|First posted 3/27/2008; last updated 9/19/2020.|
A Retrospective: 1962-1970
The Players: |
A Brief History: They were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. The group’s beginnings go back to 1957 when Lennon formed the Quarrymen, which McCartney and George Harrison later joined. After some fluctuation in names and lineups, they settled in with Ringo Starr as their drummer in 1962.
They established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote, mostly by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and performed their own material. They were the first British rock group to achieve worldwide prominence, launching a British Invasion that made rock truly an international phenomenon. When they gave up touring, they became instrumental in pioneering advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements.
The group officially broke up in 1970 when McCartney announced his departure in a press release for his first album. The group continued to be a major seller over the years with the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations in 1973, CD reissues in the late ‘80s, the anthology series in the ‘90s, and the 1 collection in 2000.
This page covers the span of the Beatles’ recording history from 1962 to 1970, which comprises a dozen studio albums. Each of these has a dedicated DMDB page, but are covered in snapshots here.
The Studio Albums:
These three compilations are spotlighted on this page. The snapshots of the studio albums will indicate all songs featured on any of the three compilations, noted with the codes 66, 70, and 1. Appearing after song titles are the songwriters in italicized parentheses, running times in brackets, and when relevant, the date the song was released as a single and its peaks on various charts. Click for codes to singles charts.
You can check out the Beatles’ complete singles discography here.
Please Please Me (1963):
The Beatles’ first UK album spent a whopping 30 weeks atop the chart. Variations of the album were released twice in the United States – first as Vee-Jay Records’ Introducing the Beatles and later as Capitol Records’ The Early Beatles. There are several notably absent songs from the collections cited on this page – “Twist and Shout” (a #2 hit in the U.S.), “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” (another #2 in the U.S.), and “I Saw Her Standing There” (a #1 in Canada and Australia).
With the Beatles (1963):
The Beatles’ second UK album didn’t sport as many chart-ready hits, but in the U.S. most of the songs were released on Meet the Beatles!, the album that introduced Beatlemania in the states. It included the huge #1 hit “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which had only been released as a single in the UK. The next U.S. release, The Beatles’ Second Album, would round up the rest of the songs from With the Beatles as well as a few leftover songs, most notably the #1 hit “She Loves You,” also previously available only as a single in the UK.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964):
The soundtrack for the Beatles’ first film sported two chart-topping songs in the UK and U.S. with the title cut and Can’t Buy Me Love. In the UK, it was fleshed out as a full studio album, while only about half the cuts appeared on the U.S. soundtrack alongside instrumentals.
Beatles for Sale (1964):
Once again, the original UK album was chopped up and spread out over two American releases, Beatles ‘65 and Beatles VI. The former album included the #1 single “I Feel Fine” and its B-side “She’s a Woman.”
Like A Hard Day’s Night, this was released in the UK as a full-fledged studio album and in the U.S. as a soundtrack with instrumentals alongside about half the songs from the UK release. Both albums, however, included the #1 songs Ticket to Ride and Help! The UK release also included the U.S. #1 hit Yesterday, but that song wouldn’t appear on an American album until 1966’s Yesterday…and Today.
Rubber Soul (1965):
The UK release may have had only one hit single with Nowhere Man, but a healthy chunk of the songs have become as well known as many of the band’s hits. The U.S. album excised “Nowhere Man,” Drive My Car, and others, later collecting them on the Yesterday…and Today album.
For an album some rave about as the best Beatles’ album and, in some cases the best album of all time, it gets little representation on the compilations highlighted on this page. In addition to the double-sided Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby single, the album featured “Here, There and Everywhere,” a song which garnered 3 million radio airplays despite never being released as a single, and “Got to Get You into My Life,” a song released a decade later which hit the top 10 in the U.S. and went to #1 in Canada.
4.487 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)
About the 1962-1966 Album:
“Assembling a compilation of the Beatles is a difficult task, not only because they had an enormous number of hits, but also because singles didn’t tell the full story; many of their album tracks were as important as the singles, if not more so.” E-R Of course, there’s also the matter that all of the Beatles individual albums are essential enough that once you’ve gathered them up, is there any need for a compilation?
Well, yes. Compilations are targeted at the more casual fan. Of course, when the Beatles released not one, but two double-album compilations on the same day in 1973, it was hard to guess who it was for. A four-album greatest hits is a bit hefty for a casual fan. However, at that time, many of these songs had not been released on any Beatles’ albums, so the two sets were pretty near must haves.
