Beatles' Past Masters: practical functionality vs. uninspired discontinuity

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Hombre, Sep 25, 2021.

  1. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Let's have a deep talk about the Past Masters, the beloved/infamous repository of non-album Beatles tracks.

    First of all, I'll admit that if this collection didn't exist, lots of fans would be claiming for it. So I'm not questioning the need or the utility of its existence. It certainly fulfills the expectative of completist fans who don't want to have the same tracks repeated here and there. Another option could have been the inclusion of those recordings as bonus tracks in albums from the same period; but that's another discussion. I'll just say that I respect the decision of not adding anything to such classic works, even if they did that for commercial reasons rather than historical purism.

    Now what I'd like to argue about the Past Masters is its use as listening experience and contextual representation of the remaining Beatles catalog. As an initial criticism, I think the inclusion of some tracks is redundant. The original single version of "Love Me Do" is not only much inferior to the definitive album version, but it also lacks of legitimity since the master tape no longer exist. The German versions of "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" are fun curiositities, but they add little to nothing, since the original versions are included as well; so they just serve to make a cult to historicism despite they disrupt the fluidity of the tracklist. Even the WWF version of "Across The Universe" is quite pointless, including amateurish female vocals. Yes, I'm aware that all the mentioned tracks were official releases, but in my opinion they should have been reserved to another kind of compilation, such as the Anthologies. The single versions of "Get Back" and "Let It Be" are a different case, since they are the hit recordings and have historical importance, even though variations from the same masters were included in the Let It Be album.

    Other point I want to make is the unbalanced and discontinuous nature of the tracklist. I mean, there we have all time classics such as "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Hey Jude" next to a bunch of obscure (if the term can be used for a Beatles song) B-sides. Here I'm not judging the quality of the songs, I'm just referring to the weirdness of that mixture. And there's also those jumps in time, particularly that from Paperback Writer/Rain to Lady Madonna/The Inner Light, almost two years, because the 1967 singles and EP were already included in the Magical Mystery Tour album. I think it's more natural to listen to all the hit singles together in chronological order, while the rarities may belong to another release for completist purposes.

    Thus, I can't avoid the messy feeling I get when I try to listen to the Past Masters as a proper artistic approach. Not to mention the unimaginative black and white album covers, as an honest declaration of what the collection was intended to be. I also have my criticism regarding the Red and Blue Albums and, especially, the "1" compilation. But at least their tracklists are much better contextualized. Still, the Past Masters compilation constitutes a coherent selection of tracks; so coherent to the point of making an incoherent listen.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  2. 905

    905 Senior Member

    St. Louis
    Jumping from June 1966 to March 1968 :(
  3. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Some Beatles fans will never be happy or satisfied with anything their supposed heroes ever did. It just seems like a tiring way to live.
  4. aphexj

    aphexj Sound mind & body

    Mono Masters is a more satisfying listen
  5. SJB

    SJB Beloved Parasitic Nuisance

    I don't think the Beatles and EMI intended Past Masters to be a unified, coherent artistic statement. It was a place to put the non-album songs. The plain covers and (mostly) chronological order are properly understated, announcing that this isn't a Beatles "album," it's a "collection." There are other ways they could have gathered the material, but this got the job done. And that job wasn't to re-create a lost classic, it was a plain cardboard box to hold all the extra songs.
  6. I have no issue with it. It’s acollecrion of singles plus their b sides (which do belong beside the A sides), EP’s, stray tracks. That was its purpose. I don’t get the problem. It was NEVER meant to be a ‘statement’ like some of their albums. Each single is an individual ‘short story’ (for lack of a better description).
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
  7. Well it’s not like they had a choice. They could have included the tracks from MMT on side 2 but then that would have been a cash grab after the album was added as canon.
  8. The only issue I have with the Red album is the lack of Revolver tracks and George’s If I needed Someone. It did make sense though as the two compilati0ns focused more on singles and album tracks that got play. The Blue album doesn’t have enough from the Abbey Road or The White Album IMHO.
  9. SJB

    SJB Beloved Parasitic Nuisance

    A review of Past Masters, when the collection first came out, pointed out that there would have been room for all the MMT tracks, and the four exclusive Yellow Submarine songs, if they had chosen to go that route. But EMI and the Beatles chose to leave those albums intact. As it is, the two Past Masters volumes were the right length for one LP each.

