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From the Land of Band Box Records

Decca Records – April, 1962

This was the very first Beatle release in the United States! Notice the group referred to as “The Beat Brothers”. The group was in Hamburg at the time they came to the attention of Bert Kaempfert via a popular German singer, Tommy Kent – Kaempfert visited the “Top Ten Club” where the Beatles were performing to catch their act and subsequently brought them into the Polydor studio to back singer Tony Sheridan.  This was the summer of 1961 – and the boys would be listed as “The Beat Brothers”.  They recorded 7 tracks total with Sheridan under the guidance of Bert who had early achieved a number 1 recording in the U.S. “Wonderland By Night” which topped the charts for three weeks in late 1960 – early 1961.

Kent & Kaempfert – Talent Scouts!

“My Bonnie” and “The Saints” were first released on the German Polydor label in October of 1961. The record charted in Germany reaching number 32 in January of 1962.

The First Chart Record for The Beats! Germany – January 1962 #32

Beat Brothers Top 10 Club

The record found it’s way into the U.S. via the Decca label because Polydor was not yet doing business in the U.S. See the MGM version below to learn how the single would resurface in 1964 on that label. The recording in Germany was also brought to the attention of record shop owner Brian Epstein in Liverpool (some stories say via a young fan who came into the shop and requested a copy). Anyway, Brian ordered copies to sell in his store – and you know where that story goes.

If you were fortunate enough to come into a black rainbow label copy of this 45 in decent condition you could probably expect to fetch well over five grand and if you had an absolutely mint condition copy – well the price guides list the value at a mere $15,000!

Twistin’ With the Beat Brothers!

Note the addition of the word “Twist” beneath “My Bonnie” which Polydor Germany released (a second issue of “My Bonnie”) in attempt t cash in on the world-wide dance craze at the time.

Move Over Chubby!

Vee Jay – February, 1963

Ifield & Those ‘Other Guys’

In the Summer of 1962 a Chicago-based rhythm and blues label more or less stumbled onto a goldmine.  The corporate lawyer who was active for Vee Jay in securing foreign artists had learned about a hot musician who was riding high in England with a number 1 record.

The musician was Frank Ifield, and the song was “I Remember You” which was released in the U.K. on the Parlophone label was actually Ifield’s 4th song to chart in that country.  Vee Jay eagerly agreed to take on the Brit but the EMI-affiliate in the UK said there was a catch – Vee Jay would have to also take on a group from the Island – The Beatles!

Vee Jay agreed and so the Fab Four were brought on-board as part of a five year contract agreement with Ifield as the central artist involved.

Frank’s “I Remember You” soared to number 5 but both the lack luster promotional efforts on the part of Vee Jay and a non-responsive reception by U.S. record promoters got things off to a slow start for the Liverpool Lads.  The first two Vee Jay releases failed to dent the Hot 100.  Vee Jay 498 “Please Please Me” b/w “Ask Me Why” disappeared as fast as they appeared in February of 1963.  To add insult to injury – Vee Jay didn’t even get the group’s name correct on the earliest pressings of the single – misspelling their name “Beattles”.

Only one Chicago stationed even bothered to give it a spin – monster station WLS – and this allowed the song to chart in their Top 40 chart for two weeks – the first appearance ever on a chart in the U.S. by the Fab Four.

Four months would pass before the release of a second single was issued – in early May of 1963 – Vee Jay 522 – “From Me To You” b/w “Thank You Girl” – again no go in the U.S.  The song would creep onto the “Bubbling Under” charts in the Summer of 1963 peaking at a feeble number 116.  By this time in the U.K. The Beatles were catching on with three charting singles all entering the Top 20 at numbers 17, 2 and their first number 1 (“Love Me Do”, “Please, Please Me” and “From Me To You”).

Image result for vee jay building chicago

Vee Jay Chicago

Vee Jay was in financial trouble but was holding on due almost entirely on the success of the Four Seasons.  The Seasons apparently were not being rewarded appropriately for their many high charting Vee Jay singles and so a law suit resulted and soon – the Seasons were off to greener pastures at Philips Records.

Trouble with the Seasons

Sister Louise – U.S. Promoter

Louise LP from her 1964 Radio Station Beatle Promotion Tour

George Harrison’s sister Louise Harrison Caldwell had migrated to the United States with her husband for employment reasons – settling in Benton, Illinois.  Louise was determined to find a decent record label in the U.S. especially after the industry giant Capitol had passed on the four up and comers.

Vee Jay put together an LP based on the several tracks they had acquired as part of their agreement but didn’t push the album any more than they were doing with the singles.  Then finally, Capitol got on board entering into an agreement with EMI taking on the Beatles and then promptly launched a monster promotion program.

