Beatles fans have long been familiar with boxed record sets. It all started in August, 1966 when Japan's Odeon label released The Beatles Story in a custom box, including an 18-page booklet and custom liner sleeves. Available in both red and black vinyl versions, it was reissued on the Apple label in 1969 and again in 1976.
On October 20, 1969 John and Yoko released their Wedding Album, a souvenir in sound and pictures of the couple's March 20th marriage in Gibraltar and honeymoon "Bed-In" at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. A single album was just one part of this elaborate package that included a reprint of their marriage license, a photo of a piece of wedding cake enclosed in a plastic bag, a postcard, a booklet of press clippings of the two events, a strip of pictures of the pair taken in a coin-operated photo booth and more. The entire assemblage came in a solid white cardboard box. The same, full-sized packaging was also used to house both the cassette and the eight-track tape editions of the album.
Then, in May 1970, the first British pressing of Let It Be (Apple PXS 1) came boxed with a slick, 160-page book that detailed the shooting of the group's planned television special "Get Back" (later retitled "Let It Be" for theatrical release). This limited edition set was also issued in Australia (Apple PXS 1), Canada (Apple SOAL 635 1), Germany (Apple Records), Italy (Apple Records), Japan (Apple AP-9009, with the first pressing on red vinyl), the Philippines, Venezuela and a few other countries. Complete details on this release can be found on our Let It Be Box Sets page.
George Harrison's first two major solo efforts were both issued as box sets. All Things Must Pass (Nov. 1970) included a large poster of a mystical looking Harrison, while The Concert For BanglaDesh (Dec. 1971) came with a beautiful, full-color scrapbook of the historic Madison Square Garden shows.
In January 1973, two pirated Beatles box sets appeared in the United States, Alpha Omega Volumes I & II: The Story Of The Beatles (Audio Tape Inc. ATRBH 3583). These four-LP collections were advertised on TV and radio stations in the Midwest and were sold by mail order. Instead of taking legal action, Capitol Records countered by putting out two official Beatles anthologies, The Beatles 1962-1966 (US: Apple SKBO 3403) and The Beatles 1967-1970 (US: Apple SKBO 3404). However, in March, a $15 million lawsuit was filed by manager Allen Klein on behalf of George Harrison, along with Capitol and Apple Records, against the manufacturers and distributors of the bootleg package, and against American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., who had been advertising it.
In the first week of November 1978, EMI Records announced plans for a "Beatles Gift Box" to be issued simultaneously in England and America. The package would consist of the Beatles' original twelve British studio albums plus an additional record, Beatles Rarities, made up of the singles that hadn't yet been included on their LPs. The thirteen discs, plus a composite poster of the group, would come encased in a durable blue cardboard box
The American set, titled The Beatles Collection, was delivered to record stores in mid-December 1978, just in time for Christmas. This release marked the first time Capitol Records had ever marketed the Beatles' recordings in their original British formats. The package was issued in a numbered, limited edition of 3,000 copies and sold out immediately.
The English version did not reach the shops until January 1979 due to problems at EMI's pressing plants. It was also not released in a limited quantity.
Suggested list price for the U.S. collection was $132.98, making it the most expensive commercial Beatles item up to that time. The British package carried a slightly cheaper price tag and was subsequently exported to America where it sold for as little as $70.
Because of the success of the British and American box sets, EMI subsidiaries in other countries began releasing their own compilations. Toshiba-EMI of Japan issued The Beatles Collection, first in a limited edition blue box set, and then later in a non-limited, cream-colored box. And in typical Japanese fashion, many of the sets included extra inserts, lyric sheets, booklets, posters and of course superior sounding vinyl pressings.
Australian Parlophone put together a domestic version of The Beatles Collection using the Australian editions of With The Beatles (Parlophone PCSO 3045) and Beatles For Sale (Parlophone PCSO 3062). Both bear cover art unique to Australia. This set also included Rarities and, because it was mastered by Australian Parlophone, She's A Woman, Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand and This Boy were all pressed in true stereo. Despite a $120 price tag, this set initially sold over 25,000 units, placing it squarely in Australia's Top 40.
