That’s the only logical response to the release of Beatles 1+, the modestly-named collection available today in a host of audio, video and combined formats. By presenting a newly-remixed and remastered edition of the familiar Beatles 1 album with a collection of remarkably-restored short films and video clips for each song (numbering 27 for the standard editions and 50 for the deluxe editions), also in newly-mixed 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound, 1+ offers an extraordinary feast for the eyes and ears in equally extraordinary quality.
At the heart of this release are the 27 songs comprising Beatles 1, the 2000 compilation that became the United States’ best-selling album of the first decade of the 21st century. Tracing the arc of The Beatles’ story from its beginning to (nearly) its end with 1962’s “Love Me Do” through 1970’s “The Long and Winding Road,” 1 also conveniently encapsulated the story of pop music itself during its most tumultuous and most creative decade. The seismic shifts in culture brought on by The Beatles’ rise to fame are put into even sharper focus with this new release which pairs the 27 audio tracks on CD with a period video clip (on DVD or Blu-ray depending on one’s preference) for each song. (Note: these are not DVD-As or Blu-ray Audio Discs as some sites have erroneously claimed.)
These clips, many of which have circulated in collectors’ circles or been commercially released and some of which will be new to even diehards, were drawn from a variety of settings and sources. Some are live performances, some are specially-filmed music video precursors, some feature animation or still footage. The audio tracks vary, too. Clips are set to the original studio recordings, unique pre-recordings, live vocals, or live-and-studio hybrids. (Once the BBC instituted a rule against “miming,” or lip-synching, The Beatles turned to many creative solutions!) But what these short films have in common now is altogether stunning quality in audio and video that far surpasses any previous presentations.
The treats are many on the 1 DVD or BD. Paul McCartney provides commentary, and Ringo Starr provides an introduction, for “Penny Lane,” “Hello, Goodbye” and “Hey Jude,” and Ringo adds an additional introduction for “Get Back.” The film for “Hello,” directed by Paul, has the group in their Sgt. Pepper’s finery, and despite being filmed in a staid theatre setting, has flashes of the Beatles’ humor with Ringo’s size-shifting drum kit and the presence of grass skirt-clad hula dancers! For “Penny Lane,” The Beatles found themselves on horseback, and both Ringo and Paul comment on the drummer’s discomfort with the animals. The newly-restored, vivid colors jump out at the viewer on “Penny Lane” and “Paperback Writer,” just to name two, but what’s most thrilling is still seeing The Beatles in action. Whatever the setting, whether imaginative or mundane, the happy, easy camaraderie of the foursome always comes across. Cameos are plentiful in the 1 clips, too. The Beatles’ friend and roadie Mal Evans pops up in “Penny Lane,” and Cilla Black can be seen with Paul near the end of the “Lady Madonna” video. The Beatles’ wives are prominently featured in the “Something” clip.
Many clips are from vintage television broadcasts in the U.K. as well as the U.S., such as “Yesterday,” taken right from the Ed Sullivan Show, complete with its piped-in strings, or “Hey Jude” which aired in the U.K. on David Frost’s program and in the U.S. on The Smothers Brothers’. (Here, Paul sings live while the remaining three Fabs largely mime their playing.) Others are newly-made, like “Eight Days a Week” which utilizes wonderful color footage from the Fabs’ Shea Stadium show despite the fact that “Eight Days” wasn’t performed there. A new film for “Yellow Submarine” has been created from the animated film’s material. The clip of “Get Back” is culled from the footage of the Beatles’ famous rooftop concert directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who went on to direct the controversial Let It Be film. Lindsay-Hogg’s footage of the song “Let It Be” is presented in a reconstructed version of the clip used to promote the original single, while “The Long and Winding Road” is culled from Let It Be itself. The latter is a beautifully poignant and powerful coda to 1, naturally sans Phil Spector’s added orchestrations and featuring most prominently McCartney’s piano and vocal, and Billy Preston’s organ. The animated “Come Together” clip was made for the original 2000 release of 1 and makes its first commercial appearance here.
