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The Beatles - Anthology 1 CD (album) cover


The Beatles



2.96 | 87 ratings

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4 stars There are certain dates in history that mankind will never forget. December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 come to mind. But, on a personal level, I'd add February 9, 1964 to that list for that was the day my world was shaken to its core. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was 14, sitting in my den watching the Ed Sullivan Show with my mom and dad. Unless you'd been living in a cave you knew that the main attraction that night was to be the American television debut of The Beatles. Six or seven weeks earlier I'd first heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on KLIF when the "Weird Beard" introduced his loyal listeners to what he said was a band from England that were going to be big. The song was different from anything I'd ever heard and it was so irresistible I was immediately mesmerized. After that their tunes seemed to multiply on the airwaves like rabbits so I and 70 million other viewers couldn't wait to get a gander at the Fab Four. I could scarcely take it in. They were spectacular in every sense. They looked fantastic with their radical long hair, snazzy suits and cool guitars. Their confident attitude streamed right out of the screen and, to top it all off, they looked like they were enjoying the best time of their lives. When they finished playing they bowed gallantly to their audience while I tried to pick my lower jaw up off the floor. All questions about what I was going to do when I grew up had been answered. I wanted to do what John, Paul, George and Ringo were doing. I was never the same.

If you're under 40 years of age try to imagine what life was like before microwave ovens, cell phones, laptops and the internet. That's what music was like before The Beatles. Elvis had been a rebel eight years earlier but he'd long since sold out to be a movie star and his songs were crap. The Beach Boys had brought something new to the table but they were singing about a lifestyle that was foreign to most of us. To a kid in Dallas surfing was about as relatable as snow skiing. The Beatles didn't just open a door to a universe of new sounds and possibilities; they blew it off its hinges. I felt like Dorothy waking up in Oz. As I write this it's been almost 50 years since they turned my little world upside down and, whether you acknowledge it or not, there will never be another group that'll come close to having the planetary impact they had on civilization. Their music and influence will literally live on for as long as the earth orbits the sun.

The six-part television event, "The Beatles Anthology," was a superb documentary that aired in November 1995 and this double CD set, "Volume 1," came out at the same time. The clamor for anything that hadn't been previously released by The Beatles was through the roof so it went straight to #1 on the album charts and stayed there for 3 solid weeks. Beatlemania was alive and well again. The sixty tracks it contains is a comprehensive mix of primitive home recordings, short interview quips from the band members (as well as manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin), historic live performances caught on tape and in-the-studio demos and alternate takes. If you're not a Beatle fan or don't understand why they're so revered by baby boomers then this might be nothing more than a curiosity piece. But for guys like me who were changed into "altered boys" by their music and their mien it's a treasure chest full of rare gems.

It starts with the first new Beatle song we'd heard in 25 years, "Free as a Bird." All I can say is that it lived up to its hype (see my review of the single for more info) and climbed to #6 on Billboard. Then you're taken as far back as you can go with some rustic recordings of Lennon's "Quarrymen" skiffle outfit, followed by some home tapings of John and Paul with bassist Stuart Sutcliffe practicing at McCartney's house. (Their hilarious fooling around on "You'll Be Mine" is priceless.) Next comes their Hamburg studio sessions with Pete Best on drums when they made their first record, "My Bonnie/Ain't She Sweet." The audition sessions for Decca have rough edges but it's obvious that John and Paul were maturing as vocalists and that the all night gigs in Germany had made them tighter. Their energetic version of "Searchin'" is a standout. Their first EMI session includes their initial stab at "Love Me Do" but they sound timid and unsure of themselves. One can hear why Martin suggested they needed a better drummer going forward. An assortment of inferior takes on various numbers ensues, the most interesting of them being "One After 909"due to the chatter overheard while working out the arrangement. Their appearance on a British TV show in October '63 playing "I'll Get You" is included and while you can hear girls screaming in the background they don't take away from the band's bold delivery of that great song.

Five of the tunes off their debut LP were preserved from an intimate Swedish radio simulcast where they performed them live in a studio. Ringo's drums are punchy and the foursome sound crisp and self-assured. Their famous gig for the queen at the Prince of Wales Theatre is included when they charmed the pants off all in attendance with their cheeky wit and confident attitude. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" from an English TV variety show is a highlight because they kill it. A Paris studio take of "Can't Buy Me Love" is remarkable because they were trying unsuccessfully to put harmony lines on the chorus. I never get tired of hearing "All My Loving" from the aforementioned Sullivan show and I'm glad it's been saved for posterity's sake. Except for a block of 4 numbers performed live at IBC studios in London for a TV broadcast (including their rendition of the R&B classic, "Shout") the rest of the album consists of demos and outtakes of some of their most memorable early material. Of note is their attempt to play "I'll Be Back" in 6/4 time, George's "You Know What To Do" that shows he still had a long way to go in fine-tuning his composing skills, and a loose "No Reply" run-through that proves they weren't all work and no play. They end with a raw but torrid performance of "Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" that takes you out on a high note.

What I find most intriguing about this compilation is that it presents The Beatles as fallible but determined songwriter/musicians who toiled tirelessly to push themselves ever harder to achieve the apex of their talents. They certainly possessed loads of potential but they weren't prodigies like Mozart who wrote concertos at age 5. No, they were four normal guys in love with rock & roll who didn't want to do anything else but see how good they could be. That's why so many teens like me were drawn to them on that February night. They were just a quartet of regular fellas chasing a dream together and having a ball doing it. It made each one of us, me included, realize that if we could find other like-minded rock & roll fanatics to form a combo with and if we worked like the devil to steadily improve our instrument-playing and singing skills then the sky was the limit. The 60 tracks on this CD show how the greatest band in history started at the rock bottom and, by patient trial-and-error, worked their way up to the peak of the industry where they made an indelible mark on the world that will never fade.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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