Since the early 1970s, more than forty Beatles boxes have been issued worldwide on vinyl, not including at least six pirated ten-LP sets from Taiwan. There have been box sets of Beatles singles, Beatles EPs and the Beatles' mono LPs. Black vinyl and colored vinyl, numered and not numbered, retail and promotional, and so on. The Beatles E.P.s Collection from 1981 consists of the group's original thirteen British extended-play recordings plus a bonus record of Beatles tracks pressed in true stereo, none of which had been available in England in that form before at the time.
Prerecorded cassettes were also put out in boxed compilations. These tapes were sold in miniature plastic boxes, identical in style to the disc sets. In Japan, a full-size folder accompanied the tapes filled with all of the printed enclosures normally packaged with the records.
Toshiba-EMI outdid EMI's other branches with its Christmas 1981 release of The Complete Works Of The Beatles. This overwhelming set consisted of an astonishing eighty LPs by the Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Many of the Beatles albums were included in their British, American and German formats. The records came in eight cream-colored slip cases that sat on a two-shelf wooden stand, all part of the 190,900 yen price (about $885 in 1981 dollars). In the fall of 1982, this collection was updated to include the Beatles' Reel Music and Paul's Tug Of War.
In this section, we'll take a close look at the many Beatles boxes issued starting in the 1970s. The success of these handsomely decorated collections led many other rock artists to release their own packages. By the early 1980s, record stores were filled with $75-plus boxed compilations by the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Beach Boys and many others. And in the past decade, of course, hundreds of CD box sets have been released in all music categories. DVD packages are sure to follow.
Following is a list of all Beatles box sets issued on vinyl, complete with catalog numbers, track differences, packaging variations and release dates.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (November 1978 - EMI/Parlophone BC 13)
The same as the U.K. set except: With The Beatles and Beatles For Sale were issued in their unique Australian covers. The records were pressed in Australia with their original labels (orange Australian Parlophone and green Apple). Rarities was put out on the EMI label and the back cover said "Sampler Album - Not For Sale." The first 2,000 boxes were imported from England.
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand - Rarities version was in true stereo.
She's A Woman - Rarities version was in true stereo.
This Boy - Rarities version was in true stereo.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (April 1979 - EMI/Parlophone BC 13
The same as the first Australian set except: Rarities was issued on the orange Australian Parlophone label. Both the records and the boxes were manufactured in Australia. The new box had a lift-off top rather than one that turned down.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (early 1980 - EMI/Parlophone BC 13)
The same as the second Australian set except: the individual album titles were now printed on the back of the box. In early 198 1, this compilation was released on tape as a boxed set of thirteen cassettes. This package bore the same catalog number as the record set.
THE BEATLES BOX (March 1981 - World Record Club of Australia)
The same as the U.K. set except: the records were pressed on the orange Australian Parlophone label. This set was sold only by mail.
THE BEATLES SINGLES COLLECTION (December 6,1982 - EMI/Parlophone Records)
SIGHT & SOUND (Summer 1983 - EMI/Parlophone Records)
A box set that combined The Essential Beatles with the book The Beatles: In Their Own Words (London: Flash Books, 1976) by Miles.
The Nationalist Republic of China in the 70s and 80s was not a member of the International Copyright Tribunal, so most records manufactured there were pirated releases. These discs usually have inferior sound quality and were sold in thin paper covers. Song titles are written in Chinese on the record labels but in English on the jackets - misspellings are very common.
THE BEATLES FROM THE BEGINNING (early 1970s - HH 7001-10)
THE BEST OF THE BEATLES (early 1970s - KM 1006-1-10)
THE BEATLES GOLDEN ALBUM (late 1970s - Yung Feng Records)
A ten-disc set, with no individual album covers. The box had the Let It Be cover on the front.
