Released in November 1995, Anthology 1 was the first part of The Beatles’ three-volume collection of outtakes, rarities and live performances that accompanied the television series The Beatles Anthology.‘Free As A Bird’.
The earliest recordings on the album are by The Quarrymen, the skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll band which later became The Beatles. Among them are the only officially released performances by Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best, The Beatles’ early bassist and drummer respectively.
In addition to the music, Anthology 1 contains interview snippets from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and manager Brian Epstein, comedy skits from the Morecambe and Wise television show Two Of A Kind, and studio speech.
The Anthology producer and project leader was George Martin. From 22 May 1995 he began re-listening and mixing tracks from The Beatles’ archives.
I am trying to tell the story of the Beatles lives in music, from the moment they met to the moment they split up in 1970. I have listened to everything we ever recorded together. Every take of every song. every track of every song, virtually everything that was ever committed to tape and labelled “Beatles”. I have heard about 600 items in all.
Additional research and sleevenotes were by renowned Beatles scholar and author Mark Lewisohn, who had collaborated with EMI and Apple on a number of other projects.
Voormann came up with an idea to paint The Beatles’ posters, photographs and album artwork with the effect of peeling layers, in a broad chronological order from left to right, charting the progression and development of The Beatles.
Anthology 1 featured the first third of the artwork. Its centrepiece was an early image The Beatles which was torn to omit Pete Best, showing Ringo Starr instead. Best used the missing portion on the cover of his 2008 album Haymans Green.
Anthology 1 was issued as a double CD and triple vinyl collection. The worldwide release date was 21 November 1995.
The album was a global commercial success. It became the first Beatles album to enter the US Billboard 200 chart at number one, with 855,473 copies sold. It remained at the top of the chart for three weeks, and was certified platinum in America after six weeks.
There’s no way round it, Anthology’s been good to us. I mean, shit! It’s thirty years later and we’re more successful than ever! And it means I can get back to just recording, playing without any pressure.
I’m working on a new album right now, which won’t be released until 1997 because of Anthology, which suits me fine. I’m enjoying just making music without all the farting. I’m working to my own deadlines. I’ve even been working with my old Beatles buddy, Ringo. We got together again, he came down and did a bit of drumming with me… and it felt good. I fit together with him like an old glove. Oh, he’s gonna love me calling him an old glove!
Q magazine, October 1996
Anthology 1 also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In the United Kingdom the album stalled at number two, behind Robson and Jerome’s eponymous debut album.
The three Anthology albums were made available as digital downloads on the iTunes Store on 14 June 2011.