Those who purchase the expanded 1+ editions gain an extra 23 videos on a second DVD or BD. Many of the songs on this 1+ disc are unique (including “Please Please Me,” “Twist and Shout,” “Words of Love,” “Baby It’s You,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”) and others are alternate, additional clips of songs also featured on 1 (“Day Tripper,” “Paperback Writer,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Hey Jude,” “Get Back”). For this disc, Ringo introduces from his computer and Paul comments upon “Strawberry Fields.”
As on the main 1 disc, these videos are a time capsule, fascinatingly reflecting and even challenging the mores of the era. For director Joe McGrath (Casino Royale)’s film of “I Feel Fine,” The Beatles were seen eating fish and chips with their hands. Well, this was simply too gauche for the day, so it was shelved by Brian Epstein and replaced with an alternate version also shot by McGrath at Twickenham Studios and included on the 1 disc. All told, the clips on this disc are as illuminating as those on the core disc, making the full package an essential one. “Day Tripper” gets two additional clips here. One is drawn from Granada Television’s all-star Music of Lennon and McCartney special, which featured the Fabs joined by artists as diverse as Cilla Black, Lulu, Henry Mancini, Esther Phillips and Peter Sellers. John, Paul and George and Ringo mime their way through the song after an all-too-brief introduction by some happily frugging “birds”! (Perhaps the entire Lennon and McCartney tribute special will be unveiled on DVD and BD one day…!)
More of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s work behind the camera is found on the 1+ disc on songs including “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.” On the former, Paul’s chipped front tooth is clearly visible; two versions of “Rain” are featured (one shot in the vibrant foliage of Chiswick Park and another at Abbey Road). The alternate film of the spirited, Macca-directed “Hello Goodbye” here is one of the most enjoyable, with a limber John doing the Twist as the boys dance up a storm. As the years passed by, the films got more and more forward-thinking, as epitomized by “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life.” “A Day,” with its impressionistic mélange of recording studio footage and dark-hued surrealism, is one of the best clips on either disc of this set. (Watch for the Gilmmer Twins’ quick cameos!)
The Beatles’ latter-day projects are represented on 1+. “Hey Bulldog,” one of the few films to feature footage of the band actually recording a final track in the studio, was re-edited and assembled for the 1999 restoration of the Yellow Submarine movie. “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” both originally shot by Lindsay-Hogg, were re-edited for 2003’s Let It Be…Naked. (The latter has video from the rooftop concert synced to audio culled from both performances on the Savile Row roof.) “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were, of course, made in conjunction with The Beatles’ Anthology. “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows” was made for Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE.
The new stereo and surround mixes for Beatles 1+ (as well as a few mono remixes including the first three songs on the CD) have been produced by Giles Martin and mixed by Martin and Sam Okell at Abbey Road. These remixes – faithful yet audibly different – offer a chance to hear The Beatles’ catalogue anew with fresh details revealed; the 5.1 mixes are an intriguing alternative if somewhat on the conservative side. Still, it’s a thrill to hear these, and moreover, they exist to supplement rather than replace the original mixes. One hopes that this will open the door for a full 5.1 remix of The Beatles’ complete studio recordings on a Blu-ray or DVD-Audio format in the future. The audio upgrades are matched if not exceeded by the exemplary video restoration work by the team headed by Mark Bonnici. A customizable jukebox feature in which the viewer can sequence the videos in any preferred order is a special feature on the discs.
The 1-CD/2-DVD or BD edition of Beatles 1+ is beautifully slipcased in a hardcover, full-color book of over 120 pages. This book contains Mark Ellen’s introductory notes about the videos and Sir George Martin’s original 2000 introduction to the music, and most happily, full track-by-track liner notes with two pages for each song. Copiously illustrated with a photograph for every song/video, full credits are included and background is shared both on the original recording and the video clip. The book is a must-read and an essential companion to the CD and DVD/BD programs.
Rare are the chances to explore the music of The Beatles in a new way; Beatles 1+ offers that opportunity with its remarkable treasure trove of music and video. This set makes it abundantly clear that, decades later, John, Paul, George and Ringo still have the power to excite and inspire.
- Beatles 1: 1 CD/1 DVD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1: 1 CD/1 BD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1: 1 CD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1: 1 BD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1: 1 DVD (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1+: 1 CD/2 BDs (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Beatles 1+: 1 CD/2 DVDs (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)