The Beatles – 50th Anniversary Box Sets

The spines of 4 box sets by The Beatles, for Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be.

Over the past few years, The Beatles have released 4 big box sets celebrating the 50th anniversary of some of their classic albums – Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Be – each containing a lot of fascinating extra material. Smaller and cheaper box sets were also available with fewer tracks, but I decided to buy the biggest super deluxe sets with everything in.

I had mentioned the first few sets in previous posts to some degree or another. But as they’re all broadly similar in various respects, and now they’ve just released the box set for their final album Let It Be, I thought I would take the opportunity to do a combined summary review for all of them. That way, it keeps everything together, enables some comparisons to be made between the sets, and has allowed me to take clearer photos with my new iPhone (you can click the images to see larger versions). You can also still watch the unboxing videos I posted for the Sgt Pepper & White Album box sets.

The Packages

All of the box sets come with a book, and several discs in cardboard sleeves, but they’re all packaged in slightly different ways.

Sgt Pepper comes in an LP-sized box with a lenticular cover, giving the colourful cover image of all the different people a 3D-type effect, as you can tilt it from side to side to see it change slightly. On the back of the box there’s an overview of what’s on the discs in the set, although most of the text is black on a red background, making it very hard to read (which also occurs on some of the disc sleeves).

When you take off the outer sleeve, the inner box is a large version of an EMI tape case with notes scribbled on it. Inside that box is an LP sized cardboard sleeve housing each of the discs, a big red hardback book, a poster of the band in their Sgt Pepper costumes, a copy of the poster that inspired Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite, and a copy of the original card insert from the album with cut out figures.

The White Album consists of a huge white book, encased in a big transparent sleeve that slides off. The sleeve has portrait photos of the 4 Beatles on the front, and the full track listing on the back. It can therefore only be read when the sleeve is over the book, so the text shows up against the plain white back cover.

The cover of the book itself just has the band’s name in embossed, tactile white text near the bottom, which I can just about see if I hold it to the light correctly, plus a unique number stamped in the right corner (142,005 in my case, as I didn’t get one of the earlier releases). When the original album first came out, the unique number was printed on the “first few million or so copies”, according to the text in the book in this new set. So it’s nice that they’ve replicated that here.

The book contains thick cardboard pages at the front and back to house the discs, and another sleeve near the back to hold 4 colour portrait photos of the band members, plus a very large poster featuring a colourful collage of photos on the front and the lyrics to all the songs on the back.

Abbey Road is presented in an LP-sized box with the photo of the band members on the zebra crossing adorning the front, and the complete track listing on the back over the photo of the Abbey Road street sign. The book inside has exactly the same design, with card sleeves in the front and back covers to hold the disc. It’s easily the thinnest package of the four, although it still contains a lot of interesting material of course.

Let It Be comes in a large black box that has 4 cut out windows on the front, each showing one of the band members from the cover of the book inside, while the back of the box has the full track listing in light grey on the black background. Inside the box is a thick cardboard sleeve holding the discs, and a large hardback book, both white in colour in contrast to the black box they came in.

The Books

Each box set comes with a big hardback book, full of very comprehensive and fascinating information about the genesis of the album, the writing and production of the individual tracks, the story behind the album cover, the music scene and the world in general at the time of its release, and much more, along with loads of photos as well. They’re all very interesting to read, giving a deep insight into the albums so you can appreciate and enjoy them so much more.

The text is often quite small, but using my phone and my computer I have various ways of enlarging it or converting it into speech, so it’s not been a major issue. For example, I can use the new Live Text feature on the iPhone 13, where it automatically recognises the text if I take a photo of a page, allowing me to select it and have it spoken back to me. It even recognises when text is dividing into columns too (which Microsoft’s Seeing AI doesn’t).

Each book includes:

  • Introductory forewords by band member Paul McCartney & producer Giles Martin.
  • Lots of photos of the band, handwritten notes and doodles, and much more.
  • Detailed essays about every aspect of the album’s creation and production, highlighting just how much time and effort was involved. Most are written by former radio producer and author Kevin Howlett, who has written a lot about the band over the years, but there are various contributions from others too.
  • Track-by-track information by Kevin Howlett, going into extensive detail about why, when and how each track was recorded, and referencing the alternate versions included in the set. For completeness, he also makes comparisons to relevant tracks in the Anthology compilations (which I also own), as those rarities are not duplicated in these new sets. And for Let It Be, mention is also made of the remixed Let It Be… Naked album from 2003 (which again I own), that stripped out many of Phil Spector’s overdubs and used a few alternate takes, as well as adding a 22-minute “Fly On The Wall” compilation of studio outtakes.

