In one of his greatest flourishes, Ian MacDonald likened the Beatles’ creative growth to the flowering of a desiduous plant whereby the band, as in nature, regularly and beautifully renewed itself; he contrasts this with an industrial model, which demonstrates improvement by virtue of increased sales volume. In spite of its non-chronological sequencing, no other EMI Lp issued during the band’s lifetime illustrates this point more vividly than A Collection of Beatles Oldies But Goldies.
Correctly sensing the era of lovable moptoppery drawing to a close and there being no other product for stocking-stuffing to hand, Parlophone dropped the first British Beatles Best Of in time for Christmas ’66. And so with a generously appointed 16 tracks totalling nearly 40 minutes and the first Lp appearance of seven songs previously available only as singles (here, re-mixed for stereo), Oldies But Goldies, almost despite its cynical conception, crackles with life and represented good value for your Xmas £sd. Interestingly, not all extant EMI Beatles 7″s were included: début single “Love Me Do” (1962), whose rudimentary tweeness might’ve mildly embarrassed the band at this point, was dropped.
Sleeved with an inappropriate David Christian illustration more suited to The New Vaudeville Band and given a deliberately hectoring, trite title, the album charts an incredible three-year ride from warm but simple inanities like “From Me To You” (1963) to intricately-produced clever, clever social comment such as “Paperback Writer” (1966). A greater raison d’être differential exists nowhere else in pop.
To the list of Beatles’ justly lauded popular music innovations (in-house writing [Lennon & McCartney], sampling [“Revolution #9”], feedback [“I Feel Fine”], cross-cultural pollination [“Norwegian Wood”, et al.], inner sleeve decoration/printed lyrics [Sgt. Pepper], studio-bound existence [from late 1966 onward], etc., etc., etc.), you may add the dubious one of the perfunctorily appended bonus track in the form of “Bad Boy”, a piece of “pressured hackwork” according to MacDonald, which was heretofore unreleased in the UK making Oldies just that much more requisite for completists*. No masterpiece, it describes a juvenile miscreant who “worries his teacher, till at night she’s ready to poop“. Seriously, imagine having to sing that.
Robert Whittaker’s [sic] jade-enhanced rear cover photograph was taken on 30th June in the band’s hotel room during the 1966 Japanese tour. Note the large doodle just above McCartney’s head. It might just be an inchoate version of this or something similar.
My £1 thrift store purchased copy is a 1973 fourth pressing (black and grey label, two EMI box logos), so no big shakes money-wise.
*”Bad Boy” was not entirely unreleased however, having appeared 18 months earlier on the US amalgam Beatles VI.