Sure most fans know the major albums by The Beatles, but some of the odder releases may have been forgotten. Here are the American releases (including some rare ones), along with the major British releases that had different album covers (they’re not normally seen together, and photos can be clicked to enlarge). Being a Beatles fan since “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was released in late 1963, I owned all but two of these albums, and there are a lot of them!
In America, the nearly identical album was called Introducing The Beatles. Capitol Records had turned down releasing The Beatles even though EMI/Parlophone in England was their parent company. So Vee-Jay got the rights, and for some reason ended up with the most boring Beatles cover ever. The album was originally scheduled to be released in July of 1963, but Vee-Jay didn’t actually release the album until January 10th, 1964. That was after the single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was a huge hit for Capitol (which had come to their senses). Introducing The Beatles was released just ten days before The Beatles’ first Capitol album.
The Beatles were already past their second album in England. With The Beatles was released in the U.K. November of 1963. In America, the album came out in January, 1964 and was called Meet The Beatles. It included “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, and “This Boy”, which were not on the British version. If you want to know which singles were on which albums, you can read my article “The Beatles…Singles Left Off Albums”. Here’s the link when you want to check it out: https://ontherecords.net/2017/11/the-beatles-singles-left-off-albums/
The immense popularity of The Beatles caused more recordings to come out of the woodwork. English singer Tony Sheridan had used The Beatles (billed as The Beat Brothers) to back him on a record he made in Germany in 1962. Somehow in 1964 this became a Beatles album. It actually has only two songs by The Beatles, an original instrumental, “Cry For A Shadow”, and a cover of “Ain’t She Sweet”. I decided not to buy this one.
The third major Beatles album in America was curiously named The Beatles’ Second Album. Capitol apparently didn’t want to admit Vee-Jay had released an album at all, even though it was a big hit. The Beatles’ Second Album was put out in April of 1964. The U.S. was catching up on all the songs The Beatles had recorded in 1963, and they completely dominated the charts. During one week in April of 1964 they had the top two albums and the top five singles.
Just two months later, June of 1964 (early July in England), The Beatles released the album and movie A Hard Day’s Night. In England, it was a full album with 13 songs written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. In America, the soundtrack was released by United Artists. It only had seven of the same songs, plus instrumental music from the film.
Since Capitol didn’t have the rights to the movie soundtrack, they had to come up with something new. So they “cleverly” named the album, Something New. It was a mix of some non-soundtrack songs from the British A Hard Day’s Night album, a couple of American singles, and some of the songs from the movie.
Not to be outdone for coming up with ways to repackage The Beatles, Vee-Jay put together a two-record set with their other big act, The Four Seasons. This was the second of the two albums I didn’t buy. I already had all The Beatles’ songs, and the three big hits by The Four Seasons.
American albums had fewer songs than the British albums, so every once in a while, Capitol made their own albums. In June of 1965, Beatles VI was mostly made up of leftover songs from Beatles For Sale, combined with songs from the upcoming Help album that were not on the American soundtrack.
In England, Help (August 1965) was a full 14 songs long. In America, Capitol only used 7 Beatles songs, and filled it with instrumentals from the film. That’s one way we got more Beatles albums in America.
Looking at the English and American covers of Rubber Soul (December 1965), it seems the only difference is the color of the title. In reality, there’s a big six song difference between the records. Capitol left off four songs, and added two that had been on Help in the U.K.
On the left is the original “butcher cover” for the American album Yesterday And Today. Radio stations and retail stores complained about the cover, and Capitol changed it to the one on the right. Yesterday And Today was released in June of 1966. It consisted mainly of “leftover” songs from Help & Rubber Soul, plus tracks from the not-yet-released Revolver.
Well, the idea of having all the albums the same lasted one album. When the Magical Mystery Tour EP (extended play 45) was released in the U.K. in November of 1967, Capitol turned it into a full album by putting 5 songs from singles on the other side. This was actually a good idea, and it’s now the official album on both sides of the Atlantic.
Because animation takes a long time to complete, the Yellow Submarine movie gave The Beatles another psychedelic album cover in January of 1969. There were only four new songs on the album, and side two was instrumental soundtrack music. A much better version called a “Songtrack” was released in 1999.
