The Beatles US albums: a disc-by-disc guide
THE BEATLES IN THE USA: Between January of 1964 and February of 1970, Capitol Records issued 13 albums by The Beatles in the United States, ushering in the first tidal wave of global Beatlemania and eventually putting forth the penultimate statement by the greatest band of all time.
To first-wave American Beatles fans (and a sizable number of purists), these recordings – starting with Meet The Beatles! and ending with Hey Jude – represent something close to sacrosanct. As it turned out, the albums were, in many cases, far and away from what the band intended.
Because The Beatles' recordings were licensed to Capitol from EMI, the US company was free to slice and dice the original British LPs at will, resulting in sometimes shockingly abridged versions of classics like Rubber Soul and Revolver to surprisingly sturdy, hit-filled compilation albums that went by the names of Beatles '65, Something New and Yesterday And Today.
The changes didn't just affect tracklistings and artwork. Albums were, in many cases, released in both stereo and mono. When no stereo mixes were available, Capitol created them, splitting the mono signal between two channels, tweaking the bass and treble and resulting in "duophonic" mixes. Conversely, for some mono recordings, "fold-down" mono mixes that blended two discrete stereo channels into one mono master, were assembled.
All of which no doubt drove The Beatles bananas whenever they took a second from changing the world and dropped one of the US releases onto their turntables. (In fact, when they were renegotiating their deal with EMI in 1966, one of the key sticking points was their demand that the US would adhere to issuing their studio albums as is, beginning with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.)
In 2009, The Beatles catalogue was reissued in lavish stereo and mono box sets (as well as for iTunes), and in a move that will perhaps chafe purists, these same stereo and mono remasters, with rare exceptions, are what appear on a 13-CD box called called, appropriately enough, The Beatles: The US Albums (Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol). For early Beatles fans looking to bathe themselves in nostalgia or young'uns intent on completing their collections, it's a stupendous package, with tracklistings and artwork slavishly reproduced even down to the occasional song title typo.
On the following pages, we take you through The Beatles: The US Albums disc by disc.
Meet The Beatles!
One of the most astonishing 27 minutes in music history, Meet The Beatles! packs most of the prime original material of the UK-released With The Beatles, along with the band's first knockout American single, I Want To Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There, plus the transcendent This Boy, which was the B-side to I Want To Hold Your Hand in the UK.
Both Please Please Me and the the band's UK full-length follow-up With The Beatles contained 14 songs each and were half comprised of covers. Meet The Beatles! is an even dozen (six tracks on each side) and emphasizes Lennon-McCartney originals (George Harrison's songwriting debut, Don't Bother Me, the fourth cut on With The Beatles, opens Side Two).
The sole non-original, Till There Was You, a lilting ballad from the musical The Music Man, no doubt appealed to parents and dubious older reviewers, especially once McCartney batted his lush eyelashes and crooned the tune to the cameras while singing it as the second song The Beatles performed during their iconic Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
Taken as a whole, it's a spunky, thrilling and audacious introduction to a band that would outpace its imitators throughout the decade.
1. I Want To Hold Your Hand
2. I Saw Her Standing There
3. This Boy
4. It Won't Be Long
5. All I've Got To Do
6. All My Loving
7. Don't Bother Me
8. Little Child
9. Till There Was You
10. Hold Me Tight
11. I Wanna Be Your Man
12. Not A Second Yime
The Beatles' Second Album
A doozy of a rock 'n' roll record that de-emphasized McCartney pop balladry and put the focus on Lennon grit, The Beatles' Second Album is more of a cobbled-together effort than Meet The Beatles!, comprised mostly of covers from With The Beatles and various EP and singles.
While this hodgepodge approach has for years irritated a sizable number of Beatles purists, the disc has plenty of bite (any record that ends Side Two with She Loves You – think about it, putting one of your monster songs last!) and remains a favorite among perhaps an equal group of discerning Fab Four aficionados.
Meet The Beatles! served as a forceful introduction to the songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney. The Beatles' Second Album, which features a lopsided amount of covers to originals (six to five, respectively), showcases their skills as creative and enthusiastic interpreters.
Lennon's hair-raising lead vocal on Money almost bests his peerless, larynx-shredding singing on Twist And Shout (which US audiences could only get at the time on Vee-Jay's Introducing... The Beatles; it wouldn't appear on a Capitol release until The Early Beatles, nearly a year later). And Harrison's take on Chuck Berry's Roll Over, Beethoven, which kicks off this brisk set, is a handclap-driven, good-time winner.
1. Roll Over, Beethoven
2. Thank You Girl
3. You Really Got A Hold On Me
4. Devil In Her Heart
6. You Can't Do That
7. Long Tall Sally
8. I Call Your Name
9. Please Mr. Postman
10. I'll Get You
11. She Loves You
A Hard Day's Night - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The US version of the soundtrack to A Hard Day's Night (originally released by United Artists Records in 1964, later issued by Capitol in 1980) represents the first clear-cut example of superiority in the case of a UK counterpart.
Whereas the British LP featured 13 brand-new Lennon/McCartney originals, the American release cut that number down to seven – losing key tracks such as You Can't Do That, Any Time At All, Things We Said Today and I'll Be Back – while filling out the remaining space with George Martin-produced orchestral renditions of songs such as I Should Have Known Better and the title number.
That said, when one skips over the instrumentals (they're an interesting listen the first time; after that, not so much), the US Hard Day's Night is an efficient, jangly and punchy gem – Harrison's ringing 12-string guitar breaks still sounds fresh – with Lennon and McCartney maturing as songwriters at a breathtaking rate.
Presented in both stereo and mono mixes, although I'll Cry Instead (listed as I Cry Instead on the first-pressing album jacket; the reissue maintains the error), which featured an extra verse on the original US mono version of A Hard Day's Night not heard on the British LP, is preserved here in both the stereo and mono portions.
1. A Hard Day's Night
2. Tell Me Why
3. I Cry Instead
4. I Should Have Known Better (instrumental)
5. I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
6. And I Love Her (instrumental)
7. I Should Have Known Better
8. If I Fell
9. And I Love Her
10. Ringo's Theme (This Boy (instrumental)
11. Can't Buy Me Love
12. A Hard Day's Night (instrumental)
Something New, assembled by Capitol and released less than a month after the Hard Day's Night soundtrack, manages to fill in that album's missing pieces (it includes Things We Said Today, When I Get Home and Any Time At All) and repeating it at the same time (I'll Cry Instead, If I Fell, I'm Happy Just To Dance With You and Tell Me Why all featured again).
While Something New didn't, in fact, feel all that new, the inclusion of two spirited covers, Larry Williams' Slow Down (anything but lethargic, with Lennon turning in one of his most rugged vocals yet) and Carl Perkins' Matchbox (Ringo, charming and full of gusto), both of which were released on the British Long Tall Sally EP, pump things up nicely.
The sole head-scratcher is Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand, a German-language version of I Want To Hold Your Hand. Perhaps The Beatles felt it necessary to throw a bone to their early days in Hamburg; in any event, the singing sounds forced, as if Lennon and McCartney were shoehorning the translated words to match the tune's otherwise wondrous melody.
1. I'll Cry Instead
2. Things We Said Today
3. Any Time At All
4. When I Get Home
5. Slow Down
7. Tell Me Why
8. And I Love Her
9. I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
10. If I Fell
11. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
The Beatles' Story
With four LPs already flying off the shelves, Capitol Records realized that it could probably print the word "Beatles" on just about anything and score a hit, and with 1964 drawing to a close, the label assembled probably the most curious (and weakest-selling) of all Fab Four-related releases, The Beatles Story, a two-disc audio documentary of sorts.
Unavailable on CD until now, The Beatles' story is comprised of voice-over segments spotlighting each band member along with bits about Brian Epstein ("Man Behind The Beatles") and George Martin ("Man Behind The Music").
Of special interest is the inclusion of a snippet of a live performance of Twist And Shout, recorded at the Hollywood Bowl on August 23, 1964, the full version of which would ultimately be heard on The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl in 1977.
1. On Stage With The Beatles
2. How Beatlemania Began
3. Beatlemania In Action
4. Man Behind The Beatles – Brian Epstein
5. John Lennon
6. Who's A Millionaire?
7. Beatles Will Be Beatles
8. Man Behind The Music – George Martin
9. George Harrison
10. A Hard Day's Night – Their First Movie
11. Paul McCartney
12. Sneaky Haircuts And More About Paul
13. The Beatles Look At Life
14. "Victims" Of Beatlemania
15. Beatle Medley
16. Ringo Starr
17. Liverpool And All The World!
On December 4th in the UK, The Beatles released their fourth official studio LP, Beatles For Sale, and 11 days later in the US came Beatles '65, a shorter (of course) version of that disc.
While four essential tracks (Eight Days A Week, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party, Every Little Thing and What You're Doing) were lopped off and saved for the American-issued Beatles VI that would follow in six months, the opening trilogy of songs (No Reply, I'm A Loser and Baby's In Black) more than made up for those exclusions.
On these numbers, John Lennon, by now under the influence of Bob Dylan, began to advance his songwriting into areas that were increasingly dark and self-critical – and fascinating. But the changes weren't just lyrical: The groundbreaking I Feel Fine, the penultimate track on Side Two, was perhaps the first time that American ears were ever exposed (intentionally) to guitar feedback.
Beatles For Sale was the last of the band's British LPs to feature an abundance of covers. Beatles '65 features all of Beatles For Sale's non-originals (Rock And Roll Music, Mr. Moonlight, Honey Don't and Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby) but two: Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! and Words Of Love - those tracks would also wind up on Beatles VI.
1. No Reply
2. I'm A Loser
3. Baby's In Black
4. Rock And Roll Music
5. I'll Follow The Sun
6. Mr. Moonlight
7. Honey Don't
8. I'll Be Back
9. She's A Woman
10. I Feel Fine
11. Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
The Early Beatles
With The Beatles off filming Help!, it would be a while until any new product was available. Capitol made sure that no Fab Four fan had to jones for long with The Early Beatles, a spectacular collection of '62 and '63 tracks, most of which were previously available on Vee-Jay's Introducing... The Beatles.
By 1965, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were in full bloom as songwriters, with George Harrison, after a cautious toe or two in the water, soon to follow, albeit a few steps behind (for the time being).
The Early Beatles shows the band off in their just-out-of-the-Cavern Club prime, with the superlative UK single of Please Please Me/ Ask Me Why surpassed only by the understated charm of Do You Want To Know A Secret. (So confident were Lennon and McCartney as writers that they gave the tune to George to sing.)
Six of the 11 tracks are covers, and there's not one ho-hum apple in the bunch. McCartney wraps his mellifluous pipes around the easy-listening A Taste Of Honey, and at the other end of the spectrum there's Lennon's historic rendition of Twist And Shout, the first and last word in rock 'n' roll singing.
1. Love Me Do
2. Twist And Shout
6. Ask Me Why
7. Please Please Me
8. P.S. I Love You
9. Baby It's You
10. A Taste Of Honey
11. Do You Want To Know A Secret
A fine stop-gap collection, figuring in before the brilliant soundtrack to Help! and the explosion of restless creativity that would begin with Rubber Soul, Beatles VI completed Beatles For Sale with Eight Days A Week, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party, Every Little Thing and What You're Doing all accounted for.
Two made-for-the US covers, Dizzy Miss Lizzie and Bad Boy, both written by Larry Williams and both sung to the max by Lennon, are stand-out attractions here, but there's also an advance preview of Help! with the inclusion of Tell Me What You See and George Harrison's You Like Me Too Much, both of which feature extensive use of a Hohner Pianet electric piano.
1. Kansas City
2. Eight Days A Week
3. You Like Me Too Much
4. Bad Boy
5. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
6. Words Of Love
7. What You're Doing
8. Yes It Is
9. Dizzy Miss Lizzie
10. Tell Me What You See
11. Every Little Thing
Help! - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
As soundtracks go, it would be hard to top A Hard Day's Night, but a year later The Beatles came oh-so-close with Help!, a deliriously expansive set that showcased Lennon and McCartney's strengths as matchless introspective songwriters.
But that would have been on the British version, which included It's Only Love and I've Just Seen A Face, along with McCartney's towering triumph, Yesterday, all of which were excised from the US edition.
Of course, any record that lists the stunning title track, Ticket To Ride and You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, along with George Harrison's first truly great original, I Need You, can't be all bad. But a quartet of Ken Thorne-composed orchestral pieces (performed by the George Martin Orchestra) take up space that could otherwise have been occupied by as many Beatles gem, so that's four demerits.
2. The Night Before
3. From Me To You Fantasy (instrumental)
4. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
5. I Need You
6. In The Tyrol (instrumental)
7. Another Girl
8. Another Hard Day's Night (instrumental)
9. Ticket To Ride
10. The Bitter End/You Can't Do That (instrumental)
11. You're Going To Lose That Girl
12. The Chase (instrumental)
If we don't count A Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul is The Beatles first front-to-bottom masterpiece of all original material.
Brimming with the sounds of acoustic guitars, it moved The Beatles into the pastoral elegance of folk rock, a genre spearheaded in the States by The Byrds (who, themselves, were heavily influenced by The Beatles, right on down to their guitar choices) and earlier in the year by Dylan, who had famously gone electric with his smash song Like A Rolling Stone and its accompanying album, Highway 61 Revisited.
Perhaps unwittingly, the powers that be at Capitol ratcheted the rock down a notch on the American counterpart of Rubber Soul, cutting the original British album from 14 down to 12, and removing the swinging Drive My Car (a stone-cold classic album opener) and replacing it with I've Just Seen A Face, a holdover from the Help! LP.
Further cuts included Nowhere Man, What Goes On and If I Needed Somewhere (to be featured on the next compilation release, Yesterday And Today) with It's Only Love, another Help! hostage kicking off Side Two. The result is a softer listen, an abridged view of The Beatles during one of the most important development periods in their career.
1. I've Just Seen A Face
2. Norwegian Wood
3. You Won't See Me
4.Think For Yourself
5. The Word
7. It's Only Love
9. I'm Looking Through You
10. In My Life
12. Run For Your Life
Yesterday And Today
The Beatles were starting to spend more time in the studio, churning out singles and albums at a slower pace than in the heady rush of '63 and '64. Yesterday And Today (or "Yesterday"... and Today, as it was printed on some early proofs and on the finished LP's back cover) was the last Capitol Records-assembled US package, and it features some of the band's best material from the mid-point in their recording career.
Two tracks from Help! appear here (that album's title track and Act Naturally, both of which were released together as a single in 1965 in the US), along with the four cuts excised from Rubber Soul (Drive My Car, If I Needed Someone, Nowhere Man and What Goes On).
Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out, issued as a single, are also included, and there's a generous preview of the upcoming Revolver with the songs I'm Only Sleeping, Doctor Robert and And Your Bird Can Sing (all of which would be cut from the US version of that album).
The album would, of course, become notorious shortly after its release for non-musical reasons: The Beatles had sent Capitol a Robert Whitaker shot of them dressed in butcher smocks and draped in plastic baby doll parts and hunks of meat.
Reviewers, disc jockeys and parents groups in the US were outraged by the photo which was printed on 750,000 copies of Yesterday And Today, and in a mad scramble, Capitol came up with a safer alternative (see below), a shot of The Beatles situated around a steamer trunk.
Before actual copies could be printed with the "Trunk" photo, replacing the now-infamous "Butcher" cover, labels with simply stuck on a sizable number of the original LPs. Those albums, referred to as "first state" covers, are collector's items today.
1. Drive My Car
2. I'm Only Sleeping
3. Nowhere Man
4. Doctor Robert
6. Act Naturally
7. And Your Bird Can Sing
8. If I Needed Someone
9. We Can Work It Out
10. What Goes On
11. Day Tripper
By cutting three of Lennon's Revolver songs (Doctor Robert, I'm Only Sleeping and And Your Bird Can Sing) and pasting them onto Yesterday And Today, Capitol gave US fans the impression that McCartney might have been slacking off; tilting the scales in McCartney's favor on the American version of Revolver made it appear as if Lennon was on an extended holiday.
The truth of the matter was, both artists were in full bloom as individual songwriters, turning out some of their most idiosyncratic and memorable material. And Harrison, for the first time, was approaching their equal as a composer. His three tracks on Revolver (Taxman, Love You To and I Want To Tell You) were a hint of what was to come on The Beatles (The "White Album") and Abbey Road.
Revolver marked the last time that Capitol would alter a full Beatles album; the group was in the process of renegotiating its deal with EMI, and one of their demands was that all future LPs were to be released faithful to the original British discs.
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. Love You To
4. Here, There And Everywhere
5. Yellow Submarine
6. She Said, She Said
7. Good Day Sunshine
8. For No One
9. I Want To Tell You
10. Got To Get You Into My Life
11. Tomorrow Never Knows
Appearing five months after the band's final studio album, Abbey Road, and three months before the almost-shelved Let It Be (which was recorded before Abbey Road), Hey Jude is another compilation curio, only this time the set was put together by the band's recently installed business manager, Allen Klein, and Apple Records.
Essentially, it's a career-spanning mop-up of non-Capitol album singles and B-sides, kicking of with Can't Buy Me Love and wrapping with The Ballad Of John And Yoko, which had been released as a single in May of 1969 (with Harrison's Old Brown Shoe, also accounted for here, as its B-side).
1. Can't Buy Me Love
2. I Should Have Known Better
3. Paperback Writer
5. Lady Madonna
7. Hey Jude
8. Old Brown Shoe
9. Don't Let Me Down
10. The Ballad Of John And Yoko