264 – Capitol Records’ shameful handling of The Beatles
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first success in the US, and there is a lot of celebrating and reminiscing going on. Capitol Records in the US probably made more money from The Beatles’ phenomenal success than anybody else, but nobody less deserved to profit from The Beatles than Capitol Records. They were dazzlingly incompetent and shamelessly greedy.
Capitol had the right to release all of The Beatles music in the US, because Capitol was owned by The Beatles’ British label, EMI. But for ages they refused to release any Beatles music at all, turning down four singles and two albums, to the enormous frustration and anger of everyone associated with the band. Capitol arrogantly presumed that anything produced by the British would not succeed in the US. Even “She Loves You” (not just obviously a great track but the all-time highest selling record in the UK for the next 14 years) didn’t hit them as something that would be worth releasing. Clearly they were totally incompetent as judges of music, but they couldn’t even take the signals from the Beatles’ extraordinary success in England throughout 1963. American artists touring the UK were returning to the US with tales of the great music and unbelievable success of The Beatles, but Capitol didn’t know or didn’t care.
Eventually they released “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (one source says they were forced to by their parent company EMI) and immediately the Beatles records took off like nothing else before or since. In the opening four months of 1964, more than half of all records sold in the US were by the Beatles. One week they held all of the top five positions on the singles chart, plus the top two albums. Did Capitol learn from their previous arrogance and stupidity and treat The Beatles with more respect? Not a bit of it – they found a variety of ways to add insult to injury.
In a demonstration of brazen greed, Capitol omitted three or more songs from every Beatles album, and when they had accumulated enough songs in this way, they put out additional albums. This infuriated the Beatles, who were always concerned about providing value for money. They actually said in press conferences that their fans should write to Capitol and complain.
The average length of The Beatles’ early Capitol albums is about 26 minutes. Most outrageously, Something New included only five new songs; four of the other six had already been released the previous month on A Hard Day’s Night and two had already been released as singles. And they called it Something New! Even including the six songs that fans already had, the album was only 24 minutes long.
They didn’t just shorten the albums, they re-juggled and mashed together songs from different albums and singles, meaning that the albums lost continuity of sound and style. The Beatles hated this too and publicly complained about it. Capitol threw out any of the band’s judgments about album coherence and song sequencing. For American fans, the Beatles’ extraordinary album-by-album progression – so obvious in the rest of the world – was masked. Most of the US albums are incongruous messes, with songs stuck together from several different sources. For example, Yesterday and Today (which was at least honestly titled) included two tracks from Help! from mid 1965, four tracks from Rubber Soul from late 1965, two tracks from a late 1965 single, and three tracks from Revolver from mid 1966. When they released Rubber Soul, they didn’t just trim down the UK version, they slashed four tracks and threw in two tracks from Help! that didn’t belong there at all. All of their albums prior to Sgt Pepper were pruned, muddled and mangled like this.
United Artists got in on the rip-off act when they released the movie soundtrack albums for A Hard Day’s Night and Help! In the rest of the world these albums had 13 or 14 Beatles tracks, but in the US they had only 9 (AHDN) or 7 (H!). They were padded out with instrumental music from the soundtrack, not performed by The Beatles.
Displaying further greed, Capitol released an absolute appalling documentary album, The Beatles Story, in 1964. It is truly ghastly.
By this disgusting combination of practices, Capitol and UA required US fans to buy 12 albums (prior to Sgt Pepper) compared to 7 in the rest of the world.
Capitol butchered the sound of the recordings. Without permission from The Beatles or their producer George Martin, they added treble and extra echo to the early recordings and they manufactured fake stereo from mono recordings by putting high frequencies in one speaker and low frequencies in the other. As a result, the sound quality of the US releases was noticeably inferior to the UK originals.
Capitol was so careless about things that they actually failed to release two great Beatles songs on Capitol albums at all (“Misery” and “There’s a Place”). Rather than give US Beatles fans better value for money for a change, they just left them off The Early Beatles, presumably hoping to squeeze out one more album at some point, but there was never a suitable place to put them until Rarities in 1980. (The sleeve notes for Rarities trying to explain the omission of these tracks add dishonesty to the list of crimes. “In the early Sixties … [Beatles’] albums from one country seldom resembled those from another.” Absolute rubbish. Outside North America most releases in most countries matched the UK albums. Only in America did they mangle the albums.)
Another way that Capitol made easy money was by releasing extra singles for tracks that were only on albums or e.p.s in England. Some of these were good choices for singles (“Yesterday” and “Nowhere Man”) , but a couple of the songs were really second-rate by The Beatles’ standards (“I’ll Cry Instead” and “Matchbox”). Clearly, Capitol couldn’t tell good music from bad, or they didn’t care.