    There's always the Box:

  10. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    First, the Past Masters were not a Beatles invention. And second, this is not about being satisfied or dissatisfied, it's about the pros and cons of such approach.
    Marty T, Aftermath, Dovetail7 and 6 others like this.
  11. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Well, that's exactly the point I stated at the beginning of the OP. Then that approach has its pros and cons, and that's what I'm inviting to discuss in this thread.
    DmitriKaramazov, Marty T and 905 like this.
  12. Forum Resident

    New York
    One of the great things about streaming ! You can remove all the stuff on these cds
    and put them on the lps which came from the same sessions
  13. threeheadedmonkey

    threeheadedmonkey Forum Resident

    The Netherlands
    Past Masters Volume 2 is a contender for best Beatles album. Even if it is a compilation.
    GowG, Frozensoda, Davmoco and 19 others like this.
  14. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    No problem regarding what the collection was intended to be. I'm just saying that the fact of not being thought as an artistic statement led to a disappointing listening experience. Sometimes one must choose between pragmatism and creatitivy, can't get both.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
    905 likes this.
  15. Wildest cat from montana

    Wildest cat from montana Humble Reader

    ontario canada
    It is what it was always intended to be,; a collection of all not available tracks on the albums.
    Nothing more, nothing less.
    Jai guru deva.
  16. DK Pete

    DK Pete Forum Resident

    Levittown. NY
    While the posts of @wayneklein pretty much summarize my thoughts on this, I understand your points. But other than tack these songs onto the tail ends of their respective time period albums, I can’t see how else this could have been done. In terms of its’ discontinuity I always just accepted it for what it was…and while I don’t particularly like the German versions or that version of ATU, they had to be included somewhere, somehow. All that said, you make valid points in and of themselves. But how to have done this differently…
    BeatleBruceMayer, JosepZ, ARK and 6 others like this.
  17. applebonkerz

    applebonkerz Forum Resident

    I have no issues at all with Past Masters, I'm happy Apple actually did something right for a change (putting all of these tracks together into two albums.)
  18. Bern

    Bern JC4Me

    Allegan, Michigan
    That's the solution. Your Love Me Do master doesn't exist/inferior is a really weak argument. I'm sure there's at least one who probably has the inferior Love Me Do as their favorite of all time. There's always at least one out there.

    Tacking the songs on as bonus tracks for their respective album sessions is/was the answer.
  19. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    My issue with the Red and Blue Albums is that they include too much songs for what a summary of a band's career is expected to be. Indeed, they collect about 25% of the Beatles original catalog. No matter how great songs are, if you need all that material then you'd better get the original albums. I'm ok with the idea of mixing hit singles and essential album tracks, especially when we talk about such an important band. But, in my opinion, the selection should have been more reduced (i.e., a total amount of 40 tracks).

    On the other side, "1" misses too many essential songs to be considered a serious representation of the Beatles. So I think the ideal Beatles compilation hadn't been released yet.
    willy, Haristar, Hermes and 4 others like this.
  20. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    I enjoyed the Stereo more than the served the purpose of intention...
  21. jconsolmagno

    jconsolmagno Forum Resident

    What year were you born? Because growing up in the 90s, I always thought of Beatles Black PM, early singles, Beatles White PM, late singles

    And that's how I still distinguish them... it rounds up all the singles and puts them together. What more do you want?
  22. 905

    905 Senior Member

    St. Louis
    I very well know that, I'm just adding something that gets brought up a lot with these compilations.
    I'd still give them both five stars on Amazon.
  23. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Just my opinion. I'm also sure that some fans prefer versions of some Beatles songs released in the Anthologies, in comparison to the originally released versions. I just think the first single version of "Love Me Do" with Ringo on drums, which soon was replaced by the version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine, belongs to such category of curious material.
    Hermes, DK Pete and Bern like this.
  24. Michael Macrone

    Michael Macrone Je ne suis pas Macron

    San Francisco, CA
  25. Hombre

    Hombre Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I want to make it clear that I'm not against the existence of the Past Masters, because its purpose is highly understandable. I'd just like to have the same material presented in alternative ways, for fans who look for a more artistic approach.

    For instance, in the late '70s they released the Rarities (UK) compilation as a complement. So you were able to get all the essential singles together in the Red and Blue Albums, and the rest of non-album, relatively rare tracks in a different compilation. Not that I agree on how they did that, but I think it was a more creative, if less pragmatic, approach.
    Keith V, DK Pete and 905 like this.

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