Thursday, February 2, 2012

And Here They Are...The BEATLES!!!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a major fan of The Beatles. They know I have every album, CD, 45, and DVD released in mono and stereo. They know I listen to, study, enjoy, and, in all honesty, generally musically worship the group. I have not written much about them on this blog because I mainly keep my postings centered on 18th and 19th century American social history as well as reenacting/living history. Yet, every-so-often I deviate from this formula and jump a hundred years or so into the future to speak about some of the music of the earlier rock and roll era that I love.
I've started many a post about the Beatles but have never been able to say what I wanted. In all honesty, I still cannot write a good posting for them because there's little left to say after one sees just how much about the group is out there.
That being said, I did not write the main body of what you are about to read in this week's posting; I took it from another site (linked below). Written in 2004 when Capitol Records released the first of two CD box sets of the group's American albums, it is such an interesting take on the Beatles music in America -  and it's written much more eloquently than I could ever have done. Also, why mess with perfection? I mean, how can I re-write an article this good?
It pertains to the Americanized versions of the Beatles album releases on Capitol Records and explains in a very interesting way why Capitol released these albums, from "Meet the Beatles" through "Revolver" in the manner in which they did.
I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you learn Something New (ha! get it?) from it.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR of this article:

BRUCE SPIZER is a first generation Beatles fan and well-known Beatles author/historian. He is considered the leading expert on the group's North American record releases. He maintains the popular Beatles collectors internet site Mr. Spizer has been serving as a consultant on the Capitol Beatle albums box set project.

As you will see, this was originally written in 2004, but the info is still pertinent for fans of the American releases of the first few Beatles albums: 
Capitol records recently announced the Nov.16, 2004, release of its first four Beatles albums on compact disc in a limited edition box set. “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1” includes the four Beatles albums issued by the company in 1964: “Meet The Beatles!”, “The Beatles' Second Album,” “Something New” and “Beatles '65.” These were the albums that Americans grew up with not only in the sixties, but also in the seventies and eighties when these landmark albums continued to sell as catalog items introducing the Beatles to second and third generation fans. Although these albums exposed millions of Americans to the Beatles, they are sometimes criticized for not being what the Beatles intended. Beatles historians and fans have passionate feelings about these albums. Recent commentaries and postings on the internet by Beatles fans and scholars not only demonstrate the strong opinions held regarding these albums, but also show that these albums are misunderstood.

Those condemning the Capitol albums often claim that the company remixed the songs, added echo and issued everything in Duophonic fake stereo. That is simply not true. While some songs were altered, most were not. As detailed below, 38 of the 45 songs appearing on the first four Capitol albums are true stereo mixes prepared by George Martin. While the eight stereo songs appearing on “The Beatles' Second Album” have added echo, the others do not.
The important thing to know is that “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1” marks the stereo debut on CD of 32 Beatles songs. Hearing George Martin's stereo mixes of songs such as “And I Love Her,” “If I Fell,” “Things We Said Today,” “No Reply”and “I'll Follow The Sun” on CD will certainly be a treat.

Some people have unfairly accused Capitol of greed when discussing the box set. Each of the four albums is presented in both mono and stereo, a decision that was made to please fans even though it increased the royalties and cut significantly into Capitol's profits. That doesn't sound like greed to me. It sounds more like the Beatles practice of giving fans good value for their money. (As of this date, none of the Beatles British albums have been released in both mono and stereo versions on CD.)
Most of the negative comments regarding the Capitol albums are general statements criticizing the running order of the songs and the horrendous mixes. When each album is carefully examined, it becomes clear that these albums are neither travesties nor sonic disasters.

”Meet The Beatles!” features the same striking Robert Freeman cover photo as the British LP “With The Beatles.” However, for financial and marketing reasons, Capitol made alterations to disc's lineup. In order to save on song publishing royalties, the company limited its LP to the American standard of 12 songs rather than the British standard of 14. (In the U.K., publishing royalties are calculated on a per disc basis where each publisher shares pro-rata in the royalties paid on album sales. Thus, there is no additional cost to the record company for having extra songs. In the U.S., royalties are calculated on a per song basis. Each extra song costs the record company money. That is why the U.S. standard was a lesser number of songs.)

