A stopgap release for Christmas 1966, A Collection of Beatles Oldies was The Beatles’ first UK compilation.
The album contained sixteen songs recorded between 1963 and 1966. The only previously-unreleased song was ‘Bad Boy’, which had been recorded on 10 May 1965 for the Capitol Records album Beatles VI. It was included in the new compilation at the request of EMI as an impetus for fans to buy the album.
A Collection of Beatles Oldies was the first time the singles ‘From Me To You’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘We Can Work It Out’, and ‘Paperback Writer’ had appeared on a UK album.
The only songs on the album not to have been issued as single were ‘Yesterday’ – although it had been the title track of an EP issued on 4 March 1966 – and ‘Michelle’. Both songs had been number ones in other European countries and elsewhere.
The album was released in December 1966, four months after Revolver. At that time The Beatles had just begun working on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, so the compilation was an effort to maintain public interest in the group. There had been much speculation in the press that the band was breaking up, bolstered by John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s solo projects (the filming of How I Won The War and the film soundtrack The Family Way respectively), and the group’s decision to stop touring in August 1966.
All four Beatles were considerably angered when these first two album tracks [‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’] were snatched from under their noses to be released as a single. Lennon and McCartney considered these to be particularly powerful numbers, which they saw as sturdy cornerstones of their yet-to-be-named album. On EMI’s behalf George Martin had to push The Beatles for a new single. He argued that the record company was already most upset that a fresh album had not been delivered in time for Christmas, forcing the issue of a compilation entitled A Collection of Beatles Oldies, including ‘She Loves You’, ‘From Me To You’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. The Beatles disliked the timing of this oldies-but-goldies bundle. They would have preferred to get Sgt Pepper out first to show off their latest stuff before re-warming these early tracks.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
The Beatles had no involvement in A Collection of Beatles Oldies. EMI did, however, arrange new mixes of several of the songs, so that the album could be released in both mono and stereo.
Four mixing sessions, overseen by George Martin, Geoff Emerick, and Peter Bown, took place on 31 October, and 7, 8, and 10 November 1966, for the creation of new stereo mixes of ‘Paperback Writer’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Day Tripper’, and ‘We Can Work It Out’.
A new mix of ‘This Boy’ was also created in error on 10 November. This was due to a misunderstanding: during a telephone call from EMI’s headquarters at London’s Manchester Square, ‘Bad Boy’ was mistakenly called ‘This Boy’. The error was discovered too late, so the original stereo mix of ‘Bad Boy’ made on 10 May 1965 was used instead. ‘From Me To You’ was also not remixed for the album.
Two new mixes of ‘She Loves You’ were made on 8 November. The original two-track tapes no longer existed, so Emerick created a ‘mock stereo’ version by removing the treble frequencies from the left channel and the bass from the right.
The front cover of A Collection of Beatles Oldies showed a painting by artist David Christian, which had been commissioned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. It was in the colourfully psychedelic pop-art style which was fashionable at that time.
The rear cover showed a group photograph taken by Robert Whitaker at the Tokyo Hilton in early July 1966.
A Collection of Beatles Oldies was released in the United Kingdom on 9 December 1966. It was issued as Parlophone PMC 7016 (mono) and PCS 7016 (stereo).
The album peaked at number seven on the UK’s Record Retailer chart, which later befcame the official UK Albums Chart. In the Melody Maker sales chart it reached number four. In all it spent 34 weeks on the charts.
A Collection of Beatles Oldies was the first Beatles album to fail to reach number one. At the time Revolver was still selling strongly, and the top seller that Christmas was the soundtrack of The Sound Of Music.
The album was also issued in several European countries, and in 1968 in Australia where it reached number seven in the charts.
A Collection of Beatles Oldies was reissued on the budget label Music For Pleasure, and charted again on several occasions in the 1970s. It was, however, superseded in 1973 by the compilations 1962-1966 (Red Album) and 1967-1970 (Blue Album). It was finally deleted from The Beatles’ catalogue in 1987, at the time when their other albums were reissued on compact disc, and has since been unavailable.