Originally issued in two volumes in 1988, Past Masters collects all The Beatles’ various singles, b-sides, rarities and EP tracks not included on the original albums.
In the 1960s it was customary for groups to release standalone singles; indeed, it was considered bad form to issue songs which were already available elsewhere. As a result, The Beatles released a number of tracks on singles which were unavailable elsewhere.
This policy also extended to not issuing songs as singles once they had already appeared on albums. So, unlikely as it may sound today, no singles at all were lifted from With The Beatles, Beatles For Sale, Rubber Soul, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The Beatles (White Album). Other singles, such as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’, were either issued on the same day or before the album they also featured on.
When EMI sought to standardise The Beatles’ canon in 1987, their UK albums were issued worldwide. The following year the two Past Masters volumes were released; until Live At The BBC in 1994, and the Tony Sheridan recordings from the early 1960s, these CDs constituted all the officially-released Beatles songs.
The first Past Masters volume contained 13 tracks from The Beatles’ singles, including their b-sides. These included: the version of ‘Love Me Do’ with Ringo Starr on drums, which is different from the Please Please Me one; all four tracks from the Long Tall Sally EP; the US album track, ‘Bad Boy’, which was only released in the UK on the Christmas 1966 album A Collection Of Beatles Oldies; and German-language versions of ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.
The second volume included songs originally released between 1965 and 1970. These included the single versions of ‘Get Back’ and ‘Let It Be’, as well as the pre-Phil Spector version of ‘Across The Universe’ originally issued on the World Wildlife Fund’s 1969 charity LP No One’s Gonna Change Our World.
In April 2009 Apple/EMI announced that a remastered version of Past Masters would be released as a stereo double-CD set that September, as well as a monophonic version in the Mono Masters box set.