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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SOMETHING NEW & Matchbox b/w Slow Down

On July 20th, 1964, the same date that the singles I'll Cry Instead b/w I'm Happy Just to Dance with You and And I Love Her b/w If I Fell were issued, Capitol Records also released the album Something New.  It contained all four songs from those singles, thus marking the third release of said songs in less than a month when you factor in the United Artists album A Hard Day's Night.

Probably because of United Artists' exclusive rights to an official soundtrack album tied in to the film, Capitol avoided including the title song and even I Should Have Known Better, though Tell Me Why did appear (and why was that song was not on a single in place of the non-soundtrack song I'll Cry Instead?).  It should be noted that the song A Hard Day's Night never appeared on a Capitol album during the group's career.

SIDE ONE

I'll Cry Instead
Things We Said Today
Any Time at All
When I Get Home
Slow Down
Matchbox

SIDE TWO

Tell Me Why
And I Love Her
I'm Happy Just to Dance with You
If I Fell
Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand

Oddly, the song I'll Cry Instead is presented in its full-length American version in mono, but only in its truncated British form on the stereo album.

Three songs from the non-soundtrack side of the British A Hard Day's Night album are featured, along with two cover versions of American rockers from the UK EP Long Tall Sally.  The final number is the German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand.  The inclusion of this track is curious, even taking into account that Swan Records had released Sie Liebt Dich a few months earlier.  Add to that the fact that Capitol left the terrific song I'll Be Back (also from the UK version of A Hard Day's Night) in the vaults for several months instead of  releasing it here.

It was not an uncommon practice for American record companies to issue songs as singles after they had already appeared on albums, so it should have come as no surprise to see the arrival of Matchbox b/w Slow Down a month later on August 24th.  This seems to have been a clear attempt to capitalize on Ringo's popularity in the US.  He had been the most popular Beatle with American fans from the start, and his wonderfully understated performance in the film only added to his personal fan base.

Ringo's take on the Carl Perkins number only reached number seventeen on the Billboard chart, however, while John's scorching rendition of the Larry Williams rocker on the B-side hit number twenty-five.  There is no question that the market was over-saturated at this point in time with Beatles' material, much of it redundant.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Capitol floods the market

For the second time in only a matter of months, Capitol Records learned that it had been outfoxed.  A legal settlement had finally been reached with Vee-Jay Records over control of the Beatles' earliest output, but there was simply no legal recourse to be had against United Artists.  UA had secured the exclusive rights to release the official soundtrack album of the group's first feature film back in 1963, months before Capitol even showed any signs of interest in the Fab Four.  But Capitol still maintained the rights to all of the Beatles' recordings, so it could also release the same material as long as it did not package that material as a soundtrack album. 

United Artists was allowed to issue its album first on June 26th, 1964 which, as I noted in my last entry, was a few weeks ahead of the film's premiere.  Capitol waited until the film's debut and then reissued most of the songs from the soundtrack, some of them more than once.  Though this was a clear case of overkill, sales were still impressive.  In fact, neither Capitol nor United Artists could complain in the long run.

Three singles appeared in rapid succession, the first on July 13th featuring A Hard Day's Night b/w I Should Have Known Better.  (The film's title song was the only single issued in the UK at this time, but it was backed with the non-soundtrack song Things We Said Today.  As with I Want to Hold Your Hand, Capitol somehow felt the need to change the B-side for the American audience.)  The label on each side of the single contained the words From the Motion Picture "A Hard Day's Night" A United Artists Release.

The next two singles both arrived a week later on July 20th - I'll Cry Instead b/w I'm Happy Just to Dance with You, and the two great ballads And I Love Her b/w If I Fell.  All four of these songs bore the credit From the United Artists Picture "A Hard Day's Night" (as pictured above) even though I am compelled, as always, to note that I'll Cry Instead is not used in the film.  The American version of the song both here and on the United Artists album is also about twenty seconds longer than the version released in England as the result of a different edit.

All three A-sides made the Billboard Top 40, with I'll Cry Instead hitting number twenty-five, And I Love Her coming in at number twelve and A Hard Day's Night becoming the group's fifth number one hit in the US market.

But Capitol wasn't content with merely issuing singles...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A new label, a new album, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT

The decision-makers at United Artists had either remarkable foresight or extraordinary good luck in October of 1963 when they secured the rights to a feature film starring an English rock and roll band called the Beatles.  It was probably a combination of both, but the fact of the matter is that the group was completely unknown in America at that time, yet one of the main reasons that United Artists signed them to make a film was to also get the exclusive rights to the accompanying soundtrack album for release in the US market - a curious roll of the dice, to say the least.

But even before filming began in March of '64, the United Artists gamble paid off as the Fab Four unexpectedly became the hottest property in show business in the intervening months.  The only worry, if there was one, was that their popularity might peak before the film and album could be completed and released.  United Artists was permitted to issue their album on June 26th, a few weeks ahead of the film's premiere and even ahead of the British album of the same name, thus making seven of these songs world premieres.