Up until Rubber Soul, the album artwork of US albums was just awful, as illustrated in the above two examples. They passed over some excellent artwork design on the UK albums to release a series of tacky and tasteless covers.
Overall, the contrast between the good taste, value for money and integrity of Parlophone/EMI in the UK, and the tastelessness, greed, incompetence and unscrupulousness of Capitol in the US could hardly be greater.
When the albums were released on CD in 1987, the Beatles insisted on the UK versions being used in all countries, and the appalling US albums were finally put to bed.
Or so it seemed. Unfortunately, Americans who grew up knowing only the mangled albums continue to hold a soft spot for them, despite their many failings. Eight of the albums were released in two box sets in 2004 and 2006, complete with the original poor sound. In January 2014, another CD box set of all 13 US-specific albums was released, and you can now buy them all individually. There is no excuse or explanation for this other than greed. This time they have better sound but the dreadful original track listings and covers are preserved. I pity the fans who are allowing themselves to be ripped off all over again. They should be giving Capitol their condemnation, not their money.
Lewisohn, M. (2013). Tune In, (The Beatles: All These Years, vol. 1), Crown Archetype, New York. [This is actually about the era that predates Capitol’s worst disgraces, but it’s easily the best of the many Beatles books on the market.]
55 thoughts on “264 – Capitol Records’ shameful handling of The Beatles”
Thank you for letting me know that there were these Beatles’ songs that I didn’t know of. 🙂
My dad was a fan and I grew up with a cardboard box full of cassette tapes of Mike & The Mechanics, The Traveling Wilburys, The Eagles, Beach Boys, Beatles, Bob Dylan and so on.
And I hate the box sets too. We even have this book of sheet music for “all” the Beatles songs.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My dad passed away two years ago but I love hearing about things he and I used to share a love for.
For some reason my favourite was Paul then it was George. It’s still sort of George but if you asked me who was the smartest, it would be Ringo. For some reason I cannot stand John (heresy! I know!).
Again, thanks. 🙂
John Lennon was a great song writer. A legend ahead of his time. Ringo Starr, not the best drummer but was the oldest with previous experience having played with a different band prior to replacing Pete Best, added maturity to the band, kept the band from falling apart. Paul McCartney knowing John wasn’t going to play bass, and George, a better lead guitarist than the other two, playing bass would have defeated the purpose of having George join the band to begin with. Paul already knew that he almost had no choice but to play bass. As for how close to the truth when it came to recalling their younger years, John’s version always seemed to be somewhat different from the others, Ringo today can’t recall much due to the fact he drank a lot. As for Paul, he tends to rewrite history. More truth came from George along with being very quiet and humble. He was quite comfortable with John & Paul stealing the “limelight”. Like wine, George only got better and better that he could easily have been the leader of his own band. How ironic, because that is exactly what ended up happening with the Traveling Wilburys, tho it wasn’t planned nor did he even consider leading his own band. He said it himself that if he had tried to put together a band with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and George Harrison himself, no way could he have succeeded. The humbleness in George Harrison was recognized and acknowledged and respected by every member of the Traveling Wilburys. George enjoyed it thoroughly because they didn’t treat him like a Beatles. Five legendary music hall of famers as one band. At any rate,
The Beatles created the world we live in today. The Beatles, the most influential and inspirational band ever.
I grew up with The Beatles. They were am important part of my life. The Beatles kept me down to Earth.
The first four albums were released in monophonic or monoral. We had a mono set to play them on, and they sounded fantastic. When the stereo versions were released, the sound seemed diminished and diluted. I discovered the British versions of the first four albums in the import section of a record store near us. Albums in 1963 were $3.95. Imports were $11.00. That was very expensive then! The first album had a great sound, but I can’t say the same for the following three. I did not like Rubber Soul as much as Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper just sounded like studio experimentation instead of concentrating on the song writing. Yellow Submarine enraged me! Now they were purposefully putting out crap! Same can be said of Magical Mystery Tour! Then,…..the White Album! 30 cuts, but only 4 quality songs!
Let it Be was passable, but Abbey Road was the best of all! They saved the best for last! I loved them, but I am also critical of their inferior work as well. The world tour took a lot out of them for sure, and they seemed to have given up by 1968.
Brian Epstein’s passing was another element of their confused musical direction after 1967. Thank God they had George Martin! I loved monophonic records, but there are no longer mono sets to play them on!
You lost me at only four quality songs on the white album.
I totally agree with you Chuck. In my view, the correct number is 28.
