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Friday, March 29, 2013

20 GREATEST HITS - UK & US

Ten years of compilations made without the group's consent came to an end with these releases at the end of 1982.  In The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, Sean Egan reports that EMI originally wanted to make a double album which would have included all of the A-sides officially issued in the UK during the band's career.  As usual, for reasons unknown, the plan changed and twenty titles were crammed onto a single album instead.  Capitol Records in the US was allowed to create their own lineup using the same title.

Here is a side by side comparison of the two versions:

UK                                                                          US

SIDE ONE                                                               SIDE ONE

Love Me Do                                                            She Loves You
From Me to You                                                      Love Me Do
She Loves You                                                        I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Want to Hold Your Hand                                       Can't Buy Me Love
Can't Buy Me Love                                                 A Hard Day's Night
A Hard Day's Night                                                  I Feel Fine
I Feel Fine                                                              Eight Days a Week
Ticket to Ride                                                          Ticket to Ride
Help!                                                                       Help!
Day Tripper                                                             Yesterday
We Can Work It Out                                                We Can Work It Out
                                                                                Paperback Writer
SIDE TWO                                                                
                                                                                SIDE TWO
Paperback Writer                                                      
Yellow Submarine                                                    Penny Lane
Eleanor Rigby                                                          All You Need is Love
All You Need is Love                                                Hello Goodbye
Hello Goodbye                                                         Hey Jude
Lady Madonna                                                         Get Back
Hey Jude                                                                  Come Together
Get Back                                                                   Let It Be
The Ballad of John and Yoko                                   The Long and Winding Road

Essentially, each version included the songs which had gone to number one in the respective countries - with a few exceptions.  Love Me Do had never hit the top spot in the UK, only peaking at number seventeen on its initial release, but it had recently been reissued on the twentieth anniversary of its debut and had hit a much more respectable number four.

And, of course, there is the exclusion of Please Please Me, the record which had hit number one on all but one of the British charts in 1963.  By all rights, it should be on this collection (in place of Love Me Do, in fact) and, sadly, this is not the last time that this great song would suffer such an indignity.

The greatest sin, however, occurs on the American version.  On my entry for the Beatles Ballads, I noted that squeezing twenty tracks onto a single vinyl album negatively affected the sound quality of the product.  In a misguided attempt to preserve the fidelity of the record, Capitol actually had the temerity to lop off the final two minutes of the Hey Jude coda.  Whatever your feelings about the extended fadeout of that song, it is still tantamount to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

The two albums were issued a week apart in October of '82.  The UK version went to number ten, but the US version only went as high as number fifty.  These were the final official releases until the group's catalog appeared on CD in 1987.

Monday, March 25, 2013

REEL MUSIC & Movie Medley

In theory, this must have sounded like a great idea - take the title songs and several well-known tracks from each of the group's films and stick them all together on one album.  Unfortunately, not only does it make for a very disjointed listening experience, but the album is doubly unnecessary since all but one of the tracks - fittingly, I Should Have Known Better - had already appeared on other compilations.

SIDE ONE

A Hard Day's Night
I Should Have Known Better
Can't Buy Me Love
And I Love Her
Help!
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Ticket to Ride
Magical Mystery Tour

SIDE TWO

I Am the Walrus
Yellow Submarine
All You Need Is Love
Let It Be
Get Back
The Long and Winding Road

Not long after the album was released in March of 1982, an unusual single appeared.  At the time, there was a trend to create a medley of songs and place them on top of a dance beat - certainly not something you would expect to be done with selections by the Beatles, but nonetheless, here it was.  The Beatles Movie Medley, as it was officially known, linked together pieces from seven Reel Music tunes - Magical Mystery Tour, All You Need is Love, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, I Should Have Known Better, A Hard Day's Night, Ticket to Ride and Get Back.  The B-side of the single featured I'm Happy Just to Dance with You, George's vocal outing from the group's first film.

Amazingly, such was the popularity of these stitched-together creations at the time that the single went to number ten in the UK and number twelve in the US.

On a personal note, when I first joined the cast of Shear Madness in Boston in 1988, the Movie Medley was part of the pre-show tape, and the characters on stage had several moves timed to cues in the music.  This clearly ranks as one of the more curious connections to the Beatles in my life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

THE BEATLES BALLADS

I don't believe I have ever seen a copy of this compilation, new or used, in any record store, most likely because it was not released in the US.  EMI put this collection together in time for the Christmas market in 1980, but perhaps Capitol Records, in a rare show of restraint, thought that this package was too much like the 1977 release Love Songs.  This is pure speculation on my part, of course, but Sean Egan does note the great similarity between the two albums in The Mammoth Book of the Beatles, saying "this replicates most of the contents of Love Songs."

Actually, he is only half right.  Of the twenty tracks on this single album, ten had appeared on the twenty-five track double album Love Songs and ten had not.  My comments will be limited to the "new" additions.

SIDE ONE

Yesterday

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

Do You Want to Know a Secret - George's maiden vocal outing from Please Please Me.

For No One

Michelle

Nowhere Man - A great song from Rubber Soul as well as the title track of an EP.

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

Across the Universe - The World Wildlife Fund version.

All My Loving - A rollicking tune from With the Beatles and also the title track of an EP.

Hey Jude - The monster hit single from the summer of '68. 

SIDE TWO

Something

The Fool on the Hill - A well-known track from Magical Mystery Tour

Till There Was You - This Broadway show tune was covered by the group on With the Beatles.

The Long and Winding Road

Here Comes the Sun - George's other great composition from Abbey Road.

Blackbird - A solo recording by Paul from the "White Album."

And I Love Her

She's Leaving Home

Here, There and Everywhere

Let It Be - The final UK single, the version produced by George Martin.

Putting ten tracks on one side of a vinyl album (not to mention the seven-minute Hey Jude) surely must have compromised the sound quality of the record.  It was released in the UK on October 13th, 1980 and did not perform well in the charts until John Lennon's untimely murder.  In Australia, it hit number one.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

RARITIES (US) - side two

Inner gatefold
Penny Lane - Side two opens with the promotional single version of this song featuring an additional trumpet phrase at the very end which was deleted from the official release.

Helter Skelter - The Beatles, aka the "White Album," was the last album to be mixed for both mono and stereo.  Capitol did not release the mono version in the US, although a number of the tracks on it are quite distinct from their respective stereo mixes.  This song is a case in point, with different sounds being brought to the fore throughout.  But the big surprise comes when the song simply fades out and ends, instead of fading back in and concluding with Ringo's scream of "I've got blisters on my fingers!" as on the stereo version.

Don't Pass Me By - The mono mix of this "White Album" song is so fast that Ringo's voice sounds almost cartoon-like.  As on Helter Skelter, sounds different from those on the familiar stereo mix are highlighted.  There are also alternate fiddle parts, especially during the fadeout.  

The Inner Light - George's Indian excursion had only appeared as the B-side to Lady Madonna prior to its inclusion on both Rarities albums.

Across the Universe - This is the version which George Martin had produced for the World Wildlife Fund charity album, which had not been released in the States.

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) - Like The Inner Light, this comic B-side to Let It Be had not appeared on an album until the Rarities compilations.

Sgt. Pepper Inner Groove - These few seconds of chatter from the end of the group's groundbreaking album did not make it onto American pressings.  The high-pitched dog whistle which preceded this on the British release is not included here.

Perhaps the best rarity of all was not one of the tracks, but rather the infamous butcher cover photo from the Capitol album "Yesterday"...and Today.  It was reprinted on the inner gatefold alongside some conventional shots of the group (including the replacement photo for that 1966 American album).

Capitol released the album on March 24th, 1980 - more than a year after the UK version first appeared in The Beatles Collection.