Fun Beatles in new album

A new release from The Beatles reveals just how groundbreaking the band were even back in the early part of their career.

On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2 taps into the treasure trove of songs the Fab Four recorded at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) studios from 1963 to 1964, and comprises 63 remastered tracks, including more than 30 songs, that were never commercially released.

"It's often forgotten that 1963 was a year that was just as revolutionary as some of their later years," says BBC radio producer and Beatles expert Kevin Howlett, who co-produced the recording with fellow producer Mike Heatley.

"It was very different back then, there was no rock business. They changed everything. And you can hear them on this album, they were really quite radical at the time, being cheeky, irreverent and playing unusual material."

Howlett is an award-winning Beatles expert who has been producing programmes for the BBC since 1981. His works include the 2009 three-part radio series The Beatles: Here, There And Everywhere, which received a Silver Medal at the New York Festivals Awards in 2010.

Released as two-CD and three-vinyl sets, the new collection is a follow-up to the first Live At The BBC album launched in 1994, which went to No. 1 on the British charts, No. 3 in the United States and was nominated in the Best Historical Album category at the 1996 Grammy's.

Fans will be pleased with the inclusion in Volume 2 of two rare tunes, the covers of Chuck Berry's I'm Talking About You and 19th-century standard Beautiful Dreamer, as well as live renditions of Beatles tunes such as Please Please Me and Do You Want To Know A Secret.

The tracks include 23 in-studio conversations and banter which were never released, and these, according to Howlett, "really conjures up the feelings of the time".

"BBC radio in the 1960s was quite formal, quite straight and the Beatles really shook it up, they were cheeky and funny and you'll hear some lovely conversations," says Howlett.

The Fab Four were exceptionally active at the BBC in 1963, featuring in 39 radio shows. "1963 was a breakthrough year in the UK for the Beatles. They were working so hard and they did so many programmes for the BBC in that year.

"And you can hear what a fantastic live group they were, they recorded so many songs or even played songs straight on the air, live on the airways," says Howlett, who also authored a new book The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970, a 336-page tome which includes telegrams, notes and rare photos that chronicle the band's extensive relationship with the broadcaster.

On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2 is released with the blessings of surviving Beatles members Paul McCartney, 71, and Ringo Starr, 73, as well as the widows of John Lennon, who died in 1980 at 40, and George Harrison, who died in 2001, aged 58.

The CD costs $23.90 in music stores here. The vinyl set is available only in the UK.

The band, often cited as the most important and influential band in rock history, first got together as the Beatles in 1960 and split up a decade later.

McCartney was especially pleased to hear the recordings again, says Howlett.

"It was quite a revelation for him to hear how good they were at that time. We British are very modest and we don't like to say we're great at things.

"But Paul actually said to me, 'You know, I don't want to say it but we were brilliant'."

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