Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 254
Tues. Nov 12, 2013
“Till There Was You [Live at the BBC]”
The new release of On Air, the second volume of The Beatles Live at the BBC sessions is double disc microcosms of what made the Beatles one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of our time. Author Malcolm Gladwell a definite fan of the Beatles, said it was the Fab Four’s work ethic that made the best, as he explained, “The Beatles had a musical gift, but what made them the Beatles was a random invitation to play in Hamburg… where they performed live as much as five hours a night, seven days a week. Talented? Absolutely. But they also simply put in more hours than anyone else.” Songs like This Peggy Lee cover of “Till There Was You” was one of the tracks that the Fab Four played during their legendary all night sets in Hamburg that made The Beatles the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
So what was it about playing in Hamburg that made the Beatles so great? The Fabs had to perform for over eight hours straight with no breaks as John Lennon said in Gladwell’s Outliers, “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long. It was handy being foreign. We had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over. In Liverpool, we’d only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing.”
You can hear the unbridled enthusiasm on the tracks from On Air: Volume 2 is some of the songs that The Beatles played at Hamburg. The same ones the Beatles had to play eight hours at night, seven days a week are the ones that sound the best. They say if you want to learn how to write a novel, you should type out a great one by Hemingway or Faulkner and by the end you will be able to pen the great American novel. It’s the same way with music. The Beatles played classic songs like “Lend Me Your Comb,” “Twist and Shout” and “Kansas City.” By performing these songs over and over again, the Fab Four learned the formula and that inspired the boys to pen their own songs like “I Saw Her Standing There.”
Author of Shout, Philip Norman described the results of what playing at Hamburg did for The Beatles when he said, “They were no good on stage when they went there and they were very good when they came back. They learned not only stamina. They had to learn amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too. They weren’t disciplined onstage at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. [Playing eight hours a night, seven days a week, in Hamburg, Germany] was the making of them.”
One of those slow jazzy songs was Paul McCartney’s beautiful cover of Peggy Lee’s 1961 hit song. “Till There Was You.” You can tell by the way that George Harrison’s clever guitar play elevates this once song from the Broadway musical of The Music Man with his one of a kind delicate surf rock solo giving this cover a layer of stoic substance over Paul’s crooner vocal. The Beatles just didn’t decide to record this vintage musical number for the BBC on July 10, 1963, “Till There Was You” was one of the many songs Paul, George, John and Ringo perfected during their grueling eight hours a day, seven days a week sets in Hamburg.
Did you know it was Paul’s cousin who gave McCartney who played him records from Peggy Lee that he claims influenced him to pen songs that were “left and right of rock and roll?” McCartney talked about his love for “Till There Was You” during The Beatles Anthology, when The Beatles bassist said, “I could never see the difference between a beautiful melody and a cool rock ‘n’ roll song. I learnt to love all the ballady stuff through my dad and relatives – Till There Was You, My Funny Valentine – I thought these were good tunes. The fact that we weren’t ashamed of those leanings meants that the band could be a bit more varied. And there was a need for that, because we played cabaret a lot. Songs like Till There Was You would be the late-night cabaret material. They showed that we weren’t just another rock ‘n’ roll group. The Lennon/McCartney songwriting collaboration was forming during that period. We went on from “Love Me Do” to writing deeper, much more intense things. So it was just as well someone didn’t come up and tell us how uncool Till There Was You was.”
Uncool or not, constantly performing songs like “Till There Was You” in Hamburg were what gave the Fab Four the confidence to be the best band ever. If you want to hear the seeds of what made The Beatles pick up a copy of their new double disc collection On Air-Live at the BBC: Volume 2, and press play and you will rediscover why John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are known as the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
The Beatles didn’t become the finest rockers over night; There were no shows like American/Pop Idol or The Voice back in 1960s. No sir, it took crafting their sound, playing show after show and like any artist, hard work of playing eight hours a night and seven days a week are the reasons The Beatles are known as the Mozart’s of rock and roll. Relive the magic with this once musical number recorded for The BBC and remade live on one single take into a cover song classic by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Instead of playing some of the familiar rock numbers, slip down to track 17 on disc on of On Air and you will hear the genesis of true greatness. “Till There Was You” was one of the songs that made The Beatles the renowned genius we know and love today.