lunes, 4 de febrero de 2013

Understanding Beatles albums makes for A Hard Day's Night

This Saturday, Feb. 9, marks the 49th anniversary of the Beatles' debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. An estimated 73 million Americans along with several million Canadians tuned in that Sunday evening to witness the Fab Four take North America by storm. Beatlemania and the British Invasion arrived on our shores. The stampede to your local record store the following day was unprecedented. Demand for Beatle records was insatiable. By April 4, 1964, the Beatles made history as the only act ever to monopolize the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart's top five positions based on sales figures.
Unlike in the United States, where Capitol Records rejected the first four Beatles singles (Love Me Do, Please Please Me, From Me To You and She Loves You), Capitol Records Canada jumped on the bandwagon as early as February 1963 with the release of Love Me Do followed by the other three singles, all of which topped the U.K. charts that same year. By the time the American label finally took the plunge and released I Want To Hold Your Hand at the end of December 1963, it was already a chart hit across Canada.
So, after all these years you've finally decided to upgrade your Beatles collection from those well-worn vinyl albums to digital CDs. You pull out the original albums in order of release and prepare to replace them with their CD equivalent only to discover that the CDs are all based on the original 14-track British albums (North American albums averaged 11 tracks). Beatlemania -- With The Beatles, released in Canada in November 1963, three months before the Sullivan appearance, matches the original U.K. release track for track. So far, so good. After that, however, things get a little frustrating. In February 1964, Capitol Canada rushed out Twist and Shout. The album was a big seller offering tracks not included on Beatlemania. In reality, these tracks were anywhere from six to 10 months old, many dating from the band's U.K. debut album Please Please Me, which had not been released in Canada. The inclusion of She Loves You, Please Please Me and From Me To You, three songs then on the U.S. charts as re-released singles, was the icing on the cake. However, Twist and Shout was an anomaly in the Fab Four canon. There was no equivalent U.K. or U.S. album, therefore no matching CD.
Three months later Capitol Canada released the Long Tall Sally album, another hot seller and home-grown anomaly. While boasting a similar cover to the American Second Album, its tracks varied considerably. In reality, Long Tall Sally was a compilation of singles (I Want To Hold Your Hand making its first appearance on an album here), B-sides, EPs and left over album tracks. If you wanted your party to really jump, all you had to do was put on Twist and Shout followed by Long Tall Sally. Both albums were the brainchild of Capitol Canada employee Paul White, an early Beatles booster.
Then, in the summer of 1964, Capitol U.S.A. issued a directive that from now on all Beatles albums in both countries were to be the same in both tracks and cover. It said nothing about the albums matching U.K. releases, however. In North America, A Hard Days Night differed from its U.K. namesake. With tracks left over and the plundering from the band's fall UK-only album Beatles For Sale, Capitol had a field day foisting three albums on us, Something New (which even dredged up the German-language version of I Want To Hold Your Hand), Beatles 65 and Beatles VI. Don't look for these on Help! and Rubber Soul both had tracks left off their North American releases (with Help! on this side of the Atlantic sullied by several non-Beatle soundtrack ditties like In the Tyrol and The Chase). These leftovers plus a couple of cuts pulled from the imminent release of Revolver comprised Yesterday And Today, arguably the worst example of Beatles bowdlerizing, whose rejected butcher cover photo depicted the quartet amidst raw meat and baby doll parts -- a statement of their aversion to their recorded work consistently being chopped up.
It's not until 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that the Beatles achieved uniformity in their album releases (with the exception of Magical Mystery Tour, an EP in the U.K. and a full album over here). After that it's clear sailing for your CD upgrade.
All these machinations beg the question: Why were the Beatles subjected to such ruthless bastardizing of their albums here? Simple: record company greed. Capitol Records U.S.A.'s man in charge of Beatle releases, Dave Dexter, didn't even like the band. His often willy-nilly editing decisions (and tone-deaf mixing of some songs) was motivated purely by commerce, not art. In the end, North American Beatlemaniacs bought more Beatles music simply because it was being made available every four months or so to milk the cash cow. It's the first law of economics: demand and supply. None of the men in suits running Capitol Records ever believed the Beatles would last more than a couple of years.
Confused? Don't be. In reality you can find virtually every Beatles track available both on CD or as digital downloads. Just not in the albums we all cherished back in the day.


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