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Friday, October 23, 2015

The British EPs

In my initial look at the official Beatles catalog as issued in the UK, I chose to bypass the superfluous EPs, most of which were released throughout the first half of the band's career.  I only dealt with Long Tall Sally and the double EP Magical Mystery Tour, as these contained original material that was an essential part of the group's musical progress.

In the 1960's, the EP or extended play record was the same size as a single (7"), but it generally featured two tracks on each side, usually compilations of songs already released on albums and singles.  They seem to have been less popular in the US than they were in England at this time.  In my recent thread of American releases, I covered the three official compilation EPs issued in this country during the group's career - one on VeeJay Records and the other two on the Capitol label.

So, if EPs usually only contained material already available, what exactly was their purpose?  The fact of the matter is that not everybody owned an expensive turntable capable of playing albums back in those days.  Many young fans simply listened to 45s on smaller devices.  I myself had one such record player given to me by my parents which, apart from its electronic components, was largely plastic.  It ran on batteries, was portable and perfectly suitable for listening to my small collection of singles.  Since it only played discs at 45rpm, it would have also served the purpose if I had bought any of the American EPs.

Those who did not purchase albums in Britain had to possess great patience, as Parlophone tended to issue EPs well after the same material was available in the LP format.  And, while the tracks on most of the EPs came from albums, some of the collections simply contain previously released singles and, therefore, would have been redundant for many fans.  They are an eclectic mix, as you will discover, and they present an interesting overview of the band's work, ranging from the instantly recognizable to some rather obscure songs.  If you didn't know who the Beatles were, you could get a pretty good sense of their impact between 1962 and 1965 simply by listening to these discs.

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