Saturday, February 26, 2011

Colours And Pictures

As 1978 wore on, it was decided to release a picture disc of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" LP in the United States - catalogue number Capitol SEAX-11840 with the record having an enlarged picture of the front cover on side one and the Pepper bass drum logo on side two. One of the reasons for the release was the interest of the group stirred on by the movie of the same name featuring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. Although the film flopped, the picture disc version sold reasonably well at the time. Capitol Records in the US also re-issued the following LPs on coloured vinyl: "The Beatles (White Album)" 2-LP set on white vinyl with the catalogue number Capitol SEBX-11841; "The Beatles 1962-1966" 2-LP set on red vinyl with the catalogue number Capitol SEBX-11842; "The Beatles 1967-=1970" 2-LP set on blue vinyl with the catalogue number Capitol SEBX-11843. The above record were available as limited editions with 150,000 copies. All of the above were released on August 15 1978.

In December 1978, Capitol in the United States released "Abbey Road" as a picture disc which was housed in a cut out cover (similar to the "Pepper" picture disc) with the front cover photo on side one and the back cover photo on side two. The catalogue number for this one was Capitol SEAX-11900.

In the UK, only the greatest hits double LPs were released. "The Beatles 1962-1966" was re-issued on red vinyl with the catalogue number Parlophone 717 and "The Beatles 1967-1970" was re-issed on blue vinyl with the catalogue number Parlophone 718. Both releases were issued on September 30 1978.

In Canada, Capitol of Canada basically issued the same vinyl coloured discs as the Unites States with the exception of the "Pepper" picture disc. In it's place, Capitol of Canada issued a marble colour vinyl version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Capitol of Canada SEAV-11840) as well as previously issued the 2-LP set "Love Songs" on yellow/gold vinyl (Capitol of Canada SEBX-11844).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Probably the strangest single from EMI/Capitol.

As you may have surmised, Capitol and EMI were going nuts releasing theme albums and a handful of singles left and right during the 1970s just because - well, just because they could with no consequence. Thinking as a business (not that there's anything wrong with that) and not thinking artistically, it was decided to release a single featuring the first two songs from the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" on the A-side and the last track "A Day In The Life" on the B-side.

The dim light bulb went off when it was discovered that a movie was being made using songs from the LPs "Pepper" and "Abbey Road" featuring the (at the time) heart throb Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. Capitol and EMI saw the opportunity to make $$$.

The single was released in North America on August 14 1978 with the catalogue number Capitol 4612. There was also a promotional white label disc with the designation P-4612 that has the A-side "Sg.t Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help From My Friends" in stereo and folded down mono.

In the UK, the single was also released on September 30 1978 with the catalogue number Parlophone R-6022. Both singles featured picture sleeves. The UK version was added to the EMI singles box when it was officially released.

The single did horribly in the charts for both North America and the UK. In the United States, the single peaked at 71 in the "Billboard" charts. In the UK, the single didn't even enter the top 30 and became the first Beatles' single not to enter the charts. The fact that the single was released in 1978 and the movie did not premiere in the UK until 1979 certainly didn't help.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Love Songs

This is the second "themed" Capitol/EMI project that is basically a compilation of Beatles' recorded material that have a "Love" connection. The recordings were once again released as a 2-LP set and is not officially available on compact disc (just like the first "themed" project Capitol/EMI 2-LP "Rock 'N' Roll Music").

"Love Songs" was released in North America on October 21 1977 with the catalogue number Capitol SKBL-11711. "Love Songs" was released in the UK almost a month later on November 19 1977 with the catlogue number Parlophone PCS 7211/2.

