Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rock 'N' Roll Music

Nah, not the Chuck Berry tune but the first EMI/Capitol international release after the completion of the Beatles' contract with EMI. This is a 2-LP set and was never released on compact disc.

The two discs are the first in a short series of "theme albums" whose idea originated probably from the Capitol execs in Los Angeles, California, USA. Most of the songs are previous LP tracks and four of the tracks are repeats from the 1962-1966/1967-1970 releases. A good thing about the track listing was the inclusion of the "Help!" single B-side "I'm Down" which was the first time the song appeared in stereo and was available on an LP for UK and North America. The track listing also featured the four "Long Tall Sally" LP tracks (see entry) in stereo and on an LP for the first time in the UK.

The tracks were mixed differently for the North American market and the UK market. The president of Capitol Records, Bhaskar Menon claimed that he could not get hold of any of the Beatles for this release (yeah, right !!) so he contacted George Martin for the approval of the tapes. Capitol used two track dubs which basically had the vocals on one channel and the instruments on the other (similar to the UK mixes). George Martin narrowed the separation and EQ'ed the Capitol tapes. The UK tapes were released in their original form.

"Rock 'N' Roll Music" was also the first release after the expiration of the Beatles' contract with EMI to not feature the Apple label. The North American release reverted back to the Capitol label while the UK release reverted back to the Parlophone label.

The cover for the LP was not recieved very well at the time. It features the art direction of Roy Kohara (who had designed a couple of John and Ringo LP covers in the 70s including "Walls and Bridges", "Rock 'N' Roll", "Shaved Fish", "Goodnight Vienna" and "Blast from Your Past"). The illustrations were by Ignacio Gomez. The front cover featured the Beatles drawn in the "Ed Sullivan" era from a photo previously used on a Capitol LP ("Second Album"). There are two thumbs visible like someone holding the LP cover and the artist title and LP title in neon-like tubing. Not the best cover. The back features a drawing of the Beatles in the same position but from the back. The neon tubing is reversed. Track listing is on the upper left and right. The inside gatefold included 1950s retro symbols such as a cheeseburger, drive in, a drawing of Marilyn Monroe, a glass of Coca-Cola, a tail fin Chevy, a juke box, 45 singles palm trees, music notes and two more thumbs similar to the outside cover. A lot of fans criticized the inside cover saying that it didn't represent the Beatles although (to be fair), the concept of the LP was not the Beatles, but the music that they had covered during the 1950s. Interestingly, the North American version of the LP had custom labels with a glass of Coca-Cola on the label whereby the UK version had the black and silver Parlophone labels. It has been said the John Lennon wrote to EMI requested to design the cover for this project, but was turned down. This brings up my earlier point that Mr. Menon of Capitol states that he could not get hold of any Beatles for final approval of the LP tracking !!!

"Rock 'N' Roll Music" was released in the UK on June 10 1976 (Parlophone PCSP 719) and was released in North America on either June 07 1976 (reference: Stannard) or June 11 1976 (refernce: Spizer) (Capitol SKBO-11537).

It's highest position on the chart was number 10 (in the UK) and number 02 (in North America behind "Wings At the Speed of Sound").

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Un-Strange Single

The next release by Capitol Records in the US was a single promoting the upcoming post-contract Beatles released of the 2-LP "Rock 'N' Roll Music". The single contained the songs "Got To Get You Into My Life/ Helter Skelter". The commercial single was released on May 31 1976 on Capitol 4274. This single was not released in the UK but only in North America.

There was also a promotional counterpart that used the catalogue number Capitol P-4274 which had also been the catalogue number of a previously promotional single issued to radio stations containing "Helter Skelter" on both sides in mono and stereo (see previous post).

Regardless, this commercial single was a great hit for the Beatles. The single entered the top 30 at number 27 the following month and made it all the way up to number 3 for the week of August 07 1976. The single stayed in the charts for 12 weeks. A picture sleeve was issued for this single which featured a greened-out version of the upcoming front cover for the "Rock 'N' Roll" project.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Strange Single

The first single released after the expiration of the Beatles contract from EMI and Capitol was released in North America (I'm not sure if the single was available in Canada). Capitol records decided to issue a promotional single of the song "Helter Skelter". The song appeared on both sides of the 45 with a mono version on one side and a stereo version on the other side.

The mono mix was not the one used on the UK Apple LP/CD "The Beatles (White Album)" but rather a fold down mix of the stereo version. The label of the single is white and the catalogue number is P-4274. The "P" meaning promotional. The single was issued to radio stations in the United States during the spring of 1976. Both sides have the fade out/ fade in with Ringo's comment at the end. This may be a reason that this song was not eventually released commercially as the A-side. The catalogue number was re-used at a later date (more about that in a future post).

It must also be noted that during two days in April 1976 (1 and 2), the CBS television network featured the television film "Helter Skelter" with the subject being the Charles Manson murders adapted from the book of the same name by Vincent Bugliosi. It could be that Capitol released the promotional single in order to garner interest in the song as "Helter Skelter" (the song) would be featured on an upcoming LP from Capitol being prepared for imminent release.

Lastly, it's interesting to note that this release is the only Capitol Records release to feature the group's name as "Beatles" rather than "The Beatles".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The EMI Singles Re-releases.

The Beatles' contract with EMI and Capitol were pretty much over by February 06 1976. Both EMI and Capitol had the rights to the recordings and could now re-issue these songs in basically any form they wanted to with little input from the group. It would have been great to leave well enough alone but....intregity went out the window (especially with the up coming Capitol releases which we will soon discuss).

The first thing the EMI vultures got thier hands on were the entire singles back catalogue collection. On March 06 1976 EMI released all of the previous 23 singles simultaneously in newly designed picture sleeves (UK only). The back cover photos came in four versions: "Love Me Do" to "A Hard Day's Night" had an early Angus McBean photo, "I Feel Fine" to "Yellow Submarine" had a photo from the "Rain" promo shoot, "Penny Lane" to "Lady Madonna" had a photo from the "Strawberry Fields" promo shoot and lastly "Hey Jude" to "Let It Be" had a photo from a Linda McCartney photographic session (the same photo used for the itunes announcement).

Two days later on March 08 1976, EMI released the single "Yesterday/I Should Have Known Better" (Parlophone R 6013). The A-side had never previously been released in the UK but was available as a single in North America on September 13 1965 as previously discussed (Capitol 5498). The back cover of the single featured a photo from the Beatles' "Beatles '65" seasons photo session in late 1964.

Finally, in the fall of 1977, World Records released all of the above singles and picture sleeves in a box set for the UK. The set was entitled "The Beatles Collection" and the box was gold embossed but not numbered like some later collections. The set was only available through mail order and the box set was deleted by World Records in 1981.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Oversight: The Hey Jude LP

As you may or may not have realized, I have basically tried to cover the commercially released Beatles' material in chronological order as best as I can. I've been following the UK discography so please forgive me in the fact that an oversight has occurred.

The Apple LP "Hey Jude" was a compilation LP released in North America on February 26 1970 which contained 10 songs not previously available on Capitol record LPs. The concept for the LP was undertaken by Allen Klein who assigned Allan Steckler (the same guy that produced the song selection for the "red" and "blue" greatest hits package). Mr. Steckler worked for ABKCO/Apple during those days and the idea for the LP was not necessarily a Capitol records undertaking but rather an extra LP devised by Allen Klein to maximize profits under the terms of a new contract.

The Apple LP "Hey Jude" contained mixes supplied by EMI who had specifically mixed certain songs into stereo for the project (see individual songs in my previous blogs). "Can't Buy Me Love" and "I Should Have Known Better" had already been mixed for stereo by EMI in 1964 for the "A Hard Day's Night" LP in the UK. "Paperback Writer" had already been mixed in stereo in 1966 for the "Collection of Oldies..." LP in the UK. "Rain" recieved a stereo mix for the "Hey Jude" Apple LP in 1969. A stereo mix of "Lady Madonna", "Hey Jude", and "Revolution" were all mixed for stereo in 1969 for the "Hey Jude" LP. "Old Brown Shoe", "Don't Let Me Down" and "The Ballad of John And Yoko" all existed as stereo mixes when the concept for the LP was produced and attempted.

The original pressings for the LP labels contained the title as "The Beatles Again". Original pressings also had the catalogue number as (Apple SO-385). The title was changed to "Hey Jude" and the catalogue number was changed to (Apple SW-385). There are labels with the original titles and the SW catalogue number as well. All cover spines show the title as "Hey Jude" and the catalogue number with the "SW" prefix.

The "Hey Jude" LP was released in the UK as Parlophone PCS 7184 in June 1979.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Beatles 1967-1970

The second set of the "Greatest Hits" package consisted of a double LP to compliment the "red" album entitled "The Beatles 1967-1970". This double LP set featured a blue background rather than the red one and is henceforth known as the "blue" album.

This double LP set was released simultaneously with the "red" album set. In North America, "The Beatles 1967-1970" was released on April 02 1973 with the Apple catalogue number of SKBO 3404. The set was released in the UK on April 19 1973 with the Apple catalogue number of PCSP 718.

The song selection on this set is much more balanced than the previous "1962-1966" line up. Side one opens with the first single of 1967 (both sides) and four tunes from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The side ends with the A-side of the second single of 1967.

Side two opens with the third single of 1967 (both sides) and two songs from "Magical Mystery Tour". The side ends with the first single from 1968 (A-side) and the complete second single of 1968.

Side Three has three songs from "The Beatles (White Album)" and the two early singles of 1969 (both A and B sides).

Finally, Side Four has four tunes from the "Abbey Road" sessions including the two songs pulled out of the LP to create a single in 1969. Three tunes from "Let It Be" conclude the set: two from the LP and the A-side to the 1970 single.

There were still problems with the North American version of the set: For instance, the mix used on "Penny Lane" was duophonic and the song "Hello Goodbye" used the mono mix. Both song had already been mixed in stereo and could have been used if EMI had simply send a copy of the tapes over. Once again as in the previous set, all mixes on the LPs in North America used their own "in house" tapes. The "Get Back" and "Let It Be" versions were from the single mixes and not the LP mixes although the timing on the labels reflect the LP versions.

The cover of the set had the Beatles "Get Back" Angus McBean photo on the front and the "Please Please Me" outtake photo on the back of the cover. The set was originally issued with Apple labels and a blue back ground.

Both the "1962-1966" and "1967-1970" set have been re-issued as Apple/EMI 2-LP/2-CD in 1993 with a much clearer print of the "Get Back/ Please Please Me" cover photos from the previous issue ( issued on vinyl as coloured vinyl in the UK) as well as a remastered Apple/EMI 2-CD version remastered in 2010.

Speaking of coloured vinyl, "The Beatles 1962-1966" (Capitol SEBX-11842) was released in North America on August 21 1978 on two red coloured vinyl LPs. "The Beatles 1967-1970" (Capitol SEBX-11843) was released on the same date on two blue coloured vinyl LPs. In the UK, "The Beatles 1962-1966" was released on red vinyl September 30 1978 (Parlophone PCSPR 717) and "The Beatles 1967-1970" was released on the same day on blue vinyl (Parlophone PCSPB 718).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Beatles 1962-1966

The final Beatles project before the end of Apple Records in the 1970s consisted of two double LPs containing selections of key tracks and singles encompassing the Beatles' recording career. The first double LP contains tracks from 1962 to 1966 (hence the title) and is also known as the "red" album.

The concept of this "greatest hits" package came about due to some pirated records that started appearing in television ads and magazine ads in the United States. One of these pirated projects was a four LP set entitled "Alpha Omega" which was released (as Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) through TV Products Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio and Audio Tape Inc. in Ashbury Park, NJ.

The Beatles 1962-1966 was first released in North America on April 02 1973 with the catalogue number Apple SKBO 3403. It was released in the UK two and half weeks later on April 19 1973 with the catalogue number Apple PCSP 717.

The front cover of the double LP has the Beatles posed from the EMI headquarters staircase and is an outtake from the 1963 Angus McBean session for the first Parlophone LP "Please Please Me". The back cover has the Beatles once again posed from the EMI headquarters staircase and is an un-used photo originally planned for the "Get Back" LP cover from the 1969 Angus McBean session. The sleeve is gatefold with a large photo from the July 28 1968 "Mad Day Out" photo session taken by Don McCullin featuring the Beatles behind an iron fence near Pancras Old Church in London. The track listing is below the large photo.

Speaking of song selection, this task was completed by Allan Steckler. The song selection for this LP was lacklustre and (in my opinion) could have been done much better than it was.

Side one consists of the first five singles (A sides only), one LP track from "With The Beatles" and ends with another A side single. Side two has two tracks from "A Hard Day's Night" (including the title track), one LP track from "Beatles For Sale", two A side singles and one LP track from "Help!". Side three has the "Help!" single, another LP track from "Help!", both sides of the single from the "Rubber Soul" sessions and ends with an LP track from "Rubber Soul". Side four consists of four LP tracks from "Rubber Soul" and ends with an A side single and only two LP tracks (later released as a single) from "Revolver".

Unfortunately, the set is extremely unbalanced and I suppose Mr. Steckler's favourite LP is "Rubber Soul" as there are seven tracks from these sessions with only two or three tracks from all other early sessions.

In North America, the track listing was the same as the UK, but with different and inferior mixes(using mono mixes on some tunes when the stereo mix is available). EMI did not supply master tapes for this mainly Capitol incentive.

The LP also came with an insert in North America that had the track listing on one side and featured which LP the song could be found on in the Capitol catalogue (errors include having "A Hard Day's Night" and "From Me To You" on the "Help!" LP). The other side of the insert (in the US only, not in Canada) has a Capitol /Apple Discography for Albums, Cassettes, Eight Tracks and Singles ( an error includes listing Apple 1800 which was not by The Beatles). The Beatles 1962-1966 included Apple labels on the LPs with a red background.