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Monday, November 23, 2015

Extracts from the Album A Hard Day's Night

The second EP issued on November 6th, 1964 featured a title nearly identical to the first one, merely inserting the word "album" in place of the word "film," though that simple substitution accurately differentiates the contents of the two discs.  This release contained songs from the non-soundtrack side of the LP A Hard Day's Night, running them in the same order as they had originally appeared on that record.


Any Time at All
I'll Cry Instead


Things We Said Today
When I Get Home

On the back cover, once again, press officer Tony Barrow used some of his original liner notes from the album A Hard Day's Night, adding only a few new bits of information in reference to the specific contents of this disc.

The program begins with Lennon's tough but tender mid-tempo rocker Any Time at All.  This is followed by the Lennon rockabilly number I'll Cry Instead, which was always mistakenly listed as being part of the soundtrack in the US, yet never was in the UK, correctly so.

Side two opens with McCartney's beautiful and brooding Things We Said Today, which had also served as the B-side of the single A Hard Day's Night.  This, of course, begs the question as to whether or not this song should have been replaced by Lennon's equally beautiful and brooding album-closer I'll Be Back.  But that would have made for an all-Lennon lineup, as the final offering here is Lennon's When I Get Home, a wild recording that threatens go to off the rails both vocally and instrumentally until it comes to a satisfying conclusion.

While fans had been eager to obtain the soundtrack songs on the Extracts from the Film EP, thereby pushing that release to number one on the Record Retailer EP chart, they were decidedly less enthusiastic about this disc, causing it to peak at a disappointing number eight.  This would be the lowest chart performance of any EP issued by the Beatles during their career, which is surprising due to the quality of the material presented here.  Perhaps two releases on the same day forced fans, many of whom could not afford albums in the first place, to make a hard choice, and the well-known soundtrack songs made for a more attractive package. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Extracts from the Film A Hard Day's Night

Hard on the heels of the EP Long Tall Sally in June of 1964 came the release of the soundtrack album A Hard Day's Night in July.  Parlophone bided its time before issuing any material from that album in the EP format, then took the unprecedented step of releasing two EPs on the very same day, November 6th.  The first of these featured four tracks from side one of the LP (the soundtrack side) in the order as listed on the front cover pictured above.


I Should Have Known Better
If I Fell


Tell Me Why
And I Love Her

On the back cover, press officer Tony Barrow simply reused some of the liner notes he had written for the album to promote the film, though he did add a few more detailed descriptions of the songs included here.  He refers to these four songs as the "highspot items" from the album, obviously overlooking the two smash singles Can't Buy Me Love and A Hard Day's Night.

Lennon's I Should Have Known Better gets the program off to a joyous, rollicking start.  Most of these soundtrack songs were good enough to be singles (and, with the lone exception of Tell Me Why, all of them were issued on singles in the US) and this number fits into that mold perfectly.  This is followed by the stunning ballad If I Fell, also a Lennon composition.  Apart from John's vocal intro, it is sung as a duet by John and Paul - easily one of the most gorgeous of their entire career.

Side two opens with yet another offering from Lennon, the rousing Tell Me Why which launches the concert sequence at the end of the film.  This number features those trademark three-part harmonies of John, Paul and George which fans had already come to expect as a staple of the group's act.  As on the first side, we are then treated with a ballad, McCartney's beautiful acoustic tune And I Love Her, an example of a second-tier song that went on to become a well-loved standard in its own right, with numerous cover versions by other artists.

This oddly-titled release went to the number one spot on the Record Retailer's EP chart.  The same could not be said, however, of the companion disc also issued on that day.

Friday, November 13, 2015

All My Loving

Robert Freeman's famous shot of the boys from the album With the Beatles also graced the cover of their fourth EP, though in this version their turtleneck sweaters are clearly visible.  Released on February 7th, 1964, this new compilation combined two tracks from the latest LP with their first two B-sides, recordings dating back to 1962.


All My Loving
Ask Me Why


Money (That's What I Want)
P.S. I Love You

Press officer Tony Barrow's hype on the back cover reached new heights - justifiably so, as the group was in the midst of "conquering" the American market.  And while the older B-sides are still listed as being by McCartney-Lennon, the title song bears the more familiar Lennon-McCartney credit.

