Album Reissues The Beatles - 50th Anniversary Box Set

Published on 12th June 2019

The Beatles – The Beatles: 50th Anniversary Box Set


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For a little over a year, I was fortunate enough to live in a flat at the edge of St. John’s Wood, living less than half a kilometre away from the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing, which I’d pass daily on my commute to work. At all times of the day, I would see tourists holding up traffic trying to recreate the famous pose from the Beatles’ final album cover. You can see for yourself with this live webcam.

What astonished me the most was that this activity wasn’t decreasing at all, and I wondered if it ever would. In 300 years, will the Beatles still be as well known as they are today? One thing is clear, the Fab Four have managed to keep a hold on our ears and our hearts for over fifty years and their reign shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

When it comes to the official releases, the Beatles have always seemed quite prim and proper about how their music is repackaged. At the dawn of the CD age in 1987, the band condensed their U.K. and U.S. albums into the now internationally recognised official canon: just U.K. albums except for the U.S. version of Magical Mystery Tour. Astonishingly, while many other contemporary bands have received countless reissues of their material, Beatles fans had to wait 22 years to hear improved CD versions of their favourite albums, when the catalogue was re-released on 9th September 2009 – a hilarious tie in to “Number 9… Number 9… Number 9…” from the album I’m about to review. What’s clear from various interviews and behind-the-scenes footage is that the reason for the long wait was simply because so much care was taken to make the best possible versions of the albums available to the public. So that begged the question: when would the next batch of CDs arrive, or were the 2009 issues the end of the line?

Skip ahead to 2017, and the 50th Anniversary Edition of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the most iconic and best-selling albums of all time. If there was ever a Beatles album that deserved a 50th anniversary special, it was this one, the one that paved the way for an explosion of creativity in the universe of rock music. But I wasn’t so sure if I wanted it myself. For one, I was never really that big a fan of Sgt. Pepper’s; A Day in the Life is about the only thing I’d really recommend from that album. Let’s not forget that in under 40 minutes, we’re treated to Ringo trying to get by with a little help from his friends while Paul is pondering how life will be as a sexagenarian – that’s not another word for a pervert, I promise – both in songs that folks of my generation were made to sing over and over as schoolchildren. Also taking up our sweet time on that album is Harrison’s decidedly un-Beatles Indo-splooge Within You Without You, which simply bores the living pants off you. Meanwhile, the albums either side, Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour, offer up far more sublime and consistent cuts, so I’ve never really regarded Sgt. Pepper as the masterpiece many critics say it is. Highly influential? Yes. Consistently good? Absolutely not.

So now fans are left with the 2009 masters of their favourite albums, both in stereo and mono form – which you can be assured there have been many verbal wars about – and a whopping great box set of just one album. In terms of 50th anniversary editions, it seemed a bit too late to go back to older albums – as much as I’d love a remaster of Revolver my very favourite album by the group – but it was not too late for…

The Beatles 50th Anniversary Box Set


Reissuing both Sgt. Pepper and The Beatles exactly 50 years to the day after their original release was something of a masterstroke, not just from a PR perspective, but for helping modern-day audiences understand what it might have felt like to have such fine albums released just 18 months apart back in the ’60s. On the other hand, The Beatles – almost ubiquitously known as The White Album – did seem like a strange choice to focus on after the universally loved Sgt. Pepper. For example, while Sgt. Pepper boasts four songs on the 1973 compilation 1967-1970, The Beatles only features three songs, despite the album being more than twice as long as Sgt. Pepper. And two of those songs are shit.

Essentially, The Beatles was never known for having the best tunes by the group, so casual Beatles fans would be turned off by the lack of ‘hits’. Additional fans might be turned off by the gargantuan amount of material included about songs they’d barely even heard of or listened to. The Beatles 50th Anniversary box-set was always going to be a collector’s item only. And that’s kind of why I love it.

With its white cover and sparse album information printed in a neat font, listening to The Beatles can feel like a trip to a modern art gallery full of eclectic works. Even the bizarre poster, included in full size for this set, is highly reminiscent of such an exhibition. The songs’ complete detachment from each other or any overarching theme defy any sort of prediction and, just like an art exhibition, can be listened to in any order to achieve the same effect. That’s why I thought I wouldn’t review The Beatles’ thirty songs in their original track order, but instead present them in an order that gives some meaning. Other websites may have produced their own ranking of The White Album before, but their rankings were sadly riddled with subjectivity and error. So here, for the first time, is the incontrovertible, indisputable, incontestable, totally objective ranking of The Beatles’ songs from worst to best. Starting with…

30. Don’t Pass Me By

I know, I was surprised too. For years I thought Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da was the worst track by far on this album, but upon rediscovering this track, I was astonished at just how awful it was. Let’s just start with the lyrics. The main thrust of the song is Ringo waiting for his girlfriend to come home and becoming depressed over the course of an evening. At a time when the Beatles were writing eloquent pieces to capture complex thoughts and emotions, this is frustratingly basic. In the second verse the use of the phrase “mantel shelf” to rhyme with “myself” has always irritated me: it’s a mantelpiece damnit! Of course, the climax of the song is even more atrocious, as it’s revealed that the girl in question was in a car crash… and she lost her hair! For such a bouncy, jovial tune with bizarrely upbeat delivery, this revelation is a sucker punch and a huge juxtaposition to the feeling of loneliness and rejection expressed earlier in the song. Ringo just isn’t the guy to pull something like this off.

And then there’s the music. The goddamn music. All three minutes and fifty seconds are hell. From the improvised accidental intro to the embarrassing false ending to the guest violinist Jack Fallon playing for too long at the end, it just seems as if nobody paid any attention to detail when recording this track. The bouncy piano played by Ringo is ‘wobbled’ by being put through a revolving Leslie speaker, for seemingly no reason other than to make the song sound even worse. The drums are all over the place. Just think about that. On a song sung by the drummer, the drums are really shoddy. Do you know why that is? They’re being played by Paul on this one. This bizarre decision just beggars belief. And lastly, Fallon’s violin is unfocused and abrasive, almost attacking the song rather than complementing it. A friend of mine recently asked his Facebook friends for recommendations of “Violent/dissonant violin solos” and I knew exactly where to send him. It turns out that the violin was not even Fallon’s first instrument; you’d think that the Beatles of all people would be able to hire more of an expert violinist. But who cares, it’s a Ringo song!

And if you think all that’s bad, learning about the history of this track from the liner notes just makes the whole affair even more depressing. Don’t Pass Me By was Ringo’s first solo composition to be recorded by the Beatles. Let’s just compare this to Room 137, Mike Mangini’s first solo composition to be recorded by Dream Theater on the recent Distance Over Time, a perfect showcase for his drums and suitably complex lyrics about death and obsession. Meanwhile, Ringo’s first song sounds like it was written by a five-year-old and doesn’t even feature him playing the drums. The song was written as far back as 1964, but the band said they never had enough space to put it on an album. Or they had too much respect for their listeners. By the time The Beatles came around, they couldn’t find an excuse to shelve Ringo’s track on a double-LP so it finally got recorded. With only half the Beatles present. Yes, there’s no George or John here, just Ringo and Paul and of course Fallon on violin. With half the Beatles missing, abominable music and a dreadful story being told by Ringo on top, this is easily the worst song on the album, and possibly the worst Beatles song ever.

2018 vs 2009

Do you really care about how these versions compare? Seriously? OK, I’ll keep it brief. The 2018 version does manage to improve the mix by bringing the drums that were previously only heard in the left channel to the centre and giving them a crisper sound. Paul’s fills still sound terrible though. Probably the most impressive difference is in the intro when the percussion instruments are played, they come from both the left and right channel at once giving a somewhat 3D feel to a part that was originally only in the left channel.

50th Anniversary Extras

Mercifully, unlike most tracks in the box set, there is only one demo of Don’t Pass Me By and it’s actually tremendously comical. Instead of the improvised piano opening, we instead hear a stunning orchestral prelude written by George Martin. We feel as if we’re about to be taken on a cinematic journey, it’s really quite exciting. And then, at about a minute in, the drums start and we’re immediately brought to a very similar mix of Don’t Pass Me By as the album version. It’s so inappropriate for such a simple song that I couldn’t help but laugh when I first heard it. It’s as if the Beatles knew how much their audience was going to dislike this song and temporarily decided to turn it into a practical joke. It definitely worked here.

After I’d stopped laughing at the introduction, I thought “Ok, that was funny, next”, only to realise that I had to listen to the full song again. And not only was it the full song, but this was the original, longer version which had a repeat of the first verse following the false ending. It doesn’t even make sense. He knows that she was in a car crash, but now he’s waiting for her to come up the drive again? At least they knew to cut that verse out for the album version.

29. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

The opening piano vamp is enough to make my skin crawl. I might just be biased against Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da as I was made to sing this song endlessly at school during music lessons, but I am convinced it’s still a bad song anyway. For one, it’s a white interpretation of ska music and not the awesome kind like the Police. It’s also loaded with stereotypical Caribbean imagery and names; Paul even remarks that “Desmond is a very Caribbean name”. I understand trying to experiment and taking influences from other genres of music – John points out that the Beatles first tried ska in the instrumental to 1964’s I Call Your Name, which is pretty damn cool- but when you’re appropriating the culture of another race it can be harmful if not handled delicately. And Paul’s appropriation is about as delicate as Maxwell was with his silver hammer. There’s no nuance to this song, no shred of evidence that Paul thought about life on a Caribbean island beyond barrows in marketplaces and names like Molly and Desmond. And of course that sickly catchphrase. If a white band tried to release a song like this today, they would be utterly vilified and rightly so; it’s incredible how times change. Nobody wanted the Beatles to try ska music in the first place and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da has not aged well.

2018 vs 2009

The 2018 version is undeniably crisper and warmer than the 2009 version, whilst changing very little to the overall mix. With some of the harshness of the original bass removed, but that lower register still very much intact, this cheesy tune is at least more palatable to the ears this time around.