The packaging for the cover of this set was much more impressive than the previous "theme" set. "Love Songs" contains two vinyl LPs inside a gatefold cover which is brown and textured to be alike a simulated leather feel with an oval logo consisting of the Beatles images as taken by Richard Avedon for "Look" magazine in 1967. The original photograph of the Beatles in 1967 was manipulated for the cover/logo by moving Ringo and Paul. Paul is left on the origina photo while Ringo is immediately to the right. On the cover, Paul and Ringo are reversed in position and Paul's portrait is enlarged while Ringo's portrait has been made smaller. Why this was done is unclear although there is speculation that Paul was enlarged due to the fact that he was the only solo Beatle at the time (1977) to be signed to EMI. John had let himself become a free agent, George was with Dark Hose/Warner and Ringo was with Atlantic/Polydor. There is also speculation that the big wigs at Capitol thought it would be better to have John and Paul "highlighted" since it was the two composers who's music was being prodominantly featured in the set (Reference: Spizer).

The original covers also came with a 28 page lyric book that featured the logo on the front cover and the calligraphy by Michael Manoogian. The lyric book was printed in the United States and imported to the other countries for release (Canada and the UK).

The inner sleeve for the North American releases included the logo on one side and the pertinent songs on the other side along with timings, LP of original (US versions) along with date of release for the particular LP. The UK pressings did not have custom inner sleeves.

The record labels for the North American releases included the Bealtles portait on a gold and brown background. The UK pressings did not have custom inner sleeves but rather the regular black/silver Parlophone labels.

Canadian copies offered all of the above along with gold vinyl colour pressings catalogued as Capitol of Canada SEBX-11844.

The song selection is a little bizarre. It's always difficult to define exactly what a "love song" is. Does it have to have "love" in the title or does it have to have love as a subject or is it a romantic lyric? Anyway, some of the tunes included on this set are questionable. "She's Leaving Home" for example.

A nice little set and collectible although it has not been listened to very much with my ears. I've always found compilations very subjective.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Strange Single From Capitol Records

As EMI and Capitol records were preparing to release it's second "theme" 2-LP set containing a compilation of Beatles' love songs, Capitol records in the United States issued a promotion single to radio station containing two of the love songs slated for said release.

The single had "Girl", the Lennon tune from the "Rubber Soul" sessions on it's A-side while the B-side was to contain "You're Going To Lose That Girl", another Lennon tune this time from the "Help!" sessions. Both tunes were described as "from the LP "Love Songs" SKBL-11711". The distribution of the promotional single to the media took place on or about October 13 1977.

Although the commercial version of the single was eventually cancelled, promotional singles containing the song "Girl" on both sides (mono/stereo) (mono being a folded down stereo). The catalogue number for the promotional single is: Capitol P-4506. The label is gold and brown with the "Love Songs" logo featuring the Richard Avedon's photos along the top.

A picture sleeve was also manufactured for the purpose of the (eventually) cancelled commercial version which featured the same leather texture and gold foil type brown front and back and it also contained the oval "Love Songs" logo similar to the "Love Songs" 2-LP cover. Commercial labels for the single were manufactured but the commercial single did not get to the pressing plants. There are several "fake" copies of the commercial single available.

Discussion of the "Love Songs" Capitol/EMI 2-LP set will be written about in the upcoming post.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Beatles Live! At the Star Club in Humburg, Germany; 1962.

The second live 2-LP set released in 1977 (the first set being the Hollywood Bowl). This quasi-legit release was released firstly in Germany on April 08 1977 (this release pre-dating the eventual world wide release of the Hollywood Bowl tapes). The catalogue number for this German release is Bellaphon BLS 5560. The next release date for these particular recordings was in the UK, once again as a 2-LP set with the same ugly cover: White type on a black background. This time is was released on the Lingasong Label via RCA. The catalogue number is LNL 1. Finally, on June 13 1977 the 2-LP set was released in North America and was also on the Lingasong label. The catalogue number being Lingasong LS-2-7001. The above catalogue numbers are all for the original vinyl 2-LP release. This material (along with the Hollywood Bowl material) has never been officially and legally released on compact disc.

