The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl is the only official live Beatles album ever released. Recorded in 1964 and 1965 but not put out until 1977, the album is a fairly disappointing listen. Though recorded at the peak of Beatlemania, when the Fab Four were still riding a euphoric wave of success driven by their touring years, the concerts tapes were rendered near unlistenable by the insane racket produced by the 10,000 strong crowds.
The Beatles were on point on those nights, and George Martin can seldom be associated with any technical shortcoming within the band’s career. Rather, the limitations of mastering technology in the 70s are to blame for the dismal quality of the original recordings.
You may ask then, how did they get the recordings up to scratch for last year’s triumphant Live at the Hollywood remaster, which coincided with the August release of Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week doco?
Technological wizardry of the mastering engineers at Abbey Road would be the answer.
“What became apparent when you compared it to what came out in 1977 is how hard Ringo is hitting the drums,” says Giles Martin, George Martin’s son and the producer of the remastered album. “How hard the band were really digging in. We didn’t really know about that before. You take these layers of natural tape effects away to get to the heart of the performance, and when you get there, you actually hear the dynamics.”
An excellent article recently published on Wired unravels the complexities of the remastering process for a task as difficult as this – one that 40 years ago would have seemed impossible.