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Friday, April 17, 2015

Swan and Vee-Jay cash in

Once the Capitol Records single I Want to Hold Your Hand began taking America by storm, it was only a matter of time before Swan Records re-released its one and only Beatles' single.  She Loves You, which you will recall had done next to nothing on its initial US release, quickly rose to the number two spot behind the Fab Four's first American hit, eventually replacing it and becoming the group's second US number one.  The executives at Swan must have been overjoyed at their sudden and unexpected good fortune.

Meanwhile, their counterparts over at Vee-Jay began their next series of moves as litigation with Capitol Records continued.  They found new and inventive ways to repackage the sixteen titles to which they believed they still held the rights.  First up was a new single combining their two former A-sides, with Please Please Me remaining in that position and From Me to You relegated to the B-side.  Had they foreseen the staying power of Beatlemania in America, perhaps they would have held on to From Me to You and kept it as an A-side for a later single.  As it was, this record was released on January 30th, 1964, and was soon following She Loves You up the charts.  Please Please Me peaked at number three, but From Me to You stalled just outside the top forty at number forty-one.

Surely one of the strangest and most obscure compilations appeared on February 26th - an album entitled Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage.  Ifield was another British star who had sued Vee-Jay for unpaid royalties in 1963, then signed with Capitol Records.  Vee-Jay assembled an LP featuring eight of Ifield's tracks and both sides of the Beatles' singles it had previously released - Please Please Me, Ask Me Why, From Me to You and Thank You Girl.  That makes this collector's item the only album to include the track From Me to You in the 1960's.  (It's still bewildering to think that Capitol never issued this song in any format during the group's career.)

As the legal wrangling with Capitol dragged on, Vee-Jay handed off the next release to its own subsidiary label Tollie Records.  It took two album tracks from Introducing...the Beatles and created the single Twist and Shout b/w There's a Place, issuing it on March 2nd.  In the wake of the group's three consecutive weekly appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, so all-consuming was the desire of American fans for anything by the Beatles that Twist and Shout would go all the way to number two.

In fact, this outpouring of releases (with more to come in short order) combined with the seemingly-endless appetite of the newly-minted American Beatles' fans would lead to an absolutely unprecedented event in the first weeks of April - one which has not been repeated since and, due to this unique set of circumstances, likely never will.

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