The Beatles

The Paris Concerts 1964-1965 [CD & DVD]

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The Beatles played in Paris on two separate occasions: once as an 18-day residency in early 1964 (just before their first trip to the United States), and then for a much shorter visit on June 20, 1965, when they played two concerts. This quite elaborate (doubly so for a bootleg) two-CD, one-DVD package gathers every scrap of audiovisual evidence of their trips to Paris -- not just live concert recordings and footage, but also interviews they did while they were in town; the recordings (including outtakes) they did for EMI at Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris on January 29, 1964; interviews with a French fan and Sylvie Vartan (who shared billing with the Beatles in Paris in 1964); the Beatles' comments about their Paris experience upon their return to London, and then decades later for the Anthology videos; and even live recordings by some of the support acts on the 1965 concert. While it's way too thorough for all but the more rabid Beatles fan, there's some pretty cool stuff here.

By far the most notable material is found on the two 1965 concerts (comprising most of disc two), which were broadcast in their entirety on French radio. This is the only known audio document of their brief mid-1965 tour of the European continent, and while the sound might be just a little below what would be considered acceptable for an official release (particularly in the instrumental balance), actually it's pretty good -- extremely good, in fact, for a bootleg of a 1965 rock concert. These are probably the best (not to say among the very few) recordings of them doing "I'm a Loser" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" in circulation, and generally the set sounds good and spirited, chock-full of mid-'60s classic Beatles songs like "I Feel Fine," "Ticket to Ride," "Can't Buy Me Love," "She's a Woman," and "A Hard Day's Night." The group gamely tries to introduce some songs in elementary French, and the crowd is a little atypical for Beatlemania, roaring quite enthusiastically but also actually singing along with some songs (particularly the chorus of "Can't Buy Me Love"). The evening (second) of these shows was broadcast in black-and-white on French TV, and as you'd expect, that concert takes up most of the DVD. This isn't the best of Beatles concerts to make it onto film, not so much because of the quite good performance as the not-so-hot image quality, which is certainly watchable without a problem, but is rather wavy and obviously not in the greatest of condition. Still, in all it's a quite fine addition to the fairly slim library of Beatles concerts that survive on film in their entirety or near-entirety. (For the record, it's presented in both its complete version and the slightly edited, altered "broadcast" version, though the broadcast version contains nothing that's not in the complete version.)

In contrast, the supplemental material from 1965 (interviews and live recordings by a bunch of unknown opening French acts, though there's a nice version of the Yardbirds doing "I Wish You Would") is extraneous. Too, the audio material from 1964, comprising all of disc one, isn't nearly as interesting as the second CD, since it has much less Beatles music, and since some of the tracks are fragments, not complete songs. For what it's worth, however, the group does sound pretty good on-stage, on material taken from French radio broadcasts. Also, while Beatles lore usually has it that their reception in Paris in 1964 was pretty cool, actually the audience sounds reasonably enthusiastic -- they're just not at Beatlemania level yet, and do some odd and distracting handclapping during songs. The interviews aren't that interesting, with the possible exception of a fairly lengthy one they did for the American Forces Network on January 24 -- probably one of the first (if not the first) occasions on which they were interviewed by an American reporter. Be warned that while the "outtakes" of "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" and "Sie Liebt Dich" listed on the sleeve sound tempting, actually these are very, very brief snippets of chatter and a passage of "Sie Liebt Dich" where they break up in giggles. For the sake of completeness, stereo versions of both those songs (both of them done at the January 29, 1964, session) are included, as are a couple of alternate takes of "Can't Buy Me Love" that circulated widely on bootlegs for years prior to this 2004 release. There's a little bit of 1964 footage on the DVD, but these are just a couple of interviews, scenes of the Beatles (off-stage) in Paris, and snippets of an on-stage performance that isn't even synced to the sound. It's too bad, too, that such a nice-looking and pull-out-the-stops archival package has liner notes that were evidently written by someone who can't even speak English that well.