Dateline: Davis, CA. COVID-19 “shelter-in-place” quarantine, March 18 through…?, 2020
The new year 1966 dawns. A suitable Beatles film project could not be agreed upon, so there was no soundtrack recording or movie shooting to take up three months of their time, giving them their first extended break in years. They vacationed, relaxed, gave interviews, and had an infamous photo session in March, where they posed for Robert Whitaker’s camera clad in butcher’s smocks, draped in pieces of raw meat and clutching dismembered baby dolls.
Then it was back to Abbey Road in April for the next round of recording, which would last until June, once again cutting sixteen tracks — fourteen for the album and two for a stand-alone single.
Tracks as yet “un-albumized” by Capitol will appear in bold, even if they’ve had a Capitol single release.
Capitol, as usual, was eager to get more product onto U.S. shelves in the summertime, when teens with summer jobs did most of their spending. (In both ‘65 and ‘66, they put out an album in June and an album in August.) Still unreleased on a Capitol album were There’s A Place, Misery, From Me To You, Sie Liebt Dich, Can’t Buy Me Love, A Hard Day’s Night, and I Should Have Known Better. In the fast-moving world of 60s pop music, these were now “oldies,” never under serious consideration at this point, even for the most careless Capitol throw-together. Of a more recent vintage, they were sitting on I’m Down, Yesterday, and Act Naturally from the Help! sessions, the We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper single, and the UK Rubber Soul leftovers Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, What Goes On, and If I Needed Someone. For some reason, Capitol decided to totally disregard I’m Down, and put it out of the running forever after. I have no idea why. The fact that it had been put out as a single’s B-side the previous year doesn’t seem like the sort of thing they’d be picky about. It’s a great song, and the Beatles themselves obviously liked it, selecting it to be performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and using it as their big closing number in concert for two straight years. But Capitol nixed it, and decided they had only eight usable songs for the next album.
Which led to the now yearly tradition. Sometime in early May, Capitol contacted the Beatles for additional material. The band shipped over three finished tracks from their current work in progress — I’m Only Sleeping, Doctor Robert, and And Your Bird Can Sing. All were Lennon songs, as he was the only one to have any fully completed recordings at the time of the request. Paul was still tinkering with his material. (Actually, they had also finished Harrison’s Love You To, and a copy of the master was prepared, probably for shipment to Capitol, but it went unused. Its exotic Indian instrumentation would have been out of place among the straightforward pop-rock of Yesterday And Today, and was better-suited to the more experimental Revolver.)
Yesterday And Today (June 15, 1966)
- Drive My Car (UK Rubber Soul)
- I’m Only Sleeping (UK Revolver)
- Nowhere Man (UK Rubber Soul)
- Doctor Robert (UK Revolver)
- Yesterday (UK Help!)
- Act Naturally (UK Help!)
- And Your Bird Can Sing (UK Revolver)
- If I Needed Someone (UK Rubber Soul)
- We Can Work It Out (single — double A-side with “Day Tripper”)
- What Goes On (UK Rubber Soul)
- Day Tripper (single — double-A side with “We Can Work It Out”)
This is the one everyone remembers as initially having the famous “butcher” cover, from the photo session described earlier. Some have speculated that the cover is the Beatles’ commentary on Capitol “butchering” their albums for the American market, but it was really just avant-garde surrealism on the part of the photographer. (The Beatles had no say in which of their songs went on U.S. albums, let alone what cover photo was used.) Whitaker designed the shot as part of a larger social-commentary photo essay that he planned for the group called A Somnambulistic Adventure. It got no further than the first round of pics (the Beatles got bored with pretentious bullshit like that pretty quickly — at least in those days), and those photos were just added to their press kit with the hundreds of other band pictures. Someone in Capitol’s graphics department grabbed the photo from their files, either due to a dark sense of humor, or (more likely) figuring one picture of the group was as good as any other. It may have just been the most recent set on the pile. And off it went.