SIDE ONE

A Hard Day's Night
Tell Me Why
I'll Cry Instead
I Should Have Known Better - instrumental
I'm Happy Just to Dance with You
And I Love Her - instrumental

SIDE TWO

I Should Have Known Better
If I Fell
And I Love Her
Ringo's Theme (This Boy) - instrumental
Can't Buy Me Love
A Hard Day's Night - instrumental

I'll Cry Instead (which is not an actual soundtrack song) is incorrectly listed on both the back cover and the label as I Cry Instead.

I'm sure I was not alone in hating the instrumentals by the George Martin orchestra, which interrupted the flow of each side of the album for me but, while the compositions and (to some extent) the recordings of the Beatles have a timeless quality about them, these instrumentals are positively stuck in time.  They are a perfect representation of how rock and roll was homogenized for the older generation in popular entertainment in 1964, and I now find them to be absolutely wonderful, especially the insanely kitschy version of And I Love Her.

Thankfully, the entire album is now available on CD both individually and as part of the 2014 release The Beatles U.S. Albums.   

Friday, May 1, 2015

3 labels, 2 singles & 1 EP

You may recall that in January of 1964 Vee-Jay Records was forced to scrap its initial release of the album Introducing...the Beatles when it was sued by Capitol Records, whose publishing company Beechwood Music owned the rights to the songs Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You.  Now that the two companies had finally settled, Vee-Jay was free to release the songs, and it did so as a single on April 27th on its subsidiary label Tollie Records.  In fact, the A-side had already made an appearance on the Billboard chart as a Capitol of Canada import featuring Ringo on drums - the September 4th, 1962 version.  This new single used the more common September 11th, 1962 version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine.

The Beatles' sound had quickly become more sophisticated in the studio in only a year and a half, yet American audiences gobbled up this relatively primitive early recording and pushed it all the way to the top of the chart, making it the group's fourth number one single in the US. 
Capitol Records made an unusual move on May 11th by issuing an EP comprised of the four other songs that had appeared on Capitol of Canada singles on the US charts a month earlier.  Perhaps the feeling was that the demand for Roll Over Beethoven and All My Loving was still strong, but this new release only managed to hit number ninety-two on the Billboard Hot 100.  Unlike the sleeve printed above, the running order was:

SIDE A

Roll Over Beethoven
All My Loving

SIDE B

This Boy
Please Mister Postman
   
The strangest new release was surely this one.  Swan Records only held the rights to two songs - She Loves You and I'll Get You - and could only issue them as a single (which was why Capitol was allowed to include both of them as album tracks on The Beatles' Second Album).  Upon learning that the group had recorded a German-language version of She Loves You for EMI's Odeon label, Swan somehow got its hands on the recording, believing that it had exclusive rights to it in the US market.  Once again, I'll Get You served as the B-side and the single was issued on May 21st, 1964.  It met with little success, however, peaking at number ninety-seven, partly because Capitol sued the smaller label, which did not actually have the rights to this particular recording.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THE BEATLES' SECOND ALBUM

On April 10th, only one day after settling with Vee-Jay Records, Capitol Records issued a new album whose title made it clear that Capitol did not recognize Vee-Jay's Introducing...the Beatles as an official release.  Though most American fans did not realize it, this album was the first true compilation, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to any British release.  Nor, frankly, would we have cared, as this collection was a powerhouse from start to finish.

SIDE ONE

Roll Over Beethoven
Thank You Girl
You Really Got a Hold on Me
Devil in Her Heart
Money (That's What I Want)
You Can't Do That

SIDE TWO

Long Tall Sally
I Call Your Name
Please Mister Postman
I'll Get You
She Loves You

Capitol started out with the five cover versions it had left over from the UK album With the Beatles.  Months earlier, it had worried that Americans might not care for a British band playing this material, but they now recognized that the Beatles more than held their own attacking these tunes from Chuck Berry, Motown legend-in-the-making Smokey Robinson, little-known girl group the Donays, Barrett Strong and the Marvelettes.

In addition, there were four songs familiar to most fans from their release on singles, including She Loves You, already a number one hit, and its B-side I'll Get You.  The most recent B-side, You Can't Do That, is also present, even though the boys had just been shot performing it as part of the concert sequence in their upcoming feature film (the song would eventually be cut).  And two-time B-side Thank You Girl appears, though it is slightly altered from the mono version on both Vee-Jay singles.  Producer George Martin had provided Capitol with a stereo mix of the song featuring three extra harmonica sections, two during the bridge and one at the very end.  Capitol made its own mono mix from this, retaining the extra harmonica bits.

