The Beatles with Tony Sheridan

The Beatles with Tony Sheridan

The Beatles with Tony Sheridan

F1rst Recordings: 50th Anniversary Edition

Universal Music / Time Life

The Beatles’ history gets about as much scrutiny as that of Jesus Christ or Obama. Once upon a time they were just a bunch of fresh-faced kids with limited skills and no solid plans, but they we old enough to get work permits and ended up in post war Germany where the bitter taste of defeat still infused Teutonic culture. But one thing the Germans did love was British rock and roll, and one of the first performers to come over was Tony Sheridan. His leather pants, slick hair, and voice not unlike that of Elvis Aaron Presley brought customers into the seedy bars near the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s notorious red light district. He knew John, Paul, and George and was soon singing with them, and on there Hamburg tours you might even claim the Beatles were “discovered” first by club owner Bruno Koschmider, then Burt Kaempfert, and finally Brian Epstein. It took a while for the Beatles to catch on; several labels rejected them and Kaempfert thought Sheridan was a more promising act, so he released the Beatles to Epstein. Ah, the power of hindsight.

This two-CD collection from Time/Life (they fought with Ron Popeil over late night air time in the ’80s) offers up thirty-plus tracks, all remastered and sounding very vacuum-tube mellow. In those tracks, there are only about eight individual songs, but this collection pulls together all the variations, alternate takes, alternate releases, and what today we would call remixes. In most of them Sheridan is the lead singer, with John, Paul, George and Pete Best backing with instruments and vocals. What’s amazing is how un-rock and roll these tracks sound: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” are prominent, and reflect the British fascination with American blues.

If you weren’t obsessive about the band’s early history, you might never guess whose recoding here; it’s that big a time capsule.

Time Life: Timelife.com

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