Anyway, about 60,000 “butcher” sleeves made it to distributors and radio stations (not quite to store shelves) before outcry over the “tasteless” cover art from said distributors and radio stations caused Capitol to recall the album at great expense, and issue it with a replacement cover (with bored-looking Beatles posed around a steamer trunk.) Some lucky folks decided to keep the butcher version instead of returning it to Capitol, and mint copies are worth a fortune. (A few thousand copies of the butcher cover made it into stores with the new cover simply pasted over it. It could be recovered through various painstaking methods. Those copies always sustained a little damage in the process, and are worth slightly less. My own vinyl copy has a little tear in the sleeve from me checking to see if the butcher cover was underneath, not realizing as a little kid I was the owner of a factory-fresh, circa-1983 reissue.)
The Paperback Writer / Rain single came out on May 30, 1966 in the U.S., and on June 10 in the UK
The British Revolver came out in the UK on August 5 with the following tracklist: Taxman / Eleanor Rigby / “I’m Only Sleeping” / Love You To / Here, There And Everywhere / Yellow Submarine / She Said She Said / Good Day Sunshine / “And Your Bird Can Sing” / For No One / “Doctor Robert” / I Want To Tell You / Got To Get You Into My Life / Tomorrow Never Knows.
It came out three days later in the U.S. The only alteration Capitol made was the removal of the three Lennon songs that had just come out on Yesterday And Today. The resulting American Revolver is very lopsided, a McCartney-heavy album (he also wrote the Ringo-sung “Yellow Submarine”), with Lennon represented by just two songs (even George got three), closing each of the album’s vinyl sides with a blast of proto-psychedelic weirdness.
Revolver (August 8, 1966)
- Eleanor Rigby
- Love You To
- Here, There And Everywhere
- Yellow Submarine
- She Said She Said
- Good Day Sunshine
- For No One
- I Want To Tell You
- Got To Get You Into My Life
- Tomorrow Never Knows
In a telling indication of the role reversal of the importance of albums and singles by this time, instead of putting a single on an album, Capitol released a single from the album. “Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine” missed the top of the charts (barely), but when, in a spirit of experimentation, Parlophone also released the songs as a single, they got a #1 in Britain.
Unlike 1963 (in Britain), ‘64, and ‘65, there would be no end-of-year album in 1966. The Beatles were hard at work on what would become Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would not be ready until the following spring. To fill the void, Parlophone put all the A-sides of British singles to date (minus the first two, which were available on the Please Please Me album, and including the popular “Yesterday”…and for some reason, “Michelle”) on the Beatles’ first greatest hits collection — A Collection of Beatles Oldies, which undoubtedly nestled under many a British Christmas tree. They even threw in “Bad Boy,” establishing the tradition of a greatest hits album including a previously unreleased “bonus track.” The U.S. market went Beatle-less that December. (A stereo acetate of their ‘64 and ‘65 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl was made in late September, seemingly for a live album, but the idea was dropped for the moment. It eventually came out in 1977.)
In early 1967, their original recording contract with EMI expired. In renegotiating a new one, they now had the clout to make absolutely sure that Capitol Records would release their albums with the same packaging and track listing that they had in Britain in no uncertain terms, unless they gave their specific approval. This was their art, dammit, and it was not just commerce for them. EMI agreed to the new deal..
Thus ended Capitol’s slicing and dicing of Beatles albums for the American market. When Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band came out in June, it was the first time a Beatles album made it across the Atlantic unaltered. (If Capitol were still cutting up albums, and I were in charge of Pepper, I would dump the dated, weepy melodrama “She’s Leaving Home” with its Mike Leander [not George Martin!]-arranged strings, and the dippy “Lovely Rita” and replace them with “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” both of which were originally intended for the album. Just my two cents.)
Now if they put out a stand-alone single, it was a stand-alone single in the U.S. as well. And there were three stand-alone singles in 1967:
Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever (February)
All You Need Is Love / Baby, You’re A Rich Man (July)
Hello, Goodbye / I Am The Walrus (November)
After Pepper, their next project was Magical Mystery Tour, a surreal, largely improvised, self-made psychedelic hot mess of a TV movie which ran on the BBC on December 26. It bombed, and was not widely seen in the U.S. until the home video era, but the music from it, as usual, would be in wide demand — Magical Mystery Tour, The Fool On The Hill, Flying, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know, and I Am The Walrus.
