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Friday, May 22, 2015

Vee-Jay's last gasp

The over-saturation of material by the Beatles in the American market during the latter half of 1964 was only partly due to the multiple releases of songs from A Hard Day's Night.  The other side of the story involves our old friends at Vee-Jay Records, whose six-month window of opportunity to cash in on the early Beatles catalog was about to close on October 15th. 

The first flurry of activity occurred on August 10th, when Vee-Jay re-released the following four singles (two of which had originally appeared on its subsidiary label Tollie Records):

Please Please Me b/w From Me to You
Twist and Shout b/w There's a Place
Do You Want to Know a Secret b/w Thank You Girl
Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You

Fans seemed to have had enough of this older material as all four of these singles failed to even chart at this time.  Unfazed, the label made plans to re-release Introducing...the Beatles under various guises.  The album had been a great success for Vee-Jay despite the legal entanglements with Capitol Records earlier in the year.  In fact, when the Beatles appeared at the Hollywood Bowl on August 23rd, Vee-Jay presented the group with a Gold Record award for sales of 1.3 million units.
One repackaging took advantage of both of Vee-Jay's former superstar acts in a deluxe two-record set with Introducing...the Beatles on one record and Golden Hits of the Four Seasons on the other featuring Sherry, Walk Like a Man and Big Girls Don't Cry.  Though highly unusual, The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons is a truly outstanding collection for anyone who did not previously own any of this material.  Either many fans already did or the price of a double album kept them at bay because this release only hit number 142 on the Billboard album chart.
The other re-release was entitled Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles.  It was simply Introducing...the Beatles in a three-quarter gatefold sleeve with information about the boys printed inside that you might find in any typical fan magazine of the time.  This release performed somewhat better, eventually peaking at number sixty-three.  Though the covers of these two albums were new, Vee-Jay did not even bother to change the label on the record within, still listing it as Introducing...the Beatles.

On October 10th, just before Vee-Jay's rights expired, it also reissued Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage with a new cover depicting the Beatles as pictured at the top of this entry.  If the information in the Wikipedia article about this album is correct, less than one hundred copies were pressed, making this an extremely rare item and one of the most valuable for collectors.   

Thus ended the Fab Four's association with the tiny, troubled label that had taken a chance on them  and attempted to introduce them to the American market when no others would in early 1963.  From this point forward, Capitol Records would handle all future releases of the official Beatles catalog in the USA.

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