Front Page > Beatles News
New Beatles Capitol box set misunderstood by critics
WHAT GOES ON EXCLUSIVE
By Bruce Spizer
Capitol records recently announced
the November 16, 2004, release of its first four Beatles albums on compact disc
in a limited edition box set. The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1 includes the
four Beatles albums issued by the company in 1964: Meet The Beatles!, The
Beatlesí Second Album, Something New and Beatles í65. These
were the albums that Americans grew up with not only in the sixties, but also
in the seventies and eighties when these landmark albums continued to sell as
catalog items introducing the Beatles to second and third generation fans.
Although these albums exposed millions of Americans to the Beatles, they are
sometimes criticized for not being what the Beatles intended. Beatles
historians and fans have passionate feelings about these albums. Recent
commentaries and postings on the internet by Beatles fans and scholars not only
demonstrate the strong opinions held regarding these albums, but also show that
these albums are misunderstood.
Those condemning the Capitol albums
often claim that the company remixed the songs, added echo and issued
everything in Duophonic fake stereo. That is simply not true. While some songs
were altered, most were not. As detailed below, 38 of the 45 songs appearing on
the first four Capitol albums are true stereo mixes prepared by George Martin.
While the 8 stereo songs appearing on The Beatlesí Second Album have
added echo, the others do not. The important thing to know is that The Capitol
Albums, Vol. 1 marks the stereo debut on CD of 32 Beatles songs. Hearing
George Martinís stereo mixes of songs such as And I Love Her, If I
Fell, Things We Said Today, No Reply and Iíll Follow The
Sun on CD will certainly be a treat.
Some people have unfairly accused
Capitol of greed when discussing the box set. Each of the four albums is
presented in both mono and stereo, a decision that was made to please fans even
though it increased the royalties and cut significantly into Capitolís profits.
That doesnít sound like greed to me. It sounds more like the Beatles practice
of giving fans good value for their money. (As of this date, none of the
Beatles British albums have been released in both mono and stereo versions on
Most of the negative comments
regarding the Capitol albums are general statements criticizing the running
order of the songs and the horrendous mixes. When each album is carefully
examined, it becomes clear that these albums are neither travesties nor sonic
Meet The Beatles! features
the same striking Robert Freeman cover photo as the British LP With The
Beatles. However, for financial and marketing reasons, Capitol made
alterations to discís lineup. In order to save on song publishing royalties,
the company limited its LP to the American standard of 12 songs rather than the
British standard of 14. (In the U.K., publishing royalties are calculated on a
per disc basis where each publisher shares pro-rata in the royalties paid on
album sales. Thus, there is no additional cost to the record company for having
extra songs. In the U.S., royalties are calculated on a per song basis. Each
extra song costs the record company money. That is why the U.S. standard was a
lesser number of songs.)
While Brian Epstein and producer
George Martin believed that singles should not be placed on albums because it
forced consumers to buy the same songs twice, Capitol believed that hit singles
made hit albums. Thus, Capitol opened its first Beatles album with both sides
of its Beatles single, I Want To Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her
Standing There, followed by the British B side This Boy. The
remaining tracks selected by Capitol were the British albumís seven
Lennon-McCartney originals, George Harrisonís Donít Bother Me and the
Broadway show tune Till There Was You, a song even mom and dad could
appreciate. By choosing original compositions and dropping five cover versions
of songs originally recorded by American artists, Capitol could exploit the
song writing talents of the group. In sequencing the songs from With The
Beatles, Capitol followed the running order chosen by George Martin,
except, of course, for the tracks dropped from the lineup.
Meet The Beatles! was the
perfect album to introduce the group to America. Capitolís marketing strategy
of placing the hit single I Want To Hold Your Hand on the album paid
off. In two months time, Meet The Beatles! sold over 3.6 million
copies--ten times more than even Capitolís most optimistic sales forecasts. The
album went on to sell over 5 million copies.