While Brian Epstein and producer George Martin believed that singles should not be placed on albums because it forced consumers to buy the same songs twice, Capitol believed that hit singles made hit albums. Thus, Capitol opened its first Beatles album with both sides of its Beatles single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” followed by the British B-side “This Boy.” The remaining tracks selected by Capitol were the British album's seven Lennon-McCartney originals, George Harrison's “Don't Bother Me” and the Broadway show tune “‘Till There Was You,” a song even mom and dad could appreciate. By choosing original compositions and dropping five cover versions of songs originally recorded by American artists, Capitol could exploit the song writing talents of the group. In sequencing the songs from ”With The Beatles,” Capitol followed the running order chosen by George Martin, except, of course, for the tracks dropped from the lineup.

”Meet The Beatles!” was the perfect album to introduce the group to America. Capitol's marketing strategy of placing the hit single I Want To Hold Your Hand on the album paid off. In two months time, “Meet The Beatles!” sold over 3.6 million copies--ten times more than even Capitol's most optimistic sales forecasts. The album went on to sell over 5 million copies.

It should be noted that in the early sixties, teen albums rarely sold in excess of a few hundred thousand copies. Capitol's success with its reconfigured Beatles albums containing hit singles changed that. Record companies soon realized that well-crafted rock albums could be big sellers.
A few years later, thanks to the Beatles and Capitol, the album replaced the single as the dominant pop and rock music format.

"The Beatles' Second Album” is admittedly a pieces-parts album, containing the five leftover songs from “With The Beatles” (“Roll Over Beethoven,” “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” “Devil In Her Heart,” “Money” and “Please Mister Postman”), three B-sides (“Thank You Girl,” “You Can't Do That” and “I'll Get You”), two freshly recorded songs that would later end up on the British “Long Tall Sally” EP (“Long Tall Sally” and “I Call Your Name”) and the hit single “She Loves You.” That said, it is an amazingly effective album full of great rock 'n' roll songs such as “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Money” and “Please Mister Postman” anchored by the hit single “She Loves You.” It was number one on the Billboard Top LP's chart for five weeks and had certified sales of over two million units.

"Something New” is arguably the weakest album of the bunch. Capitol was faced with a dilemma brought on by United Artists' film contract with The Beatles that covered A Hard Day's Night. UA had the exclusive right to issue a soundtrack album in America, so Capitol had to come up with something new to compete with the soundtrack LP. Capitol's album mixed songs appearing on the UA disc (“I'll Cry Instead,” “Tell Me Why,” “And I Love Her,” “I'm Happy Just To Dance With You” and “If I Fell”) with a few songs from The Beatles latest British album (“Things We Said Today,” “Any Time At All” and “When I Get Home”), the two remaining rockers from the “Long Tall Sally” EP (“Slow Down” and ”Matchbox”) and a version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sung in German titled ”Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand.” Although “Something New” was unable to knock the UA soundtrack album from the number one position, the Capitol album stayed at number two for nine weeks and sold over two million copies.

”Beatles '65” featured eight songs from the group's latest British LP, “Beatles For Sale” (namely “No Reply,” “I'm A Loser,” “Baby's In Black,” “Rock And Roll Music,” “I'll Follow The Sun,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Honey Don't” and “Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby”), and both sides of their latest single, “I Feel Fine” and “She's A Woman,” plus “I'll Be Back,” which was on the British “A Hard Day's Night” LP but had yet to appear in America. Capitol did not completely deviate from the running order of the songs on “Beatles For Sale,” with side one bearing a strong resemblance to the British disc. So much so that the album can be described as “Beatles For Sale, Part 1.” The disc held down the number one spot on the Billboard Top LP's chart for nine straight weeks and sold over three million units.

As for Capitol's alleged remixing of the songs, here are the facts. EMI did not send Capitol original two-track or four-track master tapes, so Capitol could not have "horrifically remixed" the stereo songs even if Capitol had wanted to. Capitol used the same stereo mixes for its albums as those sent to Capitol by George Martin. In a few instances, the U.S. mixes sent by Martin differed from those that ended up on the Parlophone albums. Sometimes this was intentional on Martin's part. Other times it was a case of Capitol getting an earlier mix that was later improved upon.