The set contained:
THE BEATLES GOLDEN SPECIAL - VOLUME TWO (late 1970s)
THE BEATLES INDIVIDUAL GOLDEN ALBUM (mid-1970s - SB 1009 1/13)
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (December 1978 - EMI/Odeon Records)
The same as the U.K. set except: A Hard Day's Night was issued in its original French format as 4 Garcons Dans Le Vent. The records were pressed in France with their original labels (Odeon and Apple). Rarities was put out on EMI. The box was four inches thick, larger than any other edition, and the individual album titles were printed on the back. The Beatles (White Album) was listed as Back In The U.S.S.R.
20 ANS COLLECTIONS (October 1982 - EMI/Odeon Records)
THE BEATLES BOX (Fall 1986 - Pathe Marconi)
8-LP set, sold by mail order only, similiar to UK release.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (November 1978 - EMI/Odeon Records)
The same as the U.K. set except: With The Beatles, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (A Hard Day's Night), Beatles For Sale and Rubber Soul were issued on the Odeon label; the other albums were put out on Apple. For some unknown reason, Let It Be was manufactured in Sweden.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (November 1978 - EMI SBC 13)
The same as the U.K. set except: all records were pressed in Holland and were given new catalog numbers (OC 162-53163/176). Each copy of The Beatles (White Album) was individually numbered, the same as when it was first released. This package is slightly higher in quality than the original U.K. set.
ROCK 'N' ROLL (December 1981 - Music For Pleasure 54084)
All records were packaged in their reissue sleeves. The front -of the box had a color painting of the Beatles in concert from the finale of the motion picture "A Hard Day , s Night" (United Artists, 1964).
The set contained:
1-The Beatles Rock 'N' Roll Music-Volume l
2-The Beatles Rock 'N' Roll Music-Volume2
3-John Lennon Rock 'N' Roll
THE BEATLES' STORY (August l966 - Odeon OP 7553-4)
Similar to U.S. version but packed in a hinged box and issued with 18 page lyric booklet. Custom inner sleeves. Originally issued on both red and black vinyl versions. Reissued by Apple in September 1969, again on both red and black vinyl (AP-8676-7). A third issue was released on black vinyl only in June 1976 (Apple EAS 77007-8).
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (February l979 - Apple 5OO3l-44)
The same as the U.K. set except: all albums were issued on the Apple label. Each record was pressed specifically for this package and was given a new catalog number. Each LP came with a four-page, illustrated lyric book. Two large posters were also part of the set. The box set was issued in a numbered, limited edition. A set of 4 Beatle mirrors was included in a very limited number of copies. In July 1979, Capitol Records in America imported 5,000 sets for sale in the United States.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (December 1982 - EMI/Odeon EAS 66010-23)
The same as the first Japanese set except: this package was not a limited edition nor was it numbered. The box was also cream-colored instead of blue. This box set was reissued to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles' first album, Please Please Me.
In early 1981, Toshiba-EMI issued this collection on tape in a miniature blue box set of thirteen state-of-the-art cassettes. Each chromium dioxide tape came sealed and packed in foam rubber. A special folder containing the inserts from the record set accompanied the cassettes. Included were many full color photos of long out-of-print Japanese Beatles pressings.
THE BEATLES BOX (January 1981 - Odeon EAS 77011-18)
The same as the U.K. set except: this package contained a twenty-page lyric booklet (in both Japanese and English) and a twelve-page chronology of the group.
In 1981, Toshiba-EMI issued this collection on tape in a miniature wooden packing crate" box set of eight state-of-the-art cassettes (Toshiba-EMI 2R3-57168). Each chromium dioxide tape came sealed and packed in foam rubber. A special folder containing the inserts from the record set accompanied the cassettes.
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF THE BEATLES (Winter 1981 - Toshiba-EMI VMS 80)
A set of eighty albums (EAS series) by the Beatles, John Lennon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney, Paul and Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney and Wings, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The eighty records were housed in eight cream-colored slip cases and could be stored on a two-shelf, wooden stand that came as part of the whole package. In the summer of 1982, this collection was updated to include Reel Music and Paul's Tug Of War.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (1981 - EMI/Odeon EAS 30001/12)
12 EP set, issued in a generic blue box with the title on the front but no catalog number. Included the EAS versions of the twelve Japanese EP's.