It should be noted that in the
early sixties, teen albums rarely sold in excess of a few hundred thousand
copies. Capitolís success with its reconfigured Beatles albums containing hit
singles changed that. Record companies soon realized that well-crafted rock
albums could be big sellers. A few years later, thanks to the Beatles and
Capitol, the album replaced the single as the dominant pop and rock† music
The Beatlesí Second Album is
admittedly a pieces-parts album, containing the five leftover songs from With
The Beatles (Roll Over Beethoven, You Really Got A Hold On Me,
Devil In Her Heart, Money and Please Mister Postman),
three B sides (Thank You Girl, You Canít Do That and Iíll Get
You), two freshly recorded songs that would later end up on the British Long
Tall Sally EP (Long Tall Sally and I Call Your Name) and the
hit single She Loves You. That said, it is an amazingly effective album
full of great rock íní roll songs such as Roll Over Beethoven, Long
Tall Sally, Money and Please Mister Postman anchored by the
hit single She Loves You. It was number one on the Billboard Top LPís
chart for five weeks and had certified sales of over two million units.
Something New is arguably
the weakest album of the bunch. Capitol was faced with a dilemma brought on by
United Artistsí film contract with The Beatles that covered A Hard Dayís
Night. UA had the exclusive right to issue a soundtrack album in America,
so Capitol had to come up with something new to compete with the soundtrack LP.
Capitolís album mixed songs appearing on the UA disc (Iíll Cry Instead, Tell
Me Why, And I Love Her, Iím Happy Just To Dance With You and If
I Fell) with a few songs from The Beatles latest British album (Things
We Said Today, Any Time At All and When I Get Home), the two
remaining rockers from the Long Tall Sally EP (Slow Down and Matchbox)
and a version of I Want To Hold Your Hand sung in German titled Komm,
Gib Mir Deine Hand. Although Something New was unable to knock the
UA soundtrack album from the number one position, the Capitol album stayed at
number two for nine weeks and sold over two million copies.
Beatles í65 featured eight
songs from the groupís latest British LP, Beatles For Sale (namely No
Reply, Iím A Loser, Babyís In Black, Rock And Roll Music,
Iíll Follow The Sun, Mr. Moonlight, Honey Donít and Everybodyís
Trying To Be My Baby), and both sides of their latest single, I Feel
Fine and Sheís A Woman, plus Iíll Be Back, which was on the
British A Hard Dayís Night LP but had yet to appear in America. Capitol
did not completely deviate from the running order of the songs on Beatles
For Sale, with side one bearing a strong resemblance to the British disc.
So much so that the album can be described as Beatles For Sale, Part 1.
The disc held down the number one spot on the Billboard Top LPís chart
for nine straight weeks and sold over three million units.
As for Capitolís alleged remixing
of the songs, here are the facts. EMI did not send Capitol original two-track
or four-track master tapes, so Capitol could not have "horrifically remixed"
the stereo songs even if Capitol had wanted to. Capitol used the same stereo
mixes for its albums as those sent to Capitol by George Martin. In a few
instances, the U.S. mixes sent by Martin differed from those that ended up on
the Parlophone albums. Sometimes this was intentional on Martinís part. Other
times it was a case of Capitol getting an earlier mix that was later improved
On the first two albums, the stereo
mixes have the instruments on one channel and the vocals on the other. This was
not done by Capitol. This is a result of how the songs were recorded. George
Martin recorded those songs on a two-track recorder. To ensure he could get a
proper mono mix that had the vocals at the proper level, he recorded the
instruments on one track and the vocals on the other. So if you donít like the
stereo mixes on the first two albums, donít blame Capitol. The company used
what it was sent. The stereo mixes on Meet The Beatles! are exactly the
same as those appearing on the stereo verison of With The Beatles.
For the stereo version of† The
Beatlesí Second Album, Capitol did add echo to the stereo masters. The box
to the stereo master tape for the Capitol album indicates that the songs were
dubbed with E/Q and limiter plus echo. This explains why the songs on the
stereo album have significantly more echo than those on the mono album or the
British version of the songs. This is particularly noticeable on the cover
songs, such as Roll Over Beethoven and Please Mister Postman.