Vee Jay took notice and dusted off their own LP titled “Introducing the Beatles” several days ahead of the appearance of Capitol’s “Meet the Beatles”, but not getting to the public in time and so “Meet the Beatles” beat Vee Jay’s “Introducing the Beatles” to the national charts by a single week – on February 1st, 1964.  Vee Jay’s offering appeared just one week later but the die was cast – “Meet The Beatles” latched onto the number one spot for 11 straight weeks – holding off “Introducing The Beatles” at number 2 for nine of those weeks.

Before the release of these LP’s even occurred, living in Illinois, it was not difficult for a concerned Louise to travel to Vee Jay’s office in St. Louis, Missouri to learn for herself why the company was not getting behind her brother’s group.  When she arrived at Vee Jay she was astonished to discover that the office had closed.

Based on her concern she promptly composed a letter to Beatle manager Brian Epstein to let him know that another label had to be found.  Brian responded (see his letter below) agreeing that he shared her concern and thus – their next single “She Loves You” was placed with Philadelphia’s tiny Swan Records – This too concerned Louise knowing the Swan was far from a label power-house. (See Post “Swan Songs” for that label’s Beatle journey).

Benton Bound Beatle

George – Louise & Hubby – Benton – October, 1963 on Holiday

In what would become the first and last visit to the U.S. by a yet-to-be ‘discovered’ mop top, little brother George mad his way to Benton, Illinois in September of 1963.  At this point in time, the Beatles were beginning to hit their stride in the U.K. with three charting singles and as recently as in August were enjoying their first number 1 “She Loves You”.  But no luck yet in the U.S.

And so George’s presence in the small American town (population 8,000) would not be much appreciated until much later.  George’s U.S. trip corresponded with the Fab Four all taking a brief break – going on holiday – something that would not remotely be possible just a few months later.

While in Benton, Louise introduced her little brother (12 years younger) to a group of local musicians – the “The Four Vests” jamming together locally before a very modest audience of about 150 people.  George and hosting musicians played a few rockers including “Matchbox”, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” but mostly stuck to their usual country licks.

During his visit he also purchased records, bought a guitar and journeyed up to Chicago with Louise carrying a copy of “She Loves You” (a British pressing) and managed to get a spin from the attending DJ.  One recording which George selected was by American rhythm and blues singer James Ray “Got My Mind Set On You”, which Harrison would later record as a single in 1987.

Rockin’ Out with The Four Vests

The Beatles had also performed another Ray song from 1961 “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody”, both songs composed by Rudy Clark.  Clark was the composer or co-composer of Betty Everett’s “It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shop Song)”, the Young Rascals Good Lovin'”, the Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool” as well as a ton of lesser known songs recorded by scores of noted musicians.

Ray 1962 – Harrison 1987

George departed Benton – spent a few days in New York – and that was that.  Soon the entire nation would be losing their minds when “I Want To Hold Your Hand” hit the airwaves on December 26th, 1963.

Vee Jay Beatle Ads

March 7th, 1964

March 23rd, 1964

April 25th, 1964 Beatle Trade Ad

Capitol Gains

Vee Jay in the meantime went to town with the Beatles, releasing their Beatles tracks in a fast and furious manner – packaging and repackaging like crazy resulting in a half dozen different long plays on the label.  Two of the tracks on “Introducing the Beatles – “P.S. I Love You” and “Love Me Do” would fall firmly under the control of Capitol Records – and when a lawsuit was threatened, both tracks were removed from “Introducing the Beatles” and replaced with “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why”.

Today, it is much easier to locate Vee Jay LP’s with these two replacement tracks than those with “P.S. I Love You” and “Love Me Do”.  Although a legal injunction took away Vee Jay’s rights to those two tracks, the company was permitted to release them on a single and so Tollie – a Vee Jay subsidiary label – was released – Tollie 9008 on April 27th, 1964 and as a result Vee Jay enjoyed their only number 1 Beatle hit “Love Me Do” with the flip “P.S. I Love You” landing at number 10.

Making A Lot of Hay with 14 Songs

NOTE:  The reason Vee Jay formed their “Tollie” label was simply to alleviate fears by radio stations that perhaps too many Vee Jay recordings were being played – Tollie gave the company another identify and of course – The Beatles’ Tollies (“Twist and Shout” number 2 b/w “There’s A Place” number 74) and the two tracks mentioned above – were the two most successful Tollie releases.

Capitol won the rights battle and Vee Jay was prevented from acquiring any additional new material and in another legal move, Capitol blocked Vee Jay from using actual Beatle photos on the releases and so artists were employed to adorn the album and picture sleeve covers.

Capitol Records – as part of their massive PR launch for the Beatles – sent out this flyer to record industry officials in an attempt to clear up the confusion which was circulating regarding the many American record labels being released with Beatle tracks.  It is reported that only three copies of this notice have survived.  Seems like a strange approach to me when in fact this “score card” most likely created more confusion.

