1962-1966 (aka “The Red Album”)/
1967-1970 (aka “The Blue Album”)/
The Beatles “1”
“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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, R).
“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” (Erlewine, B).
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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, 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” (Erlewine, 1).