That title tune, McCartney's rollicking number All My Loving from With the Beatles, kicked off the disc.  This is one of those great second-tier songs that might have been a single (in fact, it was issued as a single by Capitol of Canada) and it was about to be the very first offering by the group to over 70 million Americans tuning in to the Ed Sullivan Show.  Next up was Ask Me Why, the B-side of the band's second single.  This is a surprisingly mellow composition from the young John Lennon, showing a tender side that he would reveal sparingly throughout his career as a Beatle.

Side two opened with a cover of the Motown rocker Money (That's What I Want) from the latest album.  John's delivery of this vocal is downright ferocious, demonstrating his tremendous range with a simple flip of the record.  The program ends with a jump back to the group's very first B-side P.S. I Love You, a song that shows young Mr. McCartney already able to come up with a fine standard that also could have served as an A-side.

By putting these two B-sides out on this record, twelve of the fourteen tracks from the LP Please Please Me had now been released on EPs.  Conversely, All My Loving and Money would be the only tracks from With the Beatles to be issued in this format.  Regardless of the unusual mix of materiel, All My Loving went to number one on the EP chart.

The next EP in sequence was Long Tall Sally on June 19th.  Since that disc contained previously unreleased tracks, I have already covered it in one of my earliest threads, so you may go back and read it at your leisure if you so desire.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Beatles (No. 1)

The third British EP from the Beatles was released on November 1st, 1963.  This one returned to the first LP Please Please Me as its source and took the first four tracks from that album, issuing them in the same exact running order.


I Saw Her Standing There


Anna (Go to Him)

Since this is the third EP, the significance of the title (No.1?) remains mystifying.  The front cover used a different shot by Angus McBean taken at the same photo session which had yielded the cover of the group's first LP.  And, as usual, the back cover featured more hype from publicist Tony Barrow.

As with the Twist and Shout EP, fans were treated to lead vocals from three different Beatles, showing off the band's range in a way that the singles simply could not do.  Side one kicked off with the tremendous opening track I Saw Her Standing There by McCartney - the band's first original rocker.  This was followed by Misery, a composition credited primarily to Lennon, though it is sung as a duet by John and Paul. Despite the title, the song is delivered in an upbeat, tongue-in-cheek manner by the boys, who seem to be on the verge of laughter during the fade-out.

Two cover versions make up the second side of the record, the first being Anna (Go to Him).  With backup from Paul and George, John delivers a heartfelt vocal performance of this torch song by one of his personal favorites, Arthur Alexander.  The final number, Chains, is by the famous Brill Building songwriting team of Goffin and King.  George takes the lead vocal on the verses of this tune which had originally been recorded by the American girl group the Cookies.  The refrains feature one of the earliest examples on record of the superb three-part harmony that John, Paul and George had perfected through countless hours of live shows in Liverpool and Hamburg.

This release stopped just short of the top spot on the Record Retailer EP chart, peaking at number two.  Either not enough fans were still looking for material that had now been available for eight months or, perhaps, they were saving their money for the forthcoming second LP With the Beatles, which was due out in a mere three weeks.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Beatles' Hits

The fourth UK single She Loves You b/w I'll Get You had just taken the country by storm when this record was released on September 6th, 1963.  This was only the second EP from the group and, perhaps surprisingly, instead of being more tracks from the album Please Please Me, it was a collection made up entirely from singles.  The lineup was the same as listed on the cover pictured above.


From Me to You
Thank You Girl


Please Please Me
Love Me Do

Once again the back cover featured some hype by Beatles' press officer Tony Barrow.  More than a year before their next press officer Derek Taylor wrote his oft-quoted liner notes for the LP Beatles for Sale, Barrow penned a very similar bit of conjecture, challenging fans to pull out this record ten years into the future and betting them that people would still be talking about the Lennon and McCartney Songbook.  In both cases, it was either amazing foresight or great PR - or simply a combination of the two.

Side one of the EP contained both sides of the third single - From Me to You and its B-side Thank You Girl.  Both are true Lennon-McCartney collaborations (although all songs were still listed as McCartney-Lennon at this point in time), and are equally strong tracks demonstrating the rapidly growing pop craftsmanship of that songwriting partnership.

