Monday, October 5, 2009

Forgotten Beatles Week: "Introducing... The Beatles"

What was it?
The first Beatles album released in the United States - a slightly-truncated version of the Beatles' first British album Please Please Me.

Vee-Jay Records (the most successful black-owned record company prior to Motown) won the American rights to distribute the Beatles catalog from EMI after Capitol initially turned them down. The story of how they lost the rights is complicated, but it has something to do with mounting debts and the company not properly reporting its record sales.

Eventually, Capitol gained the American rights to the Beatles, but Vee-Jay released this album anyway (ten days before Capitol released Meet the Beatles - which was now erroneously billed as "the first album by England’s phenomenal pop combo"). There was litigation, but a settlement with Capitol allowed Vee-Jay distribution rights to the songs it owned for a limited time.

Introducing... The Beatles sold over 1.3 million copies.

Why is it forgotten?
The settlement with Capitol Records put the kibosh on Vee-Jay from selling it after the Fall of ‘64. It stayed on the charts well into 1965, however, even after Capitol released their own version of this material as The Early Beatles.

Now here’s where things get a little confusing - it was widely available when I started collecting Beatles records in 1977. In retrospect, these were almost definitely bootleg copies.

The eventual worldwide release of the Please Please Me CD (in 1987) made Introducing... the Beatles especially irrelevant. At one time, this was the only American album which contained the tracks "Misery" and "There’s a Place".

Fun Facts:
Vee-Jay originally considered releasing Please Please Me intact - exactly as it was released in Britain on Parlophone. Since it contained fourteen tracks, and the American standard was twelve - they decided to repackage the record - minus two songs and with different cover art - as Introducing... the Beatles. (Capitol continued this policy with their subsequent releases).

The record snips the "1-2-3" portion of Paul McCartney’s famous "1-2-3-4" count-in at the beginning of "I Saw Her Standing There".

Tomorrow: A Hard Day's Night - the forgotten edition.