July 20, 2006

500 Beatles Tapes Discovered

I thought this was such a cool story. I get all fluttery inside when I think of all the amazing music laying around in boxes, lost, forgotten. You may not know this, but my secret #1 job of all time for most of my life has been Archaeologist. So this is like music archaeology, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

(Songs at the end)

500 Beatles tapes are found
By Will Pavia and Devika Bhat, The Times (UK)

Thought you’d heard every note? Fans of the biggest group of all time are now waiting for new sounds.

It is a priceless insight into the creative processes of the most celebrated pop group of all time — more than 500 tapes of the Beatles arguing, singing snatches of old tunes and jamming to unreleased tracks.

But for 35 years only tantalising fragments of the missing tapes had emerged, until they turned up as evidence in an English court after a long investigation into their whereabouts. Now Beatles fans are hoping for the release of a treasure trove of material they’ve never heard before.

The story starts in 1969, in a damp room at Twickenham Studios. The Get Back sessions were an attempt to reunite the men who had dominated popular music for the past few years — to try to find a way past the tensions that were beginning to divide them, to find the sound they hoped would hark back to their first years together.

Their efforts were recorded on camera and audio reels. “We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air,” Sir Paul McCartney wrote.

The tapes recorded them performing more than 200 cover versions of work by the artists who had influenced them: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. They played their own version of Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind, and Rod Stewart’s Maggie May. They belted out Great Balls of Fire, Hippy Hippy Shake and Lucille in spontaneous bursts of play.

The album that emerged was later shelved, then put together again a year later by Phil Spector as Let It Be.

The tapes were placed in storage. Then they disappeared. Since then, bootlegged fragments have emerged — the dialogue, arguments, jokes and songs selling for hundreds of pounds. Fans attempted to piece them together, but it was only when the tapes were advertised in a local newspaper that the investigation made any real progress.

Documents found at the home of Nigel Oliver, 55, from Slough, led investigators to raid a warehouse in the Netherlands in 2003, where the tapes were found. Police also found a key to a suitcase containing the 1960 passport of George Harrison. Three men were then called to a police station in Amsterdam. They had been the original sound engineers during the Get Back sessions. They recognised their own voices, mixed with those of the Beatles, on the tapes.

Yesterday, Oliver, who was found unfit to stand trial, was sentenced to a two-year supervision order for handling stolen goods. Neil Aspinall, the band’s first road manager and now head of the Apple estate, told the court: “These tapes have huge commercial value. There’s lots of very unknown stuff and music on there that they wouldn’t have recorded in a normal session.”

One Beatles follower has an especially personal interest. Hunter Davies, the band’s authorised biographer, said: “In 1968 Paul McCartney came to my house and he used to play the guitar on the lavatory. He found out my real first name was Eddie and wrote a song about that. Later someone sent me a bootlegged version from the sessions. It’s two verses, sort of mocking me. Now I’m hoping to hear the original.”

Here are a few rad Beatles demos that I have, and I have no idea of the history. They could be from these tapes, or somewhere in that era. Anyone heard them before?

Something” (demo) – The Beatles

Golden Slumbers” (demo) – The Beatles

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (Dylan cover) – The Beatles

Get Back” (demo) – The Beatles

and, my personal favorite:

Heather” – The Beatles (damn time I got my own song)

And Eric over at Marathonpacks (whom I love for his mad Beatles-talkin’-skills) has a delightful post about two Fake Beatles Songs.


  • This was an interesting Phase for the Beatles, the get back sessions. They had just Finished the ‘White Album’, with much personal cost. And they had agreed to do a television broadcast of some of the songs from that album. But they decided instead to create new songs for the broadcast. These sessions became Let It Be. The Beatles never finished this material to their liking and it was shelved as an album with only singles being released.
    They moved on to the Abby Road album, their final recording. Phil Spector pulled the album from the shelf after the bad disbanded, and completed it.

    Something and Golden Slumbers appear to have been recorded around the time of the Abby Road Album, which would have been after the Get Back Sessions. But perhaps they had demoed them during thee sessions…

    The rest could be from then as well. Maybe we will know one day, if more material is released.

    There is a great book which details the recording of the Beatles, Here, There and Everywhere By Geoff Emerick. Elvis Costello does the forward, and Geoff’s story as the engineer for most every Beatle’s recording is very engrossing. Well worth a read

    Nooshaji — July 20, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  • What great news. I’ve read about the lost tapes, and always wondered where they could have got to. It’s pretty exciting to think they might be available.

    Even apart from these tapes, though, it amazes me there has been so little officially released demo stuff. I don’t know about others, but I would happily pay hundreds to get my hands on anything they recorded.

    Charles Olney — July 20, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  • Should have run spell check before posting… sorry for the typos.

    Nooshaji — July 20, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

  • Nooshaji, thanks for the informative comment. You rock.

    heather — July 20, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

  • I guess I should also clarify that it was the Get Back Sessions that were shelved and latter revived by Spector, and not Abbey Road…
    Don’t work and blog… unless blogging is your work.


    You’re most welcome Heather. I enjoy your insights, and share my own when I have them.

    As well, life has taken us on a similar route. We moved to Colorado from San Francisco very recently, and your posts often show bits of home.

    Thank you as well.

    Nooshaji — July 20, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  • I was excited to read your post but then slightly disappointed to find that this is actually old news. BBC News posted coverage of the find on Friday, 10 January, 2003.


    Tom — July 20, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  • Old news which is new to you is new. And you should have read on, for the story is new. The men caught have stood trial, and some were convicted.

    As well it looks like new material may be on the way…


    Also form this site… maybe the posted mp3s were from these tapes..

    “There’s lots of very unknown stuff and music they wouldn’t have recorded in a normal session,” he told the court.

    “For example, they covered over 200 songs on these tapes. Songs of the day, such as Bob Dylan.”

    and you were disappointed…

    Nooshaji — July 21, 2006 @ 12:11 am

  • very good to hear. reminds of this sweet bootleg my friend gave me of white album demos of them sitting around in a house just goofing around. he told me the whole story but I can’t remember it all. some sweet music though. thanks again

    Mike — July 21, 2006 @ 9:28 am


    I’ve never heard these, and I thought I’d heard most of the rare Beatles stuff.

    Dude, you DESERVE your own Beatles song for this. Way to go & thanks.

    Anonymous — July 21, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  • Heather is Macca and Donovan, the guy who taught John travis picking when they visited the Maharishi.

    Get Back is the famous ‘Pakistani’ version. What always intrigued me was John said that Paul wrote this song about Yoko to be ugly to her, but listening to the Get Back Pakistanis version it is obvious the song originated out of news stories of the time that Pakistanis were taking jobs from the English as they flooded into Britain. John knew this and participated in the creation of the song, yet lied about it being about Yoko. Of course that was during his feud with Paul where he would just get in whatever digs he could.

    If you listen to the available boots of these sessions, it is obvious that MOST of the songs that would end up on Abbey Road are present during the Get Back recordings. Also you hear several songs during these sessions that ended up on later solo albums. I really like John’s song ‘Jealous Guy’ being ‘Child of Nature’ and recorded by the Beatles. That’s a great version =)

    Anonymous — July 21, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  • I don’t know. Lost tapes are nice, but they’re usually lost for a reason. If they wanted us to hear it, they would have released it 35 years ago.

    Just another money grab, if ya ask me.

    Anthony — July 25, 2006 @ 5:59 am

  • The chances that much of this material will be released in any commercial form are limited. Assuming these are similar to the countless hours of bootlegs from this time period, often the band is just sort of jamming, working their way through a song that they often didn’t know the lyrics to. Jamming in the studio.

    Yes, there are hints of things to come from Abbey Road and various solo albums, but the cameras and tape machines captured everything indiscriminately – good or bad. If you can get your hands on a copy of the film Let It Be, you will see hints of things to come such as Ringo working out “Octopus’s Garden” on piano, etc.

    Anonymous — July 26, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  • A great book about the Beatles recordings is Revolution in the Head by Ian Macdonald. Macdonald goes through their catalog song by song. I don’t think it’s in print in the States but you can get it from amazon UK.

    Child of Nature was written around the time of the trip to the Maharishi. A demo of it is found on the bootleg Beatles Unplugged (comprised of the Beatles album demos).

    Anonymous — July 27, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

  • That version of “Something” you have is on Anthology 3. George went into the studio by himself in February 1969 (after the Get Back sessions were over) and recorded demos of “Something,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “All Things Must Pass.”

    Some of the Get Back sessions material was released with the “Let it Be…Naked” album in 2004, in a 2nd disc called “Fly on the Wall.” It’s basically all of them chatting in between recordings – my favorite part is Paul trying to figure out what the lyrics to “The One After 909″ is about, and he’s the one who co-wrote the song!

    I’d never heard the other stuff before, it’s neat!

    Liz — July 30, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

  • MASSIVE!!!!
    absolutely MEGA!!!!!


    b.LOUD — August 7, 2006 @ 2:50 am

  • The “song” Heather was from the recording sessions for Mary Hopkin’s Postcard LP. Paul was producer and Donovan wrote some of the tunes.

    Heather was recorded in 1969. There is a great guitar duet with Donovan on this!

    Excellent stuff. Thanks.

    CrimsonCrow — June 3, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  • What FANTASTIC background, crimson crow. Thanks! I’ve been curious about that but never known the history behind the lovely little ditty. Yay!

    heather — June 3, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  • oh dear! I know this blog post was posted a while ago but I was searching on the internet for a (preferably free) mp3 of the song “Heather” b/c it’s my favourite Beatle’s bootleg. (And I love the song.) I found this and it won’t let me listen to it or anything! Does anyone know where I can get this song? (Without me having to give anyone my email address…)

    Alice — September 17, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

  • Alice, it requires me knowing your email address, but if you email me (address at the top of the blog) I’ll send it to you gladly.

    heather — September 17, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  • Thanks so much. And I emailed you a week or so ago and I don’t know if you got it or not…if not I can try again…

    Alice — October 2, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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