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Thread: BBC Sessons

  1. #1
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    BBC Sessons

    Sorry for the title typo!

    I don't think we've had a thread on these but they've always fascinated me.

    The reason they initially existed was because of strict musicians' union restrictions on how many records could be played by the BBC- 'needle time'. But that was a blessing because artists had to do live performances to get themselves heard on the BBC. And most artists took the opportunity to offer something different. The Beatles for instance recorded 30 odd songs they never did for EMI, in addition to the 'new' versions of their releases.

    Another great one is an experimental broadcast in stereo by The Rolling Stones (half the sound on radio, the other half on TV!). This sounds better than their early Decca recordings. And their first session has a better version of 'Come On' than the single.

    In later years there was a move to longer concerts with audiences- various great ones by Floyd, Zeppelin, Bowie etc.

    Anyone have any particular favourites?

  2. #2
    My favorites are anything The Beatles did (the earlier, the better) and Pink Floyd's 1970-71 sets. There are also some KILLER performances by The Animals, among others.

    Thank God the BBC didn't destroy all the tapes. And let's have an even BIGGER thank you for those fans who recorded broadcasts over the years that are otherwise lost forever.
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    ^In the case of the earlier recordings, they did wipe a lot of tapes, sadly. Transcription discs of sessions for overseas sales are the reason many sessions exist. So next time someone moans about Brian Matthew talking over the intros, bear in mind that's the only reason you can still hear them today.

    Even a lot of Beatles recordings are off-air, albeit often very well recorded.

  4. #4
    I am not an expert of the subject at all, so I am waiting for the real connoisseurs to throw the dice. Good subject.

    Out of the top of my head I would say Soft Machine (which I haven't listened to for a couple of decades) and Magma.

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    Member bigjohnwayne's Avatar
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    There's some great stuff on the second Soft Machine BBC set too. Holdsworth's solo on that version of "The Man Who Waved at Trains" is incredible.


    The Caravan BBC set is good too.

    As far as I know, Canterbury groups in general were awesome on the BBC.

    The early King Crimson stuff is great too from Epitaph and recent reissues of the first record. They even found a boot of I Talk to the Wind.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by bigjohnwayne View Post
    As far as I know, Canterbury groups in general were awesome on the BBC.
    Only documents of pre-Legend Henry Cow with Fred Frith singing, only studio recordings of National Health with Bill Bruford on drums, other good stuff.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    My favorites are anything The Beatles did (the earlier, the better)
    For god's sake why? They're raw, they're poorly recorded, they're mono, they're before The Beatles developed their own sound so they sound exactly like every other beat group. I find these tracks completely forgettable.

  8. #8
    The Pink Floyd tapes from 69-71 are maybe my favorites, as heard on the Early Years box.

    The Soft Machine stuff, particularly the 68-71 and Soft Machine & Heavy Friends performances are pretty awesome too.

    I have the Jimi Hendrix BBC Radio One CD around here someplace, that came out back in the late 80's. I recall there's a really good version of Burning Of THe Midnight Lamp on that one.

    Genesis did some good BBC sessions too, I think.
    Last edited by GuitarGeek; 1 Week Ago at 04:45 PM.

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    ^Most of Genesis' still haven't been released, but many of the more interesting ones were on the Archive box. One still-unreleased oddity is the version of 'Stagnation' with a different ending. And a very much unfinished 'The Musical Box' with dummy lyrics.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    they're mono
    Because that automatically makes them crap.

    The Beatles' BBC sessions are an absolute treasure trove as far as I'm concerned. All those songs they never recorded anywhere else.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    Because that automatically makes them crap.
    No, but there's none of the care George Martin heaped on the real Beatles catalog.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    For god's sake why? They're raw, they're poorly recorded, they're mono, they're before The Beatles developed their own sound so they sound exactly like every other beat group. I find these tracks completely forgettable.
    Who gives a shit how they're recorded? These recordings are the best document of The Beatles as a pure rock and roll band, something the music snobs of the world (including you, perhaps?) allege where they fell short. They are all LIVE and the band took the opportunity to play songs that they were most influenced by, many of which never appeared on record. They proved that they could hold up well against any of the so-called rockers of the time. Some people like rawness.

    There is a small handful of 1962 recordings from before the magic began (even pre-Ringo). By 1963, they had already developed their sound, as evidenced by the great performances of originals right alongside of the previously mentioned covers.

    Open your mind a bit. It's great rock and roll.

    The good news is that you don't have to like it. But it's your loss.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    The Beatles' BBC sessions are an absolute treasure trove as far as I'm concerned. All those songs they never recorded anywhere else.
    Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    No, but there's none of the care George Martin heaped on the real Beatles catalog.
    The White Zone is for loading and unloading only. If you got to load or unload go to the White Zone.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    These recordings are the best document of The Beatles as a pure rock and roll band, something the music snobs of the world (including you, perhaps?) allege where they fell short.
    Maybe this is the problem. I think the importance of The Beatles started when they went beyond "pure rock and roll."

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    Who gives a shit how they're recorded?
    Me.

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    They are well recorded IMHO and Lennon said the same (the quote is there for all to hear in the Anthology documentary). After a while they requested a particular engineer for all their sessions because they were so impressed with the sound he got.

    https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news...h-the-beatles/
    https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.u...ngo-and-keith/

    Some of these were particular fan favourites in their Cavern days like 'Soldier Of Love' and 'Don't Ever Change'.