50th Anniversary Extras

Both an Esher demo and a studio demo are included on this set with very different instrumentation. As the liner notes explain over many uninteresting paragraphs, the song moved away from a ringing guitar motif and onto the piano with the bass guitar backing. This was the right move because the song sounds better with more rhythmic sounding instrumentation.

28. Good Night

Good Night is all the proof you need that the other three Beatles really didn’t care about Ringo. As Paul states in the liner notes, despite John having written the song as a lullaby for his son Julian “[he] felt it might not be good for his image to sing it.” Let’s have Ringo do it then! This had the added advantage of filling the Beatles’ quota of one Ringo song per LP; coincidentally, Don’t Pass Me By is located on Side 2 while Good Night is at the end of Side 4. What’s not a coincidence is that two of the worst three songs on the album are sung by Ringo. At least we’re getting them out the way now.

Good Night would have been such a weird blow to Beatles fans. Let’s not forget that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finished with an energised reprise of the original tune followed by the mesmerising A Day in the Life. An astonishing finale. With The Beatles however, fans would have just come to the end of hearing eight minutes of John and Yoko’s weird tape effects on Revolution 9. Surely we at least get an amazing finale featuring all the Beatles? Wrong, just Ringo crooning a simplistic lullaby over an orchestral arrangement. Hardly rock and roll. Out of the thirty songs on the album, I suppose it’s the best song to end The Beatles thematically, but they could have done a lot better.

2018 vs 2009

The differences here are extremely minimal. The 2018 version sounds slightly better overall.

50th Anniversary Extras

Do we really need three bonus tracks related to this song? While I don’t care much for Ringo’s crooning, it is interesting to hear the evolution of this piece whilst reading along with the liner notes that annotate the demos. John’s guitar picking from Dear Prudence and Julia are present in one of the demos, with the other members providing backing vocals. It’s far better to hear all the Beatles present on this basic version of the track rather than Ringo on the polished orchestral version. Later we also get to hear Ringo singing alongside George Martin on the piano, another nice version, but not quite as authentic as the first full demo we heard.

27. Wild Honey Pie

As a child, I remember I used to like this song because it was silly, but now I find I only like it because of its brevity. Wild Honey Pie is exactly the sort of song that detractors point to when saying The Beatles should have been just a single LP; while I absolutely disagree with them – The Beatles is so great because of how much material there is – it’s hard to deny that Wild Honey Pie is anything but a waste of time. Most annoyingly, it appears on Side 1 while Honey Pie – the far superior track that it’s referencing – only appears on Side 4.

2018 vs 2009

These two versions definitely sound different, it’s not clear which sounds better. The guitar “wobble” that was very noticeable on the 2009 version has been muted quite heavily for the 2018 version. Does that make it better? I thought that was the point of the song?

50th Anniversary Extras

No bonus tracks are available for this song, as it seems Paul didn’t spend too much time writing and recording it – now there’s a surprise.

26. Long, Long, Long

Long, Long, Long isn’t a bad song. It’s just not an especially good one either. There’s a clear attempt by George to create some dynamic contrast throughout the piece, but it comes off as being heavy-handed and dull. Some of Ringo’s most elaborate drum fills are on this piece and yet it still can’t save the song from being incredibly humdrum. It’s not hummable, it’s not memorable and it’s simply not interesting to listen to. By the end of the ’60s, George had easily become the best songwriter of the Beatles, but Long, Long, Long isn’t one of his finest examples.

2018 vs 2009

These versions are incredibly similar. I call a tie.

50th Anniversary Extras

Remarkably, the story of how this song is put together is much more interesting than the song itself. For such a simple track, it’s astonishing that it took 67 takes to nail the released version. The best easter egg: towards the end of the recording session, Paul discovered that if he played a low note on the organ, a wine bottle on top of the Leslie speaker would start to vibrate loudly. It was decided to incorporate this sound into the outro of the song with Ringo matching the vibration with a snare drum roll. Once you know that, it’s so much more interesting to listen to the outro again. There’s also a bonus track featuring alliterative lyrics from an unpublished Harrison song.

25. Revolution 9

I know a lot of you will have jumped straight to this part to see what I make of Revolution 9, easily the strangest and most despised track of the entire Beatles canon. To many, this track defines the White Album, and no discussion about the Beatles can be had without mentioning it. Half a Century later, John and Yoko’s bizarre eight-minute sound collage is still confusing and dismaying fans to this day. There’s nothing strange about why: on your first listen to the album, you notice a track over eight minutes in length – the longest official Beatles track around – and wonder whether it will be an epic musical track to close the album. Nothing could be further from the truth; the unexpected atonal, dissonant and downright creepy tape loops featured throughout the track constitute nothing less than an aural assault on the listener, demanding that you take it seriously and try and find some meaning.

I will play devil’s advocate once again, as I seem to do any time this track is brought up. Revolution 9 is precisely so great because of how shocking it is. As far as a series of ‘random’ tape loops go, Revolution 9 can elicit all sorts of emotions, from confusion to fear and even to humour; the delivery of “the Watusi, the Twist… Eldorado” still gets a chuckle from me. But the shrieking babies, sharp orchestral swells and heavily distorted clips of John singing “All right” are enough to send you into a nightmare for those eight minutes. The length is important too. Had this been a four-minute excursion, fans might have more easily forgiven it and overlooked it. Had it been a sidelong twenty-minute experiment, it would be too overwhelming and excruciating for most fans to even listen to. At eight minutes, Revolution 9 is just long enough to scare the pants off you and be taken seriously and just short enough to keep your sanity. By the time it’s through, you can feel that John achieved what he set out to create.

This doesn’t prevent it from being in the bottom set of tracks on the record, however. No matter how ambitious or thought-provoking, Revolution 9 simply cannot capture what audiences want from the Beatles which are well-written songs with some manner of structure to them. Imagine how great an eight-minute track would have sounded if it was laid out and had all the Beatles performing? Oh wait, you don’t need to: I Want You (She’s So Heavy) has you covered there. When looking for a Beatles track to put on, Revolution 9 is never the go-to choice; it’s always that annoying track that came too early in the shuffle playlist, just like Within You Without You and Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand. At the same time, The Beatles wouldn’t be The Beatles without Revolution 9, the track that shows just how far from She Loves You the band had really come in five years.

2018 vs 2009

Nope. We aren’t doing that.

50th Anniversary Extras

As it’s not a traditional song, there are no demos to be found, a relief for some. I’d have personally been interested in hearing a few of the isolated tape loops to hear what they sounded like before their insertion into the piece. The liner notes are once again factual but fail to answer a lot of the questions behind John’s motive for making such a striking piece. The explanation doesn’t seem passionate enough, so I’m not sure we’ll ever be satisfied looking for hidden meanings in Revolution 9.

24. Julia

Finally, back to songs that are bad just for being boring and not because they’re a form of expression that is too difficult to process and comprehend. Some may call Julia tender and full of emotion, I say it’s dull and insipid. Once again, this is a solo affair: this time John has the audience to himself for three lifeless minutes as he croons out a tune for his deceased mother. Overall, the whole song comes off as monotonous and tedious.

2018 vs 2009

The 2009 version has more subdued guitar while the 2018 version brings the picking closer to the front and clears up the sound.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo is a whole minute longer than the original track; it could have been worse! The other bonus track for Julia is billed as a “jaw-dropping surprise” in the liner notes: they unexpectedly found a version of the song with John strumming the guitar instead of picking. Not so much of a “jaw-dropping surprise” as an “equally yawnsome affair”

23. Sexy Sadie

The liner notes to Sexy Sadie explain that between early takes both Paul and John were dissatisfied with the track with John saying “We forgot what it’s about.” Unfortunately, most of the audience of the final product hasn’t even a clue what it’s about, thanks to the changing of the track’s original name Maharishi to Sexy Sadie. John had been disillusioned with the spiritual leader after an alleged sex scandal and wrote the scathing song to get back at him.

Of course, when I heard this track at a young age, I was instantly interested in the song because of the word “Sexy” in the title which seemed very risqué for the Beatles. This would presumably be some song about lust right? Instead, it seemed to be a weird song about bitterness. Why is the singer bitter at this ‘sexy’ girl? Presumably, because she’s sexy, as that’s the only thing we know about her. But then it doesn’t seem to be bitterness, but jealousy. But then she’d broken some rules? She’d made a fool of everyone? At some point, the song just breaks down when you try to make it about some pretty girl. And I really dislike the name Sadie.

But even with the original title, the audience would still have a large disconnect with the song. Sure, with the #MeToo movement and many scandals becoming public, now more than ever we’re having our opinions about various influential people challenged by their alleged behaviour. But the Beatles’ spiritual trip to India always felt like the moment they jumped the shark and most people haven’t worshipped Louis CK as part of an actual religion or visited Kevin Spacey’s spiritual retreat. To John, this was clearly something personal that he was trying to project on everybody else; the lyric “You made a fool of everyone” simply doesn’t work when he was clearly in a minority of Maharishi worshippers.

Beyond the confused lyric, the melody of the song is just ugly with a brittle piano sound providing a weak foundation. The “wah-wah” vocals and the guitar parts all sound unfinished and rough around the edges, and the solo in the centre of the song is completely forgettable.

2018 vs 2009

As unpleasant as the song is, the cleanup on this track is just incredible. All the instruments have been immaculately separated and cleaned giving a much more three-dimensional sound to this once quite flat piece.

50th Anniversary Extras

As well as the obligatory Esher Demo, we’re treated to a far superior early take of the song, much slower than the album version and with stripped-back instrumentation. John’s singing isn’t quite up to par, but Ringo’s drum rolls are gorgeous on this version. The liner notes claim that this is a vivid example of how the Beatles would work hard to try and make a song sound as best it could, but I see this as more of a failure: they started out with a mellifluous piece and added more and more until it became unrecognisable.

