The album was compiled by Beatles manager Allen Klein, with his selections approved by the Beatles themselves. Even though the group had had success with cover versions of songs, most notably with "Twist and Shout", which made #2 on the Billboard charts, only songs composed by The Beatles themselves were included.
It is recognised as the first Beatles compilation since their breakup on 31 December 1970. Both it and 1967–1970 were produced by Apple/EMI at least partially in response to a bootleg compilation titled Alpha Omega, which had been sold on television the previous year.
For the group's 1963 debut LP Please Please Me, photographer Angus McBean was asked to take the distinctive colour photograph of the group looking down over the stairwell inside EMI House (EMI's London headquarters in Manchester Square, now demolished).
In 1969, The Beatles asked McBean to recreate this shot. Although the 1969 photograph was originally intended for the then-planned Get Back album, it was not used when that project saw eventual release in 1970 as Let It Be. Instead, the 1969 photograph, along with an unused photograph from the 1963 photo shoot, was used for both this LP and The Beatles 1967 - 1970.
The inner gatefold photo for both LPs is from the "Mad Day Out" photo session, London, 28 July 1968.
- Original 1973 release: Apple SKBO-3403 (whole and sliced apples on red background)
- Second pressings: Capitol SKBO-3403 (Capitol target logo on back of album cover, red labels with "Capitol" in light red at bottom. There are also copies erroneously pressed with the BLUE labels for the 1967–1970 pressings.)
- First red vinyl issue: Capitol SEBX-11842 (Capitol dome logo on back of album cover, large dome logo at top of labels)
The British and American versions of the vinyl album contain notable differences; for example, "Help!" on the American edition includes the same "James Bond Intro" as the mix found on the American Help! soundtrack LP, while the same song on the British edition does not. Also, the British LP uses the stereo "whispering intro" mix of "I Feel Fine," while the US LP uses the mix from Beatles '65, which is the duophonic mix drenched in reverb. (See Mix Variations below.)
The Compact Disc version was released on two discs for the price of two albums, though it could have fit on to a single disc; EMI stated that this was done to match the release of 1967–1970. The CD version used new digital masters. The first four tracks on the CD release are in mono; the rest of the tracks are in stereo. The tracks "All My Loving", "Can't Buy Me Love", "A Hard Day's Night", "And I Love Her" and "Eight Days a Week" made their CD stereo debut with this release.
- Although it appeared on the Vee Jay compilation Jolly What! the Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage, this is the first appearance of "From Me to You" on a U.S. Capitol album.
- "A Hard Day's Night" also makes its U.S. Capitol album debut here, previously only featured on the United Artists soundtrack album.
- All tracks written by Lennon/McCartney.
- Side one
- "Love Me Do" – 2:23
- "Please Please Me" – 2:03
- "From Me to You" – 1:57
- "She Loves You" – 2:22
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" – 2:26
- "All My Loving" – 2:08
- "Can't Buy Me Love" – 2:13
- Side two
- "A Hard Day's Night" - 2:28
- "And I Love Her" - 2:28
- "Eight Days a Week" - 2:43
- "I Feel Fine" - 2:20
- "Ticket to Ride" - 3:03
- "Yesterday" - 2:04
- Side three
- "Help!" - 2:35
- "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" - 2:08
- "We Can Work It Out" - 2:10
- "Day Tripper" - 2:47
- "Drive My Car" - 2:25
- "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" - 2:00
- Side four
- "Nowhere Man" - 2:40
- "Michelle" - 2:42
- "In My Life" - 2:23
- "Girl" - 2:26
- "Paperback Writer" - 2:14
- "Eleanor Rigby" - 2:11
- "Yellow Submarine" - 2:37