I have no idea why, but "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl" has never been released on CD in the U.S.
Worse yet, I don't think it's going to come out on CD or download when the remastered Beatles albums are released later this year. "Hollywood Bowl" came out on LP in 1977, before the CD was invented, and long after the group broke up. In 1977 all four Beatles were still alive. Luckily enough, it's not at all hard to score a decent "Hollywood Bowl" LP now.
I can't think of another major sixties band that didn't eventually put out a great concert LP. For reasons lost to the mists of time the Beatles live recordings were all pretty poor quality, and these Hollywood Bowl dates are less than stellar-sounding. But the thing is, the performances rock harder than the Beatles ever did in the studio.
The LP features performances from the 1964 and 1965 Hollywood Bowl shows, and the screams of 17,000 teenagers running through almost the entire record nearly overwhelm the music at times. According to the Beatles producer George Martin, the band didn't have stage monitors, so they couldn't hear what they were playing. "Hollywood Bowl" is 100 percent live, without any postproduction vocal or instrumental overdubbing.
The early hits like "She Loves You" and "All My Loving" blasting out of my speakers plastered a big smile across my face. There's magic in the grooves. John Lennon sounds oddly startled by the crowd's roaring approval as he dives into "Help" and "A Hard Day's Night." The energy is incredible, but the sound mix renders the guitars nearly inaudible much of the time. Vocals come through best, but Paul's bass is just a low, rippling drone. Ringo's drums and cymbals poke through every now and then.
So in the end "Hollywood Bowl" isn't by any stretch essential, but if you're a Beatles fan, you should own a copy. Don't have a turntable? Don't let that stop you, "Hollywood Bowl" is a piece of history you may not always have the luxury of owning. And if you get the urge to pick up a turntable and listen, well, that's not such a bad idea.