THE BEATLES E.P.s COLLECTION (August 1982 - EMI/Odeon EAS 30013/26)
The same as the U.K. set except: all fifteen records were pressed on red vinyl as they were originally issued in Japan, and the two-record Magical Mystery Tour was in mono instead of stereo. For a worldwide list of the MMT EP releases, see our Magical Mystery Tour Collectors Page.
THE BEATLES SINGLES COLLECTION (March 1983 - EMI/Odeon EAS 17311/37)
The same as the 27-disc U.K. set, but with 24-page booklet.
THE BEATLES MONO COLLECTION (June 1986 - EMI/Odeon EAS 70130-8 / EAS 67157-8)
20th anniversary commemorative release, contains 11 mono releases, all on red vinyl. Limited edition of 1000. Individual LPs did not have Obi's. One of the most difficult Beatles box sets to find as many were split up and the records sold individually.
THE BEATLES EP COLLECTION (November 1983 - Capitol de Mexico Records)
A three-volume set. The records were pressed with their original labels (Capitol de Mexico or Apple) but were given new catalog numbers. The individual discs came in their own wrap-around picture sleeves and each volume was packed in a glossy, cardboard box with a full-color photo of the group on the front. It's possible this was a pirated set put together somewhere in the United States.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (Winter 1981 - EMI/Parlophone Records)
The same as the original Australian set except: Rarities was the U.S. box set version with I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You, not the U.K. version with Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand and Sie Liebt Dich found in all other packages. The box was colored light blue instead of the usual royal blue.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (November 1978 - EMI/Parlophone Records)
The same as the U.K. set except: The Beatles (White Album) was issued on Parlophone instead of Apple and Yellow Submarine was replaced by Hey Jude. Accompanying the records was a poster, songbook, and T-shirt.
THE BEATLES SINGLES COLLECTION 1962-1970: PRESENTACION EXCLUSIVA PARA COLECCIONISTAS (Winter 1977 - EMI/Odeon 04144)
A complete collection of the Beatles singles from Spain. All singles were issued on the Odeon label but were given new, consecutive catalog numbers. All discs were packed in unique, color picture sleeves. The singles were encased in a cardboard carrying case with full color pictures of the Beatles on the front and back. Also listed on both sides were the titles of the twenty records. This set was issued in a numbered, limited edition of 500 copies.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (December 1978 - EMI/Parlophone BC 13)
A set of the Beatles' twelve British studio albums, plus one additional record, Rarities, of selected tracks, many of which had never been issued on any U.K. LP before. All albums were pressed on their original labels (EMI/Parlophone or Apple) and with their original catalog numbers. All records were packaged in their original covers and with their original enclosures (Sgt. Pepper's cut-out sheet, The Beatles four glossies and one poster.) The LPs were encased in a blue, textured cardboard box with a fold-open top. The set's title and facsimiles of the Beatles autographs were embossed on the front of the box in gold lettering. The set contained:
Rarities was issued on the EMI/Parlophone label and came in a royal blue cover with the words "Sampler Record - Not For Sale" on the back. In December 1982, EMI put out a cassette edition of this collection (UK: EMI/Parlophone TCBS 13). The fourteen tapes came packed in a blue plastic, hinged carrying case.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION: THE BEATLES SINGLES 1962-1978 (summer 1979 - World Records)
This set of the Beatles' twenty-five British singles was compiled and sold by World Records, EMI's mail order division. It was never commercially released. The records were pressed on the EMI/Parlophone label and were packaged in their 1976 reissue picture sleeves. The singles were encased in a blue, textured cardboard box, identical in style to the Beatles album set. Also included was a four-page booklet detailing the history of the group.
THE BEATLES BOX (December 1980 - World Records SM701/8)
This eight-album package was compiled and sold by World Records, EMI's mail order division. It was never commercially released in the United Kingdom. The set consisted of 124 Beatles tracks arranged chronologically from Love Me Do, the group's first Parlophone single, to Her Majesty, the final cut on Abbey Road.
