Anthology 1 is the first in a series of three double albums released by The Beatles in the mid-1990s composed of unreleased musical recordings of The Beatles. Released on November 21, 1995, Anthology 1 contains sixty tracks over two discs showcasing the previously commercially unreleased music of The Beatles between 1958 and the end of 1964.
Most of the Anthology material consists of studio outtakes and live performances melted together in a patchwork fashion, with occasional spoken word bits on the first Anthology at least. These tracks, particularly on Anthology 1, are far from finished works, but instead make up kind of an audio snapshot as the most legendary pop band of all time musically evolves over a period of twelve years.
The first disc of Anthology I opens with the first new Beatles song in twenty five years. To say Free As A Bird was without controversy would be a gross understatement; opinions on it ranged from pure genius to a defecation on the grave of John Lennon. It was recorded using a taped demo of John Lennon recording a demo of a song at his apartment in 1977; he never got around to using the song due to his untimely death in 1980. So his widowed wife Yoko Ono gave the tape to the three remaining Beatles in 1994 and with the careful touch of Jeff Lynne at the production helm and the added musical talents of George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, The Beatles recorded again with the voice of a lost member. To each his own, I guess, but I think that the song came off fantastically well considering it was a discarded Lennon demo from almost twenty years earlier.
This is followed by an excerpt from John Lennon's 1970 interview with Rolling Stone in which he claims that The Beatles were merely a band of four guys who made it very very big, downplaying greatly their influence on music history.
The next two songs are in absolutely awful shape, but for sheer historical value, they're amazing. In early 1958, a group of five Liverpool teenagers paid a local shop owner to record the music of their fledgeling skiffle band, The Quarry Men. Noticeable about the lineup of The Quarry Men are three of the members: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. This earliest known recording of three of the Fab Four together is rough on the ears because of the age and poor production, but the sheer historical value of That'll Be The Day and In Spite Of All The Danger is amazing. Of note is the fact that In Spite Of All The Danger was written by Paul McCartney and George Harrison, their first recorded written song.
Paul then breaks in with a brief spoken bit about how he used to record the group as they practiced in his living room, followed by three examples of this from 1960, when The Beatles consisted of four guitar players: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Stuart Sutcliffe. Hallelujah, I Love Her So, You'll Be Mine, and Cayenne were all recorded in the late spring and early summer of 1960, clearly a sound that's evolving from the Quarry Men of two years before. Of special note is the middle song, You'll Be Mine, which features some very playful singing and some of John Lennon's patented oddball wordplay in a spoken section right in the middle.
Again, Paul speaks, this time from a 1962 interview, about the music to come. This time it is three tracks from The Beatles first real recording session. Their first single, My Bonnie, was not as themselves, but instead as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers; the group was backing the well-known English singer and guitarist while on tour in Hamburg, Germany where these were recorded. My Bonnie had some popularity in Germany but got no attention at all in their home country. The group did get the chance to record two tracks by themselves, Ain't She Sweet (the first track here where they really sound like The Beatles; you can just feel the promise of what was to come oozing out here) and Cry For A Shadow.
These recordings were enough to attract the attention of manager Brian Epstein, who secured The Beatles to a management contract and went about trying to get them a record deal, noted in two spoken word tracks here by John Lennon and Brian Epstein. He managed to get them an audition for Decca Records on January 1, 1962, and five songs from this audition can be found here: Searchin', Three Cool Cats, The Shiek Of Araby, Like Dreamers Do, and Hello Little Girl, the last two being among the earliest Lennon/McCartney-written songs. Listen to these tracks and be the judge for yourself, but Decca chose to not sign The Beatles, obviously disheartening the group greatly in early 1962 (Just think, in early 1962, this group was unsigned; their entire career was still ahead of them and would be done in just eight short years. When you consider this, their career is even more amazing, at least to me.).
In June 1962, though, The Beatles got another chance, this time with EMI. Brian Epstein sets up this audition with another spoken piece, and then two tracks from their EMI demo are played: Besame Mucho and Love Me Do (yes, the first Lennon/McCartney composition to become a hit; here, it's slightly slowed down from its most famous version and you can hear the nervousness in Paul McCartney's voice). At this particular time, the lineup of the group was almost set; the only change yet to come was the replacement of Pete Best on drums with Ringo Starr. This early incarnation of the Fab Four represented here, however, must have been enough to impress EMI and their producer George Martin, because they signed the group immediately.
In September 1962, after switching drummers and finally achieving their famous lineup of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, the freshly-signed band returned to EMI for their first real recording session. They recorded a remake of Love Me Do (the famous single version), but the son that appears here is what was originally supposed to be the a-side to Love Me Do, How Do You Do It. This song is pretty interesting as a finished but unreleased Beatles track; it doesn't really fit their sound, but is pleasant nonetheless.
A week later, the group returned to the studio to take a first crack at what would be their second single, Please Please Me, with studio drummer Alan White replacing Ringo. This song might sound unusual because it is missing the familiar harmonica from the later, more famous version.
The Beatles' ascent to fame was just taking off for the next two tracks, two versions of their song One After 909 (which later turned up on their final album, Let It Be), which the group worked on and gave up on while working on their third single, From Me To You. During this song, you can hear the tired and uptight banter of the group as they worked on the song, evidence that already the pressures of fame were there even as their rapid ascendance into fame was just beginning.