Side two moved backwards through time giving fans just the A-sides of the first two singles.  Lennon's Please Please Me was the breakout hit which had topped all but one of the British charts and made the group a national sensation.  And McCartney's Love Me Do was, of course, the simple, raw tune that had started all the buzz in late '62.  The original single had featured the version with Ringo on drums but for this release, as on the LP Please Please Me, the remake with session man Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine was used.

The Record Retailer had a separate chart for EPs in the early 60's and, despite the fact that all of these songs had previously been available as singles, this disc went to number one, just as the first EP Twist and Shout had done.  (Coincidentally, it was the Record Retailer's singles chart on which Please Please Me had stalled at number two.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Twist and Shout

The group's first EP arrived in stores in the UK on July 12th, 1963, featuring one of their most popular stage numbers as the title track.  Whether or not it was a conscious choice, the line-up just happened to be the last four songs from the debut LP Please Please Me, which had been available for four months at this point in time, though those songs appeared here in a different order than they did on that album.


Twist and Shout
A Taste of Honey


Do You Want to Know a Secret
There's a Place

The front cover used one of the earliest iconic photographs of the Beatles (so iconic that director Richard Lester made the boys perform similar jumps for a slow motion sequence in the film A Hard Day's Night) while the back cover contained some extensive and effusive hype by the band's press officer Tony Barrow, who points out that Do You Want to Know a Secret had also recently been a hit for Billy J. Kramer.

For fans who had only bought the group's first three singles, this disc presents an opportunity to hear the Beatles as more than just a hit-oriented unit.  Side one opens with the raucous number which had closed the first album, one of the surest crowd-pleasers in the band's repertoire.  The boys had not rocked this hard on any of the singles to date, nor had they presented a crooner the likes of the next number, A Taste of Honey.  Going from John's screaming of the Isley Brothers' rock classic to Paul's smooth take on a romantic ballad allowed the group to demonstrate their versatility to fans who did not own the debut album.

And, once the record was flipped over, a new treat awaited the uninitiated - a third lead vocalist singing Do You Want to Know a Secret.  George's handling of the sweet and simple tune Lennon had given him may have been awkward in comparison to Billy J. Kramer's delivery of the same material, but it showed the depth of the Beatles, a depth few other groups possessed by limiting themselves to having only one front man defining their sound.

The final tune, There's a Place, is written by Lennon, but he and Paul sing most of the song as a duet, with some plaintive harmonica fills already so familiar from the three hit singles.  While fairly straightforward, the composition reveals another kind of depth in the songwriting ability of the young Mr. Lennon who is dealing with something more here than the standard love song and (unconsciously, of course) hinting at the possibilities to come.

Note that three of these songs would appear on singles in America in March of 1964, with A-sides Twist and Shout and Do You Want to Know a Secret both reaching number two on the Billboard chart.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The British EPs

In my initial look at the official Beatles catalog as issued in the UK, I chose to bypass the superfluous EPs, most of which were released throughout the first half of the band's career.  I only dealt with Long Tall Sally and the double EP Magical Mystery Tour, as these contained original material that was an essential part of the group's musical progress.

In the 1960's, the EP or extended play record was the same size as a single (7"), but it generally featured two tracks on each side, usually compilations of songs already released on albums and singles.  They seem to have been less popular in the US than they were in England at this time.  In my recent thread of American releases, I covered the three official compilation EPs issued in this country during the group's career - one on VeeJay Records and the other two on the Capitol label.

So, if EPs usually only contained material already available, what exactly was their purpose?  The fact of the matter is that not everybody owned an expensive turntable capable of playing albums back in those days.  Many young fans simply listened to 45s on smaller devices.  I myself had one such record player given to me by my parents which, apart from its electronic components, was largely plastic.  It ran on batteries, was portable and perfectly suitable for listening to my small collection of singles.  Since it only played discs at 45rpm, it would have also served the purpose if I had bought any of the American EPs.

Those who did not purchase albums in Britain had to possess great patience, as Parlophone tended to issue EPs well after the same material was available in the LP format.  And, while the tracks on most of the EPs came from albums, some of the collections simply contain previously released singles and, therefore, would have been redundant for many fans.  They are an eclectic mix, as you will discover, and they present an interesting overview of the band's work, ranging from the instantly recognizable to some rather obscure songs.  If you didn't know who the Beatles were, you could get a pretty good sense of their impact between 1962 and 1965 simply by listening to these discs.