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 Continue reading