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Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Though Allen Klein had given Capitol Records permission to once again issue compilation albums in late 1969, he apparently did not trust the American label to assemble one in keeping with his personal tastes and exact specifications.  And so, the Beatles' new manager hand-picked Allan Steckler, from Klein's own company ABKCO, to put together the next release.  According to the entry for this album on Wikipedia, when his work was completed Steckler even had the tapes mastered at Bell Sound Studios rather than at Capitol.

Made up entirely from American singles that had not appeared on Capitol albums, Steckler's lineup was as follows:


Can't Buy Me Love
I Should Have Known Better
Paperback Writer
Lady Madonna


Hey Jude
Old Brown Shoe
Don't Let Me Down
The Ballad of John and Yoko

A mere ten tracks (probably because Hey Jude is twice the length of most tracks), resulting in what amounted to the running time of a standard eleven-track Capitol album.

As is always the case with compilation albums, fans can speculate endlessly over why certain tracks were omitted.  With only two tracks from 1964 and two from '66, Steckler's focus is clearly biased towards more recent material.  Thus, songs from the group's early days that had also never appeared on a Capitol album are still missing, such as Misery and There's a Place from the British LP Please Please Me, the A-side From Me to You and even the A-side A Hard Day's Night, though its American B-side I Should Have Known Better did make the cut.  One could also argue for the alternate single versions of Love Me Do and Help!, plus the latter song's great B-side I'm Down and the German rarity Sie Liebt Dich.

Steckler was no doubt afraid of Harrison's Indian-flavored B-side The Inner Light, but why oh why did he include the B-side Don't Let Me Down without its A-side Get Back?  Yes, the latter song would eventually appear on the LP Let It Be but Steckler had no way of knowing that, as Phil Spector had not yet begun his re-production work on the band's final album.

This compilation was originally given the title The Beatles Again.  First pressings still had that title on the label on both sides of the record and are surely of value to collectors.  It was released in the US on February 26th, 1970 and appeared in many other countries under the EMI umbrella, as well, though not in the UK.  It is the only album issued during the group's career that I do not possess in any format due to the complete redundancy of the material on it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Capitol and Apple

Before his untimely death in August of 1967, manager Brian Epstein had set in motion a plan to build a company for his beloved Beatles.  At the first meeting after his demise, the boys foolishly decided that they would now manage their own affairs while carrying on with Brian's master plan.  Apple was naturally centered around the group's music, giving them their own record label, but it would also have other divisions including film, electronics and even a clothing boutique in London.  However, Apple Records would still be distributed by EMI and its worldwide network of labels such as Parlophone, Odeon and, in America, Capitol Records.

The final single by the Beatles to appear on the orange and yellow Capitol label was the March 1968 release Lady Madonna b/w The Inner Light.  Starting with the August '68 single Hey Jude b/w Revolution, the apple (shiny and whole on the front, cut in half on the B-side) became a familiar sight.

Capitol Records was now back in line with the British releases and remained so with the issue of the "White Album" in November of '68.  The January 1969 soundtrack album Yellow Submarine was the same as far as the music goes, but Capitol deviated in the packaging.  The back cover of the UK album reprinted a glowing review of the "White Album" from The Observer, deflecting attention from the obviously subpar record in the listener's hands.  The American label chose instead to print an amusing bit of hype for the outstanding feature-length cartoon associated with the soundtrack, comparing the Beatles to some great heroes of yore.

The next single, Get Back b/w Don't Let Me Down in April of '69, was issued in mono in England, as all singles had been up to this point.  But, giving in to the demands of the time, Capitol made the unprecedented step of issuing it in stereo, which would become the new norm in both countries beginning with the release of the single The Ballad of John and Yoko b/w Old Brown Shoe only a month later.  In October of 1969, Capitol released the album Abbey Road and the double A-sided single Something/Come Together with no changes from the British originals.

But, at the same time, major changes were occurring for the Beatles.  The group's attempt to manage its little empire for the past two years had been nothing short of disastrous and a nasty power struggle had taken place between McCartney and his bandmates over who should be brought in to keep everything they had from slipping away - either Paul's new in-laws Lee and John Eastman or brash American Allen Klein.  After a brief period of joint management (to nobody's satisfaction), John, George and Ringo's choice eventually won out.

Amazingly, the Beatles, still the biggest act in show business worldwide, had mismanaged Apple so badly that they were now cash-poor.  In an effort to improve revenues, Klein renegotiated the group's royalties deals yet again and eliminated the artistic agreement preventing Capitol from creating compilation albums and additional singles.  The American label wasted little time and began putting together a new album...good thing, too, because unbeknownst to all except the group's inner circle, John had quit the Beatles.

Monday, September 21, 2015


At the end of 1967, Capitol Records faced a dilemma.  EMI and the Beatles had come up with a unique package for the six songs which made up the soundtrack of the group's film for television Magical Mystery Tour.  The British release was to be a deluxe double EP with three tracks per disc, featuring a booklet with photographs of the production.  Capitol knew that the American market would never go for the double EP format. The label wanted to issue an album, but the band had not recorded any additional new material as they had for A Hard Day's Night and Help! sufficient to make up a second album side.

The answer to the problem was to use the A-side of the concurrent single Hello Goodbye (its B-side I Am the Walrus was already part of the soundtrack) and the two other singles previously released that year to create a standard eleven track Capitol album.  The lineup was as follows:


Magical Mystery Tour
The Fool on the Hill
Blue Jay Way
You Mother Should Know
I Am the Walrus


Hello Goodbye
Strawberry Fields Forever
Penny Lane
Baby You're a Rich Man
All You Need is Love

The American release also featured a booklet of photographs, only album-sized instead of the size of the British EP.  Capitol tinkered with the sequence of the soundtrack songs on side one, improving upon it to my way of thinking.  There was once again only the briefest of pauses between tracks as on Sgt. Pepper.  And I Am the Walrus had a four beat intro in lieu of the six beat intro of the UK stereo mix.

The result was a curious hybrid of a soundtrack album and a compilation album, but what a compilation!  The quality of the songs on side two from the 1967 singles, particularly Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, is incredible.

All in all, this was a very attractive package which quickly became popular as an import in Britain, where many fans preferred it to the double EP.  In 1976, EMI Parlophone took the unprecedented step of discontinuing the double EP and replacing it with the album in the British market.  And when the group's catalog was issued on CD for the first time in 1987, Magical Mystery Tour was the only album to appear in its American format - a nice tip of the cap to Capitol.

Astute observers probably noticed on the inner sleeve that the film for television was presented by a company called Apple.  And one credit on the booklet read, "Editorial Consultants (for Apple): Neil Aspinall & Mal Evans."  While it may not have been immediately apparent to us, something big was already underway on the business side of the Beatles' affairs.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Capitol agreement

Capitol picture sleeve for Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever
When manager Brian Epstein informed EMI that there would be no new album, or even a single, by the Beatles in time for the 1966 Christmas market, Parlophone Records in England compiled a greatest hits package entitled A Collection of Beatles Oldies, but Capitol Records curiously declined to issue it in the States, thus leaving "Yesterday"...and Today and Revolver as the only albums to appear here during that calendar year.  Yet, as 1967 dawned, it was Capitol that famously pressed Epstein for a new release from the group after such a prolonged absence (six months!) from the public eye, resulting in the brilliant single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever and removing those two titles from the current project-in-the-works, disrupting the concept of an album about the boys' Liverpool childhood.

Around the same time, in January of '67, Epstein negotiated new royalty agreements with both the British and American labels.  An important part of the deal with Capitol as far as producer George Martin and the Beatles were concerned was artistic control of their releases.  Back in 1964, they had been delighted merely to have "conquered" the American market and to have their records appear on such a prestigious label.  They were quickly disappointed, however, by the way their output was repackaged for consumption by US fans, with albums bearing little or no resemblance to the British originals.  Martin had taken great care with the layout of each album right from the start, arranging Please Please Me as an approximation of the group's live act.  By the time of Rubber Soul and Revolver, the exact sequence of songs was considered to be essential, not only on the album as a whole but even on each side of the record.

Now, Capitol agreed not only to begin releasing the group's albums as they were issued in Great Britain but also to refrain from creating compilation albums and singles beyond the official worldwide releases.  The timing of this agreement could not have been better.

On June 1st in the UK and June 2nd in the US, two identical versions of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band were released.  Well, almost identical...  American pressings of the album did not include the high pitched tone or the gibberish on the inner groove at the end of side two, but the thirteen tracks are all presented in the same running order and with the same unusually brief pauses between songs as on the British release.  Even the packaging was identical, right down to the cardboard cutouts.  For the first time, the artistic integrity of the project was not compromised, much to everyone's satisfaction. 

Capitol stayed the course in July with the release of the worldwide single All You Need is Love b/w Baby You're a Rich Man but, at the end of the year, a problem arose which prompted the label to deviate from the program.

Monday, September 14, 2015


On August 8th, 1966, only a month and a half after the arrival of the Capitol Records compilation album "Yesterday"...and Today, two new worldwide releases by the Beatles hit the stores in the USA.  First up was the group's second double A-sided single Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine.  It was the track sung by Ringo that proved more popular with American fans, though it stopped just short of topping the charts, peaking at number two.  The unusual thing about this single is that both sides appeared on the album released on the same day (this was also true of the UK versions issued on August 5th) - not the typical value-for-your-money attitude previously associated with the group's manager Brian Epstein, who made this decision.

Despite the redundancy of those two tracks, the album itself was a stunner, featuring the following line-up:


Eleanor Rigby
Love You To
Here, There and Everywhere
Yellow Submarine
She Said She Said


Good Day Sunshine
For No One
I Want To Tell You
Got To Get You into My Life
Tomorrow Never Knows

This was the closest yet that Capitol had come to giving us an album that was akin to its UK counterpart.  (Vee Jay Records had come closest of all with its two versions of Introducing the Beatles.)  None of these tracks are leftovers from a past album - all are from the British version of Revolver and, for once, Capitol did not keep any in reserve for a future compilation.