On the first two albums, the stereo mixes have the instruments on one channel and the vocals on the other. This was not done by Capitol. This is a result of how the songs were recorded. George Martin recorded those songs on a two-track recorder. To ensure he could get a proper mono mix that had the vocals at the proper level, he recorded the instruments on one track and the vocals on the other. So if you don't like the stereo mixes on the first two albums, don't blame Capitol. The company used what it was sent. The stereo mixes on “Meet The Beatles!” are exactly the same as those appearing on the stereo version of “With The Beatles.”

For the stereo version of “The Beatles' Second Album,” Capitol did add echo to the stereo masters. The box to the stereo master tape for the Capitol album indicates that the songs were dubbed with E/Q and limiter plus echo. This explains why the songs on the stereo album have significantly more echo than those on the mono album or the British version of the songs. This is
particularly noticeable on the cover songs, such as “Roll Over Beethoven” and ”Please Mister Postman.”

The stereo mixes found on the Capitol albums “Something New” and “Beatles '65” use stereo mixes sent by George Martin. With a few exceptions, they are the same as the stereo mixes on the British LPs “A Hard Day's Night” and “Beatles For Sale.” Except for the songs “I Feel Fine” and “She's A Woman,” Capitol did not add echo to the masters tapes of those U.S. albums.

Three of the Capitol stereo albums contain a few duophonic fake stereo mixes. This was in keeping with the practice at the time that every song on a stereo album should either be a true stereo mix or a simulated fake stereo mix. Engineers took a mono recording and placed in on two tracks, with the bass being boosted on one track and the treble being tweaked on the other. Sometimes the two tracks were slightly out of phase to add to the illusion. Capitol was not alone in this practice. All record companies did it, including George Martin's Parlophone label. The stereo version of the “Please Please Me” LP has simulated stereo mixes of “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.”

While some critics give the impression that all of the four Capitol stereo albums are full of duophonic echo-drenched mixes, this is clearly not the case. Capitol only made duophonic mixes for the seven songs that had no stereo masters at the time the albums were compiled. Most of these songs, especially “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You” and “I'll Get You,” are
effective simulated stereo mixes. However, the duophonic mixes for “I Feel Fine” and “She's A Woman” are truly horrendous.

For the songs taken from “With The Beatles” that appear on the mono versions of “Meet The Beatles!” and “The Beatles' Second Album,” Capitol created its own mono mixes by reducing the stereo master in a 2-to-1 mix-down. As the stereo master for the album was nothing more than a balanced copy of the original two-track master tape, Capitol's engineer merely duplicated what George Martin had done in mixing the mono master. Why Capitol did this is not entirely clear. It is possible that Capitol did not initially have the mono master tape for the album, but that seems unlikely. A Capitol engineer who has been with the company since the fifties told me that 2-to-1 mix-downs of stereo masters were sometimes made under the belief that this gave the mono songs a fuller sound.

