In 1995 and 1996 The Beatles released a trio of double-CD sets called Anthology. I remember it being an opening of the vaults to grab a bunch of unreleased stuff to package around two songs that had been recorded, forgotten about, and recently discovered. The first of those songs was “Free As A Bird” and starts this collection, while the second, “Real Love,” leads off Anthology 2. That’s not quite right, though. While there are songs here that fit the pattern of being contemporaneously discovered and released here for the first time, the two “new” songs are tracks that John Lennon had been working on at the time of his death and, in 1995, were finished by the three surviving band members into what’s presented here.
Anyway, I’ve had the second and third installments of their Anthology trilogy since their release, in large part because if you bought them right away at Best Buy you got a free disc of interviews, too, and I mean, free CDs! I was never as intrigued by the band’s early stuff as their later stuff, and combined with just not being on the ball for that first free interview disc, this first installment went missing from my collection until now.
All three albums are peppered with speeches and outtakes, making them more historical records than albums, per se. Still, this is by far the most ragged, the one with the most rough edges. That’s to be expected, of course, given that this pulls out recordings going way back to the band’s beginning. There’s the 78 they recorded as The Quarrymen, as well as selections from their recording tests at Decca and Parlophone. On its own, it’s a pretty tough listen. The liner notes, though, combine with the speeches peppered throughout to tell the story of the band’s early beginnings through Beatlemania (a real treat is that first song they played on The Ed Sullivan Show, “All My Loving”) and wrapping up at about the end of their second album, With The Beatles.
There’s some real crap in here, even after you get past some of the awful sound on the early home recordings. It’s no surprise to me that they didn’t get a deal at Decca given that their audition included the execrable “Searching” and “Three Cool Cats.”
However, there are also some gems that I’ve never heard of. The Decca audtion bit closes out with the wonderfully energetic and fun “The Sheik Of Araby” and from the E&M (Parlophone?) audition we get the sultry “Besame Mucho.” Right around the same time come “Like Dreamers Do,” which I can’t stop singing, and “Hello Little Girl.” Later we have “I’ll Get You” and “You Know What To Do.” How many of those did you know? I maybe knew a couple, but now I can’t tell. It reminds me of something a friend used to say that, if you don’t like The Beatles, you just haven’t heard enough of their music. And I think that’s basically true because the band does cover a really wide range of musical styles. But this goes even further to my point that there are styles in the above songs that they just don’t exhibit anywhere else in their catalog, and so, as long as you keep digging, you’ll still find new, good stuff that the band never saw fit to release. And I do think that some of the stuff they released, including some of their biggest hits, are pretty bad. (Among those, ready your pitchforks, are “Love Me Do” (included here in a much slower, worse version that the one you know), “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” and “All You Need Is Love.”)
In the end, I think Anthology 1, in its 60(!) tracks, does a great job of creating a historical document of The Beatles’ early years, told mostly through studio and live recordings, though the liner notes are pretty essential to getting the story down. I’d love to reward it for that outcome with four full clowns, but it’s just such a hard listen, especially without the liner notes context, that I can’t quite go that high.
