Music: Before History Took Over

Early Beatles tapes from the BBC will be aired this weekend

They are 20 years old, some of them, and still sparkle. Most songs—pop songs generally, rock specifically—dim with age. The present can paralyze the past; anything off the charts sounds like an antique or a novelty item. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a group of 48 previously unreleased Beatles performances, found in the BBC vaults and to be broadcast over the Memorial Day weekend on 350 stations, is their insistent presence. Old songs in the present tense, simple, lively and made of magic.

Performed between March 1962 and June 1965, the...

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