The White Album had only 4 passable cuts? Dear God, what are you talking about,? 🤣
The White Album had about 12 good tracks, the rest was substandard filler. some was utter tripe. I was disillusioned when I heard it, even though The Beatles were my favorite band. Even today, starstruck fans are not very objective about the uneven quality of some of their work. They wrote better songs than all those other bands, but you could hear them faltering on Let It Be. They got out just when they were about to lose it. I bought very, very few of those solo albums, which were mostly arrant crap.
Well Mark, music is a personal, subjective issue, but I could not disagree more strongly. In my view The White Album is their best album and the best album ever created by anyone. Their solo albums are certainly variable in quality, but there are a good number of fantastic ones. You can see my comments about each of them here: https://www.pannelldiscussions.net/2018/01/beatles-albums-ranked/
“They got out just when they were about to lose it. ” The last recording was ‘Abbey Road’. OK. A very losing album. Right.
In addition, Paul McCartney was the best musician of the band. He’s really a lead guitarist playing base. After Stu Sutcliffe passed away, he took on the base playing role. I can think of dozens of lead guitarists more talented than George Harrison, but in the context of their type of music, he wasn’t tasked too hard, and was perfect for the group. Rings was a better drummer than displayed on record. Drummers can improvise, but he was handcuffed by the uniformity of the type music written.
Look at the live concerts they did in Europe before the US visit in 64. He can really bang those drums! And John Lennon was John Lennon. Not a great guitarist, but he didn’t HAVE to be. Perfect for the Beatle formula. More a great song writer!
All in all, they were 4 guys from a rough neighborhood who loved music to the point of obsession, and they made it out of their environment and got a bit of luck thrown in as well. It’s one thing to be talented, but someone has to NOTICE you’re gifted!
Enter Brian Epstein, and the rest is history!
I have read that the major reason Capitol mangled the UK releases was to do with record royalties. Under the UK system, royalties were paid on a per track basis. As such it didn’t matter how many tracks were on the album. In the US, royalties were paid on an album basis, so obviously the more albums that were released, the more money paid. And the the best way to increase the number of albums was to decrease the number of tracks each had. Now, if this is true, the Beatles themselves would naturally benefit from the arrangement. So perhaps we shouldn’t come down too hard on Capitol, they were also looking after the interests of their artists besides lining their own pockets. And then there’s Dave Dexter and DUOPHONIC!!!! Nooooo!
Thanks Michael. My bet is that the Beatles would have preferred to keep the albums in their original form, even if it meant a financial sacrifice. In any case, there are plenty of additional reasons to come down hard on Capitol. Cheers Dave
I think Mark Lewisohn’s book mentioned that EMI’s original contract with The Beatles paid them a lower royalty rate for sales in the rest of the world than in the UK (the UK rate wasn’t great). Lewisohn points out that initially touring was how they made most of their money!
In the beginning, Canada received the masters from the UK. The first two Canadian Lp’s (Twist & Shout, Beatlemania) had 14 tracks. The Beatles’ Second album became Long Tall Sally, although with the Capitol standard 12 tracks. Thereafter US Capitol made sure that Canada got the US versions. Some have suggested that the US company didn’t like imported Canadian versions actually competing with the US album in border cities. The only other album to vary between Canada and the US was Let It Be. Canada got the printed booklet. The US got the orange-labelled counterfeit version!
Interesting. I always thought they were under pressure from Capitol to release discs on such a regular basis as to satisfy demand. Parlophone had nothing to do with that, I assume.
Actually, I think it was Brian Epstein and George Martin who first came up with the idea that they should produce 2 albums and 4 separate singles per year. They only actually achieved that in one year (1963), but they went close in all the other years except 1966 (if you count the White Album as two albums and assign Let it Be to 1969). Capitol sometimes asked for recordings to be provided in advance of their release in the UK (e.g. the three songs that got left off Revolver and included on Yesterday and Today), but all the songs they recorded were mainly done with UK albums and singles in mind. They just were unbelievably productive.
I’d say 95% of their work was fantastic. The Yellow Submarine and Magical History Tour albums were their low points, though there were two or three great songs on each. About the White Album,..I thought at the time of its release they just wanted to get out of their contract with Capitol asap, and released the two discs. It was them in trasnsition as a band, for sure. Had no idea the end was ver close! They finished strong with Let It Be and Abbey Road. I often wonder, if they somehow continued past 1970, what they would have sounded like, or morphed into. Glad they didn’t do what the stones did, and just release album after album with such low quality just for the sake of releasing a disc. Ironically, the Stones best work was before 1973, when the creativity seemed to just disappear!
I have to agree with the point about having a soft spot for the Capitol releases. It’s what I grew up with and even to this day I find it hard not to expect the next track to be…Perhaps for me the best way to cure that is make a compilation CD of their albums and put it on shuffle.
But thanks for clearing up the mystery. Now it all makes sense.