The Discs

It goes without saying that the music featured in these sets is fantastic, with great sound quality throughout, plenty of variety to keep things interesting, and lots of fascinating session recordings and other rarities. Each box includes:

  • A CD (or 2 for the White Album) with a remastered stereo copy of the album.
    • The Sgt Pepper set also includes a CD of the original mono album, which sounds very good too.
  • A Blu-ray Audio disc with high definition surround sound and stereo audio of the album. I don’t have the equipment to hear things in surround sound, but the stereo mixes still sound really good.
    • The Blu-ray disc in the Sgt Pepper set (plus a DVD copy) also includes an excellent 50-minute 25th anniversary documentary about the making of the album, featuring interviews with band members and other musicians, an insight into the creation of some of the songs at the mixing desk, and some photos and video footage from the time. Plus it includes the promotional music videos for A Day In The Life, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. The other box sets don’t contain DVDs or video material.
  • Further discs of rare bonus tracks, with demos, outtakes, rehearsals, work-in-progress recordings, alternate versions, etc:
    • Sgt Pepper has 2 discs of sessions material.
    • The White Album has 1 CD of Esher Demos and 3 CDs of sessions material.
    • Abbey Road has 2 discs of sessions material.
    • Let It Be has 1 CD of sessions material, 1 CD of rehearsals and jams, 1 CD with the unreleased Glyn Johns mix of the album (when it was called Get Back) and a 4-track EP with unreleased Glyn Johns mixes and remastered single mixes.

Track Listings

All in all, therefore, I’m really happy with these sets. They’re not cheap, sure, but there’s never been more than 1 set released per year, and I feel it’s been worth it treating myself to them.

And to give the full sense of how much music they contain, I’ll leave you with the full track listings, if you want to dig through them!

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

CD 1, DVD & Blu-ray – Main Album (Remastered):

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 02:03
  2. With A Little Help From My Friends – 02:45
  3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – 03:28
  4. Getting Better – 02:47
  5. Fixing A Hole – 02:38
  6. She’s Leaving Home – 03:26
  7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! – 02:39
  8. Within You Without You – 05:08
  9. When I’m Sixty-Four – 02:40
  10. Lovely Rita – 02:46
  11. Good Morning Good Morning – 02:35
  12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) – 01:21
  13. A Day In The Life – 05:33

CD 2 – Sessions:

  1. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 1] – 02:40
  2. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 4] – 03:00
  3. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 7] – 03:17
  4. Strawberry Fields Forever [Take 26] – 03:19
  5. Strawberry Fields Forever [2015 Stereo Mix] – 04:10
  6. When I’m Sixty-Four [Take 2] – 03:01
  7. Penny Lane [Take 6 – Instrumental] – 02:56
  8. Penny Lane [Vocal Overdubs And Speech] – 01:47
  9. Penny Lane – 03:01
  10. A Day In The Life [Take 1] – 04:42
  11. A Day In The Life [Take 2] – 04:49
  12. A Day In The Life [Orchestra Overdub] – 00:56
  13. A Day In The Life [Hummed Last Chord, Takes 8, 9, 10 And 11] – 01:55
  14. A Day In The Life [The Last Chord] – 02:53
  15. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 1 – Instrumental] – 02:34
  16. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 9 And Speech] – 02:37
  17. Good Morning Good Morning [Take 1 – Instrumental, Breakdown] – 01:04
  18. Good Morning Good Morning [Take 8] – 02:47

CD 3 – Sessions:

  1. Fixing A Hole [Take 1] – 02:59
  2. Fixing A Hole [Speech And Take 3] – 03:28
  3. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Speech From Before Take 1, Take 4 And Speech At The End] – 03:08
  4. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Take 7] – 02:35
  5. Lovely Rita [Speech And Take 9] – 03:05
  6. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Take 1 And Speech At The End] – 03:40
  7. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Speech, False Start And Take 5] – 04:09
  8. Getting Better [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End] – 02:19
  9. Getting Better [Take 12 – Instrumental] – 02:45
  10. Within You Without You [Take 1 – Indian Instruments] – 05:33
  11. Within You Without You [George Coaching The Musicians] – 03:56
  12. She’s Leaving Home [Take 1 – Instrumental] – 03:49
  13. She’s Leaving Home [Take 6 – Instrumental] – 03:48
  14. With A Little Help From My Friends [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental] – 03:15
  15. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) [Speech And Take 8] – 01:59

