THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY is a collection of rare and unreleased Beatles recordings; a companion book and 10-hour video are also planned. Among the material on the first volume are recordings by The Quarry Men (a band that featured a teen-aged John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison); five songs from the Beatles' unsuccessful audition for Decca Records on January 1, 1962; live tracks from various television appearances; and alternate versions of several early Beatles songs.
THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY: 1 also includes "Free As A Bird," the band's first new recording in 25 years. Written by the late John Lennon, the song was recorded in 1994 by the three surviving Beatles, using Lennon's lead vocal and piano track from a demo recorded in the late 1970s.
The Beatles: John Lennon (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano); Paul McCartney (vocals, guitar, piano, bass); George Harrison (vocals, guitar, 12-string guitar, slide guitar); Ringo Starr (vocals, drums); Stuart Sutcliffe (guitar); Pete Best (drums).
The Quarry Men: John Lennon, Paul McCartney (vocals, guitar); George Harrison (guitar); John Lowe (piano); Colin Hanton (drums).
Additional personnel includes: Tony Sheridan (vocals, guitar); Brian Epstein, Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise (spoken vocals); Andy White (drums).
Producers: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Richard Starkey, Jeff Lynne (disc 1, track 1); Bert Kaempfert (disc 1, tracks 10-12); George Martin (disc 1, tracks 14, 20-26; disc 2, tracks 8, 10-12, 17-26); Mike Smith (disc 1, tracks 15-19); Terry Henebery (disc 1, track 27); Klas Burling (disc 1, tracks 30-34); Jack Good (disc 2, tracks 13-16).
Compilation producer: George Martin.
Engineers: Geoff Emerick (disc 1, track 1); Percy F. Phillips (disc 1, tracks 3-4); Karl Hinze (disc 1, tracks 10-12); Stuart Eltham (disc 1, tracks 14, 20); Norman Smith (disc 1, tracks 21-26; disc 2, tracks 8, 10-12, 17-26); Hans Westman (disc 1, tracks 30-34); Terry Johnson (disc 2, tracks 13-16).
Principally recorded between 1958 and 1964. "Free As A Bird" recorded circa 1977 and in 1994. Spoken tracks recorded between 1962 and 1994. Includes a 48-page booklet with track-by-track annotations, and liner notes by Derek Taylor.
"Free As A Bird" won a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
"Free As A Bird" is the pop event of 1995. Completed with the production guidance of Beatles disciple Jeff Lynne (ELO/Traveling Wilburys), it improbably arrives as a new Beatles single 25 years after the last one ("The Long And Winding Road," from the spring of 1970, if you're counting). Not so improbable is the way the Beatles and Lynne have re-created the sound of the past. With a deliberate, mid-tempo pace, deceptively busy drum-and-acoustic-guitar rhythm, doubled pianos, slide guitar solo, and signature harmonies and middle eight, it's vintage 1968. Colorize the video, add some psychedelic film effects, drop it into the middle of "Magical Mystery Tour" the movie, and see who notices.
Of course, the Beatles didn't always record in psychedelic technicolor. Their sophisticated chord changes, strange arrangements and experimental, multi-track productions changed rock and roll forever--with them, in fact, it changed from low culture to high art--but they started where everyone else started. They were a skiffle group, a British amalgam of black-and-white American rock and roll influences: Elvis' swagger, Little Richard's unholy gospel, the Everly Brothers' country-rock harmonies, Smokey Robinson's sensual soul.
The rest of the BEATLES ANTHOLOGY: 1 traces these roots, tapping a rich motherlode of unreleased early Beatles material, some of it long presumed lost and some of it long available only from bootleggers. There are scratchy early recordings of the Quarry Men (Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, circa 1958) and pre-Ringo Beatles practice sessions that show them dreaming of being Elvis, Buddy Holly and countless American rhythm and bluesmen. Amazingly well-preserved tracks from the early '60s show them starting to let their Beatles hair down, while rocking merrily through such pop standards of the time as "Ain't She Sweet" and "Besame Mucho." The Beatles were an electrifying live band, and among the treasures here are Ringo tearing through "I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Boys" at a 1964 TV taping, and John ripping into "Twist And Shout" at the band's 1963 Royal Command Performance after requesting: "Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry."
The many studio outtakes pose some intriguing questions. What if John and George had left in those call-and-response vocal shouts in "Can't Buy Me Love," or if "I'll Be Back" had been done in waltz time, or if Paul's ballad "And I Love Her" had been recorded as a straight guitar-bass-drums rocker? It was all tried, and the evidence is presented here, as a two-disc set (two follow-up sets are due in 1996) that sounds like a private tour through Abbey Road Studios.