The major difference was the lack of three tracks by Lennon which, as you may recall from my last entry, had premiered on "Yesterday"...and Today.  While those songs tilted that album heavily in Lennon's direction, their omission here shifted the emphasis strongly toward McCartney (heck, even Harrison has three tunes to Lennon's two).  And, though it is once again a pure coincidence, this happened just as McCartney was hitting his creative peak as a composer, making this release a career high point for the future Sir Paul.

Instead of the backwards guitars on the fade out of I'm Only Sleeping anticipating the sitar on Love You To, here we have the abrupt ending of Eleanor Rigby in front of Harrison's first Indian excursion.  McCartney's two piano-based numbers, Good Day Sunshine and For No One, have a different feel when separated by Lennon's guitar-driven And Your Bird Can Sing on the British album.  The UK release also features the fade out of Doctor Robert cleverly leading into the fade in of I Want To Tell You.  These variations demonstrate how a few seemingly minor adjustments can significantly alter the experience of listening to a sequence of songs.

Yet, for me, a huge fan of Mr. Lennon, his overall absence is not at all detrimental to the American record, in part because of the incredible strength of the album as a whole, and also due to the fact that each side ends with his songs, leaving his contributions etched in my mind.  Nevertheless, producer George Martin and the Beatles were tired of being frustrated by Capitol's liberty to tamper with the layout of their albums...but that was about to change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


The first half of 1966 had been uncharacteristically quiet as far as Beatles releases go, with only the singles Nowhere Man b/w What Goes On and Paperback Writer b/w Rain appearing in the US.  Capitol Records had even resisted the urge to issue yet another compilation album - until June 20th, that is, when the most wide-ranging collection to date arrived in stores.

"Yesterday"...and Today made news even before its release due to the infamous butcher cover, showing the group with raw meat and baby dolls in pieces.  Complaints from disc jockeys and reviewers who had received promotional copies of the album resulted in the recall of 750,000 units, which were either destroyed or had the new steamer trunk cover pasted over them for resale.  The Wikipedia article for this album contains extensive information about the price that collectors have been willing to pay over the years for original copies in various conditions.

As to the record itself, the line-up was as follows:


Drive My Car
I'm Only Sleeping
Nowhere Man
Doctor Robert
Act Naturally


And Your Bird Can Sing
If I Needed Someone
We Can Work it Out
What Goes On
Day Tripper

First of all, note that Capitol had reverted to its standard practice of giving us eleven tracks, after magnanimously treating us to twelve on Rubber Soul.  Furthermore, only five songs were new to American fans, as the other six had all appeared on singles over the previous nine months.

But the new tracks were glorious, starting with Drive My Car and If I Needed Someone, the last two leftovers from Rubber Soul.  Even better were the three world premieres from the current album-in-the-works, by coincidence all Lennon compositions.  When the request for material to fill out this album had come from America, producer George Martin had quickly prepared mono and stereo mixes of these songs for Capitol, but he would later submit them to further mixing before their release on the UK version of Revolver.  The most obvious difference is on the track I'm Only Sleeping, with the US mix lacking some of George Harrison's backwards guitar part.

The resulting album spanned almost a full year in the recording history of the Beatles, with a heavy emphasis on songs by John Lennon.  This could have been balanced somewhat if McCartney's great B-side I'm Down (recorded on the same day as Yesterday) had been included.  Instead, that track became one of only a few to somehow never appear on a US album during the group's career.     

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nowhere Man b/w What Goes On

On February 21st, 1966, Capitol Records continued its policy of issuing a single created from two tracks it had held in reserve from the most recent British album.  Rubber Soul had presented the American label with a number of superior songs from which to choose a suitable A-side including Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), Michelle, Girl and In My Life, but it was Nowhere Man that was ultimately selected.  And, banking once again on Ringo's popularity among Stateside fans, What Goes On was chosen for the B-side.

After Eight Days a Week b/w I Don't Want to Spoil the Party and Yesterday b/w Act Naturally, Capitol was hoping to continue its string of self-created number one singles, but this one stalled at number three.  (The number one spot for the entire month of March was occupied by The Ballad of the Green Berets, which held on to become the number one single of the year.)  In retrospect, perhaps McCartney's love ballad Michelle would have been preferable to Lennon's introspective mid-tempo number - the first non-love song produced by the Beatles.

The picture sleeve recycled a photograph from the back cover of the 1964 UK album Beatles for Sale, which Capitol had already used as the front cover for The Early Beatles in early '65.

The next single, both sides of which were recorded early on during the sessions for the group's upcoming album, not only featured two songs that were not about love, it also introduced a richer, bass-heavy sound uncharacteristic of anything else in the Fab Four's previous catalog.  Paperback Writer b/w Rain gave fans a tantalizing glimpse of the work-in-progress that would transform the band from live performers to full time studio musicians.

This worldwide single was issued here in the US on May 30th, eleven days ahead of its British release.  As it hit number one on the charts, work continued on the accompanying groundbreaking album so, in the meantime, Capitol prepared yet another compilation album.