The stereo mixes found on the
Capitol albums Something New and Beatles í65 use stereo mixes
sent by George Martin. With a few exceptions, they are the same as the stereo
mixes on the British LPs A Hard Dayís Night and Beatles For Sale.
Except for the songs I Feel Fine and Sheís A Woman, Capitol did
not add echo to the master tapes of those U.S. albums.
Three of the Capitol stereo albums
contain a few duophonic fake stereo mixes. This was in keeping with the
practice at the time that every song on a stereo album should either be a true
stereo mix or a simulated fake stereo mix. Engineers took a mono recording and
placed it on two tracks, with the bass being boosted on one track and the
treble being tweaked on the other. Sometimes the two tracks were slightly out
of phase to add to the illusion. Capitol was not alone in this practice. All
record companies did it, including George Martinís Parlophone label. The stereo
version of the Please Please Me LP has simulated stereo mixes of Love
Me Do and P.S. I Love You.
While some critics give the
impression that all of the four Capitol stereo albums are full of duophonic
echo-drenched mixes, this is clearly not the case. Capitol only made duophonic
mixes for the seven songs that had no stereo masters at the time the albums
were compiled. Most of these songs, especially I Want To Hold Your Hand,
She Loves You and Iíll Get You, are effective simulated stereo
mixes. However, the duophonic mixes for I Feel Fine and Sheís A Woman are truly horrendous.
For the songs taken from With
The Beatles that appear on the mono versions of Meet The Beatles! and
The Beatlesí Second Album, Capitol created its own mono mixes by
reducing the stereo master in a 2-to-1 mix-down. As the stereo master for the
album was nothing more than a balanced copy of† the original two-track master
tape, Capitolís engineer merely duplicated what George Martin had done in
mixing the mono master. Why Capitol did this is not entirely clear. It is
possible that Capitol did not initially have the mono master tape for the
album, but that seems unlikely. A Capitol engineer who has been with the
company since the fifties told me that 2-to-1 mix-downs of stereo masters were
sometimes made under the belief that this gave the mono songs a fuller sound.
Those who rightfully point out that
the Beatles had no part in compiling the Capitol albums often downplay or
ignore the involvement of George Martin and Brian Epstein. While George Martin
did not program the Capitol albums and did not approve of the practice, he and
Brian Epstein were fully aware that Capitol was reconfiguring Beatles albums
specifically for the American market and understood Capitolís reasons for doing
so. They cooperated with Capitolís plans by supplying the label with songs to
place on the American albums. When Capitol needed a few more songs to round out
The Beatlesí Second Album, George Martin, with Brianís approval, sent
the company Long Tall Sally and I Call Your Name. For Beatles
VI, George Martin sent Capitol four new songs, namely You Like Me Too
Much, Tell Me What You See, Bad Boy and Dizzy Miss Lizzie.
The latter two songs were recorded specifically for Capitol. Dizzy Miss
Lizzie ended up on the British Help! LP because the group needed an
extra song. Bad Boy was slapped on a British greatest hits collection.
When Capitol was compiling its Yesterday...And Today album, George
Martin sent the company three songs from the upcoming Revolver album.
By the time the Beatles submitted Sgt.
Pepper to Capitol, the practice of reconfiguring albums had stopped.
Capitol knew the Beatles had recorded a brilliant album that needed to be left
intact. Capitolís engineers did, however, deviate slightly from the British
album by not adding the high pitch whistle or the inner groove gibberish
attached to the end of the British albums. Thus, the end-of-the-world feeling
one gets from the final sustained chord of A Day In The Life is not
disturbed the extras tacked onto the British LPs.
For Magical Mystery Tour,
Capitol ripped off fans by converting the convenient double EP set into an
album by padding the record with filler such as Strawberry Fields Forever,
Penny Lane, Hello Goodbye and All You Need Is Love.
(Tongue firmly in cheek for the last sentence.) Nine years after the release of
Capitolís Magical Mystery Tour LP, Parlophone issued the same album,
even using the same Capitol master tapes, which included duophonic mixes of
three of the songs! (When the album was issued on CD, true stereo mixes were
used for all of the songs.)
