How To Start A Basic Beatles Collection

A "How To" guide to getting the essential albums

The Beatles Remastered Box Set
The Beatles Remastered vinyl box set containing every song the band officially released. Apple Corps Ltd.

So, you want to have a basic but representative Beatles collection but don’t really know where to start?

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to go out and buy The Beatles re-mastered box sets in their entirety (available either on CD or on vinyl – and which would give you every song they ever officially released) there are a couple of ways of looking at this.

We put out the question “What makes a good, basic Beatle collection?” to a couple of Beatle-related internet discussion boards.

Using the feedback we received from real fans here’s a bit of a guide to help you get started.

One of the more innovative suggestions was to use the broad musical eras that The Beatles worked their way through as your starting point. This idea groups their output thematically into the different styles the band adopted and championed as they moved through their career. Depending on what “sound” of Beatle pop or rock you like the most you may wish to start your collection in this way. The four main themes or sound eras are:

1.  The “early rock” sound (Please Please Me; With the Beatles; and A Hard Day’s Night)

2. The “folksy/country rock” sound that’s a bit different and more developed (Help!; Rubber Soul; and Revolver)

3. The “psychedelic rock” period (Revolver again as it's a bit of a mix of the previous period and psychedelia; Sgt. Pepper; Yellow Submarine; and Magical Mystery Tour)

4. The “rock/blues” sound (The White Album; Abbey Road; and Let It Be)

After figuring out which of those broad periods most appeals to you, just buy that era and enjoy!

Some thought that The White Album is an absolute must-buy either way because it covers SO much of each of the four styles mentioned above. They’d maintain that The White Album belongs in its very own category because it has everything: psychedelic, stripped-down acoustic, blues, folk/rock, avant-garde, hard rock...the list goes on.

Next tack to take would be to go out to buy a couple of the strongest albums across all genres, the best representative albums from each period that will give you a great overview of all.

Our list so far: A Hard Day's Night; Rubber Soul; Revolver; Sgt Pepper; and Abbey Road. Then, if you still have a couple of dollars to spare, I’d be suggesting the addition of Past Masters Vol.1 and Past Masters Vol.2. These will give you some great additional singles which never appeared on LPs, plus some alternate versions and rarities. These seven discs would give you a terrific slice of The Beatles output and any of those albums would be an asset in any serious record collection.

Of course in this era of digital downloads you’re not limited to having to buy entire albums. For a really representative collection you can now pick and choose individual songs from across their 217 song core catalogue of officially released songs….so that is a whole other approach.

One thing not to discount with all of this is getting hold of the Beatle movies. They are pretty essential as well as they give more information on the band, their personalities, humor, and of course great songs. The picks would be A Hard Day’s Night; Help! and Magical Mystery Tour.

Sadly the Let It Be film is still to be officially released by Apple....Maybe one day soon it will see the light of day in a re-mastered form. Yellow Submarine has some great original songs of course but it is a fantasy cartoon which The Beatles themselves didn’t have all that much to with creatively.  

Finally, if you’re on a REALLY tight budget then The Beatles 1 on CD or vinyl would be a great single disc to have. It contains 27 tracks – all of which reached Number 1 on the charts. It will expose you to a lot of the music and at a good price. There’s also the recent release of The Beatles 1+ two DVD or BluRay set to consider if you also want the visuals for each hit song, and all re-mastered to boot. That said, The Beatles 1 has been criticized for NOT being representative enough as The Beatles were so much more than just their Number 1 hits….

I hope this gives you some hints as what to buy to start a good, basic Beatle collection.