Originally released in 1973, the so-called Red Album brought together 26 highlights from The Beatles’ back catalogue, from their earliest EMI recordings to Revolver.

The albums were produced in response to a bootleg compilation titled Alpha Omega, which had been produced without authorisation in 1972. The Beatles 1962-1966 and its sister album 1967-1970 were the first Beatles compilations following the group’s split in 1970.

The tracklisting for both collections was compiled by Allen Klein, and were approved by the former members of The Beatles. No cover versions were included, and all the songs on the Red Album were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Alpha-Omega album artworkI didn’t want lousy versions going out, I wanted them to be as was. And I asked Capitol/EMI, or EMI/Capitol whichever, please ask George Martin would he take care of this, so at least he knows what to do. I didn’t want some strange guy, you know, making dubbed versions of it and putting it out, because of the versions that were going out [on other compilations] the reissues were pretty poor. I hadn’t even listened to them, because I just presumed they’d take the tape as we made it and make a master and put it out again, but they didn’t, they’d been screwing around with a few of the early ones. I didn’t know that until it was too late. So on that last package where they had Beatles 60… different periods – that one. I made sure. The Red and The Blue, that one. I made sure George Martin was there and I made sure they put that picture which I got Linda [sic] to take of the same pose as their very first album over the Abbey Road… No what is it that… EMI office in some other place, some square? Manchester Square. So I was involved in that respect, in that package making sure that the cover was what I wanted and that the sound was done by George Martin. So I don’t mind that one. Checked the remix after he’d done it, it was as good as you could get out of whatever mono recording we did then.
John Lennon, 1980
The Lennon Tapes, Andy Peebles

Cover artwork

The front cover of 1962-1966 featured a photograph by Angus McBean taken during the session for The Beatles’ debut UK album Please Please Me. McBean photographed the group as they looked down from the stairwell at EMI House in Manchester Square, London.

In 1969 McBean was asked to recreate the shoot, with The Beatles in the same position. The resulting photograph was intended for the unreleased Get Back album, which was later reworked by Phil Spector and released as Let It Be.

The 1969 photograph was used on the back cover of 1962-1966, and on the front of 1967-1970. The gatefold covers of both albums were adorned with a photograph of The Beatles and fans taken during the ‘Mad Day’ in London on 28 July 1968.

The Red and Blue albums were reissued in 1993 on coloured vinyl, with an extra insert of photographs.

International variations

Different pressings in the United States and United Kingdom led to variations in the mixes and performances used. The Capitol Records version tended to use mixes and performances originally heard on The Beatles’ US albums, such as the version of ‘Help!’ featuring a James Bond-style introduction.

In the UK, all songs on the Red Album were in stereo, with the exception of ‘Love Me Do’. In the US five songs were in mono: ‘Love Me Do’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘I Feel Fine’, and ‘Ticket To Ride’.

Chart success

The Beatles 1962-1966 was released in the United States on 2 April 1973. It topped the Cashbox chart, but peaked at number three on the Billboard chart. The Blue Album (1967-1970) did reach number one on Billboard, however.

In the United Kingdom the Red Album was issued on 19 April 1973, and reached number three.

Remastered versions of the Red and Blue albums were reissued on 18 October 2010 (19 October in North America) as two-CD sets. The reissues include expanded booklets with new essays by Bill Flanagan, and extra photographs of The Beatles.

2023 reissues

The 1962-1966 compilation and its 1967-1970 counterpart were reissued on 10 November 2023.

The albums were expanded and remixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos. The Red album contained an additional 12 songs across two CDs or three vinyl discs: ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Twist And Shout’, ‘This Boy’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’, ‘You Can’t Do That’, ‘If I Needed Someone’, ‘Taxman’, ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’.

The Blue album contained nine more songs across two CDs and three vinyl discs: ‘Within You Without You’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Glass Onion’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Hey Bulldog’, ‘Oh! Darling’, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, ‘I Me Mine’, and ‘Now And Then’.

The albums were also issued in 4xCD and 6xLP slipcase sets. The Beatles’ official store had exclusive red and blue vinyl editions.

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