LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Songs recorded by the Beatles 50 years ago went on sale Tuesday to meet a deadline that otherwise would have made bootlegging the music legal.
If the the music sounds familiar, you may have heard unauthorized, lesser-quality versions circulated by fans for decades — or similar takes on the several anthology albums released over the years by the Beatles’ label, Apple Corps.
The 59 tracks downloadable on iTunes for $40 are previously unreleased. When John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr worked through a dozen or more takes of a song to get one they and producer George Martin liked, they likely hoped fans would never hear their mistakes. Some takes were so disliked that the tapes were destroyed.
The surviving recordings became a liability for the record label, because their copyright on unreleased material ends on January 1, 2014. Independent labels could legally sell compilations of rejected versions of Beatles hits. Releasing them now gives Apple another 20 years’ protection under a recent change in European law.
The British government, following the change in European copyright law, implemented a law last month providing “that if a record label is not commercially releasing a track that is over 50 years old, then the performers can request that the rights in the performance revert to them — a ‘use it or lose it’ clause,” the government’s website said.
Apple Corps did not comment to CNN on the motivation for the release, but the timing of the release and their naming it “The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963” suggests the connection.
No doubt many hardcore Beatles fans around the world are bingeing on the 14 outtakes from three 1963 studio sessions, and the 44 songs from the dozens of BBC radio shows the group performed on when their fan base was mostly limited to the British Isles. The album also offers two demo recordings of songs written for others.
The first Beatles Abbey Road session
The first several tracks came from their legendary 13-hour session with Martin on February 11, 1963.
You’ll hear three full takes of “There’s a Place,” the first song they recorded that fateful day at EMI Studios in Abbey Road, London.
Some of the tracks apparently were recorded for good measure after the group already got a take they were satisfied with.
The new release includes the seventh take of “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” while the sixth one was released in 1963. At the end of the take McCartney comments about the “the do-da-do bits” in the vocal harmonies.
The sixth take of “Taste of Honey” is included from that session. It was the fifth take with added vocals that made it on the 1963 album.
The Beatles got only three complete takes of “I Saw Her Standing There” out of nine attempts during that marathon first session. One was released in 1963 and a second in a 1995 anthology project. The new release, the second take, is the third and only previously unreleased complete version.
Two takes of “Misery” — the first and seventh recording that afternoon — are included. You will not hear Martin’s piano, which was dubbed onto the final version a week later.
Abbey Road Studio: March 1963
The two tracks of “From Me to You” offer a glimpse of the group’s studio demeanor during another Abbey Road session on March 5, 1963. They stop playing abruptly in the first take, with Martin asking why. “I just thought I heard you talking actually. Did you whistle? “
One Beatle to another at the end of the second take: “Ah, you missed the ending, baby.”
“George is to play the first bit of the instrumental, isn’t he?” Lennon asks before they start another take. “Key right into the harmony.”
“Thank You Girl,” a song written as a tribute to their already dedicated female groupies, is next. The new release includes the first and fifth of 13 takes from the March session. The song was used as a B-side on a single.
Fans can enjoy a lot of chatter between the group on the two takes of “One After 909” in the March session. “What are you doing?” Lennon asks another when the first take falls apart. “Are you out of your mind?” The song was not released until the Beatles played it on a rooftop for the 1970 “Let It Be” album.
The band seemed to struggle in that March session with “Hold Me Tight,” a song they later said they never cared for. The bootleg project gives you take 21.
The last studio outtake on the album is “Money (That’s What I Want),” recorded on July 18, 1963.
Beatles on the BBC 1963
The next 44 tracks are from the dozens of Beatles live appearances on BBC radio programs in 1963, including “Saturday Club,” “Easy Beat,” “Here We Go,” “Side By Side,” “From Us To Us” and the group’s own weekly series, “Pop Go The Beatles.”
Several versions of their first big hit in England, “Love Me Do,” “Taste of Honey” and “She Loves You” are included. Some of the shows had live audiences, adding the flavor of screaming fans. The recording quality, none in stereo, varies from show to show, since the BBC was not trying to save the performances for later release.
The tracks include the BBC hosts’ introductions, which remind the listener of where the Beatles were in early 1963.
“For the moment the majority of the Beatles fans are in their hometown of Liverpool, and I have a very strong suspicion that it won’t be long before they’re all over the country,” the announcer said as he introduced their performance of “Love Me Do” on the BBC’s “Easy Beat” show on January 26, 1963.