Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meet The Beatles!

The second official release in a long string of highly successful LP's from arguably the most famous and highly successful and influential band of the 60's (perhaps all time!), Meet The Beatles! has a storied history, and in fact many folks can still recall their lives and what was going on when they were in the throes of this monumental album. For me it really got me thinking about what I wanted to do in life, as I was only 5 years old upon its initial release. As you can imagine, at that age there are a lot of wheels spinning around in any kid's head. Their ultramodern style, the unprecedented sound quality, and the big picture in popular music in general was starting to focus up pretty well for me, as well as for the world at large. They defined the lifestyle and attitude that prevailed in young America at the time, and for many years to come, far beyond their seven year heyday. When I heard and saw all the female reaction I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do...music became an obsession for me and I actually started studying it very seriously 4 years later. My education started a lot less formally as I listened to my radio under my pillow each night, and tthat practice formed my attitude toward the British Invasion in particular, and music in general. It's still by far my favorite genre of rock music. From Wikipedia on the moody, magnificent Meet The Beatles!:

Meet The Beatles! is the second Beatles' album released in the United States, despite the "first album" claim on its cover. Released on 20 January 1964, it was the first Capitol Records Beatles album, issued in both mono and stereo. Capitol is a sister company to Parlophone, the Beatles' British label, and both are subsidiaries of EMI. Meet The Beatles! reached the number one spot on Billboard album charts starting on 15 February 1964. It remained at number one for an impressive 11 weeks before being replaced by The Beatles' Second Album; the first time that an artist replaced itself at the number one album position.

Ten days prior to the release of Meet the Beatles!, Chicago's Vee-Jay Records released The Beatles' first album, Introducing... The Beatles, which had been delayed for release from the previous summer. Perhaps as a result of the Vee-Jay release, Liberty Music Shops advertised in the New York Times of 12 January 1964 that Meet The Beatles was available for purchase, an ad not authorised by Capitol. The cover featured Robert Freeman's portrait that was used for the UK With The Beatles release with a tinted blue hue added to the original, stark black-and-white photograph.

In 2004, the album was released on CD in stereo and mono as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 box set with the catalogue number CDP 7243 8 66875 2 4.

In 2012, Meet The Beatles! was voted 53rd on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

Meet The Beatles! opens with the December 1963 Capitol single "I Want to Hold Your Hand"/"I Saw Her Standing There", and the B-side "This Boy" from the original November 1963 Parlophone single of "I Want to Hold Your Hand". It contains many of the tracks from the earlier British album With The Beatles and shares the same cover photograph. However, "You Really Got a Hold On Me", "Devil in Her Heart", "Money (That's What I Want)", "Please Mister Postman" and "Roll Over Beethoven" were omitted from Meet The Beatles! and released on the next Capitol album, The Beatles' Second Album. The latter two tracks were also released on the EP Four by The Beatles.

The track "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was originally released as a UK (and US) single A-side and "This Boy" was originally released on the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" B-side in the UK. "I Saw Her Standing There" was from Please Please Me, and the remaining tracks were from With The Beatles. The songs "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "This Boy" are also in duophonic [fake] stereo, due to the lack of a proper stereo mix that was supposed to be given to Capitol. In addition, "I Saw Her Standing There" has a special mono remix done specifically for the American single and album release.

There are LP's that have a seminal effect on the listening audience, and Meet The Beatles was definitely one of those. Like the Stones, and others to a somewhat lesser degree, they helped define natural segments of the rock audience. Good versus bad has always been a marketing tool used to great effect, and this so-called rivalry between the Beatles and the Stones was a prime example of how two bands who were pitted against each other so vigorously were in fact fairly close, and over the years orchestrated their releases not to coincide with one another. Each could take advantage of its album's initial promotion and sales without undue attention being usurped from either side.

John and Paul were hitting their stride at this time, with plenty of songs in the Northern Songs roster, and they already knew how to work shadings and variety into their individual and shared compositions. Although every song they wrote bore the collective Lennon-McCartney label, they each wrote in a style that could easily be unraveled as to who the primary author really was. In a Playboy interview that John conducted before his passing, he laid bare the fact that they wrote separately and contributed middle sections to each others' songs. In rapid fire style John revealed who wrote what on each of their biggest songs, documented amongst the nudity for all posterior! (hehe)... In a similar way that the Beatles were pitted against the Stones, John was pidgeonholed as the rocker, and Paul was generally characterized as the schmaltzy balladeer. They both transcended those artificial boundaries fairly easily and often, and sometimes within the same song!

The album featured songs from the Beatles' live repertoire, dominated by Lennon-McCartney compositions, covers, and the lone Harrison classic, "Don't Bother Ne". I'm sure that, myself included, a legion of George fans were forming up amid the Lennon-McCartney fans, in terms of sonwriting forces within the Beatles, and George had yet to establish himself as this LP was being released. I now realize that upon the dissolution of the Beatles, George had such a wealth of material that he could and did release a tripple album! All Things Must Pass was monumental in its scope, and will be included in this review series, as will all the solo Beatles offerings as well.

When the Rolling Stones branched out into performing and recording primarily their own compositions as opposed to blues covers, they consulted with the Beatles and actually borrowed a Lennon-McCartney song ("I Wanna be Your Man") to get the ball rolling. After hedging their bets with that loaner, Mick and Keef legendarily locked themselves into a kitchen in the Jagger/Richard flat and vowed not to emerge from their self-imposed exile until they produced a reasonable song. "As Tears Go By" was the inaugural Jagger-Richard composition to launch their amazing (and amazingly long) songwriting career that is still going strong in 2012. We'll feature reviews of selected Stones offerings in future editions of mind's eye music (that way we'll never run out of blog topics!).

Since I grew up in the States (and only ever ventured outside its bounaries once upon a time in the 70's while touring and performing with the Black Knights Drum And Bugle Corps), I'll focus on the American releases as I continue reviewing the Beatles' oeuvre. Next installment in this series is the next Beatles album, their second in the States (not counting their first...sort of brings to mind that old comedy routine!), The Beatles' Second Album. I'll return tomorrow with more audio/music fun, so keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then.

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