Folks who weren’t around in the Sixties may find it hard to believe, but The Men In Suits at Capitol Records refused, initially, to release Beatle records in the United States because no pop group from England had ever sold in this country. What made this even more nonsensical was that The Beatles’ UK record label, Parlophone, and the U.S. label, Capitol, were both divisions of the EMI recording giant. Thus, Parlophone was contractually obligated to offer their releases to Capitol first, and Capitol responded, more than once, “No, thanks!” Parlophone would then sell or lease the records to whomever they could find in the U.S. to deal with.
In an earlier post, I mentioned The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show appearance in early February, 1964. Both before and after that milestone, members of the press were constantly speculating about how long the Beatles “bubble” would last, and they’d query the band as to what they planned to do for a living once the bubble burst. Ringo famously replied to one such question that he’d like to own a beauty parlor!
So at first, if you wanted to listen to a Beatles record in this country, you had to look hard to find it. I remember the first 45 or single (two-songs, front and back for today’s younger readers) of The Beatles that I bought was She Loves You issued by Swan Records, a small independent label out of Philly.
As far as albums, or LPs (long-players) as we called them then, the first release of The Beatles in the U.S. was on the jazz/R&B VeeJay label. It was a version of The Fabs’ first British LP, Please Please Me. Here’s the VeeJay album cover with some very young-looking Beatles; note that Ringo’s hair hadn’t quite settled into the “moptop” style at the time this photo was taken:
After the appearance on Ed Sullivan, Capitol released Meet the Beatles in this country, and it was a chopped-up version of the second UK Beatles release, With the Beatles:
So began a long series of U.S. Capitol record releases that took Beatles UK releases and switched or cut songs, added reverb and generally fiddled around with them.
It wasn’t until Sgt. Pepper that a Beatles LP was the same in both Britain and the U.S., and even after that, there was still some monkeying around with U.S. releases on Capitol Records.