All albums were issued on the EMI/Parlophone label. The eight individual LPs were untitled. Each cover featured a previously unpublished color photo of the Beatles on the front and extensive liner notes detailing their career during the period represented by the album's songs on the back. The box was designed to look like a wooden shipping crate, carrying the words "From Liverpool" stenciled in black ink across the top, along with a small snapshot of the Beatles pasted across the front of the crate.
Across The Universe - (Version 2) produced by Phil Spector. All My Loving - begins with five taps on Ringo's "hi-hat" cymbal.
All You Need Is Love - the mono version.
And I Love Her - contains six bars of acoustic guitar in the fadeout instead of the usual four.
Baby You're A Rich Man - the true stereo version, previously found just on the German Magical Mystery Tour LP.
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill - appears as it does on The Beatles ("white album"), minus the opening guitar obbligato.
The End/Her Majesty - the pause between the two songs lasts for only five seconds. On Abbey Road, the time between tracks is fifteen seconds.
Get Back - the album version, produced by Phil Spector.
I'm Only Sleeping - the extremely rare version with the slightly delayed guitar solo, previously found just on the U.S. stereo eight-track tape edition of "Yesterday" And Today.
I Am The Walrus - the composite version put together by Capitol Records engineers John Palladino and George Irwin for the U.S. commercial Rarities.
I Feel Fine - the true stereo version that begins with tapping drum sticks, whispering, coughing and Ringo closing his "hi-hat" cymbal.
Let It Be (Version 2) "reproduced for disc" by Phil Spector.
Love Me Do - (Version 1) the rare one with Ringo on drums.
Penny Lane - the composite version from the U.S. commercial Rarities.
She's A Woman - the true stereo version previously available just in Australia and in Singapore/Malaysia/Hong Kong.
Strawberry Fields Forever - the true stereo version.
Thank You Girl - the original mono version without John's extra harmonica fills.
This Boy - the mono version.
JOHN LENNON (Summer 1981 - EMI JLB 8)
The success of these various box sets prompted EMI to issue a John Lennon compilation in the summer of 1981 in memory of John - eight John Lennon albums recorded with the Plastic Ono Band, Yoko Ono and Elephant's Memory. Although released in several countries, the packaging remained uniform. This set was first put out in the United Kingdom and was later sold in Japan (EMI/Odeon EAS 67161/9) and in Germany. All LPs were issued on the Apple label, packaged in their original covers. Imagine came with its original black-and-white poster. Also included in the set was a twenty-page, black-and-white booklet, "Liverpool Echo's Tribute To John Lennon," which was loaded with pictures and song lyrics. The albums were encased in a silver box that had a color photo of John on the front. The set's title and facsimile of John's autograph were also embossed on the front of the box while the LP and song titles were printed on the back.
The set contained:
EMI in Italy issued its own Lennon compilation, the John Lennon Anthology. This set consisted of all the albums in the British edition except for Shaved Fish, plus three singles made up of tracks not found on any of the seven LPs. A John Lennon decal was also enclosed. Unlike the other multi-record packages, these discs came in a pizza-style box. The front of the box featured the front cover of Live Peace In Toronto. Only 1,000 copies were made. In the late 1970s, a promotional set of five Paul McCartney and Wings albums was issued to radio stations in New Zealand by EMI/ Parlophone Records. The collection, titled Take Five, was made up of Band On The Run, Venus And Mars, London Town, Wings Greatest and Back To The Egg. The records came in a black box with the Wings logo on the front. Only 100 copies were pressed. Finally, a pirated thirteen-LP box set appeared in Taiwan around 1975 containing several solo albums each by John, Paul, George and Ringo.
THE BEATLES E.P.s COLLECTION (December 1981 - EMI BEP 14)
A complete collection of the Beatles' twelve original mono EPs, along with the two-record stereo Magical Mystery Tour set and a bonus EP containing four supposedly true stereo tracks. For a worldwide list of the MMT EP releases, see our Magical Mystery Tour Collectors Page.
