The Beatles' North American releases

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The Beatles experienced huge popularity on the British record charts in early 1963, but record companies in the United States did not immediately follow up the Beatles' successes in the United Kingdom with releases of their own,[1] and even once they began to do so, the Beatles' commercial success in the US continued to be hampered by other obstacles including issues with royalties[2] and public derision toward the "Beatle haircut".[3]

It was nearly a year before a five-minute news story about Beatlemania in the UK, shown on the CBS Evening News on 10 December 1963, led to a teenage girl making an airplay request to a local radio station, which in turn sparked a sequence of events leading to the rush-release of the single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the group's commercial breakthrough.[4]

In the United States, Capitol Records modified the Beatles' albums from their original configurations, altering track listings and artwork. This was done because albums released in the US contained fewer tracks, typically no more than 11 or 12, compared to albums released in the United Kingdom due to differences in the method that publishing royalties were calculated in the two countries.[5] Also, in the American market it was expected for albums to include the current hit single, whereas British albums typically did not duplicate songs released as singles. This resulted in 11 albums being released by Capitol from 1964 to 1966, culled from seven UK albums and various singles. This trend in the Beatles' American discography continued until 1967 when a new recording contract with EMI was signed. Dissatisfied with how Capitol in the US and other companies around the world were issuing their work in almost unrecognizable forms, beginning in 1967 the Beatles gained full approval of album titles and cover art, track listing and running order in North America. Starting with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the Beatles' albums were released unmodified. Capitol stopped production of the US versions in the early 1980s and after the remaining inventory was sold off, the original UK LPs were released in the US in 1987.[6][7]

Initial obstacles

EMI first offered US distribution of the Beatles' records to their American subsidiary, Capitol Records, in 1962. After Capitol declined, a five-year agreement was reached with Vee-Jay Records, an independent (mostly rhythm and blues) label based in Chicago, as part of a deal for the rights to another EMI artist, Frank Ifield. The first Beatles single released by Vee-Jay was "Please Please Me" in February 1963. Art Roberts, music director of popular Chicago radio station WLS, placed "Please Please Me" into radio rotation in late February, arguably the first time a Beatles record was heard on American radio. Radio personality Dick Biondi was the first to play the record on his show. "Please Please Me" reached number 35 on WLS's weekly survey but failed to chart nationally. Vee-Jay released "From Me to You" in May 1963 which reached number 33 at radio station KRLA in Los Angeles, where Biondi was now working. The single "bubbled under" the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 116, however, in August Vee-Jay's rights to the Beatles were cancelled by EMI for non-payment of royalties.[2][8][note 1]

Capitol was offered the next Beatles single "She Loves You" but again declined so the record was licensed to Philadelphia-based Swan Records. Released it in September 1963, "She Loves You" also failed to receive airplay. An airing of the song on Dick Clark's TV show American Bandstand produced laughter from American teenagers when they saw the group's distinctive hairstyles.[3] In early November 1963, Brian Epstein persuaded Ed Sullivan to present the Beatles on three editions of his show in February, and parlayed this guaranteed exposure into a record deal with Capitol Records. Capitol committed to a mid-January release of "I Want to Hold Your Hand".[9] On 10 December 1963, a five-minute news story shot in England about the phenomenon of Beatlemania was shown on the CBS Evening News. The segment first aired on the CBS Morning News on 22 November and had originally been scheduled to be repeated on that day's Evening News, but regular programming was cancelled following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy earlier that day.

Impact of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

The CBS Evening News segment inspired a teenage girl named Marsha Albert living in Silver Spring, Maryland to write to Carroll James, a disc jockey at Washington DC's WWDC radio station, requesting that he play records by the Beatles. Carroll James had seen the same news story and arranged through a friend to have a copy of their new single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" sent over to him. Immediately after debuting the record on 17 December, the station received overwhelming positive audience reaction, with the station escalating airplay of the record. Made aware of the overwhelming listener response, Capitol Records president Alan W. Livingston decided a few days later to take advantage of the response and rush-release the already-prepared single three weeks ahead of schedule on 26 December 1963.[4]

Several New York radio stations began playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on its release day. The positive response to the record that had started in Washington was duplicated in New York and quickly spread to other markets. The record sold one million copies in just ten days, and by 16 January 1964, Cashbox magazine had certified the record number one for the week ending 25 January, in the edition datelined 23 January, after just three weeks in their Top 100 chart.[10]

It was around this time that Brian Epstein was besieged by merchandising offers and, underestimating this relatively new market within the pop industry, chose to effectively give it away. Seltaeb was a company set up in 1963 by Nicky Byrne exclusively to look after The Beatles merchandising rights on a 90 /10 basis in Byrne’s favour. This quickly led to contractual disputes and lawsuits which eventually cost NEMS an estimated $100 million in licensing fees.[11]

Impact of the Beatles' arrival in America

After the Beatles' success in 1964, Vee-Jay Records and Swan Records took advantage of their previously secured rights to the group's early recordings and reissued the songs; all the songs reached the top ten this time. Three singles released by Capitol Records of Canada (which began issuing Beatles records in February 1963) were imported into the United States and sold enough quantities to make the American charts. One of them, "Love Me Do", was then issued by Vee-Jay on the Tollie label and made it to #1. MGM and Atco also secured rights to the Beatles' early Tony Sheridan-era recordings and had minor hits with "My Bonnie" and "Ain't She Sweet", the latter featuring John Lennon on lead vocal.

These Beatle record releases led to a new dimension of chart success for the Beatles. On 4 April 1964, The Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart[12] and the Cashbox magazine Top 100 chart.[13] The following week, a record 14 Beatle records were on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[14]

In addition to Introducing... the Beatles (1964), which was essentially their debut British album with some minor alterations, Vee-Jay also issued an unusual LP called The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons. This two-LP set paired Introducing... The Beatles and The Golden Hits Of The Four Seasons, another successful act that Vee-Jay had under contract, in a 'contest' (the back cover featured a 'score card'). Another unusual release was the Hear The Beatles Tell All album, which consisted of two lengthy interviews with Los Angeles radio disc jockeys (side one was titled "Dave Hull interviews John Lennon", while side two was titled "Jim Steck interviews John, Paul, George, Ringo"). No Beatles music was included on this interview album, which turned out to be the only Vee-Jay Beatles album Capitol Records could not reclaim.

Following litigation between Capitol and Vee-Jay, a legal settlement was reached giving Vee-Jay the rights to market Beatle recordings they possessed until 10 October 1964 at which point all rights to all EMI Beatle recordings in the United States were assigned to Capitol Records.[15]

The Vee-Jay/Swan-issued recordings eventually ended up with Capitol, which issued most of the Vee-Jay material on the American-only Capitol release The Early Beatles, with three songs left off this final US version of the album. ("I Saw Her Standing There" was issued as the American B-side of "I Want to Hold Your Hand", and also appeared on the Capitol Records album Meet the Beatles. "Misery" and "There's a Place" were issued as a Capitol "Starline" reissue single in 1964, and reappeared on Capitol's 1980 US version of the Rarities compilation album.) The early Vee-Jay and Swan Beatles records command a high price on the record collectors' market today, and all have been copiously bootlegged.[16] The Swan tracks "She Loves You" and "I'll Get You" were issued on the Capitol LP The Beatles' Second Album. Swan also issued the German-language version of "She Loves You", called "Sie Liebt Dich". This song later appeared (in stereo) on Capitol's Rarities album.

List of North American album releases

This is a list of albums released in North America whilst the band were still active. Albums starting with The Beatles (1968) were released worldwide on Apple Records.

Year Title Label
1963 Beatlemania! With the Beatles Capitol Canada
1964 Introducing... the Beatles Vee-Jay
1964 Meet the Beatles! Capitol
1964 The Beatles with Tony Sheridan & Guests MGM
1964 Twist and Shout Capitol Canada
1964 The Beatles' Second Album Capitol
1964 The Beatles' Long Tall Sally Capitol Canada
1964 A Hard Day's Night United Artists
1964 Something New Capitol
1964 Hear the Beatles Tell All (Interview album) Vee-Jay
1964 Ain't She Sweet Atco
1964 The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons Vee-Jay
1964 Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles Vee-Jay
1964 The Beatles' Story Capitol
1964 Beatles '65 Capitol
1965 The Early Beatles Capitol
1965 Beatles VI Capitol
1965 Help! Capitol
1965 Rubber Soul Capitol
1966 Yesterday and Today Capitol
1966 Revolver Capitol
1967 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Capitol
1967 Magical Mystery Tour Capitol
1968 The Beatles Apple
1969 Yellow Submarine Apple
1969 Abbey Road Apple
1970 Hey Jude Apple
1970 In the Beginning (Circa 1960) Polydor
1970 Let It Be Apple


  1. ^ Vee-Jay subsequently re-released the Beatles recordings it claimed to control in early 1964 and following a settlement with Capitol Records, was granted a license to release the disputed material until October 1964.


  1. ^ JPGR Retrieved: 29 January 2007
  2. ^ a b "The Beatles on Vee Jay Records". Retrieved 19 August 2006. Retrieved: 29 January 2007
  3. ^ a b Spitz (2005), p.461
  4. ^ a b I Want to Hold Your Hand Retrieved: 29 January 2007.
  5. ^ Hank Fox (4 March 1967). "Disk Firms Swing to Less-Groove Policy". Billboard: 1 & 10.
  6. ^ Grein, Paul. "Beatles' British Albums Will Replace U.S. Versions" Billboard December 7, 1985: 84
  7. ^ Weiner, Allen J. The Beatles: The Ultimate Recording Guide (1992): 146
  8. ^ Greenberg, Steve. "How The Beatles Went Viral" Billboard January 13, 2014
  9. ^ JPGR I Want to Hold Your Hand release Retrieved: 29 January 2007
  10. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 1/25/64". 1964-01-25. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  11. ^ Harry, Bill (1992). The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 127. ISBN 0-86369-681-3.
  12. ^ "BeatleTracks Band: Beatles Dominate the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in April 1964". Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  13. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 4/04/64". 1964-04-04. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  14. ^ "Billboard US Charts - Beatles". Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  15. ^ Dave Dermon III. "The Beatles on Vee Jay Records". Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  16. ^ Rare Beatles Retrieved: 29 January 2007


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