What’s a record company to do when they have singles that never appeared on any of their albums. Capitol’s last weird American album was Hey Jude in February of 1970. It was also the last photo shoot of the four Beatles together. The album was originally going to be named The Beatles Again, and my memory is that title was printed on the record label.
The final original Beatles album to be released, Let It Be (May 1970), was recorded before Abbey Road, but was delayed until Apple was satisfied with the final production, and it was timed to the release of the film.
The first official U.S. & U.K. Beatles hits collections were released in April of 1973. The Red Album covered 1962-1966, and the Blue Album 1967-1970. These were both double albums. The cover shot for the Blue Album was a cool 1969 recreation of the photo on The Beatles’ first album. It definitely shows how much The Beatles changed over a 6-year period, and their music changed at least as much. The photo was originally going to be used on the Get Back/Let It Be project in 1969.
So, how could Capitol and Parlophone (Apple) release more Beatles albums? Well, in June of 1976, they grouped together the most “Rock & Roll” Beatles songs (originals and covers) into a double album called Rock ‘N’ Roll Music.
In late 1962, The Beatles were making their final appearances in Hamburg Germany. Somebody used a single microphone and a portable wire recorder to capture a performance at the Star-Club. Of course it’s historic, but the sound was bad on this 1977 release. I’m sure I only listened to it once.
In May of 1977 came the first official release of a Beatles live album The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl. It’s an example of the band’s short concerts from the mid-sixties. With all the screaming, the sound quality is not great. It was upgraded in 2016 for the documentary Eight Days A Week.
Ten years after The Beatles split, two albums of Rarities were released. One was a U.K. version, and the other U.S. They had different tracks, because what constituted rarities varied by what had been released in each country. My favorite rarity was “Penny Lane” with that cool trumpet ending that was originally on the single, but was ultimately left off when it was released.
A reader reminded me about this Reel Music album from March of 1982. The cover was a poorly drawn conglomeration of Beatles movie images, and the album, although it had some great songs, was mostly unnecessary. It ended up in the cutout bins, because fans already had the songs. I do have the single of the “Movie Medley” Capitol edited together. The picture sleeve is next to the album above..
Who could even limit Beatles songs to 20 Greatest Hits? Apple tried to do it in October of 1982. The songs chosen were slightly different in the U.S and the U.K., because of which songs were #1 in each country. One detail that stood out to me was that “Hey Jude” had about 2-minutes less of “Na Na’s at the end. It was shortened because of the time limitations of vinyl records.
When Beatles albums came out on CD’s in 1987 (using the U.K. versions), they found a way to handle the songs that were not on those British albums. Originally, Past Masters had two volumes, but they soon put all the songs on one CD.
When The Beatles appeared on BBC radio programs in the early ‘60’s, they made original recordings at the BBC’s studios. Mostly they used the opportunity to record songs they liked that weren’t their own. In November 1994, a two CD collection of these recordings was released, Live At The BBC. A second volume was released in 2013.
Three double albums of alternate takes and rarities, Anthology 1, 2 & 3 were a treasure trove for Beatles fans. They were released from November of 1995 to October of 1996. Beatles friend/artist/musician Kraus Voormann created the three covers that were part of a large art piece.
The Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released in September of 1999. It featured a much larger number of songs than were on the original movie soundtrack. It was the first major project of remixing well known Beatles songs.
In November of 2000, a Greatest Hits package was released that only The Beatles could make. It has 27 songs that all hit #1 on the charts in England or America. The Beatles 1 is one of the best-selling albums of all time. In 2015, the album was remixed, and the colors on the cover of the CD/DVD version were reversed.
Paul McCartney was never satisfied with the overproduction by Phil Spector on the Let It Be album. So, in November of 2003, McCartney (with Ringo & George’s approval) released Let It Be…Naked. It took the album back to the original intent of the band, which was to present the songs as played by just The Beatles and Billy Preston, with no overdubs.
We got another version of Let It Be in October of 2021, when the remixed box set was released, shortly before the documentary film The Beatles: Get Back. The remix release of Revolver was October 28th, 2022, and Rubber Soul is expected in 2023.
Popular for over half-a-century, Beatles songs are likely to maintain their popularity for many decades to come.