All EPs were issued on the Parlophone label with their original catalog numbers.
All records were packaged in their original full-color, laminated covers and came complete with any original enclosures (Magical Mystery Tour's twenty-four-page story booklet with lyrics).
The EPs were encased in a blue, textured cardboard box with a fold-open top, identical in style to the Beatles album package. The set's title and facsimiles of the Beatles' autographs were embossed on the front of the box in gold lettering.
The set contained:
Baby You're A Rich Man - true stereo version, previously available just on the German Magical Mystery Tour and on the U.K. cassette tape edition of Magical Mystery Tour.
The Inner Light - the first-ever stereo release of this song.
She's A Woman - true stereo version, previously issued just in Australia/New Zealand and in Singapore/Malaysia/Hong Kong, and most recently included in World Records' The Beatles Box. However, this pressing also contained a fourbeat count-off by Paul McCartney that can't be found anywhere else.
This Boy - although listed as the true stereo version previously issued in Canada and Australia, this track was actually pressed here in "reprocessed" stereo.
THE BEATLES MONO COLLECTION (August 1982 - EMI/Parlophone BM 1)
Eleven album set of mono releases issued in a limited edition box set. Two U.S. record dealers (Ticket To Ryde Ltd. & Dutch East India Trading Co.) exclusively contracted with EMI to design, purchase and issue 2000 numbered sets. Each box included a certificate of authenticity. The same LPs were issued in Japan in 1986 on red vinyl, also in a limited edition box set.
THE BEATLES SINGLES COLLECTION (December 1982 - EMI/Parlophone BSC 1)
27 disc set
BEATLES 10TH ANNIVERSARY BOX SET 1964-1974 (1974 - Capitol Records)
17 LP set issued to celebrate the Beatles 10th anniversary with Capitol Records. Black box with gold foil art/print on one side. Used promary as an award for Capitol sales representatives in a contest for sales activity and as gifts to executives. The set did not include the LP Let It Be. This is the earliest issue of an authorized U.S. Beatles LP box set, and is considered the rarest of all issues worldwide.
BEATLES SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION (1974 - Capitol/Apple)
10 LP set. Includes Apple label copies of the following LPs: ST-2047, ST-2108, ST-2228, ST-2309, ST-2442, ST-2576, SMAS-2653, SMAL-2835, SO-383, and SW-385. Box is black with silver foil title print on one side.
THE BEATLES COLLECTION (November 1978 - Capitol/EMI BC 13)
The same as the U.K. set except: this release was issued in a numbered, limited edition of 3,000 copies. Rarities (Capitol SPRO 8969) was packaged in a paper sleeve.
For some unknown reason, Sie Liebt Dich and Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand were replaced with She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand on Rarities.
THE BEATLES: THE COLLECTION (September 1982 - Mobile Fidelity BC-1)
13 LP box set of half-speed mastered British titles. High quality black box with gold print. Each set is sequentially numbered inside the included 38 page booklet. Quantities were limited to 25,000.
BEATLES COLLECTION PLATINUM SERIES (1984)
18 LP set (although some sets have been verified factory sealed with only 16 or 17 LPs). Issued to promote the introduction of Capitol's ill fated commercial line of computer siftware. Box is silver with black print and features the print "Compliments of Capitol Records Inc.". The LPs are U.S. issues, and most likely the purple label or 1980's black label.
BEATLES DELUXE BOX SET (November 1988 - Capitol BBX1-91302)
14 LP set. Contains U.S. pressings of the original British catalog plus the double LP set Past Masters. Packaged in a black finished oak box with a roll-up opening and included a photo/info booklet. Sets are sequentially numbered to 6000 units with a small gold sticker adhered to the bottom of the box.
© Copyright 1990,1998 Mitch McGeary and William McCoy. Portions of this page are from the book, "Every Little Thing", copyright 1990 by Mitch McGeary and William McCoy. Updated for the web, 1998.
Additional information provided by Frank Daniels
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