The songs on these recordings date back to the end of 1962 when the Beatles were booked in Hambug Germany between December 18 and December 31 (New Year's Eve). To pinpoint the exact nights are hard to do, but probably between boxing day (December 26) and New Year's Eve (December 31) were when the actual recordings were made. The Beatles were recorded along with Ted Taylor and the Dominoes on a reel-to-reel capacity in mono mainly to test the equipment installed by Adrian Barber at the Star Club where these bands were performing. Mr. Barber gave the tapes to Ted Taylor for his listening pleasure before Beatlemania.

Mr Taylor saw potential in the live tapes after Beatlemania hit the UK and offered the tapes to Brian Epstein. Mr. Epstein saw no value in the tapes and since the recording was horrific, Mr. Epstien offered Mr. Taylor twenty pounds. Naturally, this was turned down and the tapes remained with Mr. Taylor.

In the mid to late 60s, the tapes were brought to a small London recording studio owned by an engineer with the name John Seddon. The tapes were brought to the studio in order to try and clean them up a bit and to try and improve the sound. The tapes were basically left at the studio until the studio literally shut down and stopped operation.

In 1971, both Ted Taylor and the Beatles early booking agent Allan Williams, went back to the closed studio, got it opened and took the Hamburg tapes out of the studio. Williams and Taylor both tried to pursuade major record companies to release the material (including Apple) but was mainly turned down due to the fact that the sound was (and is still) horrendous as well as the fact that the material on the tapes should have legally be owned by EMI since the Beatles were under contract with EMI at the time of the recordings - this is why the liner notes try to get around this by claiming that the performances were recorded earlier in the year before August and that Ringo was simply "sitting in " for Pete Best. Misleading at say the least.

Enter Paul Murphy. Mr. Murphy was once an engineer for the Polydor company in Germany and had remixed the Hamburg studio recordings for Bert Kaempfert in 1964. Mr. Murphy, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Williams set up a company called "Lingasong Ltd." in September 1975. Eventually, Mr. Murphy bought out Mr. Taylor and Mr. Williams and kept the tapes with the attempt to finance a clean up of the mixes with EQ and a host of other things. Lingasong teamed up with the Double H Licensing Corporation from New York City with the intent of distribution. When the impending release was announced, Apple tried to sue but the case was dismissed due to the fact that the tapes were of "historic interest" (according to Lingasong) and that Apple had delayed the court action when they had known that the tapes existed.

There are differences between the European release of this LP set and the North American release. Most of these differences stem from the fact that the North American version had purposely tried to NOT include that would suggest (correctly, I might add) that these tunes were only written and/or performed live at the end of 1962 during the EMI era. For instance, the first song on side one of the European LP is "I Saw Her Standing There" which was removed from the North American line up and replaced with "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You". On side two, the first song on the European LP is "Twist and Shout" while the replacement song on the North American LP is "Where Have You Been All My Life". Track five "Reminising" from the European LP is replaced by "Till There Was You" on the North American pressing. On side three "Ask Me Why", the fifth track from the European release is replaced with "Sheila" on the North American version. Side Four is left untouched.

The front and back covers are similar for both territories (apart from the back track listing and fact that Europe states that the LPs contain 13 never before released Beatles tracks, the North American version states that the LPs contain 15 never before released tracks). The inner gatefold of my German copy has the misleading liner notes in English on one side and in German on the other side. The North American version contains more photos of the German-era Beatles and the English liner notes with a baby blue background. The other side contains the track listing and credits.

Although the sound is still horrible, one get a sense that the Beatles were not really "giving" thier all as their debut single "Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You" had been released not two months earlier and this gig in Hamburg was probably the last place they would want to be instead of being in their homeland promoting the single.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl LP

1977 was a very cool year for fans of the Beatles' live performance. Two commercial LP releases of live performances came out that year. One was from the pre-fame era while one consisted of full blown "Beatlemania".

The first LP to be released by EMI/Capitol was the international release entitled "The Beatles At the Hollywood Bowl". The LP was released in North American on May 04 1977 with the catalogue number Capitol SMAS-11638. It was released in the UK two days later on May 06 1977 with the catalogue number Parlophone EMTV 4. The "TV" in the prefix designated the heavy use of television advertising in Britain for this album.