CD 4 – Main Album (Original Mono Mix) & Bonus Tracks

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 02:02
  2. With A Little Help From My Friends – 02:45
  3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – 03:27
  4. Getting Better – 02:47
  5. Fixing A Hole – 02:38
  6. She’s Leaving Home – 03:26
  7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! – 02:41
  8. Within You Without You – 05:07
  9. When I’m Sixty-Four – 02:40
  10. Lovely Rita – 02:46
  11. Good Morning Good Morning – 02:34
  12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) – 01:19
  13. A Day In The Life – 05:23
  14. Strawberry Fields Forever – 04:09 [Original Mono Mix]
  15. Penny Lane – 03:02 [Original Mono Mix]
  16. A Day In The Life [First Mono Mix] – 04:43
  17. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Original Mono Mix – No. 11] – 03:50
  18. She’s Leaving Home [First Mono Mix] – 03:42
  19. Penny Lane [Capitol Records Mono US Promo Mix] – 03:01

Total Duration: 3 hours 23 minutes


White Album

CD 1 & Blu-ray – Main Album Part 1 (Remastered):

  1. Back In The USSR – 02:45
  2. Dear Prudence – 03:55
  3. Glass Onion – 02:18
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – 03:09
  5. Wild Honey Pie – 00:53
  6. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill – 03:14
  7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – 04:45
  8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun – 02:45
  9. Martha My Dear – 02:29
  10. I’m So Tired – 02:03
  11. Blackbird – 02:18
  12. Piggies – 02:04
  13. Rocky Raccoon – 03:33
  14. Don’t Pass Me By – 03:50
  15. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? – 01:42
  16. I Will – 01:46
  17. Julia – 03:01

CD 2 & Blu-ray – Main Album Part 2 (Remastered):

  1. Birthday – 02:43
  2. Yer Blues – 04:01
  3. Mother Nature’s Son – 02:48
  4. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey – 02:25
  5. Sexy Sadie – 03:16
  6. Helter Skelter – 04:30
  7. Long, Long, Long – 03:06
  8. Revolution 1 – 04:16
  9. Honey Pie – 02:41
  10. Savoy Truffle – 02:54
  11. Cry Baby Cry – 03:02
  12. Revolution 9 – 08:21
  13. Good Night – 03:17

CD 3 – Esher Demos:

Acoustic demos recorded at George Martin’s house in Esher, Surrey.

  1. Back In The USSR – 03:01
  2. Dear Prudence – 04:47
  3. Glass Onion – 01:56
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – 03:11
  5. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill – 02:41
  6. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – 02:42
  7. Happiness Is A Warm Gun – 01:55
  8. I’m So Tired – 03:11
  9. Blackbird – 02:35
  10. Piggies – 02:06
  11. Rocky Raccoon – 02:44
  12. Julia – 03:57
  13. Yer Blues – 03:31
  14. Mother Nature’s Son – 02:24
  15. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey – 03:04
  16. Sexy Sadie – 02:27
  17. Revolution – 04:07
  18. Honey Pie – 02:00
  19. Cry Baby Cry – 02:28
  20. Sour Milk Sea – 03:44
  21. Junk – 02:37
  22. Child Of Nature – 02:38
  23. Circles – 02:17
  24. Mean Mr Mustard – 02:06
  25. Polythene Pam – 01:26
  26. Not Guilty – 03:05
  27. What’s The New Mary Jane – 02:45

CD 4 – Sessions:

  1. Revolution 1 [Take 18] – 10:29
  2. A Beginning [Take 4] / Don’t Pass Me By [Take 7] – 05:06
  3. Blackbird [Take 28] – 02:16
  4. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey [Unnumbered Rehearsal] – 02:43
  5. Good Night [Unnumbered Rehearsal] – 00:39
  6. Good Night [Take 10 With A Guitar Part From Take 5] – 02:31
  7. Good Night [Take 22] – 03:46
  8. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da [Take 3] – 02:54
  9. Revolution [Unnumbered Rehearsal] – 02:16
  10. Revolution [Take 14 – Instrumental Backing Track] – 03:25
  11. Cry Baby Cry [Unnumbered Rehearsal] – 03:03
  12. Helter Skelter [1st Version – Take 2] – 12:54

CD 5 – Sessions:

  1. Sexy Sadie [Take 3] – 03:08
  2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Acoustic Version – Take 2] – 03:03
  3. Hey Jude [Take 1] – 06:45
  4. St. Louis Blues [Studio Jam] – 00:52
  5. Not Guilty [Take 102] – 04:29
  6. Mother Nature’s Son [Take 15] – 03:12
  7. Yer Blues [Take 5 With Guide Vocal] – 03:58
  8. What’s The New Mary Jane [Take 1] – 02:07
  9. Rocky Raccoon [Take 8] – 04:57
  10. Back In The USSR [Take 5 – Instrumental Backing Track] – 03:10
  11. Dear Prudence [Vocal, Guitar & Drums] – 04:00
  12. Let It Be [Unnumbered Rehearsal] – 01:18
  13. While My Guitar Gently Weeps [3rd Version – Take 27] – 03:17
  14. (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care [Studio Jam] – 00:43
  15. Helter Skelter [2nd Version – Take 17] – 03:39
  16. Glass Onion [Take 10] – 02:12

CD 6 – Sessions:

  1. I Will [Take 13] – 02:21
  2. Blue Moon [Studio Jam] – 01:11
  3. I Will [Take 29] – 00:27
  4. Step Inside Love [Studio Jam] – 01:35
  5. Los Paranoias [Studio Jam] – 03:58
  6. Can You Take Me Back? [Take 1] – 02:22
  7. Birthday [Take 2 – Instrumental Backing Track] – 02:40
  8. Piggies [Take 12 – Instrumental Backing Track] – 02:10
  9. Happiness Is A Warm Gun [Take 19] – 03:09
  10. Honey Pie [Instrumental Backing Track] – 02:43
  11. Savoy Truffle [Instrumental Backing Track] – 02:57
  12. Martha My Dear [Without Brass And Strings] – 02:29
  13. Long, Long, Long [Take 44] – 02:55
  14. I’m So Tired [Take 7] – 02:30
  15. I’m So Tired [Take 14] – 02:17
  16. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill [Take 2] – 03:13
  17. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road? [Take 5] – 02:03
  18. Julia [2 Rehearsals] – 04:31
  19. The Inner Light [Take 6 – Instrumental Backing Track] – 02:48
  20. Lady Madonna [Take 2 – Piano And Drums] – 02:25
  21. Lady Madonna [Backing Vocals From Take 3] – 00:54
  22. Across The Universe [Take 6] – 03:53

Total Duration: 5 hours 27 minutes

Abbey Road

CD 1 & Blu-ray – Main Album (Remastered):

  1. Come Together – 04:20
  2. Something – 03:02
  3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – 03:28
  4. Oh! Darling – 03:27
  5. Octopus’s Garden – 02:50
  6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – 07:47
  7. Here Comes The Sun – 03:05
  8. Because – 02:45
  9. You Never Give Me Your Money – 04:02
  10. Sun King – 02:26
  11. Mean Mr. Mustard – 01:06
  12. Polythene Pam – 01:12
  13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window – 01:58
  14. Golden Slumbers – 01:31
  15. Carry That Weight – 01:36
  16. The End – 02:21
  17. Her Majesty – 00:25

CD 2 – Sessions:

  1. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) [Trident Recording Session & Reduction Mix] – 06:59
  2. Goodbye [Home Demo] – 02:23
  3. Something [Studio Demo] – 03:37
  4. The Ballad Of John And Yoko [Take 7] – 03:37
  5. Old Brown Shoe [Take 2] – 03:15
  6. Oh! Darling [Take 4] – 03:30
  7. Octopus’s Garden [Take 9] – 01:43
  8. You Never Give Me Your Money [Take 36] – 05:17
  9. Her Majesty [Takes 1-3] – 01:34
  10. Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight [Takes 1-3] – 03:20
  11. Here Comes The Sun [Take 9] – 03:41
  12. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer [Take 12] – 04:44