22. Glass Onion

I used to like Glass Onion, we all did. For dedicated fans, this was a wink from the band with explicit references to earlier Beatles songs, such as the obvious Strawberry Fields Forever and the more subtle Fixing a Hole. Each time you found a reference, you’d think “Gosh that’s clever, I wonder what it all means.” Only to find out that it all means absolutely nothing. Whether it was a jab at Beatles mythologists or a dedication to them, the whole thing seemed to be to point out that the conspiracy theories were all a bit silly, so here’s a bit of wordplay at your expense. Beyond that, there was little to connect with; even the melody was fairly weak. Once you’ve spotted all the Beatles references, Glass Onion seems a bit disposable, like a finished sudoku puzzle.

2018 vs 2009

After the spell of improved tracks we’ve had, I was expecting Glass Onion to be a smashing home run for the team, but in fact, the updated track isn’t really that exciting. The drums are moved to be a bit more central, there’s some slight tidying of the sound but that’s it. Most disappointingly, John’s voice still sounds slightly distorted in the new version. Overall, it’s an improvement, but not much of one.

50th Anniversary Extras

Another Esher Demo and another studio take show that the writing of the lyrics was an iterative process for this song, as John tried to jam pack as many references into the song as possible. In the early take, for example, he sings “Looking through a hole in the ocean” but clearly spotted a trick as the finished version has this changed to “Fixing a hole in the ocean”. Still just as surreal – if not more so – and with a great Beatles reference to boot. How ‘bout dat?

21. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?

I’ll admit, when I was younger, I had no idea what “it” meant and just thought that this was a theoretical “it” that McCartney was positing to the listener; “If we’re going to do it – whatever ‘it’ is – why don’t we do it in the road?”

The 12-bar blues will never not sound good; there’s a reason it’s used so many times in rock ‘n’ roll, even twice on this album existentially. With so few lyrics, this is more of a vocal experiment for McCartney than a proper song; though it does sound good, it fails to leave the listener with much of an impression.

2018 vs 2009

Again, not much of a difference here. The percussion at the beginning of the 2009 version is louder. Does that mean anything to you?

50th Anniversary Extras

I was originally nervous that this box set would recycle a lot of the demos from 1996’s Anthology 3, but it seems the curators of this collection thought of the same thing and as such, both sets of demos are entirely separate. However, the liner notes do normally refer to the demos on Anthology 3 when they exist and give them some context beside the demos found on the new box set. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? is especially interesting since Anthology 3 contained take 4 whilst the box set contains take 5. Released 22 years apart, both tracks contain the same connecting mid-take commentary from Paul as he speaks to the sound engineer. As such you can link the two pieces together and really feel like you’re sitting in on the Beatles – well Paul at least – and hear different takes being performed in real time.

20. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

This is an oft-derided track that deserves redemption. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill reads like a comic book and therein lies its charm. The comic elements to the story are rife: what kind of hero is defined by his bungalow? He takes his ‘mom’ in case of accidents? And then there’s the repetition of the phrase “What did you kill?” in the centre of what sounds like a children’s song.

The background of this song only adds to the humour. It turns out one of the Beatles’ neighbouring bungalows in India was inhabited by an American publicist Nancy Cooke de Herrera, who was visited by her 27-year-old college athlete son whilst the band was staying there. After the two of them ventured on a tiger hunting expedition replete with elephants, John clearly found them too hilarious not to lampoon in a ditty. It’s funnier when it’s true.

Even though its light-hearted nature and jarring song structure prevent it from ranking higher on this list, this track does feature some pioneering use of the Mellotron: during the verse, Chris Thomas uses the mandolin setting to give a more cinematic feel. The trombone setting used in the outro does leave a lot to be desired, however. One of my favourite pieces of trivia about the White Album? The seven-second flamenco guitar intro wasn’t played by any of the Beatles but was a tape loop found on the bottom note of the Mellotron that they felt would make a good intro.

2018 vs 2009

Bizarrely, the biggest difference is in the sound of the aforementioned flamenco guitar tape. Other than that, there’s very little difference. The 2018 version just has the edge.

50th Anniversary Extras

Now here’s an Esher demo that’s actually interesting! It turns out the chorus originally used to have a bar of 5/4, which was later changed to 6/4 (or 4/4 + 2/4). The change is quite remarkable and is quite jolting when you’re used to the original. The early take is less interesting and features more Yoko. Did anybody really want that?

19. I Will


Peter Serafinowicz covers aside, I Will proves Paul’s ability to concoct a sweet love song is far beyond that of John’s. The Beatles handily places I Will and Julia next to each other at the end of Side 2 for easy comparison. And what an easy comparison it is.

Yes, the lyrics might be simpler, but whoever said they needed to be complicated? Paul gets his point across clearer and with more gusto, helped along by the delicious ‘sung bass’ element of this track. And who doesn’t melt with the line “For the things you do endear you to me”?

Simply put, Paul was always better at the ‘clean, positive’ sound, from Here, There and Everywhere to Penny Lane, and of course to I Will. John was better at being weird, which he would do with aplomb on occasion. I Will may be somewhat shallow in content, but the bright atmosphere created by the guitars and percussion make this a clear winner of the battle of Side 2.

2018 vs 2009

No audible difference between these two versions. It’s a tie!

50th Anniversary Extras

The liner notes explain that there were many takes for this track, and in that time there were quite a few excursions into other songs and ideas, including Can You Take Me Back? which is the untitled snippet heard at the end of Cry Baby Cry. Included as well is a chortle-worthy 27-second take where Paul sings “If you want me to I WON’T!”

18. Rocky Raccoon

This track could be regarded as another piece of fluff with comic storytelling like The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, but somehow the piece transcends fluff status. The storytelling, while silly in places, does seem genuine. The characters feel real. The music and instrumentation – especially that honky-tonk piano – certainly lend themselves to the atmosphere of a Western shoot-’em-up. As a result, the listener is sucked in. The final line of the song – a punchline of sorts including Gideon’s Bible – is an interesting head scratcher, but suitably rounds out one of the better storytelling tracks on the album.

2018 vs 2009

2018 is the winner, hands down. The original stereo mix of the album kept the drums all the way on the left and the piano all the way on the right which was a bit of a headache if heard through headphones. The new version moves everything towards the centre whilst still letting the instruments keep their own space, a much more natural sound.

50th Anniversary Extras

The evolution of this track was rather extraordinary, with the rather iconic intro apparently being improvised with each take. Astonishing! The Esher demo and an early take are included for comparison and curiously the ideas heard in the finished version still seem embryonic just a few takes before. Disappointingly, however, the take heard here is simply a longer version of the same take heard on Anthology 3, one of the only overlaps.

17. Back in the U.S.S.R.

Whilst travelling by taxi in Yerevan, Armenia my driver wanted to test out his English on me and asked if I was married. I told him that I was. He asked if had children. I said I had none. He seemed monumentally surprised by this, even more so when I told him I’d been married a full two years. I tried to explain it away by saying that we’d been very busy, but he was clearly not very impressed and expressed to me how important his children were to him. And then all of a sudden he started asking if I liked Armenian girls. I told him “Well, I haven’t been looking…” but then he launched into a list of which former Soviet nations had the best looking girls:

“Armenian girls are beautiful. Azerbaijan girls… blegh. Georgia girls… blegh. Ukraine girls… blegh. But the Russian girls…”

His voice dropped in admiration. I queried him: “They’re good, are they?”

He kissed his fingers like a stereotypical chef who’s just tasted a delicious meal he’s prepared. I was surprised that his national pride hadn’t put his home turf in first place.

“Armenian girls are good though?” I asked

“Yes, they’re good.”

“But Russian girls?”

“Russians are THE BEST!” he exclaimed.

“Well,” I countered, “the Ukraine girls really knock me out. They leave the West behind.”

Except that I didn’t actually say that, I just wish I did. It only came to me about 48 hours later and I will forever regret not confusing a taxi driver by quoting a Beatles song that day. Such an appropriate opportunity to use that exact line may never come again.

The Beatles felt a desire to return to simpler recording techniques after the grandeur of Sgt. Pepper and the statement is pretty clear with this rock ‘n’ roll belter being placed at the beginning of the album. Paul dons his best Elvis impression for the song, but the expectations are subverted fast in the first chorus: he’s back in the U.S.S.R.! And pretty pleased about it. At a time when Cold War fear was extremely high, this song must have burst the bubble somewhat. It’s a comedic track but it broke Western social norms by not demonising the Soviets or turning the song into a political matter. As a result, it’s aged surprisingly well, despite the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Where Chuck Berry was almost disturbingly nationalistic with his 1959 track Back in the U.S.A.“Yes, I’m so glad I’m living in the U.S.A. / Anything you want, we got it right here in the U.S.A.” I don’t see the Weetabix, Chuck! – Paul was sophisticated in his satire. Applying American standards to Russian culture – “honey disconnect the [presumably state-owned] phone” – proved to be quite witty, and comparing girls from various nations à la the Beach Boys’ California Girls made for the perfect refrain.

What let it all down though? That shitty jet engine sound effect. You may think it’s only used at the beginning of the song and at the end. You’d be wrong. Eleven times I counted that ghastly whistle perforating my eardrums whilst trying to enjoy an otherwise sonorous experience. It would have worked fine if it had merely bookended the track, but played incessantly throughout it almost ruins the track entirely. Even the liner notes recognise that the jet was an issue:

Second engineer / ‘tape-op’ John Smith recalled that “for the mono mix everything came out OK, but the stereo mix took a long, long time and I was holding the pencil to keep the effects tape taut. I guess I must have been leaning back on it and started to stretch it because the mono has this clear, clean lovely jet sound while the stereo is an abomination of a jet sound.” By the end of the stereo mix, the sound of the Viscount had been transformed into an icy wind whistling across a Siberian steppe.