Thanks for your reporting of how The Beatles releases were mismanaged by greedy Capital Records executives. I grew up buying Beatles albums and knew when they were being released. At that age, I had no idea what was happening. I was just thrilled to get the next one to hear what they created in the studio. I’d never sat down and really listened to the Mono versions. I think I was brain-washed that Stereo was the only way. The new remastered Beatles in Mono, vinyl versions, are absolutely amazing. Thank you Apple records and the audio technicians who toiled over this remastering project.
I don’t think I can convey to the millennial generation how special a time the early sixties were! In music, it was The Beatles. In movies it was Bond! Yes, the monophonic recordings were amazing! Played on the correct equipment, they seemed more natural. RCA made a Victoria in 1957 that was all speaker! The bass speaker was “12, the mirage speakers were “6 and the four tweeters were “3.
You heard a string arrangement so clearly and sharp, you wanted to make sure you also had at least 2 replacement cartridges because you didn’t want to be left high and dry! The only weakness of the old phonos, were the tubes. When they heated up, and played for more than an hour or two, the wooden cabinet heated up noticeably. But I loved the wooden cabinet smell it produced! Give me “Meet the Beatles” and an RCA Victoria, and I’ll forget my problems for 40 minutes at least!
In Brazil was as worse as in US. The first two albums were unique, ‘Beatlemania’, same cover as ‘With The Beatles’ but the tracklist is different: 12 tracks, 9 from With The Beatles, 1 from Please Please Me, completed with She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
The second album was called The Beatles Again with 12 tracks and it’s more a compilation than an album, with tracks from Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A and B sides from singles and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ with the pitch slowed down.
The third album was called ‘Os Reis Do Ie Ie Ie’ (the kings of yeah yeah yeah). The record is the same as A Hard Day’s Nght but the color of the cover was changed from blue to red. Don’t ask me why.
The fouth album was ‘Beatles 65’ but it’s not the american album, it’s Beatles For Sale with the track list changed and minus 2 tracks (Baby’s In Black and Every Little Thing, these tracks were released only in 1974, when the british versions of the albums were released for the first time in Brazil).
The fifth was Help!, the tracks of the side B of the british version was lefted off, being released on various EP’s with tracks of british LPs that weren’t included on the brazilian albums and were flying around on the brazilian catalogue. The album was completed with 2 tracks from Please Please Me, I’m Down, I Feel Fine and Thank You Girl.
From Rubber Soul on the albums were released like the british versions. Rubber Soul with the original mono mix, all the rest with a fold down of the stereo mixes to mono with one channel louder than the other. Can you imagine that?
Bizarre things happened at the time like pitch altered on almost every song. ‘Revolution 1’ on the white album was a disgrace with a speed variation that I never ever heard in any other record. Penny Lane has a inexplicable skip cutting out the words ‘in summer’ of the verse ‘a four of fish and finger pies”.
In 1972 Odeon (EMI) released stereo versions of these albums. Only Beatles 65 and from Revolver to Let It Be was in true stereo, all other albums was mixed in a fake stereo that sounds like crap (i’m being polite). In some cases the albums were made with those fake stereo mixes used on those “unique” albums and the record company repressed the albums while getting original masters, so you have the chance to get the same album in fake stereo, half fake half true stereo and all in stereo Some tracks sounded like somebody was testing an equalizer, the frequencies changes in the middle of the songs! You can’t imagine how these records sounds. ‘Rubber Soul’ was released in stereo for the first time in 1988 when the first remastered versions were release worldwide. The album ‘Os Reis Do Ie Ie Ie’ (A Hard Day’s Night) was never released in true stereo in Brazil on vinyl, only in the remastered 2009 CDs. Brazilian Beatles’ fans suffered for at least 25 years.
Wow! That is extraordinary. You are right. That is even worse than what Capitol did in the US. I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Thanks very much.
Thank you David. There is much more detail about these Brazilian albums. Although they sound so bad, they’re interesting to hear. The funny thing is that Brazilian fans at the time believed that these records sounded like that because the Beatles themselves had recorded them that way. It’s hard for me to believe that no one at the time realized these defects. This is a very interesting topic (for me). I really like to talk about it. Sorry if my english is like the brazilian Beatles albums, haha. Greetings from Brazil!
I’m really glad you shared your knowledge of this.
Wow, I had no idea their record releases were so different in other countries! Could these have been grey market releases? Maybe poor bootlegs? I’ve heard stories of records being smuggled into third world countries, but this is quite extreme. Surprising that the record companies would allow such low quality to be released to the public. Amazing.
I don’t understand why there were so many single-only(songs that were initially released as singles but never put on an album) songs from the beatles repertoire..Could you explain this. Capitol/ EMI really screwed the beatles catalogue up so much.
