If almost any artist other than the Beatles were to issue an album like Rarities—which is dominated by slightly different outtakes of previously released tunes—it would seem like a ludicrous ripoff. Can you imagine paying good money to hear Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in mono or Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” with an extra drum roll at the end? I doubt it, but the Beatles are the exception that proves the rule; it’s hard to stifle curiosity about variations on music that we know and love this well.
That’s why the original Rarities, available only in a very expensive limited edition of all Beatles material, attracted much airplay and demands for wider accessibility. At any rate, I’m having lots of fun with this 14-track package (15, if you count the two seconds of laughter and gibberish called “Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove”). Among the many highlights: the version of “I’m Only Sleeping” that appeared on the British Revolver LP; a stereo recording of “Penny Lane,” a song that, amazingly enough, had previously been available only in mono; and “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” a delightful novelty that has hitherto been known just to those with access to the flip side of the “Let It Be” single.