The best Beatles songs that aren't on the new box set.

Pop, jazz, and classical.
Sept. 8 2009 4:12 PM

Beatles for Sale

The missing songs that would have made the new box set a classic.

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5. The Beatles/EMI era also had plenty of live options. The longest Beatles concerts were in the half-hour range, so space isn't a factor. One of the best is a homecoming show in Liverpool from December 1963. The Beatles aren't global stars yet, but world domination is imminent and the concert feels like a valediction. Lennon introduces "Till There Was You" with a reference to the Cavern Club, where they had been regular giggers, and Paul McCartney's vocal is a veritable love note to the faithful. 

6. Global domination is in full evidence on a tape of their Sept. 2, 1964, show from Philadelphia on the band's first U.S. tour. No one would confuse the Beatles with the Sex Pistols, but their playing—at least as far as I can tell—never got more manic. George Harrison's solo on "Roll Over Beethoven" might be the high point.

7. Back in the studio in November 1965, we find one of the most illuminating Beatles artifacts: a 19-minute rehearsal of Rubber Soul's "Think for Yourself" that is by turns hilarious, slack-assed, and virtuosic. The band members rag on one another and there are some X-rated lyrics, but about halfway in, the group just nails the track, resulting in the pronouncement, "That was it." There's also an especially nasty take of "Run for Your Life" from the Rubber Soul sessions, with a deep Scouse vocal from Lennon. The album-concluding version is flat-out hateful; this is hateful and predatory.

8. Grail, baby. Take one of Sgt. Pepper's "A Day in the Life." Two snippets exist on bootleg, and Lennon's "sugar plum fairy" intro was used on Anthology. But what wouldn't a Beatles fan do to hear the entire track? So what if it breaks down? If it does break down. Who knows? And while the Pepper-era single "Strawberry Fields Forever" is represented in several incarnations on Anthology, that's a fraction of what's out there. Would 20 minutes of extra takes constitute overkill? To the casual fan, probably. But the casual fan who ponied up this kind of money could always stop listening at the end of the proper album.

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9. The reissued Abbey Road disc is a highlight of the box set—the stereo mix pops with new life. Including the 37th take of Harrison's "Something" would've have blown some minds when the familiar love song all of a sudden morphs into a bluesy behemoth of a track. It's practically heavy metal, a living, pulsating mass that could have doubled as an outro to a Black Sabbath song.

10. The Get Back sessions from early 1969 produced enough material to fill up dozens of bootleg CDs. A lot of it's terrible; a goodly amount of it is fascinating, though, and perfect for bonus material. A tape from Jan. 14 offers the only surviving Beatles performances of the McCartney original "Woman"—a song he gave to Peter and Gordon in 1965. A couple of weeks later, we get a Lennon-led romp through Buddy Holly's "Maybe Baby" that's downright gleeful. It was too late for rootsy rock 'n' roll camaraderie to save the group, but in the here and now, who wouldn't want some new Beatles treasures to go along with their old ones? SorryI'm not interested in the box set because it has all those additional goodies on itthat I've never heard. Who on earth is going to think that way? Madness!

Colin Fleming writes for The New Yorker, the Atlantic, and Rolling Stone.