to Giles Martin, son of the late George Martin, the album also includes four bonus tracks not included on the original ’77 release, padding the CD out to a whopping 45 minutes, making it longer than your average Beatle show of the era.

Why the band never invested in bigger, more powerful amps during this time is perplexing to say the least. Certainly the technology existed. But then The Beatles were never about volume, preferring to let their music speak for itself, even if much of it couldn’t be heard above the devastating din of their followers.

Anyone wanting a better (and clearer) understanding of The Beatles on stage would be advised to stick with the two excellent BBC compilations (sans screaming), however as a potent snapshot into the then phenomenon known as ‘Beatlemania,’ Live At The Hollywood Bowl will definitely fulfil that interest and more.