What does save the song however is the incredible drumming by essentially everyone other than Ringo. In what has become rather well-known Beatles lore, Ringo walked out of the White Album sessions for a few days and the other Beatles had to cover for him. Paul laid down the main drum pattern and does fantastically, right down to the hi-hat pedal at the end of the chorus. Paul does so well in fact that it’s difficult to believe he also provided the sloppy, loose-limbed percussive barrage that accompanied Don’t Pass Me By. His tight fills and confidence with a rock ‘n’ roll beat would lend credence to that famous misquote “Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the world. He isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” John never said that. Just saying.

2018 vs 2009

As the first song on the album, it was important that Back in the U.S.S.R. received the deluxe treatment when it came to remixing to really impress listeners. And it’s never sounded better. Where the piano and bass sound tinny and weak on the 2009 version, the feel rich and full now. Where the layering and stereo-placing of various vocals and effects sounded sloppy and misguided before, on the 2018 version they blend harmoniously. This really feels like how the song should have been heard.

But much, much more than that… The turbo jet is actually bearable. My biggest gripe about this track has been fixed! Somewhat. I still think it could have been done away with altogether, but I suppose they couldn’t change the song too much. The raspy 2009 jet whistle has been replaced by the cleaner jet sound presumably heard on the mono version and it really makes all the difference.

50th Anniversary Extras

Honestly, my favourite part of this box set is the recognition of the jet sound fiasco. But there are a couple of related bonus tracks included too. The Esher demo has some slightly altered lyrics – “awful flight” instead of “dreadful flight” – and the studio take is an instrumental, which will be a win for karaoke fans.

16. Revolution 1

I, like most other Beatles fans, heard Revolution long before I heard Revolution 1, but in fact they were recorded the other way around. With its iconic distorted guitars that arguably gave birth to hard rock and heavy metal, snappy pace and phenomenal delivery, not to mention the title being simpler than its counterpart, Revolution, originally released as a B-side to Hey Jude, will always be the definitive version of this song. When I first heard Revolution 1, I thought it was bizarre the band had decided to cover themselves by making the song slower and with less punch. Revolution 1 plods along with brass instrumentation and almost comic vocalisations – “shoo-be-doo-wop” – while Revolution makes the listener sit up and pay attention.

I’ve never stopped admiring the message of this song, however, whatever version it’s in. While the title might make you believe this will be a call to revolt, in fact, it’s telling a potential revolter just to chill out – “Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright?” Too many songs would have you believe that you have to fight for your beliefs and do whatever it takes. John’s tune is the perfect antidote. We all know that activist where we “want to change their head”, even when it’s about a fairly noble cause. Worrying all the time about problems you can’t do much about will only make you miserable. “You’d better free your mind instead.” In Revolution, John is saying that he’ll agree with folks only up to a point and that’s actually quite a complex statement to put so poetically. And I’m all for any song that confidently tells me to relax and that “it’s gonna be alright” when Trump, Brexit and climate change all point to the opposite.

2018 vs 2009

The vocal track is slightly clearer and louder on the 2018 version.

50th Anniversary Extras

After the relatively timid but fascinating third disc – the Esher Demos – the box set throws you in the deep end with the very first track of the fourth disc: Take 18 of Revolution 1. The first four minutes seem very similar indeed; “Can I take two?” from the finished version is heard here. And then there are the other six-and-a-half minutes. Astonishingly, this ten-and-a-half minute take is more eye-opening than any of the other demos included. In the second half of the song, we hear John chant more and more disturbing renditions of “Alright! Alright!” over the same two repeated sunny chords. Three minutes from the end, he declares he’s had enough, but Ringo’s drum fill brings the band back together for more musical experimentation including a go on the Mellotron and Yoko’s spoken vocals. Paul can be heard singing the band’s first ever single Love Me Do. By the end, there’s no music and just a few haunting tapes before John declares that “it’s gonna be great!” Of course, the second half was eventually chopped off for the more conventional song to appear on the album, but much of the leftover material would eventually end up on Revolution 9. This demo shows the real link between the two tracks.

The other two Revolution demos simply show the metamorphosis from slow version to fast. The second of these two is essentially an instrumental Revolution with the distorted guitars. A lot of fun, needless to say.

15. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

That one with the really long title. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey is such a fun track that you’d think it was one of Paul’s. Instead, John’s newfound feeling of openness he had with Yoko shines through on this simple yet quirky piece. Perhaps Paul didn’t need to shake that hand-bell quite so hard though?

2018 vs 2009

The left and right channels on the 2009 version are so far separated that it gives the listener a headache when listened to on headphones, especially that sharp snare in the intro. The 2018 version brings everything just a little closer together, for a much more natural listening.

50th Anniversary Extras

The demos included for this track are among the more interesting ones in this collection, showing some clear evolution between Esher demo and album version. The Esher demo seems to be written in a different key and is a lot more laid back than the final version. Meanwhile, the unnumbered instrumental demo – a lucky find for the editors of this set – features a guitar line not heard on the album version and also a completely new drum fill from Ringo. This piece certainly came together in stages. It would have been interesting to hear other demos too, as the rehearsal was apparently rather good, but as the boxset is almost bursting at the seams as it is, sadly this was all that could be spared for us the listeners.

14. Cry Baby Cry

Interestingly enough, this is the only song on my list that I’ve moved around since beginning this review. This originally sat at number 10, but upon relistening, I found it wasn’t quite as strong as I remembered. John’s bizarre, melancholic fairytale is simply a bit too weird to be positively enjoyable, and the melody is actually a little grating. I do enjoy that this song shifts the instrumentation between verses, but it’s not quite enough to make it a great song. And then there’s the eerie Can You Take Me Back? ditty that follows. Not particularly engaging either.

The only saving point, and the reason this scored so highly the first time around is the instrumentation for the second verse. The shift from distorted pianos to bass and drums is perfectly accented by Ringo’s drum fill and subsequent pattern. Add to that the descending organ notes, and you have yourself an excellent rock and roll verse. Wait, those aren’t actually organ notes but John and Paul whistling? Mind blown!

2018 vs 2009

The 2018 version wins by a landslide; everything is much clearer. You only have to hear that second verse to tell. But it does make some odd choices. The choruses originally had the lead vocals in the left channel only, and the verses in the centre. Now the vocals are in the centre throughout. This does make the song easier to listen to, but I always wonder if there was some artistic choice that’s been disallowed for this to happen.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo is glossed over in the liner notes, but is significant for its markedly different ending: after the first repetition of the chorus in 4/4, the chorus slips into 3/4 and it feels as if John’s trying to keep up with the shorter repeated cycle, going as far as making the final ‘Cry’ of Cry Baby Cry the same as the first ‘Cry’ of the next cycle so that he sings “Cry Baby Cry Baby Cry”. It’s very discombobulating indeed.

The unnumbered rehearsal included also betrays the evolution this song went through: a laid back piece featuring a retro-sounding organ. Though it’s good to hear the band playing on such a classic prog instrument, Cry Baby Cry definitely benefits from the tighter arrangement heard on the album.

13. Piggies

Piggies was tailor-made for university students just by sounding much cleverer than it actually is. “Wait, you mean it’s not about actual piggies?” Of course, Piggies takes more than just a leaf out of Orwell’s Animal Farm, but you wouldn’t need to know that if you just listen to the lyrics, which are rather less than subtle. Even so, students will always be the first to think they’re the only one who found the ‘hidden’ meaning of the song. Students will also gobble up the opportunity to chant the best two lines of the song: “What they need’s a damn good whacking!” and “Clutching forks and knives to EAT THE BACON!”

Faux-intellectuality aside, the song still grasps the mind with its decisively odd lyrics and instrumentation. Guest musician Chris Thomas plays a mean harpsichord which adds to the childlike tone of the song. According to the liner notes, this was actually a song George wrote three years prior to The Beatles and had forgotten about. At that point, the song had an unused verse that referenced 1984 with a lyric about ‘Pig Brother’, but then the allusions would have been too obvious. This verse was reinstated for George’s 1991 Japan tour as heard below.

As an aside, I’ve always really appreciated the track order of this album, giving a very yin and yang flow to The Beatles. Piggies was originally followed by Rocky Raccoon on Side 2 of the album, and the change from the “starched white shirts” of Piggies to the “Black Mountain Hills of Dakota” in Rocky Raccoon was deftly made.

2018 vs 2009

The 2018 version is far, far superior to the previous edition. Right from the opening harpsichord notes, the 2018 version seems to be in crystal HD compared to 2009’s 480p. Just as on other tracks, the team has done a fantastic job blending the left and right channels to be a bit more integrated. The only thing that might cause a stir is that certain porcine grunts have been moved from the far left channel to the centre.

50th Anniversary Extras

Interestingly, the Esher demo for this track will sound very familiar if you’ve heard Anthology 3, as the ‘Kinfauns Home Demo’ is just a slightly different mix of the same recording. It’s interesting nonetheless to hear the song performed with guitars instead of harpsichord, and the altered lyrical ending “to eat their pork chops!”. The other included demo is simply an instrumental version of the final piece. I’d always assumed the Beatles provided the grunting noises, but apparently, that was taken from an animal sound effects tape, despite George committing his own grunting to record.

12. Birthday

One of the few true McCartney/Lennon joint efforts provides an explosive opening to the second half of the album. In an explosion of excitement for the broadcast of the nostalgic 1956 rock ‘n’ roll flick The Girl Can’t Help It, the group decided to commemorate the event with a brand new song, written speedily the same day. Yes, the song sounds rushed and without nuance, but sometimes less is more and the Beatles playing boisterous rock music together is one of the best sounds one can hear. Definitely suitable for birthdays, although Paul’s rather demanding “I WOULD LIKE YOU TO DANCE!” doesn’t quite come off as fun as it should.

2018 vs 2009

This is quite a tough one for me. The team has once again done an amazing job cleaning the sound on this track and making it feel more open. But that might not be such a good thing. In making the track sound more open and the instruments so far apart, you realise how little is actually between them, giving the song a somewhat empty sound at times. On the 2009 version, however, it’s as if you’re in a small room with the Beatles and the amps are up just a bit too high. Which is perfect if you ask me. The closeness and slight claustrophobia are what this song needs to sound as crazy as it is.