CD 3 – Sessions:

  1. Come Together [Take 5] – 03:30
  2. The End [Take 3] – 02:11
  3. Come And Get It [Demo Take 1] – 02:42
  4. Sun King [Take 20] – 03:14
  5. Mean Mr. Mustard [Take 20] – 01:34
  6. Polythene Pam [Take 27] – 01:39
  7. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window [Take 27] – 02:06
  8. Because [Take 1, Instrumental] – 03:07
  9. The Long One [Trial Edit & Mix 30/07/1969] – 16:10
  10. Something [Take 39, Strings Only] – 02:41
  11. Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight [Take 17, Strings & Brass Only] – 03:17

Total Duration: 2 hours 13 minutes

Let It Be

CD 1 & Blu-ray – Main Album (Remastered):

  1. Two Of Us – 03:36
  2. Dig A Pony – 03:54
  3. Across The Universe – 03:48
  4. I Me Mine – 02:25
  5. Dig It – 00:50
  6. Let It Be – 04:03
  7. Maggie Mae – 00:40
  8. I’ve Got A Feeling – 03:37
  9. One After 909 – 02:54
  10. The Long And Winding Road – 03:37
  11. For You Blue – 02:32
  12. Get Back – 03:08

CD 2 – Get Back – Apple Sessions:

  1. Two Of Us [Take 4 + Morning Camera Speech] – 03:42
  2. Maggie Mae / Fancy My Chances With You [Mono, Get Back Session] – 00:58
  3. Can You Dig It? [Get Back Session] – 02:02
  4. I Don’t Know Why I’m Moaning [Speech] – 01:22
  5. For You Blue [Take 4] – 02:53
  6. Let It Be / Please Please Me / Let It Be [Take 10] – 04:32
  7. I’ve Got A Feeling [Take 10] – 03:37
  8. Dig A Pony [Take 14] – 04:01
  9. Get Back [Take 19] – 03:57
  10. Like Making An Album? [Speech] – 00:42
  11. One After 909 [Take 3] – 03:27
  12. Don’t Let Me Down [First Rooftop Performance] – 03:29
  13. The Long And Winding Road [Take 19] – 03:47
  14. Wake Up Little Susie / I Me Mine [Take 11] – 02:15

CD 3 – Get Back – Rehearsals & Apple Jams:

  1. On The Day Shift Now / All Things Must Pass [Rehearsal] – 04:22
  2. Concentrate On The Sound – 01:07
  3. Gimme Some Truth [Rehearsal] – 01:19
  4. I Me Mine [Rehearsal] – 01:35
  5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window [Rehearsal] – 02:50
  6. Polythene Pam [Rehearsal] – 01:19
  7. Octopus’s Garden [Rehearsal] – 01:50
  8. Oh! Darling [Jam] – 05:19
  9. Get Back [Take 8] – 03:52
  10. The Walk [Jam] – 00:55
  11. Without A Song [Jam] – 02:00
  12. Something [Rehearsal] – 01:24
  13. Let It Be [Take 28] – 04:42

CD 4 – Get Back – 1969 Glyn Johns Mix:

  1. One After 909 – 03:06
  2. I’m Ready (Aka Rocker) / Save The Last Dance For Me / Don’t Let Me Down – 01:56
  3. Don’t Let Me Down – 04:05
  4. Dig A Pony – 04:13
  5. I’ve Got A Feeling – 02:53
  6. Get Back – 03:13
  7. For You Blue – 02:54
  8. Teddy Boy – 03:41
  9. Two Of Us – 03:29
  10. Maggie Mae – 00:38
  11. Dig It – 04:09
  12. Let It Be – 04:09
  13. The Long And Winding Road – 03:39
  14. Get Back (Reprise) – 00:41

CD 5 – Let It Be EP:

  1. Across The Universe [Unreleased 1970 Glyn Johns Mix] – 03:31
  2. I Me Mine [Unreleased 1970 Glyn Johns Mix] – 01:45
  3. Don’t Let Me Down [New Mix of Original Single Version] – 04:08
  4. Let It Be [New Mix of Original Single Version] – 03:52

Total Duration: 2 hours 44 minutes

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

9 thoughts on “The Beatles – 50th Anniversary Box Sets”

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