The real coup for Capitol was the world premiere of the songs Long Tall Sally and I Call Your Name, months before they would be issued in the UK.  First pressings of the album do not even have running times for these two songs, a detail that must have somehow been overlooked due to their hasty release.

This was the first time that Capitol would only offer eleven songs on a Beatles' album and, sadly, that would become the norm.  Their recent hit Can't Buy Me Love was not included, presumably because it had now been (belatedly) added to the soundtrack of their film.  And I will once again take the opportunity to bemoan the fact that From Me to You did not appear on any Capitol release.  It would certainly have fit in nicely on this compilation.

The cover of the album (pictured above) hypes the hit song She Loves You and Roll Over Beethoven, which had made the charts in the US recently as an import single from Capitol of Canada.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Vee-Jay goes all in

The ongoing legal wrangling with Capitol Records did little to discourage the decision-makers at Vee-Jay.  Instead, their feeling seemed to be that the Beatles were such a sensation in the US that there was plenty of money to go around to keep everyone happy.  Vee-Jay's Introducing...the Beatles was the second-best selling album in the land, and the singles Please Please Me and Twist and Shout on the Tollie label were rising to the number three and number two spots on the chart.  As litigation passed the two month mark, Vee-Jay prepared two more records for release on the same day - March 23rd, 1964.

One of them was the single Do You Want to Know a Secret b/w Thank You Girl.  The latter song had already served as the B-side to From Me to You about a year earlier, but the real story was the new A-side.  A full four years before ever getting a B-side on one of the group's singles in the UK, George Harrison had his first lead vocal on a Beatles' record released as an A-side in America, and it would go all the way to number two on the Billboard chart.

The other release on this date was a four song extended play single, or EP, entitled Souvenir of Their Visit to America.  In the early days of rock and roll, it was not uncommon for performers such as Elvis or Carl Perkins to have a good portion of their catalog issued on EPs.  The format was still popular in England in the first half of the 1960's, but it was falling out of favor in the US.  Still, Vee-Jay assembled one using four of the ten tracks they had not yet repackaged, as follows:

Side A

Misery
A Taste of Honey

Side B

Ask Me Why
Anna (Go to Him)

Note that A Taste of Honey is incorrectly listed as Taste of Honey on both the sleeve (pictured above) and label, and Anna lacks the subtitle (Go to Him).  The Wikipedia entry for this release states that it sold very well (just how well, it does not say), but it did not qualify for the charts due to the fact that part of its sales were of the mail-order variety.

On April 9th, Vee-Jay's gamble paid off when a settlement was finally reached with Capitol Records.  Perhaps surprisingly, Vee-Jay was allowed to maintain control over the same sixteen tracks it had been issuing for a period of six more months, at which point the rights to those titles would revert to Capitol.  The tenacious little label may have lost the ultimate battle (remember that it had originally had a five-year deal before the unpaid royalties scandal), but the Beatles' gravy train would keep it afloat for the immediate future.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dominating the charts

On March 16th, 1964, the single Can't Buy Me Love b/w You Can't Do That, the first real new material from the Beatles since I Want to Hold Your Hand, was issued in America by Capitol Records, four days ahead of its release in the UK.  In the span of only a few months, the fans in the much-larger US market were already getting preferential treatment.

At that time Capitol's I Want to Hold Your Hand was about to be replaced in the number one spot on the charts by Swan's She Loves You which, in turn, would be replaced by this newest single.  A few weeks later, on April 4th, these records, combined with Vee-Jay's Please Please Me and Twist and Shout on the Tollie label, aligned perfectly to take the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as pictured above.

As incredible as this feat is, it gets even better.  Not only did the Beatles occupy the top five spots, they had seven more songs in the Hot 100 that same week, as follows:

31. I Saw Her Standing There
41. From Me to You
46. Do You Want to Know a Secret
58. All My Loving
65. You Can't Do That
68. Roll Over Beethoven
79. Thank You Girl

Note that four B-sides make the list, as well as one A-side released after Can't Buy Me Love (I will cover it in my next entry) and two imports.  All My Loving b/w This Boy and Roll Over Beethoven b/w Please Mister Postman were singles released by Capitol of Canada which actually received enough airplay, listener requests and sales to make the chart in the US.   (In the oddity department, number forty-two was a song entitled We Love You Beatles by the Carefrees and number eighty-five was A Letter to the Beatles by the Four Preps.)

And, of course, the top two albums that week were Meet the Beatles! and Introducing...the Beatles.

A week later, the Beatles actually added two songs (There's a Place and Love Me Do - the latter being another Capitol of Canada import at this point), giving them a total of fourteen of the Hot 100, in addition to the top two albums.  The major difference this week was that they merely held three of the top five spots.

Naturally, this would not have been possible without the large backlog of material from 1963 and the multiple releases on various labels all coinciding at just the right time, but there is no question that it remains a remarkable achievement.