Those who rightfully point out that the Beatles had no part in compiling the Capitol albums often downplay or ignore the involvement of George Martin and Brian Epstein. While George Martin did not program the Capitol albums and did not approve of the practice, he and Brian Epstein were fully aware that Capitol was reconfiguring Beatles albums specifically for the American market and understood Capitol's reasons for doing so. They cooperated with Capitol's plans by supplying the label with songs to place on the American albums. When Capitol needed a few more songs to round out “The Beatles' Second Album,” George Martin, with Brian's approval, sent the company “Long Tall Sally” and “I Call Your Name.” For “Beatles VI,” George Martin sent Capitol four new songs, namely “You Like Me Too Much,” “Tell Me What You See,” “Bad Boy” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzie.” 
The latter two songs were recorded specifically for Capitol. “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” ended up on the British Help! LP because the group needed an extra song. “Bad Boy” was slapped on a British greatest hits collection. 
As for the great "Rubber Soul, "Capitol had recognized that the Beatles had prepared a special album, one that should not be dissected beyond recognition. The decision was made to keep the album's British title rather than create 'something new' like Beatles '66 or Beatles VIII. At the request of the Beatles, the album's striking cover, as well as the back cover's photo montage, was left intact. 
Because of Capitol's marketing strategy of holding back songs and the practice of placing less than 14 songs on an album, some changes would still have to be made. Four tracks were removed from the British version and set aside for the next American album, 'Yesterday & Today': "Drive My Car", "Nowhere Man", "What Goes On" and "If I Needed Someone." These were replaced with two tracks from the UK Help! album: "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love.” By placing the Help! tracks at the beginning of each side, Rubber Soul was deliberately reconfigured to appear more as a "folk rock" album to angle the Beatles into that emergent lucrative American genre during 1965. It worked very well!
Fortunately, Capitol's alterations were relatively minor. Some people actually prefer the Capitol version over the British LP because it has more of an acoustic feel with less rock songs than the British disc, thus giving the album more of a cohesive folk-rock sound. 
When Capitol was compiling its “Yesterday...And Today” album, George Martin sent the company three songs from the upcoming “Revolver” album.
By the time the Beatles submitted “Sgt. Pepper” to Capitol, the practice of reconfiguring albums had stopped. Capitol knew the Beatles had recorded a brilliant album that needed to be left intact. Capitol's engineers did, however, deviate slightly from the British album by not adding the high pitch whistle or the inner groove gibberish attached to the end of the British albums. Thus, the end-of-the-world feeling one gets from the final sustained chord of “A Day In The Life” is not disturbed by the extras tacked onto the British LPs.
For “Magical Mystery Tour,” Capitol ripped off fans by converting the convenient double EP set into an album by padding the record with filler such as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “Hello Goodbye” and “All You Need Is Love.” (Tongue firmly in cheek for the last sentence.) Nine years after the release of Capitol's “Magical Mystery Tour LP,” Parlophone issued the same album, even using the same Capitol master tapes, which included duophonic mixes of three of the songs! (When the album was issued on CD, true stereo mixes were used for all of the songs.)
(By the way, Parlophone acknowledged the Capitol version of Magical Mystery Tour and gave the company the nod of approval by using the Capitol swirl label on its 2009 remastered compact disc box set. A very nice gesture on their part).

It has often been said that Capitol butchered the Beatles carefully crafted records. Some Beatles authors and fans have speculated that the infamous butcher cover was created for Capitol's “Yesterday...And Today” LP as a not-too-subtle dig at Capitol for butchering the group's albums. While this makes a good story, it is simply not true. The butcher photos were conceived by photographer Bob Whitaker as part of a bizarre series of images titled "A Somnambulant Adventure." John chose the butcher photo for the cover as a subtle protest against the Vietnam War.
After the recall of the cover he stated, "It's as relevant as Vietnam. If the public can accept something as cruel as the war, they can accept this cover." Capitol made changes to the Beatles albums to help sell the albums in America. The company's strategy of
placing hit singles on the albums clearly contributed to the huge sales generated in America. Capitol did not butcher the Beatles; Capitol marketed the Beatles.

Some critics of these albums have gone so far as to say that Capitol's recent decision to release the albums on CD is an act of greed committed under the guise of giving American baby-boomer fans "what they want." The only truth in such comments is that Capitol is giving Beatles fans "what they want." This is not a case of Capitol telling baby-boomers what they want. It is a case of baby-boomers telling Capitol what they want and Capitol responding accordingly. Anyone who checks out Beatles-related posts on the Internet or reads Beatles magazines such as Beatlefan and Beatlology knows that fans have been clamoring for these albums on CD for over 15 years. We grew up with and loved these albums. We are grateful they are finally being released on CD. It is unfair to criticize a record company for appropriately responding to fan requests.

It is also unfair for people to criticize what the CDs will sound like without first hearing the CDs. Although I have yet to hear the final approved versions of the CDs as of this time, I am willing to bet a box of Krispy Kreme donuts that even the most vocal critics of the Capitol albums will enjoy hearing the George Martin stereo mixes of “And I Love Her,” “If I Fell,” “Things We Said Today,” “No Reply” and “I'll Follow The Sun” on CD for the first time.

For those that believe the release of the Capitol albums on CD is an insult to the efforts of the Beatles, George Martin and Brian Epstein, I strongly disagree. While I understand the merits of standardizing the Beatles catalog throughout the world and presenting the albums as the Beatles intended, the issuance of the American albums in a limited edition box set does not compromise either.  
By restricting the U.S. albums to box sets, consumers will not be confused by seeing “With The Beatles” on sale next to “Meet The Beatles!” or finding two different versions of “Rubber Soul” in the CD bins in music stores. I think Capitol and Apple came up with a great compromise by maintaining the U.K. catalog as the standard and releasing the U.S. albums in a limited format for those who want to hear what Americans heard in the sixties, seventies and eighties. After all, America was and still is the Beatles biggest market. The Beatles legacy is not harmed by the release The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1. To the contrary, an important part of the Beatles legacy has now been preserved.


Capitol released a second Capitol Beatles Box collection a couple years after this first one which included The Early Beatles, Beatles IV, Help!, and Rubber Soul. For some odd reason the label stopped there...until 2014 (!?!). In 2013 capitol made a major announcement in commemoration of the group's 50th anniversary of their 1st American visits and Capitol Records releases. As the advertisements from the Beatles own website said: 
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of these history-making events, The U.S. Albums, a new 13CD Beatles collection spanning 1964’s Meet The Beatles! to 1970’s Hey Jude, will be released January 20 (January 21 in North America) by Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol.  The Beatles’ U.S. albums differed from the band’s U.K. albums in a variety of ways, including different track lists, song mixes, album titles, and art.  The albums are presented in mono and stereo, with the exception of The Beatles’ Story and Hey Jude, which are in stereo only.  
Collected in a boxed set with faithfully replicated original LP artwork, including the albums’ inner sleeves, the 13 CDs are accompanied by a 64-page booklet with Beatles photos and promotional art from the time, as well as a new essay by American author and television executive Bill Flanagan.  For a limited time, all of the albums (with the exception of The Beatles’ Story, an audio documentary album) will also be available for individual CD purchase.  A Hard Day’s Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), The Beatles’ Story, Yesterday And Today, Hey Jude, and the U.S. version of Revolver make their CD debuts with these releases.

 Finally...except I already had most of the American releases that I bought nearly a decade ago. I feel it is pretty unfair of Capitol to play us the way they did (and do). I am a collector but I'm not going to shell out another $150 to $200, especially when I found out that they were using the British Parlophone mixes on all but a few of the tunes.
So...I bought Revolver and Yesterday & Today, which has the American mix of "I'm Only Sleeping" (in mono) that I've been wanting, as well as the dropout shortly after the instrumental break on "Day Tripper" (I know, I know, but that's the way I remembered it!). And...we also get the butcher cover that Yesterday...and Today was released in, along with the paste-over replacement trunk cover (see photo up above Rubber Soul for the butcher cover). That's kinda cool.
I was happy to find out that Capitol (United Artists) has finally given us the single-tracked vocal mix (in mono) of "And I Love Her" from A Hard Day's Night, which I've always liked so much better than the double-tracked mix. It also has the extended mono mix of "I'll Cry Instead."
And I did purchase Help! mainly for the gatefold cover missing on previous releases.
Another very cool thing is that each Beatles American album/CD has a copy of the original inner sleeve advertisements showing other hot Capitol titles of the era that the vinyl album was originally protected in.
I've noticed, by the way, a clear improvement in sound quality in the mono mixes on these discs over the mono box set from 2009. Except for Help! - for some reason, the mono Help! just doesn't sound that great.
I paid around $55 total for the individual discs that I wanted, which saved me over $100 from getting the box set.
Yeah, I know...a true collector would get the box - and I probably will eventually - but for now I am very, very happy with what I was able to get.
 I really do prefer the Capitol versions over the British because, as stated in Mr. Spizer's comments above, that is the way we in America heard them and that's the way so many of us want to hear them.Well, most of us older fans, at least.


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