"The Beatles Anthology" sessions

Feb 11, 1994 - 1996 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Anthology 1 Official album.
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK
EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Friar Park Studio, Henley-on-Thames, UK

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It took 25 years for the Beatles to open their vault, and released outtakes of their work. Not that there had not been previous attempts. The Beatles Live At Abbey Road event in 1983 opened the Abbey Road Studios to tourists, and presented them with a visual history of The Beatles’ career, with outtakes and alternate mixes as the soundtrack. In 1984, EMI prepared the “Sessions” album which was ultimately shelved because they received a no-go from the ex-Beatles (only Paul McCartney seemed ok with it). Then, Neil Aspinall started working on a documentary named “The Long And Winding Road“.

All the work put on those projects was finally materialized as the “Beatles Anthology” project. In addition to selecting outtakes, alternate mixes and live versions from their past, the three surviving Beatles – Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – would also record some new material, taking some John Lennon’s demos as input.

Paul: It was actually when the business problems got solved. The first thing we started talking about after the dust had settled was maybe we could do something together, maybe we don’t have to live our lives completely separately from here on in. Just for the joy of getting together and doing something, Neil Aspinall at Apple said it could be an Anthology, the whole thing, CDs tracing the whole Beatles history.

George: Different ideas had been talked about, that we could do the background music or even write a new song or something.

Paul: I went off the idea of the three of us together.

Ringo: We took the easy route, which was to do some incidental music, because what else can we do? There were four Beatles and there are only three of us left. We were going to do some incidental music and just get there and play the instruments and see what happened.

Paul: But we never did get around to that. It just never felt like a good idea.

Ringo: Then we thought, well, why don’t we do some new music? And then we always hit the wall, and OK, Paul had a song, or George had a song, or I had a song, well that’s the three of us, why don’t the three of us go in and do this. And we kept hitting that wall because this is the Beatles, it’s not Paul, George, and Ringo.

Paul: As the thought of the three of us actually sitting down in a studio started to get nearer and nearer, I got cold feet about it. I thought, does the world need a three-quarter Beatle record? But what if John was on, the three of us and John, like a real new record? If only we could pull off the impossible, that would be more fun. A bigger challenge.

Ringo: So Paul asked Yoko if there was anything of John’s that never came out. Maybe we could work with it.

Paul: She was a little surprised to get a phone call from me because we’d often been a bit adversarial because of the business stuff. She said she had these three tracks, including Free As A Bird.

(Yoko Ono has revealed that it was actually George Harrison and Neil Aspinall who initially approached her with the idea to add new instrumentation and vocals to existing John Lennon demos.)

Paul: I went over to the place, the Dakota, sat up late just jawing and drinking tea and having fun and stuff. And she said I should play you the tapes. And she played us three songs: Grow Old With Me, Free As A Bird, and Real Love. So it was good. Really emotional. I’d never heard them before but she explained that they’re quite well known to Lennon fans as bootlegs. I said to Yoko, ‘Don’t impose too many conditions on us, it’s really difficult to do this, spiritually. We don’t know, we may hate each other after two hours in the studio and just walk out. So don’t put any conditions, it’s tough enough. If it doesn’t work out, you can veto it.’ When I told George and Ringo I’d agreed to that they were going, ‘What? What if we love it?’ It didn’t come to that, luckily.

George: This became the perfect vehicle because we always had a thing between the four of us that if anyone of us wasn’t in it, we weren’t going to get kind of Roger Waters and go out as the Beatles, so therefore the only other person who could be in it was John.

Paul: It seemed like we needed John and the more we thought of that the more exciting it became.

The “Beatles Anthology” project would keep the three ex-Beatles, Jeff Lynne (as producer on the new track), George Martin and Geoff Emerick (as producer / engineer on the historic tracks) and many others for more two years. It became a multi-media project with the release of a TV documentary, a three-volume set of double albums, and a book.

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.

George Martin, producer and project leader
The Beatles Anthology artwork, by Klaus Voormann

Read the interview of Paul McCartney about the Beatles Anthology in Club Sandwich, 1995

The experience of walking in the room with George, and then being with the three of them, in the same room for the first time in years and years, that was an indescribable experience. Then sitting down with the three Beatles and listening to all this wonderful chat about the old days and stuff, that was so marvelous to hear these stories from their mouths. The real thing. That was one of the most amazing things, to get involved and be in this little club with the Beatles.

Jeff Lynne – 2013 interview – From thedailybeast.com, November 1, 2023

Last updated on November 2, 2023

Related sessions

Recording "Real Love", "All For Love"

May 15-16, 1995 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Anthology 2

Recording "Now And Then"

Mar 20-21, 1995 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Now And Then / Love Me Do (Black 7" Vinyl)

Recording "Real Love", "Now And Then"

Feb 06-07, 1995 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Anthology 2

Recording "Free As A Bird"

Feb 11, 1994 and periodically till end of Feb • Songs recorded during this session appear on Anthology 1

Songs recorded


Free As A Bird

Feb 11, 1994 and periodically till end of FebRecording "Free As A Bird"


Grow Old With Me

Feb 11, 1994 and periodically till end of FebRecording "Free As A Bird"


Now And Then

Feb 11, 1994 and periodically till end of FebRecording "Free As A Bird"


Real Love

Feb 11, 1994 and periodically till end of FebRecording "Free As A Bird"


Baby What You Want Me To Do

Jun 23, 1994Jam session with George Harrison and Ringo Starr



Going further

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon

Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium

We owe a lot to Chip Madinger and Mark Easter for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details!

Eight Arms To Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium is the ultimate look at the careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr beyond the Beatles. Every aspect of their professional careers as solo artists is explored, from recording sessions, record releases and tours, to television, film and music videos, including everything in between. From their early film soundtrack work to the officially released retrospectives, all solo efforts by the four men are exhaustively examined.

As the paperback version is out of print, you can buy a PDF version on the authors' website

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