These Include Penny lane/ strawberry fields, Lady Madonna, Paperback writer/rain, All you need is love, hey jude/ revolution…etc..
The Beatles were always concerned to provide value for money to their fans. Their view was that, as much as possible, songs released on singles should not be included on albums. That way people could buy the singles confident that when they bought the next album they would get songs they hadn’t already paid for on the singles. It was a laudable approach.
Obviously, they didn’t always achieve this even in England where they had control of their records’ contents: Love Me Do, Please Please Me, A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love, Help, Ticket To Ride, Eleanor Rigby, Something, etc. all appeared on UK albums, but look at the amazing collection of singles that didn’t (collected on the Past Masters CDs). Capitol, on the other hand, completely ignored the Beatles’ preferences in this regard.
The worst sin by Capitol was how many throw away singles were released. Songs like “Penny lane”/”strawberry fields”, Hey jude/ revolution, hello goodbye/baby you’re a rich man, all you need is love/ i am the walrus, Get back/ don’t let me down…what label other capitol would do such a thing…Penny lane/ strawberry fields should have been on Revolver, Hey jude/ revolution should have been on the white album, hello goodbye/baby you’e a rich man should have been on revolver, All you need is love should have been on sgt pepper. etc…the worst label..they almost didn’t sign the beatles.what idiots..
Hi David. I agree with you that Capitol were idiots, especially for turning down numerous Beatles records that they had the right to release (because they were owned by EMI in the UK). However, I don’t agree fully with you about these singles that you’ve mentioned. All of these were chosen by George Martin and the Beatles themselves, and were released in the UK as well. They were consistent with the Beatles’ explicit philosophy of not putting singles on albums, so that the albums would be better value for money for fans.
Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever were recorded in the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, not Revolver. In this case I agree that it’s a shame they were pulled off the Sgt. Pepper album. George Martin himself said that it was the biggest mistake of his professional career.
Hello Goodbye was paired with I am the Walrus, not Baby You’re a Rich Man (which was the B side of All You Need is Love). It could not have gone on Revolver, which was recorded more than a year earlier. There wasn’t actually an album to put Hello Goodbye on until Capitol put it together with the Magical Mystery Tour e.p., the Penny Lane/SFF single and All You Need is Love, to make the MMT album. It’s almost the only good thing Capitol did in their entire dealings with the Beatles.
Having said all that, I think that Capitol DID release a bunch of throwaway singles, trying to cash in on their early stellar success. They released a large number of additional singles not chosen by the Beatles or George Martin. Some of these were good choices (e.g. Yesterday, Nowhere Man) but others were highly inferior to the best of the Beatles work (e.g. Matchbox, I’ll Cry Instead, Boys).
I am sorry that I made those errors, I was so angry writing that comment that I mistakenly put songs on albums where they belonged, didn’t check the chronology carefully,.I still maintain, however, that it was such a mistake to leave off so many great singles off the albums. It was disgraceful.
Readers of this post might also like to see my post where I rank all 155 Beatles and solo albums: https://www.pannelldiscussions.net/2018/01/beatles-albums-ranked/
I do agree that Capitol Records cut up and mangled The Beatles albums from their original UK format…but I don’t think greed was their only motivation. Some of this ‘mangling’ is due to different ‘customer expectations’ in the North American marketplace.
The Original UK versions did not contain the hit single. (You had to buy the single seperately) In North America the hit single was expected to be on the LP. The customers would have been mad if their favorite song was ‘missing’ from the album (What the heck? That’s the MAIN reason I bought the album! What a rip-off! 😒) They might have had customers wanting to RETURN the records…or perhaps customers would skip buying the album at all and ONLY buy the single.
Other 1960s artists had their albums mangled as well. The first Jimi Hendrix Experience album (Are You Experienced?) was HUGELY different in North America. The UK version does not contain the song ‘Purple Haze’ OR ‘Hey Joe’. To me…this would be a very disappointing album 😢
Hi Elmo. You could well be right about that as part of the motivation. Even if you are prepared to forgive them (I’m not – they did so many other bad things when it came to The Beatles), it is still the case that the US albums are horrible mangled messes that ignored The Beatles’ own creative judgments. I still think they should have been consigned to history. Cheers
Sirius radio has The Beatles channel. Sometimes it can be annoying not hearing an album cut for nearly a half hour. They play other artists covering a Beatles song, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s horrid! But they give a great back story to the songs themselves. Alice Cooper can really sing! He was an avid Beatles fan, and he covers some of their songs.
No offense to you Sir, but these are things that happened 5 plus decades ago. Anyone who cares already knows. I prefer the British albums myself but in most cases the American albums weren’t terrible listens. In fact Meet The Beatles is a better album IMHO than With The Beatles. The American Rubber Soul offers a different but nearly equal perspective to the British one. Yesterday and Today and Hey Jude are both excellent mop-up albums.
