25 Years Ago: The Beatles’ ‘Past Masters’ Albums Released
EMI’s decision to overhaul the Beatles catalog in 1987, spurred by the CD revolution, was a long time coming. For more than 20 years the worldâs most popular bandâs albums were known one way to U.S. fans and another way to fans in Europe.
The Beatlesâ original U.K. output of LPs consisted of 12 albums; in America there are considerably more, since stray singles and EP songs were eventually gathered to make new Beatles records that were unavailable anywhere else.
So the standardization of the Beatlesâ albums (plus âMagical Mystery Tour,â originally a double-EP in the U.K., but fleshed out with singles to LP length in the U.S.) at the dawn of the CD age was one of the smartest things the music industry had ever done. But it posed a major problem: What to do with all those leftovers that never found their way on the original albums?
The âPast Mastersâ compilations â originally released as two volumes on March 7, 1988, but were repackaged as a two-disc set when the catalog was remastered in 2009 â offer the perfect solution: all 33 official leftovers gathered together. From the original 1962 single version of âLove Me Doâ featuring Ringo Starr on drums (the album version includes a studio drummer subbing for Starr, who plays tambourine) to 1970âs âYou Know My Name (Look Up the Number),â âLet It Beââs goofy B side, âPast Mastersâ is one of rockâs essential compilations. Itâs just as historic and important as every other Beatles album.
Besides, unless you track down old vinyl copies of the U.S. LPs (or purchase the two âCapitol Albumsâ box sets), your collection will be missing âI Want to Hold Your Hand,â âRainâ and âHey Jude,â among many other classic non-album tracks. âPast Mastersâ werenât a huge hit â âVolume Oneâ made it to No. 149 on the chart, âVolume Twoâ climbed to No. 121. But their significance within one of rockâs most treasured catalogs is immeasurable. They belong on the shelf next to âRevolverâ and âSgt. Pepperâs Lonely Hearts Club Band.â
Listen to the Beatles’ ‘Rain’