Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What They Played

April, 1960

The Beatles are back into the Hamburg grind and enjoying it immensly, I'm sure.  Here they have to give a lot less attention to finding work and moving stuff and people around and much more to music and "mach schau" (German for "kick out the jams!").  It is easy to imagine that the pressure cooker that was Hamburg is essential to the development of the Beatles talent, because it is about performing and very little else.  There are few distractions and they can devote all their considerable energy to just getting the music across.

Recently, I've taken time to look at the carefully researched list of songs known to have been played live by the Beatles, documented by Beatle authority Mark Lewisohn in his master work "The Complete Beatles Chronicle".  (Without this magnificent book, this blog would not be possible.)  There are a few facts about their material that really jump out from this period.  First, is that they had at their fingertips close to 200 songs!  That is an unmistakable mark of their true genius.  Remember, John is just turned 20 and the rest are not yet out of their teens.

At this time, they are mostly a cover band and many of their songs are recent rock standards, but they also play a good number of reworked classics of  another era.  For example, "My Bonnie" which they recorded later this summer with Tony Sheridan.  (Some great pics from around this time in that youtube.  And here's a more traditional arrangement.)  Their constant quest for material is really beginning to bear fruit.

Oh, and just for reference, today is the day that Yuri Gargarin was launched by the USSR to become the first man in space.  I wonder if they even heard the news.

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