The six songs from the TV movie were not enough to fill an album, so Parlophone put them out in the UK in a very awkward format — a double-EP. It sold well enough, but it was the sort of thing that wouldn’t work at all in the U.S.
This time, at the end of 1967, when Capitol issued a U.S.-only album, it was based on a relatively decent idea: A full-length album, with all the TV movie songs on one side, and all the 1967 singles rounded up on the other. Since this went out under the terms of their new contract, the Beatles did grudgingly agree to the expanded packaging, and accepted the realities of the American market, where the movie was not aired and a double-EP would be commercially risky. (They were particularly miffed about the inclusion of the pre-Sgt. Pepper “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” single.)
Magical Mystery Tour (November 27, 1967)
- Magical Mystery Tour (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP)
- The Fool On The Hill (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP)
- Flying (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP)
- Blue Jay Way (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP)
- Your Mother Should Know (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP)
- I Am The Walrus (Magical Mystery Tour double-EP and “Hello, Goodbye” B-side)
- Hello, Goodbye (single)
- Strawberry Fields Forever (single — double A-side with “Penny Lane”)
- Penny Lane (single — double A-side with “Strawberry Fields Forever”)
- Baby, You’re A Rich Man (B-side to “All You Need Is Love”)
- All You Need Is Love (single)
The album was so successful that EMI eventually issued it in Britain in 1976, and it’s been part of the “official” album canon ever since, the old double-EP long forgotten. The Beatles themselves eventually warmed up to it. John Lennon even pronounced it his favorite Beatles album “because it’s so weird.” (He went back and forth between this and the White Album.)
1968 saw the release of The Beatles (“The White Album”) and two more singles: Lady Madonna / The Inner Light and Hey Jude / Revolution
In 1969, we got Get Back / Don’t Let Me Down from the January “Let It Be” sessions, and The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe. In the album department, we got the soundtrack to their animated film Yellow Submarine (featuring only four new songs, most of them 1967 leftovers) and Abbey Road.
The Beatles had all but broken up by the end of 1969. The long-completed Let It Be documentary and songs were going to come out in the spring of 1970, but that would be their swan song.
But wait! There were still orphan tracks and stand-alone singles that had not yet been put on a Capitol album. And while they were going through the process of breaking up, their new business manager Allen Klein had negotiated an even better deal with EMI. Everyone wanted to cash in on their higher royalty rates as soon as possible. These two facts combined to create the first Capitol compilation album.
You’re probably pretty familiar with the first half of the un-albumized orphan list by now. Say them with me:
There’s A Place, Misery, From Me To You, Sie Liebt Dich, Can’t Buy Me Love, A Hard Day’s Night, I Should Have Known Better and I’m Down. They are now joined by the 1966 single Paperback Writer and Rain, and the 1968-69 singles Lady Madonna, The Inner Light, Hey Jude, Revolution, The Ballad Of John And Yoko, and Old Brown Shoe. Get Back would be featured prominently on the upcoming Let It Be film, so it was headed for the soundtrack album, but its B-side Don’t Let Me Down was considered available. (In yet another inconsistency, that song was in the film as well, but left off the accompanying album.)
The resulting album, originally titled The Beatles Again, was geared to focus on later material — but that wasn’t always the case, resulting in an odd hodgepodge. They re-titled it Hey Jude at the last minute, as the original title sounded like everyone was a little tired of the group.
Hey Jude (February 26, 1970)
- Can’t Buy Me Love (UA soundtrack & Capitol single)
- I Should Have Known Better (UA soundtrack & B-side to A Hard Day’s Night Capitol single)
- Paperback Writer (single)
- Rain (“Paperback Writer” B-side)
- Lady Madonna (single)
- Revolution (“Hey Jude” B-side)
- Hey Jude (single)
- Old Brown Shoe (“The Ballad of John And Yoko” B-side)
- Don’t Let Me Down (Get Back B-side)
- The Ballad Of John And Yoko (single)
Let It Be came out in May 1970, and the title single spawned our final orphan — the B-side was an odd, rambling and long-gestating comedy track called You Know My Name (Look Up The Number), pieced together from various 1967 and ‘69 recordings.
The Beatles were no more, but the re-packages and compilations have just begun.
Capitol’s very first “best-of” was the 1973 double-album The Beatles/1962-1966, which finally gave a Capitol album home to From Me To You and A Hard Day’s Night.
In 1976, Capitol issued a widely-maligned (due to its crude remixes and horrid cover art) double-LP collection called Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, focusing on the Beatles’ more high-energy songs, and at last featuring I’m Down.
Our last five lonely orphans were finally issued on Capitol’s aptly-titled Rarities, along with some alternate mixes and the song that started it all…Love Me Do (I) with Ringo on drums, seeing the light of day for the first time since the fall of ‘62.
Rarities (March 24, 1980)
- Love Me Do (I) (original single)
- Misery (Please Please Me)
- There’s A Place (Please Please Me)
- Sie Liebt Dich (German-language single [B-side] on EMI’s Odeon Records, 2/4/64)
- And I Love Her (alt. mix w/six-bar ending)
- Help! (mono mix with different vocals)
- I’m Only Sleeping (alt. mix w/different backwards guitar sounds)
- I Am The Walrus (alt. mix w/ longer intro and extra beats mid-song)
- Penny Lane (alt. mix w/extra trumpet notes)
- Helter Skelter (alt. mix)
- Don’t Pass Me By (alt. mix w/different violin parts)
- The Inner Light (“Lady Madonna” B-side)
- Across The Universe (alt. mix/donated for a charity album before its release on Let It Be)
- You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) (“Let It Be” B-side)
The UK had its own Rarities album, geared towards British un-albumized orphans like “I’ll Get You” and “She’s A Woman.”
If you accept Capitol’s re-packaging as fait accompli and unavoidable due to the policies of the day, most of their decisions are at least somewhat understandable (if not necessarily in keeping with the Beatles’ vision). As far as I can see, Capitol’s “Capitol Crimes” boil down these three big missteps:
- Using “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand” on Something New instead of “I’ll Be Back” (or “I Should Have Known Better” or “Can’t Buy Me Love”).
- Not including the originals “From Me To You,” “There’s A Place,” or “Misery” on The Early Beatles. Any three of the horrid old covers from the first album session could easily have been sacrificed in their place (and subsequently included on Rarities).
- Not including “I’m Down” on Yesterday And Today, where it would have fit perfectly. Capitol totally ignoring this blistering slab of rock & roll — a Beatle and fan favorite — was unforgivable (I would’ve closed the album with it, and bumped “Day Tripper” to the start of side two. Still only twelve tracks.)
Another bit of autobiography…
I was a generation too young to have experienced the Beatles in real time. I discovered them on my own in early 1982. I was seven years old and whiling away a rainy weekend afternoon pawing through a box of 45s that I found moldering in basement storage. I spun them, one after another, on the old suitcase record player in my sister’s room. The Turtles. Neil Diamond. Gary “U.S.” Bonds. Tommy James (without the Shondells — it was his solo jam “Draggin’ the Line.”) Some Disney movie songs. I vividly remember sitting cross-legged on the green shag carpet staring at my sister’s wallpaper pattern (yellow buttercups) as a scratchy version of the Guess Who’s “No Time” poured out of the mono speaker. To my little ears, it all sounded just okay.
Then I pulled out a Capitol Records single, with its distinctive yellow-and-orange swirl on the label — “We Can Work It Out” backed with “Day Tripper.” I dropped the needle. I always compare the following two minutes and ten seconds to the part in Wizard of Oz where the door opens and the world turns from sepia to glorious Technicolor. It was a revelation. Keep in mind, I had no preconceived notions about the greatness of the Beatles at that age. My parents weren’t huge music fans. I had only vaguely heard of them as a name.
Those two songs just sounded an order of magnitude better than anything else in that box.
On “We Can Work It Out,” McCartney wrote the verses and chorus and tackles the lead vocal (and plays a typically fluid and melodic bassline). He briefly switches to his trademark high harmony vocal as Lennon sings the bridge that was his contribution to the song (“life is very short…”). McCartney’s almost pushy optimism — we can do this, dammit — is aided and abetted by Lennon’s cautionary (and all too prescient) warning that time is precious. The band was becoming more experimental at that point, messing with structure and expectations, adding exotic instruments and the waltz-time breakdown. They excluded a lead guitar solo (Harrison was a good sport and gamely shook a tambourine instead, proving there are no small roles on a Beatles song), and the instrumental track was dominated by a wheezing harmonium, overdubbed by Lennon to complement his propulsive acoustic guitar.
“Day Tripper” was pure electric energy. Harrison’s main riff (composed by Lennon) was downright menacing, and his double-tracked solo punched the song into overdrive, climaxing with blissful vocal harmonies until the whole thing threatened to explode, then sent the listener spiraling back to square one, where the main riff reasserted itself with total authority. In that day and age, people seemed totally unaware of what the song was actually saying (and I certainly was at seven), but both Lennon and McCartney later confirmed that every thinly-veiled reference to drugs and sex was intended. (“She’s a big teaser…she took me half the way there…”)
I had to have more. First taste is free, right? After a good deal of begging, my mom finally bought me the double compilation album The Beatles 1962/1966 by the end of the next week, and the rest is history. My parents almost never used the old receiver (with built-in 8-track player) and Panasonic turntable in the corner of the family room. I was allowed to move it into my room, and I was off on my journey. Like many others, for me the Beatles were the center hub of the great wheel of music, and from that origin point one could follow the spokes in various directions and discover every other genre and artist under the sun, which I did.
I spent six years of my childhood and early adolescence collecting Beatles albums, from 1982 to 1988. The memory is getting fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure my next acquisition after 62/66 was Second Album, bought for me by my dad at the Value Giant. Before the big-box stores really took off in suburbia, there were “super drugstores” like Value Giant, where you could get everything from yarn to fishing poles, and they often had a pretty decent-sized record and tape section — at least a full aisle’s worth. Two long bins, back to back, ran up the center of the aisle and held the vinyl LPs, leaving two mini aisles on either side. These were flanked on the outer aisle by racks of 8-tracks and cassettes. Self-contained, relatively small, but with a surprisingly robust selection. Value Giant was quite a bit more than a Rite Aid, somewhat less than a Target, and my parents must have gone there with me in tow at least three times a week for various things when I was a kid.
I collected with no rhyme or reason. My parents’ friends had an extra copy of Sgt Pepper, which they happily gave me. I’m pretty sure it was Value Giant that yielded me Beatles ‘65 and Rubber Soul at around the same time. A Hard Day’s Night, The Early Beatles and Yesterday And Today fit in there somewhere, some of them coming from mall record stores like Musicland in the “big city” of Sacramento, twenty miles south. I remember getting Meet the Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour together (what an odd pairing) at the record store in Paradise, CA, where my grandparents lived briefly. That must have been late ‘83. (The shopping center that housed the record store was actually spared by the Camp Fire that devastated the rest of the town in 2018, but of course the record store was long gone by then.)
My hometown at the time, Woodland, CA, was too distant to be a true suburb of the state capital of Sacramento, but near enough to be a commuting “bedroom community.” It boasted one lone record store, Barney’s Good Time Music, and I began frequenting it after our local Value Giant transitioned into PayLess Drugs and got rid of their music section. (This was ‘83? Early ‘84? — my research indicates PayLess bought all the Value Giants in ‘76, but I guess the re-branding took awhile.) Barney’s was my source for late-period Beatles like the White Album, Abbey Road, and Hey Jude (at that point bought solely for the B-side “Rain” — I had all the other songs on other albums.) Let It Be was a birthday present in ‘86, followed closely by Something New under the Christmas tree.
