In 1994, The Beatles’ Live at the BBC was released to worldwide acclaim – hitting number one in the UK and number three in the US and selling more than five million copies within six weeks. A new companion to The Beatles’ first BBC collection, On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2, will be released on November 8th in 2CD and 180-gram vinyl packages with a 48-page booklet. On Air’s 63 tracks, none of which overlaps with The Beatles’ first BBC release, include 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 previously unreleased recordings of in-studio banter and conversation between the band’s members and their BBC radio hosts.
In the studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Beatles performed music for a variety of radio shows. On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2 presents the sound of The Beatles seizing their moment to play for the nation. Thrilled to hear these exciting recordings again, Paul McCartney said, “There’s a lot of energy and spirit. We are going for it, not holding back at all, trying to put in the best performance of our lifetimes.”
Between March 1962 and June 1965, no less than 275 unique musical performances by The Beatles were broadcast by the BBC in the UK. The group played songs on 39 radio shows in 1963 alone. Ringo Starr said in 1994: “You tend to forget that we were a working band. It’s that mono sound. There were usually no overdubs. We were in at the count-in and that was it. I get excited listening to them.” On their busiest BBC day, 16 July 1963, The Beatles recorded 18 songs for three editions of their Pop Go The Beatles series in fewer than seven hours.
The group played 88 distinct songs in their BBC sessions – some were recorded many times, others performed just once. At the time, three national BBC stations provided all daytime radio broadcasting in the UK. Only the Light Programme network might occasionally play a record. Most broadcast music was live music. Consequently, to promote their releases, The Beatles had to play live at the BBC. “Everything was done instantly,” remembered George Harrison, “But before that, we used to drive 200 miles in an old van down the M1, come into London, try and find the BBC and then set up and do the programme. Then we’d probably drive back to Newcastle for a gig in the evening!”
Newly re-mastered for reissue on 8th November, The Beatles’ first Live at the BBC album sounds and looks better than ever. This collection of the group’s BBC sessions mixed versions of their hits with a treasure trove of 30 songs The Beatles performed on air but never released on record in the 1960s. The compelling track list ranged from a rare performance of the little-known Lennon-McCartney original ‘I’ll Be On My Way’ to covers of classic rock and roll and contemporary rhythm and blues songs. At the time of its release, Live at the BBC was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as “an exhilarating portrait of a band in the process of shaping its own voice and vision”.
Live at the BBC was assembled by George Martin in 1994 and On Air – Live at the BBC Volume Two was compiled and researched by producers Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley. Both albums have been meticulously mastered by engineers Guy Massey and Alex Wharton at Abbey Road Studios. The booklets for both collections include Kevin Howlett’s essays on the history of The Beatles’ BBC radio sessions and his detailed commentaries on all of the tracks.