Monday, September 22, 2008

Beatles 18: 1962-1966 and 1967-1970

By early 1973, bootleg Beatles hits collections had already begun appearing, one of which was even advertised on TV. Apple and Capitol struck fast, allegedly deputizing John and George to approve two official retrospectives. Released alongside new Paul and George LPs, 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 were very well received, having been so well done.
Each two-record set neatly summed up the two eras, with generous helpings of all the hit singles and key album tracks. The sequencing was faithfully chronological to the British release schedule, giving context and flow to songs people had already grown to love. Lyrics for all the songs were included, while the covers put the dormant Get Back idea of mimicking the Please Please Me album cover to good use.
Side one of the first set goes through the first five singles in order—“From Me To You” making its Capitol LP debut—adding the album track “All My Loving” and topping it with “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Every song on side two was an American single, but even Brits would agree that “And I Love Her”, “Eight Days A Week”, and “Yesterday” belong here. (Plus, “A Hard Day’s Night” was on a Capitol LP for the first time.) Side three’s “Help!” and both sides of the “Day Tripper”/“We Can Work It Out” single are bolstered by “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” plus the first two songs from the British Rubber Soul: “Drive My Car” and “Norwegian Wood”. Four more songs from Rubber Soul start side four, before the singles “Paperback Writer”, “Eleanor Rigby”, and “Yellow Submarine”, the latter making its third appearance on an American Beatle album release (and its fourth on a British LP!)
The second set begins strong with “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane”, the first three tracks from Sgt. Pepper plus “A Day In The Life” faded in, and “All You Need Is Love”. Side two begins with four songs from Magical Mystery Tour, which made that album a little redundant if you were backfilling your library, and the three popular single sides from 1968. Three songs from side one of the White Album start off side three, followed by both sides of the “Get Back” and “Ballad Of John And Yoko” singles, thus helping replicate most of the Hey Jude album between the two sets. With two of George’s songs, this is also the first side not credited solely to Lennon and McCartney. Both of his Abbey Road masterpieces are on side four, along with “Come Together” and “Octopus’s Garden” (giving Ringo a slice of the publishing), followed by the single version of “Let It Be” and the slushy mixes of “Across The Universe” and “The Long And Winding Road”.
The albums were very handy for the Brits, with some songs appearing on albums for the first time, but they were made for the American market, which snapped both up to the top of the charts. An insert in both albums revived the “exclusive” exhortations of early Capitol liner notes, giving 45, LP, cassette, and 8-track discographies for the group and solo projects, along with a chart saying which songs came from which albums. Somebody goofed, as “A Hard Day’s Night” and “From Me To You” are listed as being from the Help! album, referring to the instrumental non-Beatle versions on that soundtrack. Also, “Help!” itself is preceded by the “James Bond Theme” from the same album. (“Get Back” was also listed as being the album version, but was the single version.)
The Red and Blue albums, as they came to be called, stayed popular over the years, giving new-generation Beatle fans born too late a place to start their collections. The resolution of various lawsuits paved the way for their release on CD in 1993, now standardized with the first four songs in mono, no James Bond intro on “Help!”, and a clean intro for “A Day In The Life”. Yet there was much complaint over the cost vs. disc space, which was understandable. The Red album included 26 tracks and totaled 66 minutes, while the Blue had 28 tracks for nearly 100 minutes of music. Both were issued as double CDs at thirty dollars apiece. While the Red could have fit onto one CD, Apple decided to go for consistency, arguing that the value was in the songs. After all, what could one add or take away?
As it turned out, plenty could be added. The 50th anniversary of the albums conveniently coincided with the completion and release of the legendary third single originally intended for Anthology 3 but left unfinished. “Now And Then” finally arrived 27 years after we first heard about it, and was stuck on the end of an expanded 1967-1970, which gained eight other songs, including two of George’s. At the same time, the now all-stereo 1962-1966 was boosted with twelve songs, two of which were George’s, and two of which were covers (one sung by George). For the pricey vinyl editions, the new songs made up a third LP in each set, while the CDs had the tracks slotted in (mostly) chronologically, justifying double sets for both. In all cases, the songs were updated mixes; most of the Red album were brand new Giles Martin jobs, while the rest came either from the various Deluxe Editions or the 1+ DVDs. There were some bold differences—the Ringo take of “Love Me Do” to start off, a radically different “I Am The Walrus”, way more rhythm guitar on “Magical Mystery Tour”, a clean intro for “Dear Prudence”—and questionable inclusions (“Roll Over Beethoven”? “You Really Got A Hold On Me”? “Oh! Darling”? “She’s So Heavy”?), but the key additions of “Twist And Shout”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “If I Needed Someone”, and five Revolver seemed designed to right wrongs. After all, even the Beatles can’t please everyone.

The Beatles 1962-1966 (1973)—5
2023 Edition: same as 1973, plus 12 extra tracks
The Beatles 1967-1970 (1973)—5
2023 Edition: same as 1973, plus 9 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. $30 a piece for the CD sets?!?! How did I ever afford the LPs when I was a kid?