All material on this LP were recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl venue in the city of Los Angeles during the Beatles' tours of 1964 and 1965.

The first concert recorded was performed on August 23 1964 with an audience of mostly screaming young girls and the attendance figure of 17,250. The performance was recorded on three-track tape with Hugh Davies as recording engineer and Voyle Gilmore acting as producer. The entire show was taped and the original idea was to release the show as a live album back in the 1960s. Four days later back at the Capitol Studios in LA, stereo mixes were prepared and the gap between the Beatles' introduction and the first song was edited as well as some dialogue of Paul introducing Ringo for his spotlight on the song "Boys". The mono mix was simply the three track stereo mix folded down. Capitol acetates were made at this point. the acetates were mono and these acetates were probably used as templates for the mound of vinyl bootlegs releases of the 1964 Hollywood Bowl live performance issued in the early 1970s on vinyl.

George Martin and Beatles were dissatisfied with the result and a planned live LP to be released during the 1960s was abandoned. The first 45 seconds of the live "Twist and Shout" performance from the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert was released as part of the 2-LP Capitol North American release "The Beatles Story" in mono (Capitol TBO-2222) and in stereo (Capitol STBO-2222).

Six songs from the 1964 Hollywood Bowl show are featured on the 1977 "The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl" LP: "All My Loving", "She Loves You", "Things We Said Today", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Boys" and "Long Tall Sally".

The second and third concerts were recorded by Capitol records once again at the same location (Hollywood Bowl) on August 29 and 30 1965. The performances were once again recorded on the three-track mobile with Pete Abbott being the recording engineer this time. Voyle Gilmore was once again producer. There is no indication of any mixing or editing of these 1965 concert tapes until much later on. In 1966, second generation copies of the two 1965 concert master tapes were shipped to EMI Studios in London and the performance of "Twist And Shout" was used on the television special "The Beatles At Shea Stadium" dubbed over the Shea performance to enhance the performance in the post-production. There were also audience noise ( note: screaming) overdubbed onto the Shea television special from the 1965 Hollywood Bowl concert tapes.

More stereo mixes of the 1964 complete Hollywood Bowl concert were prepared on September 30 1966. The concert was still not released at this point (probably due to the fact that the Beatles were now advanced leaps and bounds in the recording of their new material that the earlier songs/concerts were of less interest to them). The three track master tapes and the current stereo mixes were all sent to EMI Studios for storage in 1969. Two years later in 1971, the original master tapes for both 1965 Hollywood Bowl live performances were finally sent to EMI studios for storage.

Fast forward to 1976: EMI and Capitol now gain creative control over the Beatles' material as the recording contract expires. A stereo acetate was prepared using the August 30 1965 concert performance in it's entierty with 6 songs on each side. This developed into a 2-LP set with the same line up as above and the addition of eight songs from the 1964 August 23 performance. Once again both line ups were scrapped.

Then president of Capitol Records Bhaskar Menon had asked George Martin to work on the tapes. George Martin agreed and the project along with the master tapes were taken to Air Studios in London on January 18 1977. The recording engineer was Geoff Emerick and the song line up/ editing/ equilization was completed on January 23 1977. It took one week.

The eight songs appearing on the 1977 LP from the 1965 shows are the following: "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (an edit of the August 29 and August 30 1965 performances), "Ticket To Ride" (August 29), "Help!" (August 29), "Twist And Shout" (August 30), "She's A Woman" (August 30), "Can't Buy Me Love" (August 30), "Baby's In Black" (August 30), "A Hard Day's Night" (August 30).The LP's back cover states that all of the songs above were from the August 30th show, although aural evidence states overwise.

The front cover has a small photo in black and white of the Beatles on stage at the venue with two mock tickets in green and blue. The mock ticket in green is for the August 23 1964 show and the mock ticket in blue is for the Augusts 29 1965 show. The original genuine tickets did not feature a photo of the Beatles but these mock tickets do. The North American version of the LP has the tickets embossed on the front but the UK version does not. The North American version has the Capitol logo on the bottom center of the front cover.