Don’t get me wrong, there are wince inducing moments in the American catalogue. The “stereo” versions of I Feel Fine and especially She’s A Woman are enough to make you head for the hills. Beatles VI is possibly the worst combination of songs you’re ever going to find from the Beatles.
If you really this peaved off by the American catalogue and more to the point there is only one thing you can do. Ignore it.
P.S. Your Captcha doesn’t accept Roman Numerals. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this useful information. I really like this. Good luck for your future posts.
Really enjoyed your article. I’m half way through Tune In – can’t recommend it enough – like revisiting history with eyes open, including the EMI Capitol shenanigans – and how it affected George Martin’s very varied career.
Also, with regards the 2004/06 Capitol box sets – “The Capitol Albums” vol 1 & 2 – these are another example of Capitol screwing things up and screwing customers around. Volume 2 first pressing had the wrong mono for Beatles VI and Rubber Soul – they had just folded down stereo into mono and someone noticed! When they were found out they did NOT recall and replace, nor did they make it anything but very difficult to get those single CDs replaced with the correct mono mixes. If you are thinking of purchasing (e.g., used), make sure you know how to tell difference so you don’t buy bad one.
I am partial to some of the stereo mixes for the Canadian albums – esp. Any Time At All.
I have appreciated getting a lot of good and reliable, legislative information with your post.
I recently heard (on “The Beatles Naked” podcast) some recordings of Beatles press conferences during the 1965 US tour, in which they complain bitterly about what Capitol did to their albums. Here are the transcripts of the relevant parts.
Reporter: Ringo, on the American album this time you had no songs …
Paul: That’s the American label.
John: We can’t do anything about that. That’s Capitol.
George: That’s Capitol Records. If you all write in and moan about it …
John: If you keep moaning you’ll get a proper album.
George: We do 14 tracks for every album but Capitol keep about 10 and shove out a couple of rubbishy things, you know, with instrumentals on them.
Paul: We make a proper album.
John: We plan albums. We plan each number that should follow each one.
At a different press conference …
Reporter: Ringo, I understand that the record album Help! has four different numbers in the English version than in the United States version. Is this true and if so why?
Ringo: On the English album there’s 14 tracks and they’re all our numbers and on the American one I don’t know how many tracks are ours but then you got some …
Paul: There’s seven of ours
George: Capitol issue all sort of mad stuff. It’s nothing to do with us. We make 14 tracks to be put out but they keep a couple and stick them out later as a single.
Paul: It’s a drag because, you know, we make an album to be like an album …
John: and we plan it
Ringo: and they wreck it.
Paul: … a complete thing. And we send it over here … no offence Capitol … but we send it over here and they put the soundtrack on.
Ringo: Who wants to buy a soundtrack?
Paul: If someone’s going to buy one of our records, I think they want to hear us and not soundtrack.
George: They even change the photo off the front and put something daft on.
Paul: Yeah. Either that or they should make it all soundtrack.
John: If Mr Capitol would like come ‘round later, we’ll settle it.
Paul: We’ll see him.
Here’s a cold cup of black coffee for you. Capitol Records is a corporation. What else would you expect? They answer to their shareholders, not the fans. The music industry sees every band as a product to sell. Nothing more. Nothing less. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying. . .
Thanks JR. Yes, of course they are. But, their refusal to release anything by the Beatles until IWTHYH was hardly consistent with maximizing their own bottom line. And they didn’t have shareholders, they were fully owned by EMI in the UK, who were pushing them hard to release Beatles product, but Capitol claimed they knew the US market better. It was even more incompetent than Dick Rowe turning down the Beatles from Decca in early 1962. At least he had the excuse that the Beatles’ performance in their audition was poor, whereas Capitol listened to and turned down some of the greatest pop music of all time.
Also not consistent with maximising their bottom line was rejecting really good quality album artwork and replacing it with crass, tasteless versions. There is no way that that increased their sales.
What about releasing Matchbox as a single A side? Yes, they were trying to make money, but it failed in the charts, when there were plenty of other much better tracks they could have released. They clearly could not tell good music from bad.
I don’t believe that lathering the Beatles’ early recordings in crazy levels of reverb sold one extra record. It just made them sound worse.
The most understandable of Capitol’s many sins was reducing the Beatles albums from 14 tracks down to 11 and putting the stand-alone singles onto albums. That was just following standard practice in the US at that time, and it made them heaps of money. But they still didn’t have mangle up the track selections so egregiously, creating collections that made no sense.
Apart from that, my view is that even if assessed on their performance as a money-making company, their handling of the Beatles was abysmal.
