The Beatles Anthology is the name of a television documentary, a three-volume set of double albums, and a book focusing on the history of the Beatles. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr all participated in the making and approval of the works, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the Anthology project, while John Lennon had archival interviews.
To accompany the Anthology series, three albums were issued, each containing two CDs or three vinyl LPs of mostly never-before-released Beatles material (the exceptions being the Tony Sheridan-era material), although many of the tracks had appeared on bootlegs for many years prior.
Two days after the first television special in the series had aired, Anthology 1 was released to stores, and included music recorded by the Quarrymen, the famous Decca Records audition tapes, and various out-takes and demos from the band’s first four albums. It also included the song “Lend Me Your Comb”, omitted from the collection Live at the BBC, released the previous year (1994). The song “Free as a Bird” was included at the very start. 450,000 copies of Anthology 1 were sold in its first day of release, the most sales for an album in a single day ever. The band’s first drummer Pete Best, replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962 before the Beatles recorded professionally for EMI, received his first substantial Beatles royalties from this album, for the inclusion of early demo tracks on which he played.
Anthology 2 was released on 17 March 1996. The second collection presented out-takes and demos from the Beatles’ sessions for Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Magical Mystery Tour. These included selected early demos and takes for Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever”, previously available only to bootleg collectors. The new song “Real Love”which, like “Free as a Bird”, was based on an unfinished Lennon recording, was also included in the two-CD collection.
Anthology 3 was released on 28 October 1996. The third collection featured out-takes and demos from The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be as well as several songs from Harrison and McCartney which later became post-Beatle tracks.