50th Anniversary Extras

Not much to speak of here. The explanation of the movie tie-in is much more interesting than the very similar instrumental demo exhibited on the final bonus disc.

11. Yer Blues

I saw that Yer Blues was next to review and I squealed with delight. That’s how you know we’ve got to the cream of the crop, and the good news is that it keeps getting better from here.

Pretty much since I first heard this song when I was about 10, I always thought the ‘Yer’ in the title was a corruption of the word ‘Yeah’, because that word is repeated so much in the song. Turns out it’s more like the word ‘your’ which was a colloquial replacement for ‘the’ at the time. “You’ve got yer blues and yer rock ‘n’ roll…” I might be a dunce for having this misconception but my mind is blown that the title basically translates to ‘The Blues’.

Given that we already had Paul’s misguided attempts to appropriate ska in Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, it would only be reasonable to suspect John’s song with a title so presumptuous to say that it literally defines the blues would also tank hard. But that’s not the case. Opening in 6/8, John’s impassioned performance certainly convinces the audience that he’s extremely depressed. “Yes I’m lonely, wanna die” may be rather morbid but John makes it practically a chantable anthem. For our efforts of suffering with John, we are rewarded with an astounding 4/4 instrumental that shakes up the whole song, replete with guitar solos from George and John.

John commented that Yer Blues was an attempt to get back to the band’s original sound of Liverpool and Hamburg. He pointed out that on their early records they never got enough bass in their sound because they never knew how to record. For Yer Blues the band actually moved into a tiny room instead of the studio to record to recreate that live feeling. The result is palpable as you can practically feel Paul’s bass throughout the recording and the album version is far from clean-sounding, though it was clearly never meant to be polished.

2018 vs 2009

With such a dynamic song, you’d expect a huge difference in the quality between these versions, but that’s surprisingly not the case. The most noticeable change is during the 4/4 instrumental where the 2009 track focuses highly on the solos while the 2018 version has a more busy feel, as though you were in that cramped room when it happened. It’s a close call but the 2018 version clinches it.

50th Anniversary Extras

It’s bizarre to hear a laid-back version of Yer Blues like the acoustic Esher demo. This version contains a subtle lyric change where John says “feel so insecure now”, which would probably be a lot more like Dylan’s Mr. Jones. The studio demo meanwhile is fantastic. As the version recorded just before the master track, this is a great instrumental to sing along to, with only John’s guide vocal faintly picked up by the mics that were naturally all close together. I actually thought this was the version from the album, but there are very subtle differences. The biggest prize, however, is the extended 4/4 instrumental section, which shows how the guitar solo might have continued if they hadn’t decided to plonk the intro on the end. In fact, by this virtue alone, the demo is actually even better than the album version!

10. Honey Pie

When I first heard this song, somewhere in the mid-’00s, I asked my Dad why the Beatles would play music that sounded like it came from the 1920s. He asked “You like listening to music from the ’60s, don’t you?” which I couldn’t deny. “Well, some people in the ’60s also liked listening to music from 40 years earlier.” Since then, I’ve never questioned Paul’s motive for writing Honey Pie.

In just a few lines, Paul perfectly sets up the premise to the song, just as he did on Rocky Raccoon. The rest is pure Jazz Age bliss with playful lyricism from Paul and an excellent arrangement of saxophones and clarinets by George Martin to give the track that authentic ’20s sound. Paul’s glee is infectious: “I like this kinda hot kinda music, hot kinda music!” We like it too, Paul! Despite being in a similar style to the well-known When I’m Sixty-Four, Paul’s writing chops had clearly improved significantly in the ten years between penning both tunes.

2018 vs 2009

In the 2009 version, the bass sound isn’t quite as polished as it could be and seems to poke through the fabric of the song at times. The 2018 version fixes this issue and simply improves the sound and atmosphere of the song in general.

50th Anniversary Extras

Once again, we’re presented with a delightful Esher demo; it’s incredible to hear how well the song is presented without all the extra instruments. We’re also treated to the ‘karaoke’ version of Honey Pie, with Paul’s vocal faded out. This way we can enjoy all five saxophones and two clarinets as well as John’s uncut guitar solo; the full solo can also be heard on the mono version of the album.

9. Helter Skelter

“What?” I hear you exclaim. “How can Helter Skelter only be at number 9? Number 9? Number 9?” There’s a very good reason. How often can you seriously say you put it on and listen all the way through? By its very nature, Paul’s experiment with making a “loud, raunchy rock ‘n’ roll record” is utterly exhausting, completely chaotic and takes quite a lot out of the listener; the stereo version is even more tiring than the mono version, with two fake fade outs instead of just one. As you can imagine, listening to it on repeat for this review is no easy task.

But for all its aesthetic unpleasantness, this is a magnificent beast indeed. In 1968, Paul said that he’d been disappointed by a song whose review had advertised it as one where the group “really goes wild, there’s echo on everything, they’re screaming their heads off” just to find that “it was quite straight, and it was sort of very sophisticated.” Inspired to build the monster record he’d been dreaming of, Helter Skelter was a no holds barred early hard rock anthem that shattered the norms of rock recording and threw open the doors for heavy metal groups. It’s astonishing to hear the man behind I Will and Honey Pie also lend his voice to this blistering piece. Literally blistering, in fact, as Ringo famously yells at the end of the stereo version “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” The Beatles have never rocked harder and while it may not be pretty, it’s still a seminal recording.

2018 vs 2009

Oh yeah, another flawless victory for 2018. Listening to the 2009 version makes me realise how bad stereo mixes were in 1968, perhaps not envisioning a generation of music lovers listening to music through headphones or on iPods. But even putting the terrible stereo separation aside, the 2009 version simply sounds duller than the new version that practically places you in the same room as the hard rocking Beatles. My complaint about Helter Skelter in both versions is that the bass (unusually played by John on this track) is a lot quieter than it could be, leading to a somewhat hollow sound.

50th Anniversary Extras

If you thought the 10-minute version of Revolution that began the first disc of studio sessions was shocking, wait until you get to the end of that disc. A member of the recording team calls “Take 2” as the group begins vamping on an E-minor chord that is played slowly but intensely like a heartbeat – pulsating and unrelenting. If you weren’t checking the track titles whilst listening, you’d have no idea what song this was supposed to be until the third minute when Paul calls “Do you, don’t you want me to love you?”. This is clearly a very different version to the album release, and it doesn’t stop there. This hypnotic track reaches nearly thirteen minutes in length and simply fades out at the end as if the band would have kept going afterwards. We’re listening to perhaps the longest official published Beatles recording in existence! Aficionados will know that this is the uncut version of the demo originally truncated to 4:38 on Anthology 3. According to the liner notes, this is only one of three similar takes made that day, the longest running over twenty-seven minutes. The mouth waters at the prospect of a Beatles song longer than a side of LP.

The second demo included is relatively tame by comparison, much closer to the album version, but decidedly shorter. It also contains the original lyric “When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the hill, where I stop and I turn and I give you a pill”. Probably for the best that this wasn’t on the album version of the song, as the lyrics were already controversial enough after Charles Manson’s interpretation of the song.

8. Martha My Dear

From the noise and brashness of Helter Skelter comes one of the clean-sounding, sophisticated, polished tunes that everyone has come to know and love Paul McCartney for. It may be just a song for his sheepdog Martha, but in only two-and-a-half minutes it has one of the most bizarre and fascinating song structures, with two different bridges, no real chorus and a key change that is only used for the bridge. Someone much more learned than I explains in this video.

The song structure is so brilliant because, for the first minute, you think you’re alone with Paul and a set of brass and strings, then all of a sudden George and Ringo come along and provide a strong rhythm section, shaking up the track entirely. The unpredictable nature of this song keeps the listener on their toes whilst simultaneously enjoying that trademark McCartney sound.

2018 vs 2009

If only your right headphone was working, the only thing you’d hear for the first minute of the 2009 version of Martha My Dear is silence, followed by Paul singing, followed by Paul singing with brass accompaniment. Everything else is on the left. That’s why it’s a relief when the 2018 version brings both sides together while giving everything their own space. As an extra treat, Ringo’s drums sound crisper than before too!

50th Anniversary Extras

The bonus included for this track isn’t an early demo, but a stripped back version of the album release without George Martin’s brass and strings arrangement. While I’m not usually a fan of embellishment and prefer the rule ‘Less is more’, it’s astonishing just how empty the track feels without the additional instruments; Martin truly had a knack for creating arrangements that both complemented and lifted the songs. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to hear what the track would sound like with just the Beatles playing.

7. Mother Nature’s Son

We’re on a bit of a Paul kick right now; four in a row ain’t bad! Mother Nature’s Son is timeless and beautiful, if a bit on the twee side. But McCartney’s passion for nature isn’t cynical or satirical in any way; the love is pure, and even somebody who isn’t enthusiastic about nature can understand and respect the sentiment being portrayed. Paul’s simple guitar is enhanced by a tender brass arrangement and some odd percussion choices, played by McCartney himself. The bass drum heard at the beginning, for example, sounds like it’s just fallen over instead of being played on purpose. Elsewhere, McCartney taps on a book as he felt it had the best sound for the song; engineer Ken Scott joked “They never taught you how to get the best sound out of a book at EMI.”

2018 vs 2009

The 2018 version simply has better sound quality and mixing. The guitar is much clearer and the brass fits around the song in a way that supports it more effectively.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo and an early studio demo are present but they sound so close to the album version that they hardly seem remarkable. The studio demo included is perhaps only remarkable for Paul’s jazzy vocal inflections, as well as forty seconds of studio banter, heard at the end.