David. Thanks for the perspective. I appreciate your knowledge of the subject!
I agree with The Beatles’ objections to how their albums were handled in the USA and it was totally unnecessary. I honestly don’t see how it would’ve been a problem if Capitol had kept the album titles, running orders and artwork the same as the UK versions from the very beginning, very much like what happened with “Sgt. Pepper”, because they still would have sold and been big hits anyway. The evidence is clear that not only was “Sgt. Pepper” the first Beatles album to have identical running orders both in the UK and the US, but it still topped the USA charts and won the Grammy for Album of the Year.
You have to understand how different the record industry was as a whole in the 1960s. I go on (perhaps too long) about it in another comment. But to summarize the main point: It was NOT only Capitol doing it, and it did NOT only happen to the Beatles. It seems to be the only instance that most of us remember, but it was standard practice then. The industry saw the music as product to be tailored for their own market.
Look up the discographies of many of the Beatles’ fellow bands and artists from the 60s, and compare the UK output to the US. And it wasn’t only the US making changes. Countries around the world altered product to fit their markets.
Perhaps from a 21st century standpoint, we can’t see why Capitol didn’t just release the albums as intended. From a 1960s standpoint, the record industry would not have understood why such a thing would be expected.
Nice article. I’m another American whose vinyl collection began with those butchered Capital Beatles albums. So I have a nostalgic soft spot for “Beatles VI” and “Rubber Soul” (never mind my third purchase, “Help”). Yes, it was disgusting what Capital did, but fortunately they didn’t hook me the second time around.
I think many are experiencing another round of Beatlemania with the Get Back special and wanted to mention something from a different perspective. Almost all fans prefer the UK versions of the albums as they were the intended album arrangements by the Beatles. I certainly understand that perspective and feel the same way in many respects. However, as a fan in the US it is worth pointing out that not all of the US Capitol albums are inferior, and if you look hard you will find a surprising number of little gems. My personal ranking of these follows:
1) Very difficult to beat out MMT but it’s impossible to understate the importance of the very first release of a psychedlia influenced Beatles song that also incorporated new advances like the reverse guitar solo. “I’m Only Sleeping” was released for the first time ever in the Capitol album “Yesterday and Today.” This album is quite a mixed bag – the controversy of the butcher cover, the Duophonic ‘stereo’ nightmares, and a lineup of songs that actually go surprisingly well together; even if “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Doctor Robert” are like nothing else we heard before. I prefer the mono release to hear all the effects!
2) “Magical Mystery Tour” The LP approach in the US was superior to the UK EP, and to fill it out by adding in HUGE songs that were only singles in the UK this was a great move. Do I even need to list them? “All You Need Is Love” “Strawberry Fields Forever” “Penny Lane” “Hello Goodbye” WOW! This has become the “Magical Mystery Tour” release that all but the most diehard purists prefer.
3) “Hey Jude” – This album gave us a lot of what had been missed in the US by Capitol, and although the wait was long for the album tracks “I Should’ve Known Better” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” both were a nice throwback to an earlier time in their career. Those tracks along with “Paperback Writer,” juxtaposed quite nicely against “Revolution” “Hey Jude” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko” – and all four of these tracks were released as singles only in the UK, giving a nice way to listen to them.
4) “The Beatles’ Second Album” features album releases of previous singles “She Loves You,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Thank You Girl.” In addition, the song “You Can’t Do That” saw its first album release in the US (prior to the UK release of “A Hard Day’s Night”) although the song was already out as the B side to “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Overall a nice package of songs, although a bit disjointed.
5 or Honorable Mention) The James Bond inspired opening on “Help!” is iconic and salvages this album from being discarded as totally inferior. At least that intro gave us a little something extra, although I went a looooong time before realizing that this was not heard by fans worldwide.
And the MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR album was a must for the US market. EPs were never popular here. They disappeared much sooner than they did from other countries. The US public didn’t really want them. Putting out the MMT EP as it appeared in the UK might have confused and annoyed fans, who would then ask “Yeah, but when is the LP going to come out?”
HEY JUDE was meant to have all the stray sings that had not been on Capitol issued LPS, but it still missed a few. First and Foremost: “I’m Down” and “The Inner Light,” still singles only. But if they had tried to be complete, they would have had a three sided LP, since “Hey Jude” as a track took up more space.
I get tired of everyone trashing Capitol. I grew up on the U S albums and loved and enjoyed them as much as others did the british ones. Besides it has created a great aftermarket for Beatles record collectors.
Hi Robert. That’s fair enough. We all love what we grew up with. One way of looking at it is that it could have been so much better for American fans. Also, I think it’s relevant that The Beatles themselves really hated what Capitol did to their albums.
The idea that Capitol was uniquely soulless and greedy in their handling of the Beatles albums has grown deep roots, but it’s based in a post-1960s mindset that doesn’t understand how differently the record industry as a whole thought then.
In short: It was not only Capitol doing this, and it did not happen only to the Beatles. Every country had its own practices, and countries around the world released product for their own markets that were not released in the UK, or not in the same form. Capitol of Canada had an LP called TWIST AND SHOUT. Australia might have issued the songs with the UK running order, but they would use their own cover designs.
Many countries released Beatles singles that were not released in the UK, picking album tracks popular in their region. Again in Canada, “Roll Over Beethoven” was a single. Capitol in the US did not release “Yesterday” as an A-side. It was on the flip of “Act Naturally” released to cash in on Ringo’s popularity with American fans. Italy had singles of “Twist And Shout” “You Can’t Do That” “I Should Have Known Better” “No Reply” “Rock and Roll Music” and “I Need You.”
There were technical reasons concerning mechanical royalties that led to US albums in general having fewer tracks than UK counterparts. As for adding UK singles to the US albums, that too was an industry wide thing, not just “Oh my God, Capitol is so greedy.”
It was about attitude. It was assumed that the average UK record buyer bought all vinyl formats, and would resent a lot of repeats- that is, songs they already bought on singles taking up real estate on LPs. A few Beatles singles still ended up on UK albums, but the Beatles preferred to avoid it, as did many other acts. In the US, it was assumed that LP fans didn’t always bother buying singles. They were a different market. But LP fans sure wanted the new hits, and might (and sometimes did) avoid buying an LP that didn’t have them. Non-album singles could be an irritant for US buyers, who would wait and wait to see it those lost tracks finally came out on a compilation.
And put to bed the fable that all record company interference with artists’ intentions for their albums ended with Sgt. Pepper. It didn’t even end for the Beatles! Witness Capitol’s MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR and HEY JUDE albums. Companies tried to give US buyer what they wanted: every last song on an LP. Some songs lipped through and were aberrations.
Other artists, not at the Beatles’ level still had their albums changed, retitled, and sometimes edited down so that one LP could be be made out of two, if big enough sales were not expected. That meant lots of songs not coming out in the US at all, in any format.
Again, we cannot explain what Capitol did in the 1960s by 21st century expectations.
Thanks Thomas for your thoughtful comment and replies. There is something in what you say. I don’t doubt that Capitol treated other artists’ outputs badly as well, and that their competitor record companies did too.
Yes, other countries released additional singles as well. Some of them were great choices. In Australia, we got Norwegian Wood b/w Nowhere Man as a single, and I Should Have Known Better b/w If I Fell – two fantastic singles that would have been huge hits anywhere.
Yes, Magical Mystery Tour was put together by Capitol post Sgt Pepper, and it’s actually a really good compilation. One of the very few good things that Capitol did. The Hey Jude album is a bit of a mess, but to be fair, it was not an initiative of Capitol. We have Allan Klein to thank for that one.
I also agree that adding singles to the albums was not a bad thing to do in principle, although it is hard to see how it could have been done without messing up the original albums.
The bottom line is that Capitol was just doing what they always did and meeting the expectations of the US market. But that doesn’t alter the fact that what they did was ham fisted, incompetent, tasteless and focused on money. Just because that was business as usual in the early 1960s, I don’t see why that means we can’t call it out. What they did was appalling on so many levels. We don’t excuse people for doing much worse things in the past just because it was acceptable in their time (slavery, racism, sexism). And it wasn’t acceptable to The Beatles at the time. They really resented it, and Capitol knew they did.
Finally, a couple of factual issues. Album covers were changed for only two of the core UK albums when they were released in Australia: With The Beatles and Beatles For Sale. The Beatles saw the first one on their ’64 tour and hated it, and the one for Beatles For Sale is even worse. But this is a trivial sin compared to the hot mess created by Capitol. And, unless every major source on the internet is wrong, Yesterday WAS released as the A side of the single in the US. e.g. https://www.beatlesbible.com/1965/09/13/us-single-yesterday/
Let’s not forget….Canada was the first country in North America to release Beatles’ records on Capitol.
Yes, indeed. Capitol in Canada made much better decisions than their colleagues in the US.
Beatles singles were not on Parlophone albums????? Their first album Please Please Me has TWO singles on it!!!
Yes, of course, there were exceptions, for various reasons. But the target was to keep them separate. All the singles on Past Masters volumes 1 and 2 were not on the main albums.
Singles that were included on the original 1960s UK albums (off the top of my head – correct me if I’ve missed any):
Love Me Do
Please Please Me
Can’t Buy Me Love
A Hard Day’s Night
Ticket To Ride
Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine
Get Back (different mix)
Let It Be (different mix)