The Beatles were different than other groups. They didn’t include many of their singles on their albums, even when they came from the same recording sessions. The reason given by The Beatles and producer George Martin was that they didn’t want fans who bought the single to have to pay for those songs again on an album.
That policy on singles didn’t hold in America, and there were major differences between British and American albums. Despite all the criticism Capitol Records has received over how they put the albums together, sometimes their choices were good.
The British version of America’s first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles, is called With The Beatles. The American version is far superior, because it has three excellent songs that were not on the British album…”I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “This Boy”. Those three important songs lead off the American album, which was The Beatles’ introduction to most Americans. Good move Capitol.
Other major early singles that were not on British Beatles albums, but were on American versions include…“She Loves You” (on The Beatles’ Second Album), “I Feel Fine” and “She’s A Woman” (both on Beatles ’65). The single “From Me To You” didn’t appear on a British or American album, until later collections.
Above are the two sides of my CD’s (with cardboard sleeves) of the American releases by Capitol records (click to enlarge). These 1964 & 1965 albums were made available in this form in 2004 & 2006. It didn’t simply give American fans a chance to enjoy the albums as we knew them, but for the first time it gave us remastered STEREO versions of many songs that had previously only been available in mono. That was the real draw.
British albums normally had 14 songs, and U.S. albums usually only had 11 or 12. Capitol used this as an opportunity to “save” some songs, and then make new albums by combining them with singles that hadn’t been placed on previous albums. That’s how we got American albums that didn’t even exist in England, especially…The Beatles’ Second Album, Something New and Beatles VI.
Then in 1966 came “Yesterday”…and Today. Above is my 1995 promo CD that actually features a version of the infamous “butcher” cover, which was the original cover for the album. Negative reaction to it from radio stations and reviewers caused Capitol to recall the album and change the cover to a harmless photo of The Beatles and a steamer trunk. Musically, the album has a lot of good songs, but it’s a real Frankenstein’s monster, pieced together from many parts. It has the singles “We Can Work It Out” & “Day Tripper”. Three songs from the yet-to-be-released Revolver…”I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert”, & “And Your Bird Can Sing”. Two songs from Help…”Yesterday” & “Act Naturally”. Plus, there are four songs from Rubber Soul…”Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, “If I Needed Someone”, and “What Goes On”.
It’s generally thought that by taking those songs off Rubber Soul, Capitol made the album fit in better with the popular Folk Rock trend of 1965. Instead of starting the album with a rocker, “Drive My Car”, Capitol started the album with the acoustic-based “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (on Help in Britain).
The Beatles decided that beginning with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, British and American albums would contain exactly the same songs. But, let’s take a look at some of the albums that were missing singles, before and after Sgt. Pepper. These were songs intentionally left off…by The Beatles.
The Rubber Soul recording sessions included “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper”, which were released as a two-sided single on the same day as the album. The Revolver sessions included “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”. The Sgt. Pepper sessions included “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The White Album sessions included “Hey Jude” and “Revolver”. And, the Let It Be sessions included “Don’t Let Me Down”.
As great as those five albums are, wouldn’t they have been even more amazing if those singles could have been included? Of course we can include them with our playlists.
For Rubber Soul…Revolver… and Sgt. Pepper, I drop the missing singles between the original sides of the albums. Rubber Soul gets “We Can Work It Out” & “Day Tripper”. “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” sound like they belong in Revolver, and that even places “Rain” just before “Good Day Sunshine”. In Sgt. Pepper, “Penny Lane” sounds great after “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”, and the ending of “Strawberry Fields Forever” transitions nicely into “Within You Without You”. Producer George Martin would be pleased to finally have those two songs on the album.
Although all the albums were the same starting in 1967, The Beatles still released singles, plus a six song EP (extended play) collection in England to go with their film “Magical Mystery Tour”. Capitol had a better idea. Take those non-album singles…”Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Penny Lane”, “Hello Goodbye”, “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, and “All You Need Is Love”, combine them with the six songs from the film, and you’ve got a really good album, Magical Mystery Tour. This was such a good idea by Capitol, that when the other Beatles albums were released on CD, the American version of Magical Mystery Tour also became the official British version.
The most “lost” single by The Beatles is probably “Lady Madonna”. It was released in early 1968, after Magical Mystery Tour, but well before The White Album. It was a song without a home, although Capitol later put it on a compilation album made up of old singles…Hey Jude. “Lady Madonna” is on my Magical Mystery Tour playlist.
(Added information: B-sides “I’m Down”, “The Inner Light”, and “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” were not on regular albums in either country, later placed on Past Masters.)
So, which is the best Beatles album when you add in the appropriate singles? No matter which one you choose, you’re right, because there is no one “correct” answer.
Rubber Soul…Revolver…and Sgt. Pepper represent three of the best albums ever recorded. With the addition of “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”, Sgt. Pepper is really strong…but it would be easy to justify choosing any of these albums as the best.
And here’s another thought. Imagine how good The White Album would be if it started off with “Revolution” and “Hey Jude”, and then you could choose the best 10 or 12 songs off it to make a single album instead of a double album. That leaves Abbey Road (no singles added), and some people already think it’s the best.
Choosing the best Beatles album? I should have known better, you can’t do that. But, it’s fun trying…especially if you listen to all the albums again.