6. I’m So Tired

I’m So Tired is a song everybody can get behind; we’ve all been sleep-deprived at one point or another. With simple rock instrumentation and a simple message, this short track is one of the most effective on the album and is instantly memorable. The best line, of course, is Lennon’s lambasting of the prominent historical figure Sir Walter Raleigh – specifically his role in popularising smoking. As a child, I remember finding it both hilarious and awesome that you’d ever hear someone called ‘a stupid git’ on an official recording. But as an adult, I realise that I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other musician speak out against smoking or suggest that it’s a bad habit. And that also makes this song awesome too.

2018 vs 2009

This is one of the toughest ones to judge. Neither is really better, just different. The verse drums are moved to the centre for the 2018 version and are as such a little clearer, but the chorus drums on both versions are so much crunchier and weightier that it feels as if perhaps the verse drums were supposed to be insignificant to begin with.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo is a lot of fun, featuring a recycled part from Happiness is a Warm Gun in the latter half of the song, thus making it a minute longer than the album version. Take 7 is pretty much a clean demo while Take 14 is the master take with a bunch of planned embellishments, including extra guitar and harmonising vocals. These embellishments were definitely surplus to requirement, as they just crowd what is a great simple song, but they’re interesting to hear nonetheless. Before the final verse, John mumbles some similar sleep-gibberish as to the type heard at the end of the track. I always used to think he was talking about beds: “Her beds are lovely.”

5. Blackbird

I’m So Tired runs straight into the timeless Blackbird, the next song on our list. While this is the first time the track order has co-aligned with my list, it’s not the last. Paul’s best track on the album is surprisingly his simplest. Armed with only a guitar, Paul creates an incredibly memorable and poignant track about the civil rights movement in the United States, something I only learned during the research for this review.

But in fact, this simple piece is actually a bit more complex than it seems on the surface. If you’ve ever tried to cover this on guitar or sing it on karaoke, you’ll find that it’s quite hard to predict all of the timings. That’s because the time signature of Blackbird is constantly changing between 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4. It’s not a tune for dancing to, it’s a tune about what feels musically right to play.

Apparently, this subtly complex piece was inspired by classical music, Bach specifically, but the false ending was actually George Martin’s idea. Though there were ideas to give a string or brass arrangement to this piece, it really seems difficult to imagine this beautiful piece with anything other than Paul and a tweeting blackbird as accompaniment.

2018 vs 2009

Immensely difficult to judge these two. On the 2009 version, Paul’s percussive foot taps are all the way on the left, giving them their own space and making them more prominent. In the 2018 version, they’re slightly diminished by being moved closer to the centre. The sound quality is very similar, so in the end, it comes down to how much do you like Paul’s foot tapping?

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo gives us a glimpse of the song without the false ending, while the included studio take has a different finish, showing the origin of the false ending. Either way, it’s all still Paul on guitar so there are no shocking differences to be found here.

4. Savoy Truffle

An article by billboard.com ranked Savoy Truffle 28th out of 30 with only Wild Honey Pie and Revolution 9 faring worse, saying “had the Beatles sliced this double LP down to one disc, Savoy Truffle would’ve been the first lightweight number to get canned.” The author, Joe Lynch, is obviously so, so wrong about this and might actually be a deranged lunatic – he did, after all, rank Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in 4th. Just like the namesake of the song’s title, Savoy Truffle is a rich, sumptuous treat. Also, similarly to the ‘Good News’ soft-centred chocolates the song was named after, the song has some hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

George told a journalist around this time that he didn’t care to dwell on the ‘Mystical Beatle George’ anymore, which explains the drastic change from Within You, Without You to this hard-rocking punchy number. If I’d been alive at the time of the Beatles, I’d have been over the moon about this shift as George was certainly drifting a little far outside the band’s usual remit previously. But not only was George making the music he was destined to make, he was also pretty amazing at it.

Savoy Truffle may not be about much more than his friend Eric Clapton’s dentures, but who said music had to have any meaning to be good? Can’t music just be good for music’s sake? It certainly is here. Chris Thomas, who can be found in a few other songs around the album, arranges an incredibly tight sounding set of six saxophonists who really blast the song into the stratosphere. The secret behind their unique, edgy timbre lies in George’s request to have them recorded at maximum level with heavy compression, giving them a sound close to distortion and certainly pumping a lot of electricity into the already smoking track. Thomas also provides the organ stabs during the bridge sections which give a sense of nostalgic urgency to the piece. The instrumentation of this track could not be more perfect.

But it gets better! Once again, the music seems to be written for music’s sake as George employs some subtle time signature changes near the beginning of the track to throw the listener off. Who knew the Beatles could be so adept with 7/8? George’s guitar interplay with the brass section during the instrumental feels more like an epic battle. And then there’s the self-referential Easter egg “We all know Obla-Di-Bla-Da”. I feel like that very line alone justifies Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’s existence on this record, as well as give The Beatles a sense of cohesiveness. When one song is so good that it makes another unrelated song better, you know it’s pretty damn excellent.

2018 vs 2009

Happily, it’s once again a resounding victory for the 2018 version, moving the drums from the far left closer to the centre and upping the brass arrangement and organ. As a result, the song feels a lot more dynamic and present.

50th Anniversary Extras

Oddly enough, no studio takes or Esher demos of this song exist, so we have to make do with the ‘karaoke’ version of Savoy Truffle with no vocal track. This is probably one of the best tracks on the album for that purpose though, as it allows us to get closer to the lush instrumentation of this track and really hear those organ notes by Chris Thomas.

3. Dear Prudence

After the raucous rock of Back in the U.S.S.R., the White Album’s careful segue into the descending notes of Dear Prudence is something of a masterstroke. Just like the previous track, Ringo was absent for the recording of this song so we once again get to hear Paul on drums. However, those expecting something similar to what was heard before are in for quite a surprise. If Back in the U.S.S.R. was designed to get you excited about the new Beatles album, Dear Prudence was made to solidify your admiration for the band by showcasing just how intelligent and subversive they could be.

The opening begins subtly with just John’s guitar, but extra instruments are added slowly but consistently to the point where the song’s finale sounds more like a jamboree. The natural progression of the song, with each section upping the ante musically, is expertly composed. Paul’s drums suit the song perfectly and he’s firing on all cylinders by the end with drum fills that could put his bandmate to shame. It’s stunning tracks like this that makes The Beatles an essential part of every rock music collection.

2018 vs 2009

I will say this for the 2009 version: it does start on the correct note. The 2018 version leaves the first few notes of Dear Prudence behind in Back in the U.S.S.R.. The downside to that is that the 2009 version features that ghastly jet engine noise for the first few seconds, whereas the 2018 version just about starts from the very end of it. That said, the 2018 version had a nicer jet sound anyway, so it would have made sense to leave it in.

Track timing aside, I’d say the two versions are actually quite similar in sound quality. The 2018 version makes the drums more prominent, which is only a good thing in my eyes, but then relegates part of the backing vocals. Ultimately, it depends on how you listen to the song. The 2018 version is better equipped for headphones, whereas the 2009 version might sound better on a stereo system.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo naturally can’t hold a candle to the album version’s epic instrumental arrangement. However, it does demonstrate that the climactic finale had been planned early, as John’s playing style changes for the final verse. There are also some interesting mutterings at the end of the track about the real Prudence Farrow, the subject of the track. A fellow resident at the Maharishi’s retreat, the Beatles thought she was ‘going insane’ as she would lock herself in her room for hours on end.

The other included studio outtake is also worth a gander, as it features a pared-down version of the album track with only the guitar, drums and lead vocals. Once again, it’s made clear just how much this track relies on the layering of different albums. The biggest glaring gap is the bass guitar; if you want to hear just how important a bass guitar is to the sound of a song, consider listening to this demo.

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Dear Prudence showed us how to effectively use instrumentation to elevate a track to a higher level, but While My Guitar Gently Weeps seems to do the opposite, proving that a great track will sound great no matter what instrumentation you use. In total, there are four versions of this song on this box set alone and one demo on Anthology 3 which was also appropriated for the Love soundtrack, bringing us to six published versions by the Beatles alone. With countless other cover versions available, many of them also fantastic, one thing is clear: While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a stone cold classic that transcends any single ‘version’. It’s easy to see why George’s reputation as a songwriter skyrocketed after this album.

While the acoustic versions of this song are powerful and emotional in their tenderness, it seems fitting that the ‘rock’ version of this track was included on the album. For one, Eric Clapton’s soaring solos helpfully represent a guitar weeping. But as always, the greatest pleasure is hearing all four Beatles on the same track. Ringo’s drums lay a solid foundation while the chunky, almost grungy bass perfectly complements the guitar and piano. Paul also plays the organ, which again gives an appropriate emotional atmosphere for the bridge section whilst also keeping in line with the ‘rock’ atmosphere of the song. Despite being the longest ‘proper’ track on the album at nearly five minutes, While My Guitar Gently Weeps never drags, and each part feels just as vital and poignant as the next.

2018 vs 2009

Surprisingly, these two are almost identical, with no noticeable increase in sound quality. The 2018 version has the edge for arranging the stereo picture slightly better with the guitar solo closer to the front and centre.

50th Anniversary Extras

As I mentioned before, there are four versions of this song, the album version plus three demos. The most noticeable difference is in the lyrics of the final verse of each version, showing that some revision was done throughout the recording of this track. The Esher demo is a tad brisker than the subsequent versions of this track, coming in at around half the length of the final version.

Of the studio demos, the first is a previously unearthed run-through for Paul to familiarise himself with the chords on the organ. George only plays the acoustic guitar, so the track sounds very similar to the Anthology 3 version. Despite a little slip up near the beginning of the track where George has to explain something to a technician, the song resumes its poignancy once the duo return. Even the rough versions of this track sound better than some bands’ entire careers.

Lastly, there is Take 27, recorded after the master take, number 25. This version is naturally quite similar to the album track but ends abruptly when George tries a falsetto vocal à la Smokey Robinson and doesn’t quite pull it off. It’s still fun to hear this alternative take, however, as it features different guitar solos by Clapton.