Mix: “Besame Mucho,” “You Know What To Do”
Love: “Like Dreamers Do”
Really Like: “The Sheik Of Araby,” “Hello Little Girl,” “I’ll Get You,” “All My Loving,” “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey”
Like: “Free As A Bird,” “My Bonnie,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Cry For A Shadow,” “Speech: Brian Epstein (‘Well the recording test came and went…’),” “How Do You Do It,” “Lend Me Your Comb,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me To You,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Till There Was You,” “Twist And Shout,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Boys,” “I’ll Be Back (Take 3),” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Leave My Kitten Alone”
Meh: “That’ll Be The Day,” “Speech: Paul McCartney (‘Sometimes I’d borrow a tape recorder…’),” “Cayenne,” “Speech: Paul (‘First of all we made a record…’),” “Speech: John (‘Brian was a beautiful guy…’),” “Speech: Brian Epstein: (‘I secured them an audition…’),” “Please Please Me,” “One After 909 (Sequence),” “One After 909,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” “Speech: Eric Morecambe And Ernie Wise (‘Boys, what I was thinking…’),” “Moonlight Bay,” “And I Love Her,” “Shout,” “I’ll Be Back (Take 2),” “No Reply,” “Eight Days A Week (Complete)”
Dislike: “In Spite Of All The Danger,” “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” “Three Cool Cats,” “Speech: John (‘We were performers…’),” “You Can’t Do That,” “No Reply (Demo),” “Eight Days A Week (Sequence)”
Hate: “Speech: John Lennon (‘We were four guys…’),” “You’ll Be Mine,” “Searching,” “Love Me Do”
Filed Between: The Beatles’ 1967-1970 and that first interview disc that Best Buy gave away with this which I ended up getting on the secondary market many years ago
Song Notes: After the jump
- Free As A Bird
- Speech: John Lennon (“We were four guys…”) – the false modesty and silly rhetoric here is insulting
- That’ll Be The Day – these two from The Quarrymen days, sounds awful
- In Spite Of All The Danger – sounds awful
- Speech: Paul McCartney (“Sometimes I’d borrow a tape recorder…”) –
- Hallelujah, I Love Her So – terrible sound, which is foreshadowed by Paul in the preceding track
- You’ll Be Mine – weird, including weirdest speech about toast
- Speech: Paul (“First of all we made a record…”) –
- My Bonnie –
- Ain’t She Sweet –
- Cry For A Shadow – could use some words
- Speech: John (“Brian was a beautiful guy…”) –
- Speech: Brian Epstein (“I secured them an audition…”) –
- Searching – it’s no wonder they didn’t get the deal from Decca, these first two tracks suck
- Three Cool Cats – the lyrics almost redeem it, but I really don’t like this
- The Sheik Of Araby –
- Like Dreamers Do –
- Hello Little Girl –
- Speech: Brian Epstein (“Well the recording test came and went…”) –
- Besame Mucho – sultry
- Love Me Do – too slow. It bothers me that I don’t like the band’s first single ever, but, well, there you go.
- How Do You Do It –
- Please Please Me – maybe it means I’m old now, but these lyrics bug me in the same way that Extreme’s even less subtle “More Than Words” did, but I was young when I heard that, so that’s proof that I’m not old
- One After 909 (Sequence) – I kind of enjoy hearing Paul complain about how hard it is to play without his pick. He’s just so cute and adorable.
- One After 909 –
- Lend Me Your Comb –
- I’ll Get You –
- Speech: John (“We were performers…”) – this bit here makes the modesty in track two all the more false.
- I Saw Her Standing There –
- From Me To You –
- Money (That’s What I Want) – bad sound. beginnings of heavy metal here with the severe drums and the crunch bass. the sound is terrible but the energy of this performance boosts it up to like
- You Really Got A Hold On Me – mess ups in lyrics
- Roll Over Beethoven –
- She Loves You – ends with a banter joke about Sophie Tucker HA HA HA I don’t get it
- Till There Was You – ends with the also not funny joke about rattling jewelry. I think I like this version better than the one on the studio album
- Twist And Shout – It’s kind of funny how there’s like a house band or something playing them out at the end like on a late night talk show
- This Boy –
- I Want To Hold Your Hand –
- Speech: Eric Morecambe And Ernie Wise (“Boys, what I was thinking…”) – This is only funny after you read the liner notes to get the jokes but then it is pretty funny except for John’s dumb jokes about how they’re old. Is that guy ever funny?
- Moonlight Bay – one of the more noteworthy tracks because it really goes off the rails, intentionally so, but it, again, does seem funny, when you read the liner notes to understand what’s going on
- Can’t Buy Me Love –
- All My Loving – God, that moment when Sullivan introduces the band is so powerful
- You Can’t Do That – still burns me these lyrics, how they’re all controlling of the girl
- And I Love Her – I really like the picked guitar and wished they’d kept it. It sounds synth-like.
- A Hard Day’s Night –
- I Wanna Be Your Man –
- Long Tall Sally –
- Boys – pretty bad sound
- Shout – bad bad sound. I so like it when Ringo sings.
- I’ll Be Back (Take 2) –
- I’ll Be Back (Take 3) –
- You Know What To Do –
- No Reply (Demo) – lots of goofing up the lyrics, eventually they start spoonerizing them intentionally
- Mr. Moonlight – that start is awesome
- Leave My Kitten Alone – dumb lyrics, as they take the metaphor too far
- No Reply –
- Eight Days A Week (Sequence) –
- Eight Days A Week (Complete) – out of tune
- Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey