The Trouble With The Beatles

No, I have no problem with the Beatles.  They’ve taken a lot of hits the last decade or so among those who believe their contribution to rock and roll was slight if anything at all.  I’m not one of those folks.  I am a firm believer the Beatles introduced new music to the world-beginning mostly with covers of American songs, and eventually their own compositions.  As the band evolved from a new pop vibe to a songwriting workshop, the Beatles unquestionably created a market for new music in the U.K and the U.S. that made the Rolling Stones and the Hollies, the Lovin’ Spoonful and The Byrds possible. Their unfailing pop sensibility, their inventiveness and songwriting cannot be oversold.

That said, collecting the Beatles can be a challenge. My goal is to add all the Beatles studio recordings to my collection plus a few others.  I’m avoiding any of the many anthologies available, and I’d like a couple of the live recordings out there.

The real challenge in having a copy of everything is matching what was pressed in the U.K. with the American records. Initially that was Parlophone Records in England and Capitol Records in the U.S. This was further complicated when the members of the Beatles formed Apple Records after their return from India in 1968.

But the real complication has nothing to do with Apple, it is that the Parlophone albums and Capitol albums are different. A perfect example is the Parlophone title, With the Beatles, released in 1963The record was released in the U.S. as Meet the Beatles the following year. The British release has 14 songs, while the Capitol album has only 12, leaving off their covers of “Please Mr. Postman,” “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Rollover Beethoven.” Capitol cleverly held these of the songs for a later album release.

The Beatles Second Album is a Capitol album, also from 1964.  It doesn’t match up at all with the Parlophone catalog.  And low and behold, you’ll find the missing songs from With the Beatles on this record.

These are the Parlophone releases

Here is a quick list of the Parlophone recordings and the Capitol recordings

Parlophone                                                                         Capitol

With the Beatles (1963)                                                     Meet the Beatles (1964)

Please, Please Me (1963)                                                    The Beatles Second Album (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)                                                 Something New (1964)

Beatles For Sale (1964)                                                        Beatles ’65  (1964)

Help! (1965)                                                                             Help!  (1965) (Original Soundtrack)

Beatles VI (1965)-Capitol

Rubber Soul (1965)                                                                Rubber Soul (1965)

The Early Beatles (1965)-Capitol

Yesterday and Today (1966)-Capitol

Revolver (1966)                                                                        Revolver (1966)

Unfortunately WordPress is not allowing me to properly align these titles under their respective labels.


These are the Capitol releases (see there are more)

For the most part, the American records do feature the same songs as the British records.  There are just more songs on the Parlophone LP’s.  Capitol withheld and reordered the songs so they could deluge the market with new albums to take commercial advantage of Beatlemania. The situation stabilized first with the release of Rubber Soul, with both British and American releases having the same songs.  And again with Revolver, which seemingly sets the world right for all future releases.

The Beatles catalog wraps up with Apple and Capitol more or less in agreement with their releases:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  (1967)

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

The Beatles (The White Album) 1968

Yellow Submarine (1969)

Abbey Road (1969)

Let it Be (1970)

The Apple/Capitol releases 1967-70

So what should a record collector do? Well, get all of them, of course. But again, this creates complications .  One complication is that there is another record not on either of these lists.  In the U.S. A Hard Day’s Night was released by United Artists, so it doesn’t appear on this list.  It is a soundtrack, not at all the same as the Parlophone release, just as Capitol’s Help! soundtrack doesn’t at all match the Parlophone version.

Beatles A Hard Day's Night UA

So what about acquiring Beatles records?  Don’t count on heading down to your local Goodwill and snagging a couple. The Beatles are, well, the Beatles.  Everybody knows them, and everybody wants their records. For vintage vinyl, especially the early Capitol releases with black label and rainbow band, that can make them pretty spendy.  Minty copies easily cost $75-$100. But there are two things working in your favor-assuming you just want all the records to listen to, and aren’t on a “must have everything” binge, spending your entire trust fund.

  1. Beatles albums are ubiquitous. Capitol made many pressings of all their Beatles titles. For example, The Early Beatles, which had a lot of the songs from Please, Please Me, was pressed on vinyl in the U.S. in 1965, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1983, and 1986. Ubiquity=affordability. As long as you aren’t stuck on having an original 1965 pressing, you can pick up a record cheap.  I bought my 1971 copy of this record in a Longview antique shop for about ten bucks.
  2. Parlophone did the world a great service when it re-mastered and re-released all of its records in 2012, including mono versions, of all their LP’s.  That’s handy because all the original recordings up to Rubber Soul were mastered in mono. These albums are available new on 180 gram vinyl for around $20 each.  The White Album, a 2 X LP, record costs a bit more. Easily available through Amazon or your local record store. .

So the, Parlophone + Capitol recordings give you everything you need.  I avoided the Red and Blue anthologies that were released in 1970 and 1973. I avoid anthologies like the plague.  A mature listener is capable of listening to an entire record–unless it’s just a terrible album.

But there is an exception.  The Beatles had many singles that never made it to Parlophone LP’s.  In 1988 Parlophone and Capitol teamed up to release Past Masters.  This two LP set includes many of these singles.  They include classic Beatles songs like, “Paperback Writer” and “Lady Madonna” as well as the unforgettable “Komm mid dir meine hand,” or “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” in German. Again, these are mono recordings, so a nice add to a Parlophone list.

Beatles Past Masters

I’ve also picked out two live records-Live From the Hollywood Bowl, and Live at the Star Club.  Both are inexpensive.  But I am also going to try to get a copy of the Rooftop Concert recorded in 1969 from the London rooftop of Apple Records. It’s a bootleg, published in Spain; I’ll feel bad and get it anyway.

Last but not least, I bought a copy of Love, the remastered, heavily edited, sampled and sequenced album released by the late George Martin and his son to accompany Cirque du Soleil in 2006.  If you’ve never listened before, you should.  It is a delightful reimagining of classic Beatles songs: “Glass Onion,” “Help!,” “Lady Madonna,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and many others. If you don’t love an all-acoustic version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with just George and a guitar, you have no soul.

Beatles Love

Collecting the Beatles can be a real challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun to just sort everything out. Discogs lists 42 pages X 25 entries of LP’s, singles, and compilations. Each album has between dozens and hundreds of vinyl pressings, cassettes, and CD’s. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band has 407 different versions, including U.K., U.S., and foreign releases on vinyl, 8-track, cassette and CD.  You could spend an entire lifetime, maybe a couple of lifetimes just collecting Beatles music. That’s a little more than I would like to do, I’ve just shared an example of how to get all the music you might want to listen to on easily available vinyl.







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