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The Beatles Anthology is the name of a documentary series, a series of three albums and a book, all of which focus on the history of The Beatles.

Documentary series

Approximately coinciding with the release of the "Free as a Bird" single and Anthology 1 album (the first of three double-CD albums), The Beatles Anthology series of documentaries was broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdommarker and ABC television in the United Statesmarker in 1995.The Anthology series takes a form similar to that of the Anthology book, by being a series of first-person accounts by the Beatles themselves, with no linking, external "objective" narration. Footage in the Anthology series features voice-over recordings of all four Beatles to push the narrative of the story, with contributions from their producer, road manager and others. As well as telling their story through archival footage, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison appear in interview segments recorded exclusively for the series itself; John Lennon appears only in historic archival footage. The Beatles' wives past and present do not appear.

The series, which was made over five years of planning and production, is composed of numerous film clips and interviews that present a complete history of the band from the Beatles' own personal perspectives. The series was later released on VHS, laser disc and as a boxed set of five DVDs (Full-Screen only).

  • DVD 1 Episodes 1 & 2 (July '40 to February '64)
  • DVD 2 Episodes 3 & 4 (February '64 to August '65)
  • DVD 3 Episodes 5 & 6 (August '65 to June '67)
  • DVD 4 Episodes 7 & 8 (June '67 to The End)
  • DVD 5 Special Features (MPJ)

Air dates on ABC:

  • Sunday, November 19, 1995: 9-11 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 22, 1995: 9-11 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 23, 1995: 9-11 p.m.
In promoting the series during this time, ABC became known as "ABeatlesC" and several of the network's prime-time sitcoms replaced their regular opening credit themes with Beatles tracks


To accompany the Anthology series, three double music albums were released, each containing two CDs or three vinyl discs of mostly never-before-released Beatles material (the exceptions being the Tony Sheridan era material), although many of the tracks had appeared on bootlegs for many years prior).

Two days after the first television special in the series had aired, Anthology 1 was released to stores, and included music recorded by The Quarrymen, the famous Decca Records audition tapes, and various out-takes and demos from the band's first four albums. It also included the song "Lend Me Your Comb", omitted from the collection 'Live at the BBC', released the previous year (1994). The song "Free as a Bird" was included at the very start. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold in its first day of release, the most sales for an album in a single day ever. The Beatles' original drummer Pete Best, fired by the band in 1962 before they hit it big, received his first substantial Beatles royalties from this album, for the inclusion of early tracks on which he played.

On March 17, 1996, Anthology 2 was released. The second collection presented out-takes and demos from the Beatles' sessions for Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour. These included selected early demos and takes for Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever", previously available only to bootleg collectors. The new song "Real Love" — which, like "Free as a Bird", was based on an unfinished Lennon recording — was also included in the two-CD collection.

On October 28, 1996, Anthology 3 was released. The third collection featured out-takes and demos from The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be.

The three album covers, when laid side-by-side, become one long painted collage of various peeling posters and album covers representing the different stages of The Beatles' career. This was the work of Klaus Voormann, who also created the album cover for Revolver in 1966. The Anthology covers required Voormann to recreate elements of his cover for Revolver within the collage. During the music video for "Free as a Bird", the Anthology collage appears as posters on a shop window as the camera pans quickly across the street. The design also adorned the VHS, laserdisc and DVD releases, again to be properly encountered by laying the cases side-by-side. Upon the release of Anthology 3, HMV stores made available a cardboard sleeve designed to hold all three CD volumes of which each side of the sleeve make up half of the collage.


Cover of "The Beatles Anthology" paperback book
In October 2000, The Beatles Anthology book was released, which included interviews with all four band members and others involved, plus rare photos. Many of the interviews quoted are from those featured in the documentary films. The book is designed as a large-format hardback, with imaginative artwork throughout, and several visually impressive and colorful spreads featuring graphics relevant to the proceeding chronology, photographic arrays and a variety of text styles and layouts. The book went straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Hiroshima Sky

During the filming of The Beatles Anthology, Yoko Ono and McCartney recorded "an extreme avant-garde piece called 'Hiroshima Sky' consisting of an endless E-minor chord played by Linda on keyboards, Paul churning away on his double bass, Sean Lennon plus junior members of the McCartney family on whatever was to hand and the usual yelps and hollers from Ono." The tape has never been officially released but bootleg copies have been reported to circulate on the Internet. On 1 September 2007, a recording appeared on YouTube here.

Promotional items

Each of the three Anthology albums was accompanied by a promotional CD sampler sent to radio stations shortly before the official release dates. These CDs have since become highly sought collector's items. Even rarer is a vinyl version of the sampler for Volume 2, which was only sent to College radio stations and featured a different cover (though the contents were the same).

Promotional displays used in stores for each of the three album releases are also now fetching high prices amongst collectors.


The success of the Anthology albums was parodied by the release of the Rutles' Archaeology some months later. This album even included a spoof of "Free as a Bird", entitled "Don't Know Why." In Anthology style, the album included both outtakes from the original Rutles album and new material. Perhaps fittingly, delays in the release of the third volume of the Beatles' series ultimately meant that the Rutles' parody arrived in shops on the same day as its inspiration.

"Weird Al" Yankovic parodied The Beatles Anthologies in an AL-TV special. He said he had a copy of a fictional #17 (which he claimed wouldn't be available to the public for a while). He played for the audience a track of Paul McCartney brushing his teeth.

The Dana Carvey Show aired multiple interview parodies shortly after the broadcast, titled "Leftover Beatle Memories."


  1. The New York Times Best Seller List - October 22, 2000. From [1]

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