The Beatles’ American Releases, Pt. I
25 April 2008
The Beatles invaded America in a big way in 1964.
Well, the country was reeling from the loss of J. F. K. and needed something to deal with the pain and the music of the four lads from Liverpool helped this country to come out of its rut. Unfortunately, the Beatles’ music was not presented in a less-than-honorable way. Over the next few posts, I’ll be writing about the American bastardizations of the proper British albums and why they’re mostly inferior.
01) INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES [10 January 1964] and THE EARLY BEATLES [22 March 1965]
Vee-Jay Records released seventeen songs by The Beatles, seven on singles and fourteen on the only Beatles album they released, Introducing… The Beatles. Confused? You won’t be.
The Beatles’ debut platter (by a mere ten days) in America, this was actually a bit faithful to Please Please Me. Because American 12″ LPs usually had 11-12 songs per LP rather than the British standard of 14, Vee-Jay removed “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me” (previously released on a Vee-Jay single in February 1963) when compiling the album. Neither song from Vee-Jay’s second single, “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl”, was considered.
Originally planned for July 1963, management shake-ups had prevented the album’s release then. Only after Capitol Records finally started to promote the Parlophone performers did Vee-Jay reconsider. Having already pressed album covers (the front covers, anyways), they went ahead and released the album, legality be damned.
And of course the legal troubles prevented Vee-Jay from capitalizing on the release. The fact that the American publishing rights to “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” were owned by Capitol (and that the songs had yet to appear on Capitol) forced Vee-Jay to replace them with the two tracks they had already removed from their version of Please Please Me, “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why”. For months Vee-Jay fought with Capitol over the rights to the Beatles, but eventually got the rights to release the material in any way they saw fit until October 1964, when all rights would revert to Capitol.
They sold 1,600,000 copies in nine months. And this was when the 45 was king. Adding the four singles that they released either on Vee-Jay or one of its subsidiaries (which also sold millions of copies), the Beatles helped to keep Vee-Jay afloat for another two years. Losing The Beatles surely quickened the label’s demise.
Capitol turned around five months after gaining the rights to the Vee-Jay material and issued The Early Beatles, dropping “I Saw Her Standing There” (which they had already released on Meet The Beatles), “There’s A Place” and “Misery” (which would have to wait a decade and a half to come out on LP). Compared to other Capitol butchering, dropping one Lennon track, one McCartney track (albeit a previously released one) and one Lennon-McCartney track makes sense. Harrison’s and Starr’s showcases remain and that’s a good thing.
02) MEET THE BEATLES [20 January 1964]
Deceptive title and all (but then, there probably was no time to change it), Capitol’s first Beatles LP was truly a grab bag. One track from the proper British debut (“I Saw Her Standing There”), two from the November 1963 Capitol single (“I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy”) and nine from the second British album, With The Beatles, which shares the same cover shot as this release. Of the twelve tracks, eleven were original compositions, showcasing the genius of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. While it may sound like a good thing, keep in mind that the five covers lopped off of the British LP would all be included on the next release, making it the only Beatles album with more covers than original compositions.
Ringo and George both have their showcases (though George loses two of the three he had on With The Beatles- though two of them were covers). It’s a great album, full of energy. And it wasn’t nearly as bad as any of the subsequent LPs issued in 1964.
03) THE BEATLES’ SECOND ALBUM [10 April 1964]
Second Capitol album. With another five tracks left over from With The Beatles, three single sides, a track from the as-yet-unreleased in Britain A Hard Day’s Night sessions and two from the first side for what would be the Long Tall Sally extended play in Britain (recorded in March, they would be released in Britain in June). A grab bag it certainly was.
The album did well enough to knock Meet The Beatles off of the top of the charts, but that doesn’t mean that it is the best example of the group’s recorded works. The biggest problem is that six of the tracks on the eleven-track album are covers, making The Beatles’ Second Album the only album to have more covers than original songs.
Part II will follow soon…