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Monday, July 20, 2015

Yesterday b/w Act Naturally

By the summer of 1965, Capitol Records had become very good at selecting just the right tracks to withhold from the latest UK albums in order to begin creating the next US compilation, as well as any future single.  In September, two songs were chosen from the four held in reserve from the non-soundtrack side of the British version of Help! for release as one such single.

The fact that Yesterday was one of those songs should come as no surprise, especially considering that there had been much discussion about issuing it as a single in England by the Beatles, their producer George Martin and manager Brian Epstein back in June when it was recorded.  The merits of the tune were obvious but, since Paul was the only Beatle performing on it, it was problematic.  Ultimately, it was decided that the record was not representative of the Beatles as a group, nor should it be released as a solo piece credited to Paul McCartney.

Capitol was not bound by such artistic constraints and, as the song was already gaining considerable attention despite being buried as the thirteenth track on the current British album, the label was free to issue it as a single attributed to the Beatles in the US market.  The surprise here is that it was not originally supposed to be the A-side.

That's right.  Ringo's popularity among American fans was still so strong that his country and western cover song Act Naturally was initially chosen to be the A-side of the single.  Fortunately, the powers that be at Capitol came to their senses in time and flipped the two songs before the single was issued.  According to Wikipedia, this decision was made so late that Capitol never corrected it in the company files.  I can confirm that the Capitol version of both the Red and Blue Albums in 1973 contained a cardboard insert listing all albums and singles issued on the label to date, and this single was still listed at that time as Act Naturally/Yesterday.

Released on September 13th, the record became the second Capitol-created Beatles' single (after Eight Days a Week earlier in the year) to hit the number one spot. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

HELP!

In April of 1965, Eight Arms to Hold You became Help! and the group duly recorded a Lennon composition of that name.  It was America's turn to get the initial release of the next record (this flip-flopping seems to have been the early pattern) so, on July 19th, four days ahead of the UK issue, we got the single Help! b/w I'm Down, the B-side being an insane McCartney rocker that unusually was not available on any album during the group's career, even in the US.

But, as great as it was, the single merely served to whet our appetites for the soundtrack album and the film itself.  This time, continuing the alternating trend, British fans were offered the album first, on August 6th, followed a week later by the American version.

Now, Capitol Records has taken a lot of heat over the years for this release, but the truth is that it was pretty much using the same model that United Artists had with its soundtrack album for A Hard Day's Night.  Only the seven new songs by the Beatles used in the film appeared on the record, as well as six pieces of incidental music (the opening one not even listed) from a fellow by the name of Ken Thorne.

SIDE ONE

Help!
The Night Before
From Me to You Fantasy
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
I Need You
In the Tyrol

SIDE TWO

Another Girl
Another Hard Day's Night
Ticket to Ride
The Bitter End
You're Going to Lose That Girl
The Chase

Of course, if any fans had bought the most recent singles, they already had the songs Ticket to Ride and Help! in their possession, so they really got only five new tunes for their hard-earned cash.  And the gatefold cover, which contained photos and hype about the film inside, made the cost of the album an additional dollar to boot.

Unlike George Martin's score for A Hard Day's Night, Ken Thorne's music for this film is often downright wacky, matching the tone of the movie.  His brief variation on the James Bond theme opens the album before the title song (Capitol even kept this in front of Help! on original pressings of the Red Album in 1973) and, of course, we should never lose sight of the fact that Thorne's medley of tunes from A Hard Day's Night played on instruments from India helped to introduce a young George Harrison to a lifelong fascination with the music, culture and religion of that Far Eastern country.