The next track comes at a time when the group was really taking off in Britain, right in the middle of 1963. Lend Me Your Comb is one of many songs the group did for their 1963 radio show Pop Go The Beatles, which aired on the BBC radio network and comprised the group's wonderful 1994 album Live At The BBC. This one didn't appear on the 1994 album, but it is a nice short little ditty.
By October of 1963, the group was an absolute phenomenon in their home country and were offered a slot on the country's equivalent of The Ed Sullivan Show, Val Parnell's Sunday Night At The London Palladium. On this show, you can hear the screams of the adulatory fans, a sure sign that Beatlemania was in full swing.
The first disc closes with John Lennon mentioning their burgeoning popularity as 1963 wound down, and then five songs the group played on the radio in Sweden in late 1963 as their popularity was first beginning to spread beyond Britain's fine shores. I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, Money, You Really Got A Hold On Me, and Roll Over Beethoven comprise a very rocking and exuberant performance for the Swedish fans, again just as the popularity of the group was beginning to take hold.
The Beatles returned to Britain in early November 1963 to absolute bedlam; Beatlemania had taken off like a rocket there. The group played the Royal Variety Show on the 4th of November shortly after their return, and when the show was broadcast on ITV on the 10th, 40% of the entire population of Britain was watching and another few million were listening to the BBC simulcast on the radio. The live crowd was absolutely manic, with overflow stretching out onto the street full of screams and shouts. From this performance the songs She Loves You (the number one single in the country at the time), Till There Was You, and Twist And Shout are included here to kick off the second disc with this rousing live performance.
The next four tracks summarize an appearance by the group on The Morecombe And Wise Show, an extremely popular comedy show in Britain at the time, in December 1963. The group opens by performing This Boy and I Want To Hold Your Hand, but the real highlight is tracks six and seven, which comprise a comedy bit between the comedy duo and the band, ending in a rendition of the standard Moonlight Bay. This is a very funny part, and putting it into the context of the huge popularity of the comedy duo and the huge spiking popularity of the group, it must have had the country in stitches at the time.
In early 1964, the group was getting ready to make their film A Hard Day's Night. Can't Buy Me Love, which would be one of the audio centerpieces of the movie, was a work in progress here, and you can actually hear the song develop towards its eventual conclusion on these two tracks, with bluesy elements and backing vocals. It's a great example of how these songs we came to know so well were being experimented on as they were being made.
And then, a landmark moment in pop culture. On February 9, 1964, the group made their first appearance on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was watched by roughly 73 million people, which would remain the largest TV audience for over three years, and it opened with a crowd in bedlam as the group broke into All My Loving. Listen to pop culture history in the making, folks.
The group returns to the studio to finish up some tracks for A Hard Day's Night in late February, working on You Can't Do That and And I Love Her; you can hear them here in progress. Most distinct is the second song, with lots of guitars; much different than the final track that was released with a much softer touch.
Oddly enough, The Beatles filmed the movie in March 1964 without a title track, so in early April, the group recorded A Hard Day's Night. Here's their first crack at it, which has a good guitar solo not found in the final track, but breaks down at the end into lots of laughter from the group. A nice snapshot of a group having fun even in the hurricane of sudden fame.
The Beatles were incessantly busy at the time, still making public appearances while wrapping up A Hard Day's Night. This is one of the TV shows they did in April 1964 for IBC, performing four songs for their Around The Beatles special. Here are live versions of I Wanna Be Your Man, Long Tall Sally, Boys, and Shout from the program. Most notable is the first one, Ringo's first notable vocal performance with the group.
1964 was probably the group's busiest year, full of incessant radio and TV shows, concerts, a film, and on top of that, two full albums (A Hard Day's Night and Beatles For Sale) and an EP, Long Tall Sally. Here in June of 1964, the group works on I'll Be Back from the EP. Listen as the song metamorphosizes from a waltz into more of a pop-oriented song, quickly switching to a different tempo in just moments as the song evolves.
George Harrison's second composition, You Know What To Do, never before released, appears here as the group was preparing for a tour and recording some odds and ends for their Beatles For Sale album. It's a solid track that should have found some space on the group's fourth album; we get a nice new treat here. Also here is the first try at No Reply, which would wind up on the album; John on lead vocals doesn't take it too seriously, tinkering with a staccato as Paul provides the drums due to Ringo's illness at the time.
After the tour, in August, the group returned to the studio to work on more tracks for Beatles For Sale, this time on the songs Mr Moonlight and Leave My Kitten Alone. The first is much different than the one used on the album, lacking the distinctive organ found in the album version; the second was more playful experimentation and has never been released in any form before; it's a nice, if slightly silly, r&b number.
The group finished up Beatles For Sale in late September and early October 1964, and it is here where the album ends with the group working on No Reply, Eight Days A Week, and Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!. The versions here, as expected, are works in progress; No Reply sounds very bluesy here, Eight Days A Week has a variety of attempts at deciding how to open the song; and Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! is just slightly different than the version that made the album.
This two disc set paints a wonderful picture of the early years of The Beatles and is well worth getting, along with the other Anthology albums, if you're a fan of the group; if you like their early years, Live At The BBC is a must have, too. The album also includes very nice liner notes with lots of pictures.