Almost all popular bands sooner or later produce a "live" album. In some ways, such an album is a testimony to the band's ability to play, onstage, what you hear on an album.
The Beatles were one of the few bands in the 1960's that did not release a legitimate live album. Some bootleg albums existed, one being The Beatles In Italy, a recording made by someone at a Beatles' concert. However, no real effort was made to produce a "live" album that would be available to all Beatles' fans.
Fortunately, Capitol Records did take the initiative to record three performances by The Beatles, both at The Hollywood Bowl, in Los Angeles, California. The first concert was recorded in August, 1964, and two more concerts were recorded a year later, in August, 1965.
Sadly, the technology to record concerts was lacking at the time, and the sound quality of the tapes was considered unacceptable for the purpose of pressing an album for popular release. So the Capitol tapes remained in storage for over five years.
In 1971, the release of a live, albeit raw, performance by The Beatles in Hamburg, caused Capitol to revisit the Hollywood Bowl tapes. As the story goes, the tapes were given to Phil Spector, a producer who was instrumental in putting together The Beatles' album Let It Be in 1970. Spector failed to complete the job of turning the Hollywood Bowl tapes into an album, so the project was shelved once again.
It wasn't until sometime in the mid-70's that the tapes were given to George Martin, the British record producer who had guided The Beatles through most of their career. At first, Martin was impressed with the enthusiasm of the performances, but disappointed with the sound quality of the now archaic three-track analog tapes.
With the help of Geoff Emerick, a sound engineer at Abbey Road Studios, Martin managed to transfer the three-track tapes to sixteen-track tape for filtering, equalization, editing, and mixing. Eventually, an album was mixed and compiled by Martin. The end product consisted entirely of songs recorded on 23 August 1964 and 30 August 1965, since the 29 August 1965 tape was virtually useless.
The album cover made the mistake of showing the almost completely unused 29 August as the second date used.
Finally, by 1977, Martin successfully edited together the two performances and captured the excitement of a live Beatles concert in front of 17,000 screaming fans.
Even though the recordings on The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl were between twelve and thirteen years old, the album reached number one on the New Musical Express chart in the United Kingdom and number two on the Billboard chart in the United States. The album has yet to be released on compact disc in either country. Bootleggers do circulate needle drop transfers of the LP across the internet.
Because The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl included songs from two shows recorded a year apart, a number of songs performed at the two concerts were not included on the album. Songs from the 1964 show not included on the album are: "Twist and Shout," "You Can't Do That," "Can't Buy Me Love," "If I Fell," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "A Hard Day's Night". Songs from the 1965 show not included on the album are: "I Feel Fine," "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," "Baby's in Black," "I Wanna Be Your Man," and "I'm Down." "Baby's in Black," from the 1965 Hollywood Bowl concert, however, was issued as the B-Side of the 1996 "Real Love" single, and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from the 1964 concert was mixed into the studio version of the song for the 2006 Love album.
One unintended consequence of the mixing of dates is the inconsistent dialogue between songs. It's somewhat odd to hear John and Paul refer to both A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) as their latest album.
Even though the album sleeve says that the recordings were all made on 23 August 1964 or 30 August 1965, "Ticket to Ride" and "Help" were recorded on 29 August 1965, and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" is a composite using parts from both nights in 1965.
The album has yet to be "officially" released on compact disc, and it's doubtful it ever will be. Even with the tinkering of such a great producer as George Martin, the sound remains substandard, especially when compared to such studio masterpieces like Revolver, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, and Abbey Road. At best, The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl is mainly a serious collector's treasure, and for the rest of Beatledom, an album you might listen to once.
Can you imagine? Listening to a Beatles album just once?
Sheer heresy ...