The back cover features liner notes and the track listing as well as a fully torn ticket on the UK version and an embossed folded but not as torn as the UK ticket on the North American version.

The inner gatefold cover features memorabilia such as the 1964 and 1965 concert programmes, some Beatles badges, a Beatles serving tray, a Beatles "Beatles VI" play tape, a couple of Beatles pennants, and a large black and white photo of the Beatles performing on the Hollywood Bowl stage and a few of the audience member's heads ( on girl turning around to look back). Both inner gatefolds are the same for the North American and the UK versions.

The paper inner sleeves are different: The UK version contains the Beatles current catalogue with photos of all of their UK LP covers from "Please Please Me" to "Rock 'N' Roll Music" while the North American version features black and white photos of audience members screaming, standing and generally having a blast and facsimilies of the Beatles' autographs accompany the photos. This LP also has custom labels. The UK version had the track listing in black and white on one side and a photo of the Beatles on stage in black and white on the other side. The North American version also has custom labels with side one having a partial torn blue ticket of the August 29 1965 show and the track listing on a tan background and side two having a partial torn green ticket of the August 23 1964 show and the track listing once again on a tan back ground.

This LP has never been commercially released on compact disc and is still (as of this writing) only available on it's vinyl counterpart. This title is one of the most recommended re-issue of Beatles material not yet released on compact disc by a lot of Beatles' fans.

I also highly recommend you seek out the complete Hollywood Bowl concerts available as a 2-CD released on "Midnight Beat". You get a nice box and booklet and it's sounds terrific !!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da/ Julia

The "single" 45 blitz of 1976 continued with the release of two tracks from the Apple 2-LP/2-CD "The Beatles (White Album)" released on November 08 1976. The catalogue number is Capitol 4347 and this single was only released in North America.

The label featured the contemporary orange Capitol label and there was also a promo white label for the a-side (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da) with a mono mix and stereo mix (Capitol P-4347). The mono mix is simply the stereo mix folded down and not the true mono mix available on the mono version of the white album available on Apple in the UK (PMC 7067-7068).

Capitol and EMI at this point must have been salivating to release as much Beatles material as they could since they could now manipulate the catalogue as they wished. The above example was an unnecessary exercise as far as I'm concerned. The single was only on the charts for six weeks and reached a high point of 47. Maybe this discouraged Capitol from releasing singles left and right (although a few LPs were forthcoming as we will see in future posts).

The single came with a picture sleeve and had the same concept as the original "White Album" cover in the sense that all the picture sleeves were sequentially numbered. It's a nice little collector's item.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Single From the Double LP

On May 31 1976, Capitol Records in North America had released a single with two tracks taken from the upcoming Capitol 2-LP set: "Rock 'N' Roll Music". This single (Capitol 4274) contained the songs "Got To Get You Into My Life/ Helter Skelter". Both songs featured on the "Rock 'N' Roll Music" LPs. This single was only released in North America.

On June 25 1976, EMI records in the UK did the same thing in the sense that a single was released in order to promote the "Rock 'N' Roll Music" Lps. This single was only released in the UK. This single (Parlophone R 6016) contained the songs "Back In The USSR/ Twist And Shout". How these two songs are related in any way (besides being on the compilation LPs) remains a mystery to me. The choice of songs seems so random.

Anyhoo, an attractive picture sleeve was featured and contained the four portrait photos from the Beatles 2-LP/2-CD "White Album (The Beatles)". The songs written above the portraits in green in order to co-incide with the recent release of the entire single output by EMI.

The "Back In The USSR" single was also available in the Worlds Record version of the singles box set as well as the later 1982 EMI version of the Beatles singles box set albeit with a different picture sleeve design (more on this in a later post).

The single made the two twenty in the UK (number 19). Very respectable for a well know 60s song being promoted in the mid 70s.