It's the summer of 1963 and the Beatles have been dominating the radio, the music press, and the pop singles and albums charts in Britain for most of the past four months. But in England, owing to an economy stunted since the war and purchasing habits going back at least that far, there's a big gap between the people buying singles and those choosing to buy LPs; for most Britons, especially teenagers, the latter were usually reserved for special occasions, such as Christmas or birthday gifts, and while the Beatles would become key players in changing that behavior, it hadn't happened yet. To fill the gap there was the EP, or "extended play" single, a platter the size of an ordinary 45 which usually contained four (and sometimes five) songs and cost not nearly as much as an LP (they were in the U.S., too, but they were never as important there, and even the attempts at issuing Beatles EPs stateside, big as the group was, proved unsuccessful). Twist and Shout was the first of a baker's dozen such releases of the Beatles' work in England. For some groups, such as the Rolling Stones, the EP was a practical and timely way of filling the gap between singles and albums, and, in the process, also utilizing songs (and sides of their repertory) that weren't perceived as quite "worthy" of being put on album. The EP became far less relevant to the Rolling Stones, for example, once the Jagger-Richards songwriting team had hit its stride and was no longer relying on covers of various parts of the American rock & roll song bag or collectively generating songs under the collective pseudonym "Nanker Phelge." For others, such as Gerry & the Pacemakers or the Animals, who never had very strong in-house songwriting, the EP was a good vehicle through which to present sides of themselves that were more daring than their most commercial work for the serious fan, without the "risk" or challenge that an LP entailed. But the Beatles were never lacking for new or commercial songs, or -- as they later discovered -- an audience willing to spring for their LPs. The four-song EP quickly became superfluous to them, purely a marketing ploy by EMI to sell the same music a different way (often to the same people). The format was also especially appealing in the early days of the group's history, at a time when most pop listeners in England still didn't have stereo equipment, since EPs were cheaper, and in mono, and frequently contained the highlights of the albums. That said, a surprising amount of work went into the packaging of these discs, including excellent cover art, with superb photos of the group and actual notes on the back, like an LP, so they're a bit more substantial as artifacts of their British output than most EPs were for most other bands. And actually, this first disc is pretty daring as a summary of highlights from their debut album, the opening song (and title) the uncommonly raw rock & roll number that closed the Please Please Me LP, joined by three ballads, the richly harmonized "A Taste of Honey" featuring Paul McCartney, the delightful "Do You Want to Know a Secret" offering George Harrison's beguiling first lead vocal, and the somewhat harder-rocking but still harmony-rich "There's a Place." If you couldn't afford the LP, it showed you what you were missing and gave you a reason to save up for it (and, thus, buy the same material yet again).
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder