By the time the Beatles reached America, their record company, Parlophone/EMI, had already released two albums and a handful of singles in their native England. EMI’s U.S. label, Capitol, had repeatedly rejected the group’s output for a year, but as word began to spread in America at the end of 1963, it finally relented and got behind the group’s latest single, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’
This put Capitol in the enviable position of having a considerable backlog of songs at the very moment U.S. fans couldn’t get enough of the Beatles. But instead of putting out the same albums as Parlophone, Capitol compiled new ones out of whatever it wanted, with no concern for the Beatles’ artistic choices. There were a few reasons for this: For starters, U.S. albums rarely included more than 12 songs (possibly out of fear of fidelity loss due to “groove-cramming”), and all of the U.K. albums contained 14 tracks. Then there was the matter of the non-LP singles, a practice common in the U.K. but not in the U.S. Capitol needed a place to put hits like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You.’ In those first few years, the Beatles operated under a breakneck schedule of a new single every three months and a new LP every six months.
Complicating matters even more was the issue of ‘Introducing . . . the Beatles,’ a near-repackaging of their U.K. debut, ‘Please Please Me,’ which was licensed to Vee-Jay Records when Capitol passed on it in the summer of 1963. As part of a lawsuit settlement, the rights to those songs were transferred to Capitol in October 1964 – a year and a half after they were released overseas.
For their part, the Beatles were unhappy with this practice, but in all fairness, Capitol never had the chance to catch up. The band was simply too prolific in the early days. But by the time of 1967’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ the group was able to demand that the same album be released worldwide (with a couple of exceptions).
When the Beatles first issued their entire catalog on CD in 1987, they decided to streamline their records once and for all, and only the original U.K. albums were released (except for ‘Magical Mystery Tour’; see below for explanation). While this may have confused American fans who couldn’t get ‘Beatles VI’ or bought ‘Rubber Soul’ expecting to hear it begin with ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ only to get ‘Drive My Car’ instead, it ended their messy catalog headache for good.
Until 2004 that is, when Capitol put out a box of the group’s first four U.S. records, replicating track listings and artwork, and followed it up two years later with the next four albums. And now there’s ‘The U.S. Albums,’ which compiles Capitol’s 12 LPs (including the first CD appearance of ‘The Beatles Story,’ a two-record cash-grab from 1964 made up of interviews and press conferences) and the soundtrack to ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ which originally came out on United Artists. We’ve compiled this guide to the Beatles’ U.S. albums, showing how their label assembled them from what was available.
‘Meet the Beatles!’
For their first album, Capitol naturally wanted to lead with the big hit that broke them in America, so they grabbed ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and its B-sides, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ in the U.S. and ‘This Boy’ in the U.K. The other nine songs were taken from their recent U.K. album, ‘With the Beatles,’ with which it shares the famous four-headed shadow cover.
‘The Beatles’ Second Album’
‘The Beatles’ Second Album’ shows just how complex things were already starting to get. For its 11 songs, Capitol borrowed the remaining five tracks from ‘With the Beatles,’ their most recent single (‘She Loves You’ / ‘I’ll Get You’) and four stray tracks: ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘I Call Your Name’ from a British EP, ‘Thank You Girl’ (‘From Me to You”s B-side) and ‘You Can’t Do That,’ from the U.K. version of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ which had yet to be released.
‘A Hard Day’s Night’
Capitol didn’t have the rights to the soundtrack of the Beatles’ first movie. The film’s studio, United Artists, did, and they centered this album around eight songs from the U.K. record — the seven tracks heard in the movie and ‘I’ll Cry Instead.’ The U.S. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was filled out with four George Martin-arranged instrumentals of Beatles tunes, which were also featured in the movie.
Capitol most likely marketed ‘Something New’ as having “the hit vocals from the Motion Picture ‘A Hard Day’s Night’” because they wanted to compete with United Artists’ soundtrack. Five of the songs from the soundtrack appear here (UA kept ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘I Should Have Known Better,’ although Capitol released the former as a single and the latter as a B-side). The other six tracks were comprised of four from the U.K. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ album and two, both covers, from the ‘Long Tall Sally EP’ and a German version of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’
The erroneously titled ‘Beatles ’65’ was, including the Vee-Jay and UA’s soundtrack, the seventh album of Beatles music to hit shelves in 1964. But it was as close to a concurrent U.K. record as they got that year. Eight of its tracks — including the first six in sequence — matched ‘Beatles for Sale,’ which came out in the U.K. 11 days earlier. The other three pick up ‘I’ll Be Back’ from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and the new single, ‘I Feel Fine’ / ‘She’s a Woman.’
‘The Early Beatles’
With Vee-Jay now out of the way, Capitol could finally put out the ‘Please Please Me’ tracks. All 11 songs on ‘The Early Beatles,’ albeit in a different order, were from that first U.K. record. Missing were ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ (which was on ‘Meet the Beatles!) and ‘Misery’ and ‘There’s a Place,’ which, for some reason, did not find a U.S. home until 1980’s ‘Rarities.’ Another early cut that Capitol passed over was ‘From Me to You,’ which wound up on the ‘1962-66′ compilation (known as the Red Album) in 1973.
It looked as if Capitol’s market-flooding was starting to come to an end by the middle of 1965. The label put together ‘Beatles VI’ with the remaining six songs from ‘Beatles for Sale’ and got a jump on things by filling it out with two cuts from ‘Help!’ (which wouldn’t be out for another few months in the U.K.) and a B-side from the ‘Help!’ sessions, ‘Yes It Is.’ On top of that, ‘Beatles VI’ included two Larry Willams covers — ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzie’ — recorded specifically for the U.S. market. ‘Bad Boy’ did not get a U.K. release until a 1966 Christmas compilation.
Unlike ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ Capitol got the soundtrack to the Beatles’ second movie. But they followed a similar formula, collecting the seven songs used in the film and five bits from the instrumental score. The U.S. version is much loved by collectors because of the sitar-tinged, 20-second James Bond-style instrumental that precedes the title track.
Even though it came out on the same day as its U.K. counterpart, the U.S. version of ‘Rubber Soul’ featured only 10 of the same songs. The other two, ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ and ‘It’s Only Love,’ were from the U.K. version of ‘Help!,’ and placed at the beginning of the LP’s two sides.
‘Yesterday and Today’
Best remembered in the post-CD era for its “butcher cover,” ‘Yesterday and Today’ is indicative of all the issues the Beatles had with Capitol. ‘Yesterday’ had become a surprise smash — it wasn’t a single in the U.K. — in the fall of 1965 but didn’t appear on an album for nine months. The other 10 songs included its B-side, ‘Act Naturally,’ four tracks from the U.K. ‘Rubber Soul,’ three from the not-yet released ‘Revolver’ and the new single, ‘Day Tripper’ / ‘We Can Work It Out.’
All 11 tracks on Capitol’s ‘Revolver’ appeared on the Parlophone counterpart. The only difference was that three of the songs — “I’m Only Sleeping”, “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Doctor Robert” — appeared on the earlier ‘Yesterday and Today’ LP. Going into the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ era, the two labels were finally in sync with each other.
‘Magical Mystery Tour’
The soundtrack to the Beatles’ TV movie was a six-song double EP in the U.K. But since EPs never sold well in America, Capitol threw all the new songs on one side and fashioned a second side out of the non-LP singles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ ‘Penny Lane,’ ‘All You Need Is Love,’ ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ and ‘Hello, Goodbye.’ For once, the Beatles’ U.S. label had the better idea and subsequent U.K. reissues have used Capitol’s sequence, which is probably why it’s not included in ‘The U.S. Albums’ box set.
‘Hey Jude’ was intended to collect songs that spanned the Beatles’ entire career that had not yet appeared on any Capitol albums. So you get two ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ tracks along with non-LP cuts like ‘Paperback Writer,’ ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko,’ ‘Lady Madonna,’ ‘Revolution’ and, perhaps most importantly, the title track. But even here they overlooked a couple of B-sides (‘I’m Down’ and ‘The Inner Light’) and three early songs, ‘There’s a Place,’ ‘From Me to You’ and ‘Misery.’ There was also a German take of ‘She Loves You’ called ‘Sie Liebt Dich.’ Over the next 10 years, Capitol would periodically put out compilations (‘Rock and Roll Music,’ ‘Rarities’) that introduced these songs to the U.S. audience. It wasn’t until the 1987 CDs, including the ‘Past Masters‘ discs, that the Beatles’ catalog became unified under the British titles, as they had intended.