Less a documentary than a handy springboard for reawakened international fervor, The Beatles Anthology reminded the world that it was high time to obsess about the Fab Four again. First aired in 1995 on ABC – and created with the rare collective permission of surviving members Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – the six-part film was released in conjunction with a newly completed single ("Free As a Bird"), three double albums of rare material and a coffee table book. It was a trove of unreleased footage and personal insight.
The Beatles Anthology takes the formidable task of compiling the band's entire history – from their earliest incarnation as skiffle rockers in Liverpool to the acrimonious fighting that felled the band during the Let It Be sessions – and does so with admirable honesty. (Harrison, in particular, is hilariously blunt in his memories of the group's British Invasion heyday: "I don't remember going there twice," he deadpans of their second night at Shea Stadium.) The band's indispensable producer, George Martin, also factors considerably into the revelations of the long film, especially when discussing the artistic restlessness that propelled Rubber Soul and the new recording experimentation that made Sgt. Pepper a linchpin of modern rock. In all, the anthology is as grandiose a project as its subject warranted.