The Beatles’ 5 Unique American Albums (Re-evaluated)

Capitol Records was heavily criticized for their handling of Beatles albums, but let’s take a fresh look to see if it was actually bad for American Beatles fans.  Five of The Beatles’ albums during the 1960’s were assembled by Capitol Records, and were not released in England.  Those albums don’t match-up with the albums The Beatles themselves planned and recorded.

In January of 1964, Capitol released Meet The Beatles (With The Beatles in England), and VeeJay Records released Introducing The Beatles (Please Please Me in England).  By March, the two albums were at #1 & #2 on the Billboard chart, and Beatlemania was raging.  That month, Capitol executives figured out how to release a third album, even though The Beatles had only released two.

It was mostly possible because British albums normally had 14 songs, and American albums usually had 10 to 12.  Plus, The Beatles didn’t put most of their singles on their albums.  Capitol had added three singles to Meet The Beatles, but they also removed five songs.  To start putting together The Beatles’ Second Album (second Capitol album), they used those five album tracks.  Then, Capitol added four songs from non-album singles, and a couple of new recordings from a British EP (extended play 45 rpm record).  The Beatles’ Second Album was released April 10th, 1964, and in two weeks it replaced Meet The Beatles at #1…at which point The Beatles had three of the top four albums.

Six of the tracks were songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and the songwriters from Motown.  The Beatles really rocked these songs, and it’s a solid album even though it’s light on Lennon-McCartney originals.  Of course Capitol was trying to increase their Capital, but if they hadn’t released albums like this, it could have been years before we heard these songs.

The next official Beatles album was A Hard Day’s Night in June of 1964.  In the U.S., it was a soundtrack released by United Artists. They owned the film, and the right to release the seven songs featured in it.  Not to be left out, Capitol came up with one of their least-needed albums, Something New.

This is an easy album to criticize.  In England, the A Hard Day’s Night album had 13 Lennon-McCartney originals.  Capitol could have put the six songs not on the U.S. soundtrack onto Something New.  Instead, they only gave us three of those songs, and repeated five songs we had already gotten on the soundtrack.  They filled out the album with the American single, “Matchbox/Slowdown”, and a German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.  The album was a disappointment, but still made it to #2.

The next album of music by The Beatles was Beatles ‘65, which somewhat matched the British Beatles For Sale from late 1964.  However, Capitol added the single “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman”, plus “I’ll Be Back” from the British A Hard Day’s Night, and removed six songs they could save for another unique American album.

It was in June of 1965 that Capitol released Beatles VI.  Six of the eleven songs are the ones held off of Beatles ‘65, including “Eight Days A Week”.  The other five songs  are “Yes It Is” (the B-side of “Ticket To Ride”), two Larry Williams rockers, “Bad Boy” & “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (Lizzy was misspelled on the cover), plus two songs from the not-yet-released British Help album… “What You’re Doing” & “You Like Me Too Much”.  It’s a good album, and another #1.  By the way, we finally know what The Beatles were holding in the cover photo, a knife to cut a cake.

The next releases were Help and Rubber Soul, and they were followed (in June of 1966) by the best, but most infamous, of the unique American albums.

Yesterday And Today has four hit singles…”Nowhere Man”, “We Can Work It Out” (#1), “Day Tripper”, and “Yesterday” (#1).  It also has “Drive My Car”, “If I Needed Someone”, and three songs from the yet-to-be-released Revolver, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “And Your Bird Can Sing” & “Dr. Robert”.  At the time, we in America didn’t know this album had taken songs from Help, Rubber Soul, and Revolver, but The Beatles did.  They decided they didn’t want their albums cut up anymore, so they planned to have their future albums be the same in the U.K. and the U.S.

The other problem with Yesterday And Today was the cover.  The original cover was meant to be an artsy shot of The Beatles in white coats with slabs of meat and pieces of dolls.  It became known as the “Butcher Cover”.

When advanced copies were sent to radio stations, critics, and record stores, the negative feedback caused Capitol to recall the album, and change the cover to the steamer trunk pose.

In 1995, I got a Capitol promo CD with the above two covers on the CD booklet.  It also included this brief “cover story”.

(Click or zoom to enlarge)

Those four albums are the main unique American releases, but in early 1970 (after Abbey Road but before Let It Be) Capitol decided there were just too many Beatles singles that hadn’t been released on any of their albums.  So, the album Hey Jude was put together.

Side One

  1. Can’t Buy Me Love (1964)
  2. I Should Have Known Better (1964)
  3. Paperback Writer (1966)
  4. Rain (1966)
  5. Lady Madonna (1968)
  6. Revolution (1968)

Side Two

  1. Hey Jude (1968)
  2. Old Brown Shoe (1969)
  3. Don’t Let Me Down (1969)
  4. The Ballad Of John And Yoko (1969)

It’s a shame they included and started the album with “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better”, because they were the only singles that had already been on an album (United Artists’ A Hard Day’s Night).  There was also a big gap between the style of those early hits, and the remainder of the album’s songs.  The “Get Back” single and the B-side to “Lady Madonna”, “The Inner Light”, would have fit-in better.  It seems like a small change, but look how more contemporary and unified the album becomes.

Side One

  1. Paperback Writer
  2. Rain
  3. Lady Madonna
  4. The Inner Light
  5. Hey Jude

Side Two

  1. Revolution
  2. Get Back
  3. Don’t Let Me Down
  4. Old Brown Shoe
  5. The Ballad Of John And Yoko

With this line-up of songs, Hey Jude might even have become an official British version the way America’s Magical Mystery Tour album did when all The Beatles’ CD’s came out in 1987.  It seems better than just throwing the singles on Past Masters (17 years later).  All of these singles deserved to be on an album, and most of them were in stereo for the first time.  Hey Jude was a welcome addition when it was released in February of 1970.  It made it to #2 and sold over 2-million copies in the U.S.

The two cover photos from Hey Jude were from the last photo shoot The Beatles ever did.  There was one plan to have the front and back covers reversed, and the title was Beatles Again.  That’s the title that was printed on the record label when I bought the album in 1970.

There were obviously some problems with the unique American albums created by Capitol, especially with them removing album tracks from the official Beatles albums.  On the plus side, we didn’t know it was happening, and enjoyed having Beatles albums coming out more often.  It also gave us stereo versions of singles that in England were only mono and not on albums.  It could be argued that Americans actually got the better deal by having all those great stereo singles on albums.

And in the end…Americans still got to enjoy The Beatles albums as the group intended.

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