It has often been said that Capitol
butchered the Beatles carefully crafted records. Some Beatles authors and fans
have speculated that the infamous butcher cover was created for Capitolís Yesterday...And
Today LP as a not-too-subtle dig at Capitol for butchering the groupís
albums. While this makes a good story, it is simply not true. The butcher
photos were conceived by photographer Bob Whitaker as part of a bizarre series
of images titled "A Somnambulant Adventure." John chose the butcher photo for
the cover as a subtle protest against the Vietnam War. After the recall of the
cover he stated, "Itís as relevant as Vietnam. If the public can accept
something as cruel as the war, they can accept this cover." Capitol made
changes to the Beatles albums to help sell the albums in America. The companyís
strategy of placing hit singles on the albums clearly contributed to the huge
sales generated in America. Capitol did not butcher the Beatles; Capitol
marketed the Beatles.
Some critics of these albums have
gone so far as to say that Capitolís recent decision to release the albums on
CD is an act of greed committed under the guise of giving American baby-boomer
fans "what they want." The only truth in such comments is that Capitol is
giving Beatles fans "what they want." This is not a case of Capitol telling
baby-boomers what they want. It is a case of baby-boomers telling Capitol what
they want and Capitol responding accordingly. Anyone who checks out
Beatles-related posts on the internet or reads Beatles magazines such as Beatlefan
and Beatlology knows that fans have been clamoring for these albums on
CD for over 15 years. We grew up with and loved these albums. We are grateful
they are finally being released on CD. It is unfair to criticize a record
company for appropriately responding to fan requests.
It is also unfair for people to
criticize what the CDs will sound like without first hearing the CDs. Although
I have yet to hear the final approved versions of the CDs as of this time, I am
willing to bet a box of Krispy Kreme donuts that even the most vocal critics of
the Capitol albums will enjoy hearing the George Martin stereo mixes of And
I Love Her, If I Fell, Things We Said Today, No Reply and
Iíll Follow The Sun on CD for the first time.
For those that believe the release
of the Capitol albums on CD is an insult to the efforts of the Beatles, George
Martin and Brian Epstein, I strongly disagree. While
I understand the merits of standardizing the Beatles catalog throughout the
world and presenting the albums as the Beatles intended, the issuance of the
American albums in a limited edition box set does not compromise either. By
restricting the U.S. albums to box sets, consumers will not be confused by
seeing With The Beatles on sale next to Meet The Beatles! or
finding two different versions of Rubber Soul in the CD bins in music
stores. I think Capitol and Apple came up with a great compromise by
maintaining the U.K. catalog as the standard and releasing the U.S. albums in a
limited format for those who want to hear what Americans heard in the sixties,
seventies and eighties. After all, America was and still is the Beatles biggest
market. The Beatles legacy is not harmed by the release The Capitol
Albums, Vol. 1. To the contrary, an
important part of the Beatles legacy has now been preserved.
BRUCE SPIZER is a first generation
Beatles fan and well-known Beatles author/historian. He is considered the
leading expert on the groupís North American record releases. He has an
extensive Beatles collection, concentrating primarily on American and Canadian
first issue records, record promotional items, press kits and posters. A
"taxman" by day, Spizer is a board certified tax attorney and
certified public accountant. A "paperback writer" by night, he is the
author of the critically acclaimed books The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay,
The Beatlesí Story on Capitol Records, Parts One and Two, The
Beatles on Apple Records and The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of
Beatlemania in America. His articles have appeared in Beatlology
Magazine, Beatlefan, Day Trippiní, Goldmine
and American History. He maintains the popular Beatles collectors
internet site www.beatle.net.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Although Mr. Spizer has been serving as a consultant to
Capitol Records for the CD release of the Capitol albums, the views
expressed in his commentary are his own and are not influenced by his
involvement in the project. Those familiar with his books "The Beatles'
Story on Capitol Records" and "The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of
Beatlemania in America" will notice that he has consistently held a fondness
for the Beatles albums issued in America.]
Published October 20, 2004