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Music / The Beatles Anthology

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The Beatles Anthology was a huge mediatized project that came about between 1995 and 1996. It was surrounded by much hype because the three surviving members of The Beatles had reunited to participate in a TV documentary where, for the first time ever, they would tell their side of their own bandís history. This documentary series interviewed all three surviving members, producer George Martin and used Stock Footage of John Lennon to fill in his death. The series was also a real gem for the fans because it also showed complete concert footage in between interviews that had seldom before been seen on TV, or in some cases footage never even outside the Beatlesí inner circle.

Apart from this prestigious TV documentary series the Beatles also brought out three double discs with new material. Though new is a relative term here. Paul, George and Ringo recorded two new singles, "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love", based on two old unreleased songs by John Lennon with his lyrics kept intact, while they added their musical and vocal performances. All other tracks were archive material, recorded in The '60s, but veritable collectorsí items of historical value, such the very first Beatles recordings from the late 1950s and early 1960s, including the demos that failed to impress the music labels before EMI signed them to a contract. (Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer who was fired from the band right after they were signed by EMI, can be heard on nine tracks, including both the Decca and EMI auditions.) A lot of concert material is also present Ė and some snippets from the Beatles Anthology TV documentary. The most interesting stuff are the numerous out-takes, demos, unreleased recordings, early versions, alternative takes that give the audience a glimpse inside the creation process behind the Beatlesí most beloved songs. Most of the material was a case of What Could Have Been, with some songs only kept off Beatles albums because the other members vetoed them. Some of them would end up on solo albums by the members, such as McCartney (1970), All Things Must Pass (1970) and George Harrison (1979).

Some material, like the concert tracks, had been collected on separate bootlegs before. Even to those people The Beatles Anthology was a collectors' treasure, because it compiled a lot of the material in excellent CD quality. The unreleased takes had never before been heard by anyone outside the Abbey Road Studios, though they weren't always exact renditions. Sometimes different takes of one song were edited together as one track to make them a bit more interesting to listen to (and in some cases Bowdlerized for the general public).

Certain fans and critics felt that the video documentary was interesting and a welcome gift to the fans, though it didn't exactly provide much information that hadn't been told before. The CDs were also met with criticism, seeing that only two songs were actually recorded by the surviving band members and the rest was Album Filler, consisting of material that was more of interest to historians and hardcore collectors than the general audience. Nevertheless, the albums sold so massively well that the Beatles effectively became the internationally best-selling musical act of 1995 and 1996!

In 2000, a companion book was released.

Freeeee as a trope...

