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Friday, April 3, 2015

Swan Records dives in

As I stated at the end of my last entry, the Four Seasons had sued Vee-Jay Records because they were owed a substantial amount of back royalties for their string of hit records on the label.  Though the amount involved was considerably smaller, the Beatles were also owed royalties for sales of their singles Please Please Me and From Me to You.  Unhappy with the group's lack of success in the American market, manager Brian Epstein took this opportunity to declare the contract with Vee-Jay null and void, cancelling a five-year agreement and leaving the album Introducing...the Beatles in limbo.

At the same time, anticipation of the group's next single was so great in the UK that advance orders reached 500,000 before it was even released - an astonishing feat.  Feeling that the time was ripe, Epstein and producer George Martin once again approached Capitol Records to see if it was now willing to issue She Loves You in the US, but Capitol could simply point to the failure of the Vee-Jay singles to reaffirm the belief that the Beatles would never appeal to an American audience.

And so it was that Epstein wound up striking an agreement with Swan Records, a Philadelphia-based label that was even smaller than Vee-Jay.  But Brian had learned from experience not to enter into a broad-based long-term deal, so he specifically limited Swan to the rights for the two songs on the single for a period of only two years.

Swan issued She Loves You b/w I'll Get You on September 16th, 1963, almost a month after its British release.  Like Vee-Jay, Swan had little clout, and so the record received scant airplay and promotion, although Dick Clark's relationship with the Philadelphia label did manage to get it played on American Bandstand, where it got a rather low rating from the youngsters judging new releases on the show.  All in all, it initially sold only about a thousand copies, much less than the two previous singles, even further confirming Capitol's assessment of the band's chances in the US.

At the same time, the single was proving to be an unprecedented runaway success in Great Britain.  The Beatles were also becoming known beyond their native land and starting to gain a following in parts of Europe.  American impresario Ed Sullivan witnessed the phenomenon known as Beatlemania first-hand at London's Heathrow Airport when the group returned from a short visit to Sweden and received a tumultuous reception worthy of a national hero's welcome.  He was savvy enough to recognize that something truly remarkable was taking place, and it would now not be long before America would be caught up in the frenzy, as well. 

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