1. Happiness is a Warm Gun

Is it really a surprise that Happiness is a Warm Gun takes the top spot? This is a progressive rock website after all, and Happiness is a Warm Gun is probably the most progressive track the group ever made; four disparate sections, rapidly fluctuating time signatures and bizarre lyrics make this one of the genre’s earliest ‘mini-epics’. But Happiness is a Warm Gun isn’t just a great prog song, it’s a transcendental piece that is sadly just as relevant now – if not more so – as it was in 1968.

Following hot on the heels of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, you’d be excused for thinking the Beatles would maybe throw some filler after one of their greatest rock performances and leave their ‘A’ game for later. Almost immediately the listener is confronted with some utterly bizarre imagery such as “the man in the crowd with the multicoloured mirrors on his hobnail boots” and “a soap impression of his wife which he ate and donated to the National Trust”. Shortly after, the music switches to a triplet feel and we hear the laments of a junkie who “needs a fix”. Then, out of nowhere, the band switch to a repeating pattern of 9/8 and 10/8 with the anthem “Mother Superior jump the gun”. Lastly, the band shifts into a satirical ’50s doo-wop section, repeating the song’s title with George and Paul giving backing vocals such as “bang, bang, shoot, shoot”. A spoken word element shakes up the track by shifting the time signature to 12/8 while Ringo keeps playing in 4/4. To this day, I’m unsure if this is a clever use of polyrhythms or Ringo just got confused about what to play, but it all worked out anyway. The climax of this song, whilst satirically cheesy, still feels appropriate for the rollercoaster ride it has just taken us on.

While the Beatles were never the most technical musicians, Happiness is a Warm Gun proved they had a hidden knack for playing with odd time signatures. All four sections shift the time signature in one way or another, but you’d never know it until you analysed the song. They never feel forced but necessary; the line about ‘a soap impression’ is a bit longer than the other lines, so warrants a 5/4 bar where the ‘multi-coloured’ line only needed 4/4. The ‘Mother Superior’ section is perhaps the most complex and technical Beatles part in the band’s history. Such rhythms had scarcely been heard in rock and roll previously, but Happiness is a Warm Gun would fling open the doors for many subsequent bands to continue experimenting with different time signatures.

But what about the meaning of the song? While the opening segment’s lyrics are a little impenetrable, the inspiration for the song is clear. The May 1968 edition of American Rifleman carried an article called “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. John thought the title was simultaneously fantastic and insane, noting that a ‘warm gun’ means you’ve just shot something. This one line clearly sparked a fascination with the kind of upside-down thinking someone would have to have to say something like that. Sadly that kind of thinking is still prevalent in the United States, and it doesn’t look like the NRA is going to budge any time soon. It feels like John has taken a bit of this craziness and tried to bottle it, presenting his findings in Happiness is a Warm Gun. As upset as I am at the author of that article, Warren W. Herlihy, for teaching his son to start using guns at age 7, I’m also thankful that he gave John the inspiration for one of the most intricate and brilliant Beatles songs of all time.

2018 vs 2009

In our final comparison, the 2018 version wins the day, rearranging the stereo picture so that the instruments aren’t so far apart; there are no drums in the left channel of the 2009 version which just feels wrong. While it was fun when the lead and backing vocals were in separate channels, the 2018 version simply mixes everything much more appropriately.

50th Anniversary Extras

The Esher demo of this track is recognisable as a shortened version of the demo found on Anthology 3, trimmed down to cut out John spewing an expletive when he plays the wrong chord. This embryonic version of the tune only features two of the four parts heard in the finished track as well as a bizarre “Yoko Ono, Oh No, Yoko Ono, Oh Yes” refrain that was rightfully cut. Firstly, it’s a terrible play on words, and secondly, as if John needed to profess his love for Yoko more than he already did and bring down one of his best tunes with it.

In total, the band took seventy takes to perfect their most complex song, with John complaining of a blistering finger (much like Ringo) by the end. In fact, the album version is made up of two takes, 53 and 65, split at 1:34. Both of these were from the second session the band played. For a complete performance from the first session, Take 19 has been included on this set as a ‘strong performance’, and indeed it is worthwhile hearing a raw version of the song without any additions. John also makes a hilarious lyrical blunder: “When I feel my finger on your arms”.

The Rest

Beyond the thirty album tracks, the 50th Anniversary boxset also has a heap of other tracks to entice the listener. Of the 27 Esher demos, eight were not included on the final album. These range from songs heard on Abbey RoadMean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam – to songs recorded by other artists – George’s Sour Milk Sea, eventually recorded by Jackie Lomax – to songs recorded by the Beatles themselves as part of their solo careers – Paul’s Junk and George’s Circles and Not Guilty. Of these tracks, a few are very weak – I was never really into Polythene Pam – but most betray the outstanding songwriting quality of the Beatles. Junk, in particular, with its soothing melody and simple lyric sticks in your head immediately and becomes familiar so quickly that it’ll feel like you’ve always known that song. One can imagine how much better The Beatles would be if Paul had swapped out his Wild Honey Pie for Junk. On the flip side, John’s Child of Nature took from the same inspiration as Paul’s Mother Nature’s Son, but it’s clear that the better track made it onto the album; John’s grating saccharine vocals and languid melody simply aren’t a match for Paul’s inspired themes and imagery.

Some of these tracks did make it through to the studio sessions but were eventually left off the album. The greatest loss is, of course, George’s Not Guilty, a great rock song with a strong melody and lyrics. Included on this set is a new extended mix of the version heard on Anthology 3, with over a minute of extra music. Another curiosity from Anthology 3 I’d always been interested in was What’s the New Mary Jane, with its quirky lyrics and unusual harmony. Much like King Crimson’s Moonchild from the following year, this was a short piece followed by a bunch of avant-garde sounds. The two versions, Esher and studio, heard on this set omit the avant-garde section, much to my delight, and only present the lyrical part. While it never really felt like a completed song, I always felt it was a shame it got left off any official recording. Along with You Know My Name (Look Up the Number), What’s the New Mary Jane was one of a few Beatles comedy rock songs consigned to obscurity.

The set is also careful to remind listeners that Lady Madonna and Hey Jude were released as singles in 1968 – backed with The Inner Light and Revolution respectively – and provides a few demos to complement your copy of Past Masters, possibly the most essential Beatles ‘album’ of them all. We hear a piano-and-drums-only version of Lady Madonna – great for karaoke – as well as a hilarious ‘backing vocals’ track which is actually more of the Beatles laughing at themselves whilst listening to the song. The less said about The Inner Light the better; the last of George’s ‘Mystic Beatle George’ period. The included demo for this track is simply the instrumental version of the song; did anybody really want to karaoke to this? The greatest pleasure, of course, is Take 1 of Hey Jude which, at 6:45, is nearly as long as the original and just as fun, pared-down and informal without the orchestra and featuring some jazzy piano riffs near the end.

Lastly, there are a few outtakes included that show the Beatles either playing a quick cover version to lift their spirits – e.g. Elvis’s (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care and Blue Moon – as well as embryonic versions of tunes they would release themselves later – such as a bizarre, psychedelic rendition of Let It Be – and tunes they had written themselves for others – such as Step Inside Love, recorded by Cilla Black the same year. Perhaps most notable is the full version of the impromptu Can You Take Me Back? whose abridged version appears as an addendum to Cry Baby Cry. All of these show the Beatles not taking their work too seriously and contradict the common assumption that relations between the band members were strenuous at this point.

Everything Else

With so much said about the contents of the CDs, I hope you’ll forgive me if I keep the summary of everything else brief. This is actually a 7-disc set, but technology sadly prevents me from being able to review the included Blu-ray disc, which enticingly features the mono version of the album, as well as a surround sound version. The mono is more interesting largely due to the fact that the mixes were sometimes wildly different from the more common stereo version. For example, the mono version of Helter Skelter is nearly a minute shorter than the stereo version while the pig effects in Piggies are completely different depending on which version you hear.

The set itself is immaculate; a large white hardback book aesthetically and practically holds the contents of this lavish set, including the original full-sized collage poster and glossy colour portrait photographs of the band. Just like the original set, the words “The BEATLES” are embossed and each set is individually numbered – mine is No. 148281. The book is protected by a clear plastic slipcover with the Beatles’ portraits in black and white, adding some tasteful imagery to the blank cover.

Then there are the 168 pages of liner notes which have to be some of the most in-depth I’ve ever read for a single album, containing introductions, background, track-by-track analysis, recording details, photos, demo scans, stories and discussion of the impact of the album at the time. All of the notes are expertly written and bursting with information and will undoubtedly bring new insight to even the most knowledgeable Beatles fan. It really feels as if the research team has tried to bring the listener as close to the recording studio as possible and understand the myriad of factors and circumstances that brought this crazy double album into existence.

Conclusion

While the price of this gargantuan set is certainly no joking matter, it is definitely an investment worth making if you really want to familiarise yourself with the Beatles’ weirdest and most shocking yet occasionally transcendental album. If you can’t quite make that kind of financial or temporal commitment – the full set is more than five hours long – consider purchasing the 3CD edition instead; the 2018 remixes are worth the price of admission alone as they almost always improve the listening experience, especially when you’re wearing headphones. The Esher demos, while not essential listening, do provide fascinating early acoustic editions that allow the listener to compare and contrast.

But if you can afford it, the three CDs of sessions coupled with the extensive notes give valuable insight into the recording process, with some studio takes arguably sounding better than the finished versions. It feels as if the only drawback is that you can’t pour through all of the tapes as the research team did and hear in real time how your favourite songs came together. Given that would likely have resulted in a much more costly set however, one can understand and appreciate the compromise made in the choice of demos presented. These complement the tracks heard on Anthology 3 well, with only a little overlap; those who already have that set don’t need to worry about diminished returns, and in fact, will find that the notes regularly mention the demos exclusive to Anthology 3 to describe the recording sessions.

