Sunday, June 3, 2012

Introducing The Beatles

Here's a band that needs no introduction! I'm going to eventually get to reviewing all The Beatles' albums, because, well, just because I can. And I will. Might even review all the Stones albums too! Now that would be something...Well, let's get on with The Beatles and their first release.

The Beatles...before Astrid Kerchherr got ahold of them to apply Jurgen Vollmer's French existentialist hairstyle to each and every one of them! They were four young Liverpudlians, arty and musical, and had just acquired the services of one Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, a star in his own right prior to his involvement with The Beatles. Pete Best had been summarily drummed (!) out of the group, not "good enough", according to the new headmaster, George Martin (long before the Sir crept in). Even Ringo got the plebe treatment, having to sit and watch session drummer Andy White drum on their first single, but it wasn't long before Rings got a run at the skins.

Introducing... The Beatles is the first Beatles album released in the United States. Originally scheduled for a July 1963 release, the LP came out on 10 January 1964, on Vee-Jay Records, ten days before Capitol's Meet The Beatles!. It was the subject of much legal wrangling, but ultimately, Vee-Jay were permitted to sell the album until late 1964, by which time it had sold more than 1.3 million copies.

When the "Please Please Me" single was issued in the United States, Vee-Jay Records signed a licensing agreement with Transglobal, an EMI affiliate that worked to place foreign masters with US record labels, giving it the right of first refusal on Beatles' records for five years. As part of that agreement, Vee-Jay planned to release the Please Please Me album in the US, and received copies of the mono and stereo master tapes in late April or early May 1963.

Originally, Vee-Jay considered releasing Please Please Me as it appeared in the United Kingdom. A surviving acetate made by Universal Recording Corporation of Chicago, probably in May 1963, contains all 14 songs in the same order as on the UK album, with the title still listed as Please Please Me. But in keeping with the American norm of a 12-song album, Vee-Jay chose instead to delete "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why" and change the album's title to Introducing... The Beatles. Also, the engineer at Universal in Chicago thought that Paul McCartney's count-in at the start of "I Saw Her Standing There" was extraneous rather than intentionally placed there, so he snipped the "one, two, three" from Vee-Jay's mono and stereo masters. Except for those deletions, the order and contents of the album were untouched, resulting in a US album that bore the closest resemblance to a British Beatles LP until Revolver in 1966.

Preparations for the LP's release continued in late June and early July 1963, including the manufacturing of masters and metal parts and the printing of 6,000 front covers. But, despite the claims of many older books that Introducing... The Beatles was first released on 22 July 1963, no paper trail exists to suggest that the album was released at any time in 1963.

After a management shake-up at the label, which included the resignation of company president Ewart Abner after he used company funds to cover gambling debts, Vee-Jay cancelled Introducing... The Beatles as well as albums by Frank Ifield, Alma Cogan and a Jewish cantor.

Introducing... The Beatles itself was a gamble that almost didn't even come about. Dick Rowe had unceremoniously passed on The Beatles after auditioning for Decca Records, and as tapes of that session exist (and were released on their own "merit"at a later date), they show a rather premature attempt at musicmaking (lots of covers and styles all over the map). Maybe Rowe was right when he was heard to remark, "Guitar bands are in their way out". When Introducing... The Beatles was finally released, Mr. Rowe was eating crowe!

We all know the story from here. The Beatles became the most famous rock group in the history of the genre, and sold many millions of records for Parlophone, EMI, and Capitol (and all their many subsidiaries worldwide). They were the darlings of the press, mimed like monkeys (more on them later) whenever they were around, and even made some truly hilarious movies that are definite 60's timepieces, each unique in their own special way. For a band that spawned merchandising that consisted of everything from wigs to action figures, they worked some pretty lousy licensing deals in the beginning, till Brian Epstein got the hang of what he was selling. Eventually, The Beatles were rolling and manufacturing money as if it were growing on trees.

Next Beatle Time, we'll take an in-depth look at their first LP for Capitol, Meet The Beatles.

Tomorrow, we'll meet again, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel. Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

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