    Alas they only ever did one of the songs they 'gave away'...'I'll Be On My Way'.
    Last edited by JJ88; 1 Week Ago at 12:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarGeek View Post
    The Pink Floyd tapes from 69-71 are maybe my favorites, as heard on the Early Years box. Well, mostly heard on The Early Years. They left the blues jam from the 1971 concert. .
    Don't have it but wasn't that on the extra disc of that Early Years box? There's something called 'Blues' listed as being from 1968 but I'm assuming it's this.

    Based on what I've heard, the fidelity for this jam has always been lower. It appears it and 'Embryo' were not broadcast here in the UK at the time.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Maybe this is the problem. I think the importance of The Beatles started when they went beyond "pure rock and roll."
    I think the "problem" is that this discussion is not necessarily about the importance of the work, which can be defined many ways, BTW. In the case of The Beatles, it's a great insight into the band of musicians behind "the importance" that came later. One can appreciate the important work without dismissing its roots.

    There's a lot of people (especially here) who dismiss them as musicians. Well, the BBC recordings are the argument against that.

    As far as sound quality goes, to each his own. But, I almost feel sorry for those who cannot listen beyond the fidelity shortcomings of a particular recording to appreciate the performance. Some of my favorite pieces of music were recorded by an audience member on low-end equipment. And I, for one, thank them for that.
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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    Don't have it but wasn't that on the extra disc of that Early Years box? There's something called 'Blues' listed as being from 1968 but I'm assuming it's this.

    Based on what I've heard, the fidelity for this jam has always been lower. It appears it and 'Embryo' were not broadcast here in the UK at the time.
    Hmm, I think you might be right. Wikipedia gives the date for that track as the same as the Sounds Of The 70's show from September 71. So maybe it's not missing after all, it's just in the wrong location. I'll have to go back and listen to it again. Now that I think about it, I remember reviewing the track list on Wikipedia last spring (when I made my first attempt at buying the set) and making the same error at first, then seeing it listed on the Continuation portion of the set, and thinking, 'Oh, good it's there after all!".

    You're correct that Embryo and Blues weren't broadcast in the UK at the time. Apparently they were only ever played on WNEW, for some reason. The only bootleg version of Embryo had a WNEW ID during the song. One wonders if this isn't one of those deals where the masters got wiped, or were partially wiped, and they had to resort to 2nd generation tapes or whatever.

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    ^The version of 'Embryo' I'm familiar goes into mono for a section of the song. I wondered why that was done. I guess there's a complete mono tape out there somewhere then.

    The BBC was appallingly cavalier about archiving. In fact 'non existent' would be a good word to describe their policy. A lot of Floyd's 60s sessions only exist in off-air form.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pb2015 View Post
    Only documents of pre-Legend Henry Cow with Fred Frith singing, only studio recordings of National Health with Bill Bruford on drums, other good stuff.
    Are those songs "Missing Pieces" from the BBC?

    "Clocks and Clouds" is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I can only imagine what National Health could've been like had Mont Campbell stayed with them. Three writers of that level of skill is something that I can't think of any band ever having.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigjohnwayne View Post
    Three writers of that level of skill is something that I can't think of any band ever having.
    Beatles?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Beatles?
    Maybe you had to be there in the late 60s/early 70s to really appreciate what George Harrison was, but if I want fuzzy spirituality I'll go listen to Yes and if I want yearning, melancholy hooks I'll listen to ELO.

    But "It's All too Much" is pretty good and the long version of "Isn't it a Pity" is gorgeous.

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    Member Emeritus (A.M.P.) rcarlberg's Avatar
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    I think if George hadn't been paired with the two dudes he ended up with, he would've starred in whatever band he put together and would've been lauded as one of the great songwriters of his generation.

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    Magma - BBC 1974 Londres AKT XIII

    Focus At The BBC '72

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    ^The version of 'Embryo' I'm familiar goes into mono for a section of the song. I wondered why that was done. I guess there's a complete mono tape out there somewhere then.

    The BBC was appallingly cavalier about archiving. In fact 'non existent' would be a good word to describe their policy. A lot of Floyd's 60s sessions only exist in off-air form.
    It wasn't just the BBC, it as the entertainment industry in general. No one had the foresight to realize that things might have continued popularity, relevance, etc years or even decades after a broadcast. That's why there's so many gaps in what's survived over the decades, whether you're talking about music, television, movies, etc. As recently as 1980, nobody realized it might be a good idea to hang onto the original cut of something like The Blues Brothers, "just in case".

    Mind you, it's not always a matter of "lack of foresight", so much as "lack of money". When Austin City Limits started, they couldn't afford to save all the unedited performances everyone did for the show. I actually e-mailed the producers of the DVD releases from the show, and asked about the Roy Buchanan release they put out, which is only a half hour. Knowing that some of the other DVD's were much longer than that, and contain material that wasn't broadcast, I asked if that was all Roy played or what. The explanation I got was they let performers play a regular set, which is then edited down for broadcast. But in the early days of the show, they couldn't afford to save everything, so the unedited footage got taped over. So that's why the Roy DVD (which was shot in 77 or something like that) was so short.

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    In 1963 The Beatles did a television broadcast for the BBC called It's The Beatles which was a complete (albeit, allegedly poorly shot) live concert from the Liverpool Empire. Only about ten minutes of that survive and you know why? Because the original master tape was sent to trainees to experiment editing with. Ouch. A nice quality off-air recording of that was uncovered a few years ago, at least.

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