The Beatles is not a perfect album by any stretch of the imagination and has its fair share of blunders. However, despite all its quirks, its power to resonate the listener remains strong to this day, just like every other Beatles album (except perhaps Beatles For Sale). Perhaps it’s the diversity and quality of the experimentation heard on The Beatles that sets the band apart from every other pop group before or since. The Beatles 50th Anniversary box set, far from leaving me overwhelmed, has left me in greater awe of this album than I ever have been. Rather than satiate my fascination, it has left me even hungrier for answers and understanding of the exceptional recordings on this album. The fascination with this bizarre 93-minute behemoth has never really left the rock world and may just be the reason why this album and its plain white cover have remained so popular to this day. If this box set helps to propagate that fascination then I’m all for it.

[All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where otherwise indicated.]

TRACK LISTING
CD 1: 2018 Stereo Mix

01. Back in the U.S.S.R. (2:43)
02. Dear Prudence (3:56)
03. Glass Onion (2:18)
04. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (3:08)
05. Wild Honey Pie (0:52)
06. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (3:14)
07. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison) (4:45)
08. Happiness Is a Warm Gun (2:47)
09. Martha My Dear (2:28)
10. I’m So Tired (2:03)
11. Blackbird (2:18)
12. Piggies (George Harrison) (2:04)
13. Rocky Raccoon (3:33)
14. Don’t Pass Me By (Richard Starkey) (3:51)
15. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (1:41)
16. I Will (1:46)
17. Julia (2:57)

Time – 46:22

CD 2: 2018 Stereo Mix
01.  Birthday  (2:42)
02.  Yer Blues  (4:01)
03.  Mother Nature’s Son  (2:48)
04.  Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey  (2:24)
05.  Sexy Sadie  (3:15)
06.  Helter Skelter  (4:30)
07.  Long, Long, Long (George Harrison) (3:08)
08. Revolution 1 (4:15)
09. Honey Pie (2:41)
10. Savoy Truffle (George Harrison) (2:54)
11. Cry Baby Cry (3:02)
12. Revolution 9 (8:15)
13. Good Night (3:14)

Time – 47:13

CD 3: Esher Demos
01.  Back in the U.S.S.R. (2:59)
02.  Dear Prudence (4:47)
03.  Glass Onion (1:55)
04.  Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (3:10)
05.  The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (2:40)
06.  While My Guitar Gently Weeps (2:41)
07.  Happiness Is a Warm Gun (1:55)
08.  I’m So Tired (3:10)
09.  Blackbird (2:34)
10.  Piggies (2:05)
11.  Rocky Raccoon (2:44)
12.  Julia (3:56)
13.  Yer Blues (3:31)
14.  Mother Nature’s Son (2:24)
15.  Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (3:03)
16.  Sexy Sadie (2:26)
17.  Revolution (4:06)
18.  Honey Pie (1:59)
19.  Cry Baby Cry (2:27)
20.  Sour Milk Sea (3:43)
21.  Junk (2:36)
22.  Child of Nature (2:37)
23.  Circles (2:16)
24.  Mean Mr. Mustard (2:05)
25.  Polythene Pam (1:26)
26.  Not Guilty (3:05)
27.  What’s the New Mary Jane (2:42)

Time – 75:06

CD 4: Sessions
01. Revolution 1 (take 18) (10:28)
02. A Beginning (take 4) / Don’t Pass Me By (take 7) (5:05)
03. Blackbird (take 28) (2:15)
04. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (unnumbered rehearsal) (2:43)
05. Good Nigh” (unnumbered rehearsal) (0:39)
06. Good Night (take 10 with a guitar part from take 5) (2:31)
07. Good Night (take 22) (3:46)
08. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (take 3) (2:54)
09. Revolution (unnumbered rehearsal) (2:16)
10. Revolution (take 14 / instrumental backing track) (3:25)
11. Cry Baby Cry (unnumbered rehearsal) (3:02)
12. Helter Skelter (first version / take 2) (12:53)

Time – 51:59

CD 5: Sessions
01. Sexy Sadie (take 3) (3:08)
02. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (acoustic version / take 2) (3:02)
03. Hey Jude (take 1) (6:44)
04. Saint Louis Blues (studio jam) (0:51)
05. Not Guilty (take 102) (4:28)
06. Mother Nature’s Son (take 15) (3:11)
07. Yer Blues (take 5 with guide vocal) (3:57)
08. What’s the New Mary Jane (take 1) (2:06)
09. Rocky Raccoon (take 8) (4:57)
10. Back in the U.S.S.R. (3:09)
11. Dear Prudence (vocal, guitar & drums) (3:59)
12. Let It Be (unnumbered rehearsal) (1:17)
13. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (third version / take 27) (3:17)
14. (You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care (studio jam) (0:42)
15. Helter Skelter (second version / take 17) (3:39)
16. Glass Onion (take 10) (2:12)

Time – 50:40

CD 6: Sessions
01. I Will (take 13) (2:20)
02. Blue Moon (studio jam) (1:11)
03. I Will (take 29) (0:26)
04. Step Inside Love (studio jam) (1:34)
05. Los Paranoias (studio jam) (3:58)
06. Can You Take Me Back? (take 1) (2:22)
07. Birthday (take 2 / instrumental backing track) (2:40)
08. Piggies (take 12 / instrumental backing track) (2:10)
09. Happiness Is a Warm Gun (take 19) (3:09)
10. Honey Pie (instrumental backing track) (2:43)
11. Savoy Truffle” (instrumental backing track) (2:56)
12. Martha My Dear (without brass & strings) (2:29)
13. Long, Long, Long (take 44) (2:54)
14. I’m So Tired (take 7) (2:29)
15. I’m So Tired (take 14) (2:17)
16. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (take 2) (3:12)
17. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (take 5) (2:03)
18. Julia (two rehearsals) (4:31)
19. The Inner Light (take 6 / instrumental backing track) (2:47)
20. Lady Madonna (take 2 / piano and drums) (2:25)
21. Lady Madonna (backing vocals from take 3) (0:54)
22. Across the Universe (take 6) (3:52)

Time –  55:24

Total Time – 326:44

Disc 7: Blu-ray audio
01. The Beatles PCM Stereo (2018 Stereo Mix) (93:33)
02. The Beatles DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (2018) (93:33)
03. The Beatles Dolby True HD 5.1 (2018) (93:33)
04. The Beatles Mono (2018 Direct Transfer of ‘The White Album’ Original Mono Mix) (92:28)

MUSICIANS
John Lennon – Lead, Harmony & Background Vocals, Acoustic, Lead, Rhythm & Bass Guitars, Piano, Hammond Organ, Harmonium, Mellotron, Harmonica, Saxophone Mouthpiece, Extra Drums (on Back in the U.S.S.R.), Assorted Percussion (Tambourine, Handclaps & Vocal Percussion), Tapes, Tape Loops & Sound Effects (Electronic & Home-made)
Paul McCartney – Lead, Harmony & Background vocals, Bass, Acoustic, Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Acoustic & Electric Pianos, Hammond Organ, Assorted Percussion (Timpani, Tambourine, Cowbell, Hand Shake Bell, Handclaps, Foot Taps & Vocal Percussion), Drums (on Back in the U.S.S.R., Dear Prudence, Wild Honey Pie and Martha My Dear), Recorder
George Harrison – Lead, Harmony & Background vocals, Lead, Rhythm, Acoustic & Bass Guitars, Hammond Organ (on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Savoy Truffle), Extra Drums (on Back in the U.S.S.R.) and Assorted Percussion (Tambourine, Handclaps & Vocal Percussion), Sound Effects
Ringo Starr – Drums & Assorted Percussion (Tambourine, Bongos, Cymbals, Maracas & Vocal Percussion), Piano & Sleigh Bell (on Don’t Pass Me By), Lead Vocals (on Don’t Pass Me By[ & Good Night), Backing Vocals (on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill)
~ Guest Musicians
Yoko Ono – Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals and Handclaps (on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Backing Vocals on Birthday, Speech, Tapes & Sound Effects (on Revolution 9)
Mal Evans – Backing Vocals and Handclaps (on Dear Prudence), Handclaps (on Birthday), Trumpet (on Helter Skelter)
Eric Clapton – Lead Guitar (on While My Guitar Gently Weeps)
Jack Fallon – Violin (on Don’t Pass Me By)
Pattie Harrison – backing Vocals (on Birthday)
Jackie Lomax – Backing Vocals & Handclaps (on Dear Prudence)
John McCartney – Backing Vocals & Handclaps (on Dear Prudence)
Maureen Starkey – Backing Vocals (on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill)
~ Session Musicians
Ted Barker – Trombone (on Martha My Dear)
Leon Calvert – Trumpet and Flugelhorn (on Martha My Dear)
Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lederman and Ronald Thomas – Violin (on Glass Onion)
Bernard Miller, Dennis McConnell, Lou Soufier and Les Maddox – Violin (on Martha My Dear)
Reginald Kilby – Cello on (Glass Onion & Martha My Dear)
Eldon Fox – Cello (on Glass Onion)
Frederick Alexander – Cello (on Martha My Dear)
Harry Klein – Saxophone on (Savoy Truffle & Honey Pie)
Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chest and Rex Morris – (Saxophone on Honey Pie)
Raymond Newman and David Smith – (Clarinet on Honey Pie)
Art Ellefson, Danny Moss and Derek Collins – (Tenor Sax on Savoy Truffle)
Ronnie Ross and Bernard George – Baritone Sax (on Savoy Truffle)
Alf Reece – Tuba (on Martha My Dear)
The Mike Sammes Singers – Backing Vocals (on Good Night)
Stanley Reynolds and Ronnie Hughes – (Trumpet on Martha My Dear)
Chris Shepard – Stumpf Fiddle( on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill)
Tony Tunstall – French Horn (on Martha My Dear)
John Underwood and Keith Cummings – Viola (on Glass Onion)
Leo Birnbaum and Henry Myerscough – Viola (on Martha My Dear)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Capitol
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date Of Release: 9th November 2018

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