  • A Cappella: "Because", sang by John, Paul and George with vocals only.
  • Album Filler: With three double CD's full of material, some spoken tracks, others unfinished songs or early versions that lack the power of the definitive version there are bound to be some tracks that you only play once.
  • Animated Music Video: "Real Love" has a music video made in silhouette animation.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Los Paranoias", an Improv track which was a running joke among the band members from their early days (a play on the name of the South American folk group Los Paraguayos).
  • Audience Participation Song: The infamous Refuge in Audacity comment of John during the Royal Command Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre on November 4, 1963, before playing "Twist and Shout":
    John: For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you can just rattle your jewelry.
  • Back from the Dead: Lennon's voice was mixed in from an old tape recording on which he sang a demo for two songs, "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" that never made it to a proper studio version.
  • Break Up Song: Sort of, after finishing "Oh Darling" John starts improvising lyrics about the fact that Yoko Ono managed to divorce from her husband.
  • Broken Record:
    • The band members keep singing "Your face!" during their rendition of "No Reply", due to constantly forgetting what the next line is.
    • The yell "It's a goal!" at the end of "Glass Onion".
  • Concept Album: Sort of. The album is presented as an anthology of the Beatles' music, with a booklet written by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn that provides background information on every track.
  • Concert Film: Some concert footage is included.
  • Cool Airship: The one in the music video of "Real Love".
  • Creator Cameo: The artwork was again made by Klaus Voormann. And so the piece of Revolver that originally featured his photo (right below John's mouth) still has his picture, only replaced with a contemporary one.
  • Cross-Dressing Voice: The line "Do you want us to do it again, George?" at the start of "Your Mother Should Know".
  • Cover Version: Some tracks are covers of other rock 'n' roll artists, including the medley played during their rooftop concert.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover, designed by Klaus Voormann.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: A lot of the early versions of the songs sound pretty odd and sometimes almost unrecognizable, like "Helter Skelter", which is played in a much slower version.
    • During "I'm Down" we can hear Paul joking: "plastic soul, man. Plastic soul.", instead of the final title Rubber Soul.
  • Epic Rocking: The 6:12 "What's The New Mary Jane?".
  • Evolving Music: Three double albums full of unreleased footage of Beatles songs that show how these songs have evolved during recording sessions into their final iconic forms. Particularly interesting are the three versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever", which are neatly put behind each other in chronological order on side two of the second disc.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Even though, some tracks on Disc 3 have the Beatles perform with only one or two members present.
    • "Come and Get It", a song written by Paul McCartney was a 1970 hit for Badfinger, but can be heard here in a demo version by Macca himself. And "A Beginning" is a George Martin composition.
  • Face on the Cover: A collage of various Beatles album covers.
  • Fanservice: The material is especially interesting for Beatle fans.
  • Four More Measures: The band members come in too early on a lot of early takes. An example is I Am The Walrus where John sings the line "Yellow m...", then realizes his mistake and only one moment later starts over again: "yellow matter custard..."
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The video for "Free as a Bird" is packed full of references, both overt and sly, to Beatles song titles and lyrics, as well as moments from their history. Catching all of the references in one viewing is pretty much impossible.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound:
    • Heard at the end of "Glass Onion".
    • Paul breaks a glass during You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, causing John to joke: "Paul's broken a glass, broken a glass, Paul's broken a glass, a glass, a glass he's broke today"
  • Greatest Hits Album: Kind of, though most of it not in the versions everyone knows and loves.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Sort of vaguely implied in "What's the New Mary Jane" with the line "She coming from Aldebaran".
  • Heavy Meta: The music video of "Free As A Bird" is full of visual references to the Beatles life and work. Similarly the album and DVD covers are collages of various Beatles album covers and posters, designed by Klaus Voormann, who also created the album cover of Revolver.
  • Homage: The Rutles released a parody album named "Archaeology". This album even included a spoof of "Free as a Bird," titled "Unfinished Words." Perhaps fittingly, delays in the release of the third volume of the Beatles' series ultimately meant that the Rutles' parody arrived in shops on the same day as its inspiration.
  • Improv: The band members often start improvising into jams or adding funny lines here and there. A good example is John who starts singing about Yoko's divorce with her former husband during "Oh Darling".
  • Incredibly Long Note:
    • Paul sings a bit too long halfway "A Fool On The Hill".
    • During "Mr. Moonlight" Johnís voice sings so long that he loses his breath for a moment.
  • Instrumental: "Eleanor Rigby" and "Within, Without You" are heard without the vocals. "A Beginning" is a track by George Martin.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: "Free As A Bird".
    Free as a bird is the next best thing to be
  • Last Note Hilarity: Some tracks have very funny comments after being finished. One of them "Julia".
  • Left the Background Music On: Lennonís demo versions often had some unwanted background noise because they were recorded on cassettes. These couldnít be filtered away by studio technicians, so they tried to overdub most of it by having the new musical arrangements by the living Beatle members trying to block the sounds out.
  • Live Album: Some tracks are live versions of their songs, both from their early years, as well as from their roof concert in 1969.
  • Loony Fan: In the documentary series the Beatles talk about Beatlemania and especially how impressive and scary the experience could be at times. Ringo tells an anecdote of a man he saw rising from his wheelchair in joy when he saw the band appear, then falling over flat on his face. He cites this as the moment he started to get enough of all this craze.