“The double-album 1962-1966, commonly called The Red Album, does…surprisingly well [at] hitting most of the group’s major early hits and adding important album tracks like You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood, and In My Life. Naturally, there are many great songs missing from the 26-track 1962-1966, and perhaps it would have made more sense to include the Revolver cuts on its companion volume, 1967-1970, yet The Red Album captures the essence of the Beatles’ pre-Sgt. Pepper records.” E-R
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967):
Often called the best album of all time, Sgt. Pepper’s wasn’t supported by any singles at the time, although the title cut paired with With a Little Help from My Friends and A Day in the Life as a B-side, was released as a single more than a decade later.
Magical Mystery Tour (1967):
This wasn’t an official album release in the UK. In the U.S., however, the six songs comprising the Magical Mystery Tour EP in the UK were combined with a couple of singles and B-sides to make up an album. The set included three #1 hits in the U.S.: Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love, and Hello, Goodbye. In addition, Strawberry Fields Forever, the B-side of “Penny Lane,” is one of the most celebrated songs in the Beatles’ impressive catalog.
The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) (1968):
The Beatles’ self-titled double album wasn’t supported by any singles at the time, but did introduce some radio staples, well-known fare like “Birthday,” “Blackbird,” and “Rocky Raccoon” that are not included on any of the compilations on this page.
Abbey Road (1969):
Come Together and Something was a double-sided single in which both songs hit #1 in different markets. While Here Comes the Sun wasn’t a single, its 3 million radio airplays lift it up amongst some of the Beatles’ best-known songs.
Let It Be (1970):
It was the Beatles’ last official album, although it was recorded before Abbey Road. Get Back, Let It Be, and The Long and Winding Road were all #1 hits in the U.S., making for a pretty decent swan song for the most celebrated group in rock and roll history.
4.574 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)
About the 1967-1970 Album:
“Picking up where 1962-1966 left off, the double-album compilation 1967-1970, commonly called The Blue Album, covers the Beatles’ later records, from Sgt. Pepper through Let It Be. Like The Red Album, The Blue Album contains a mixture of hits, including singles like Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, and Revolution that were never included on an LP, plus important album tracks like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, A Day in the Life, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Come Together. Like its predecessor, 1967-1970 misses several great songs, but the compilation nevertheless does capture the essence of the Beatles’ later recordings.” E-B
Released: November 14, 2000
Peak: 18 US, 19 UK, 15 CN, 19 AU
Sales (in millions): 12.41 US, 3.23 UK, 31.5 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: pop/classic rock
Total Running Time: 78:39
4.564 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)
About the 1 Album:
1962-1966 and 1967-1970 effectively serve as the Beatles’ box set, albeit focusing on the big hits and single-only releases and not rarities or alternate recordings (that would come on the three-volume, six-disc Anthology series). However, “there was [still] a gap in the Beatles’ catalog…all the big hits weren’t on one tidy, single-disc compilation. It’s not the kind of gap you’d necessarily notice – it’s kind of like realizing you don’t have a pair of navy blue dress socks – but it was a gap all the same, so the group released The Beatles 1 late in 2000, coinciding with the publication of their official autobiography, the puzzlingly titled Anthology.” E-1
“The idea behind this compilation is to have all the number one singles the Beatles had, either in the U.K. or U.S., on one disc, and that's pretty much what this generous 27-track collection is.” E-1 Of course, one can’t help but notice that 27 cuts makes for exactly half of the output on the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations – and yet those collections were spread out over a total of four discs.
“It’s easy, nay, necessary, to quibble with a couple of the judgment calls” E-1 not only in how the Beatles compilations were packaged, but what songs made it and what didn’t. “Please Please Me should be here…and it’s unforgivable to bypass Strawberry Fields Forever.” E-1 Besides, there’s been a long standing debate about whether or not “Please Please Me” may have, in fact, deserved #1 status in the U.K. and “Strawberry Fields Forever” was the B-side of a #1 hit (Penny Lane) and this collection included other B-sides of #1 hits (Something and Eleanor Rigby) that technically were B-sides and didn’t achieve #1 status on their own. Still, “there’s still no question that this is all great music.” E-1
After all, “there is a bit of a rush hearing all these dazzling songs follow one after another. If there’s any complaint, it’s that even if it’s nice to have something like this, it’s not really essential. There’s really no reason for anyone who owns all the records to get this too – if you’ve lived happily without the red or blue albums, you’ll live without this. But, if you give this to any six or seven year old, they’ll be a pop fan, even fanatic, for life. And that’s reason enough for it to exist.” E-1
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