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Thursday, April 9, 2015

INTRODUCING...THE BEATLES - part two

Back cover of version two
Following the resignation of company president Ewart Abner after his gambling scandal, and the lawsuits by the Four Seasons and other acts for loss of royalties, Vee-Jay Records found itself in dire financial straits.  But a glimmer of hope presented itself when I Want to Hold Your Hand burst upon the scene at the end of 1963 and the Beatles instantly became the hottest property in show business.  The master copy of the album Introducing...the Beatles had been gathering dust in Vee-Jay's vaults since July and, despite the fact that manager Brian Epstein had severed ties with the US label, its board of directors opted to take a chance - a second gamble, if you will.

When Capitol Records announced that it was going to release an album entitled Meet the Beatles! on January 20th, 1964, Vee-Jay seized the opportunity and rush-released its own album first, issuing Introducing...the Beatles on January 10th (at least one source says January 6th).  Capitol was seemingly taken by surprise, but its response was quick and logical - Capitol owned Beechwood Music, which held the US publishing rights to the songs from the group's first UK single, Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You.  An injunction was issued against Vee-Jay Records, ordering it to stop distribution of its album after only about one week on the market.

Vee-Jay barely missed a beat, simply reconfiguring the album as pictured above by removing the two contested tracks and replacing them with Please Please Me and Ask Me Why.  New copies were pressed and it was back in record shops within a matter of weeks (again, some sources say as early as January 27th, others put it at February 10th).  Litigation continued for a few months, yet Introducing...the Beatles climbed the album charts and settled in the number two spot, right behind Meet the Beatles!  It had taken a full year, but Vee-Jay was finally seeing a return on its investment.

Mainly because of the legal hassles, there are many variations of both the cover and the label of Introducing...the Beatles, due to the fact that production of the album was halted and resumed numerous times.  Bruce Spizer's outstanding Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles Records on Vee-Jay has page upon page of photos depicting the multiple variations.  Furthermore, his book is a major source of information concerning Vee-Jay's complex involvement with the catalog of the Fab Four during this confusing period.

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