Before the vinyl resurgence of recent years, used LPs were dirt cheap, even vintage Beatles records. Beatles VI, Help! and Revolver all came from the used record booth at Denio’s flea market in nearby Roseville pretty late in the game (‘87-’88), and they may have been original releases, based on their battered condition and black-and-rainbow center label.
(Revolver’s jacket was held together with yellowed Scotch tape and once belonged to SCOTT CLEVELAND, according to what was written in block ballpoint letters across the top corner.) It was around this time I began collecting solo Beatles albums as well, because you could get an armful of records for literal pocket change. My parents were delighted at my sudden enthusiasm for accompanying them to the flea market (which also featured a dad-pleasing, roving motorized beer cart that would dispense small cups of Old Milwaukee on tap to thirsty bargain hunters).
I acquired some oddities as well. I had the companion set to 1962/1966 (which was 1967/1970) on two 8-tracks (they were a quarter each at a garage sale, and I can’t fathom who would drop two bits on one and not go for the other.) I had the newly-separated Rock ‘n’ Roll Music compilations with updated packaging. I had the 2-LP audio documentary The Beatles’ Story, which I actually listened to more than once. I had the quasi-legal recordings of their final shows as a nightclub act — 1st Live Recordings — in Hamburg in late ’62, which I actually acquired at the Gemco department store, of all places.
I had The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl on cassette. Rarities was naturally the last one to check off my list, and I got it (from Barney’s) in the summer of ‘88, long after the CD reissue program had begun. Vinyl LPs were beginning their disappearing act from retail shelves, and I was already tingling in anticipation of re-collecting the whole lot on those shiny, silvery new discs.
The Beatles’ CD releases began coming out in 1987. These reissues were all the British albums, which soon became the only way the material could be purchased. All the former stand-alones and orphans were collected on a two-disc set called Past Masters. I jumped into the digital age. With my allowance and single-minded purpose I bought one a week for fifteen weeks in early 1989 until I had them all. Those were my first fifteen CDs. (I had over 1,500 by 2013 — then I joined the 21st century and got rid of them all. They’re all on hard drive now, backed up by good ol’ Carbonite.)
I was happy to have the British albums, presented as the Beatles intended. The Baby Boomers weren’t. They wanted the inferior Capitol versions of the albums because that’s the way they remembered them. (Remember, before the term “Baby Boom” was invented, they were often referred to as the “Me Generation” — when they weren’t breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for simply being alive during the ‘60s, they were bending the forces of commerce to indulge their increasingly dubious tastes for several succeeding decades.) They continue to clutch onto cultural relevance like a goddamn Skeksis.
It’s no wonder us Generation X types are bitter. The Boomers got their sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, then turned around and told us to “Just Say No.” Now it seems like they have finally aged out of being dominant cultural arbiters. Oh, all the stuff they like is still available…they just have to ask a Millenial to show them how to use the app that finds it.
The Beatles’ self-owned company Apple (which took control of all the Beatles recordings from EMI in the ‘90s, and is not to be confused with the tech company) bowed to the Boomers’ commercial buying power, still formidable (they certainly didn’t ruin the economy for themselves, they just ruined it for subsequent generations) after all these years.
As a result, the Beatles got the (almost) full set of U.S./Capitol LPs put back into the marketplace — twice. The Capitol Albums Volume 1 (2004) collects all the 1964 Capitol releases into a single CD box set, complete with Dave Dexter’s reverb monkey business, and without A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack even though Apple owned full rights to it at that point. The Capitol Albums Volume 2 (2006) does the same for the 1965 albums. No 1966 releases were included in these sets, so you won’t find Yesterday And Today nor the American Revolver here.
In 2014, Apple put out the massive box set The U.S. Albums, which had everything through Hey Jude, this time including A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack, and also including The Beatles’ Story (hooray). The sound was the un-Dexter’d original master recordings, and the butcher photo is restored to being the official cover art for Yesterday And Today (the trunk cover was included as a bonus sticker). Each album was also released individually (CD only, no streaming the U.S. versions.)
Both The Capitol Albums sets and The U.S. Albums contain both mono and stereo mixes of all the songs.