  • Lyric Swap: The version of "Yesterday" is almost the same, save for a few lines that Macca would later switch places.
  • Music Stories: The TV documentary features a lot of anecdotes about the Beatles success story, but the band members also give some interesting insight on how troublesome the continuous media frenzy, adoring fans and financial crisis after manager Brian Epstein's death were. They even flatout admit that they were quite naïve in those days. Even their drug use is addressed.
  • Neologism: During a take of "Rocky Raccoon" Paul cracks up when he accidentally mispronounces the line "the doctor came in, stinking of gin" as "shminking".
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title does not appear in any of the tracks.
  • The Oner: The music video of "Free As A Bird" is made to look like one continuous shot, even though it would be utterly impossible for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that they include old clips of The Beatles spliced in.
  • The Parody: The Beatles parody The Rutles recorded an anthology album of their own, called Archaeology.
  • The Pete Best: In-Universe with the Pete Best, who appears as the Beatles' drummer on nine tracks. (33 years after he was fired by the rest of the band, Pete Best was said to have been paid somewhere between £1 and £4 million.)
  • Posthumous Collaboration: "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" were based on demos of the late John Lennon.
  • The Power of Love: "Real Love".
  • Precision F-Strike: Happens a few times, usually when something goes wrong during the recordings.
  • Pun: John literally sings this in his rendition of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", making a pun on her name in the process: "Yoko Ono, oh no, oh no. Yoko Ono, oh yeah, oh yeah."
  • Putting the Band Back Together: The surviving band members reunited for this project.
  • Rearrange the Song: Much of the material are rearranged versions.
  • Recognition Failure: During an appearance of the Morecambe And Wise one of the comedians confuses the Beatles with The Gay Sisters.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The entire album may count as one, seeing that none of these demos, outtakes and early versions were ever meant to be released in the first place.
  • Re-release the Song: Speaks for itself.
  • Rock Trio: The three remaining Beatles.
  • Rockumentary: Perhaps the most ambitious example.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Two Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine appear in the music video of "Free As A Bird" and one in the TV documentary series, added to archive footage of George diving into a pool, making it appear as if the Blue Meanie kicked him in the water.
  • Rule of Three: Three surviving Beatle members are interviewed in the TV documentary series. The CDs are a trilogy.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • "Only A Northern Song", if you listen to the lyrics.
    If you're listening to this song,
    you may think that the chords are going wrong,
    but they're not,
    we just wrote it like that
    Even funnier in the Anthology version
    If you're listening to this song,
    you may think the chords are going wrong,
    but they're not,
    I just wrote it like that.
    If you listen late at night,
    you may think the words are not quite right,
    but they are,
    I just wrote them myself.
  • Sexy Silhouette: The music video of "Real Love" shows silhouette animation of a man (looking a bit like John) and a woman falling in love and flying away on a horse.
  • Set Behind the Scenes: Archive audio and video footage is featured.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The music video of "Free As A Bird" is full of shout-outs to The Beatles, both having them appear in archive footage, as well as visual references to their album covers and song lyrics. The song ends with George playing ukelele while a backwards playing recording of the phrase "turned out nice again" is heard, in reference to the catch phrase of British comedian and ukelele player George Formby.
    • Two Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine appear in the music video of "Free As A Bird" and one in the TV documentary series, added to archive footage of George diving into a pool, making it appear as if the Blue Meanie kicked him in the water.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Quite some tracks have the band members miss a cue, stumble over a line, break out in laughter,...
    • John hits the wrong chord during "Helter Skelter", causing him to say: "Oh shit!"
    • Paul sings "everybody spoke" instead of "somebody spoke" during A Day In The Life, then realizes his mistake and says: "Oh shit!"
  • Singer Namedrop: George mentions Paul during his introduction of the live debut of "Yesterday":
    And for Paul McCartney from Liverpool: opportunity knocks!
  • Speaking Simlish: The "Polythene Pam" outtakes have John and George devolving into gibberish.
  • Stock Footage: Naturally, since its a documentary on a historical subject.
  • Stock Sound Effects: An early version of "Glass Onion" ends with a Glass-Shattering Sound and a journalist shouting: "It's a goal!" in a Broken Record rendition.
  • Special Guest: Audio and video footage from the bandís appearance in the Morecambe And Wise show in 1963 is included.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Some tracks are short quotes by The Beatles, Brian Epstein and/or George Martin.
  • Studio Chatter: The Beatles can be heard talking to each other, cracking jokes, telling each other to try a different style,...
  • Subliminal Seduction: "Free As A Bird" ends with a clip of John saying "Turned Out Nice Again" note  played backwards, while George plays ukelele. The fact that the clip sounds like the phrase "Made by John Lennon" when played normally is purely a coincidence.
  • Talking Heads: The documentary features interviews with The Beatles and George Martin.
  • Top-Down View: The music video of "Free As A Bird" is shot from bird's-eye view.
  • Unplugged Version: Some material is an acoustic rendition, for instance: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
  • Vocal Tag Team: "Because" is heard without instrumental accompaniment.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "What's the New Mary Jane" is this (when it isn't being Nightmare Fuel-ish) thanks to some fun Spoonerisms and such. The laid-back, uber-hippietastic "Let's-do-this-in-one-take" fake children's song vibe also helps.
    She like to be married with yeti
    he grooving such cookie spaghetti
    She jumping as Mexican bean
    to make that her body more thin