And then by October of 1964, Vee Jay was finally forced to relinquish rights to all Beatle songs.  The final death blow came in March of 1965 when Capitol released all of the Vee Jay tracks minus “Misery” and “There’s A Place” on Capitol long play titled “The Early Beatles”.  ‘Capitolism’ won the day.

Licking it’s wounds – Vee Jay returned to their old formula – rhythm and blues material – but the times had moved on – Vee Jay officially closed it’s doors in May of 1966 – and it was truly the end of a great independent record label.

The Vee Jay 45 Discography

Vee Jay 498 – Please Please Me b/w Ask Me Why – Released April, 1963 – Did Not Chart Nationally – Did chart very briefly locally on 6 U.S. Stations

Here is a Cash Box magazine description of the single: Notice the group name misspelling.

Vee Jay 522 – From Me To You b/w Thank You Girl – Released May, 1963 – Charted number 116 on the Bubbling Under Charts

Vee Jay 581 – Please Please Me b/w From Me To You – Released January,1964 – Both sides charted number 3 and number 41

This blue promotional record sleeve is ultra rare!

Vee Jay DJ Release No. 8 – Ask Me Why b/w Anna – Released February, 1964 – Did not chart

Price guides list this single in mint condition at $24,000!

Tollie 9001 – Twist and Shout b/w There’s a Place – Released March, 1964 – Both sides charted number 2 and number 74

Vee Jay 587 – Do You Want To Know A Secret b/w Thank You Girl – Released March, 1964 – Both side charted number 2 and number 35

Vee Jay Extended Play EP-1-903 – Misery/Taste of Honey/Ask Me Why/Anna – Released March, 1964 – Did not chart

This white advanced release sleeve is very rare – lists at about $12,000 maybe goes for more!

Tollie T-9008 – Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You – Released April, 1964 – both sides  charted number 1 and number 10

Vee Jay’s biggest hit Beatle Single

Vee Jay Oldies OL-149 – Do You Want To Know A Secret b/w Thank You Girl – Released October, 1964

Vee Jay Oldies OL-150 – Please Please Me b/w From Me To You – Released October, 1964

Vee Jay Oldies OL-151 – Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You – Released October, 1964

Vee Jay Oldies OL 152 – Twist and Shout b/w There’s A Place – Released October, 1964

Swan Records – September, 1963

The Beatles’ Third Label In the U.S.A.

January 1st, 1964 Trade Ad

The Beatles found their way onto the Swan label out of Philadelphia via George Harrison’s sister, Louise Harrison Caldwell, who was living in Illinois in 1963.  Louise was worried about the lack of success her brother’s group was having  with Vee Jay.  She wrote to Brian Epstein about her concerns which apparently got his attention.  He decided at that time not to place “She Loves You/I’ll Get You” with Vee Jay but opting for an agreement with Swan.  “She Loves” you first was released by Swan in the Fall of 1963.

The First “She Loves You” September, 1963

But in fact, Brian sort of jumped the gun in his pursuit of an American record label.  The move to Swan Records occurred in August of 1963 as attested to by his letter dated August 23rd of that month to Louise – the letter containing a hand scratched post note regarding the scheduled release of “She Loves You” by the Philadelphia based label.  The song was penned by Lennon and McCartney in June of 1963.  This was the track that John’s father infamously suggested they change the “Yeah Yeah Yeah” chorus to “Yes Yes Yes” thinking “Yeah’s” were too crass and too American-like.  Fortunately the pop phenoms ignored the suggestion.

The same month that Epstein announced his Swan deal – “She Loves You” hit the number one position in England on the Parlophone label.

Swan was formed in 1957 with one of the founders being none other that Dick Clark – though he had relinquished his holdings with the label long before the arrival of the Fab Four.  Company executive & owner Bernie Binnick had visited the U.K. and became aware of the Beatles while there (how could he not have?) and witnessed the teen hysteria accompanying their rapid rise in popularity.

He made contact with EMI and when offered a lease on U.S. rights to “She Loves You” he jumped on it.  EMI’s  motive was a hope for exposure of “She Loves You” on American Bandstand as Dick Clark was still quite thick with the Swan ownership.  That wish came to fruition in the Fall of 1963 but the Bandstand “regulars” weren’t overly impressed and according to Clark chuckled when shown a photo of the Beatles.  Philadelphia just wasn’t quite ready for any Invasion.

Onetime Home of Swan Records – Philly

“She Loves You” along with the flip side “I’ll Get You” was initially released in mid September of ’63 but failed to chart.  Swan Records actually had a chance to obtain future rights to Beatle recordings if they would purchase 50,000 advance copies of the single.  They elected to pass and that was that or so it seemed.

Naturally, today, the first release on the white Swan label is very valuable.

Swan was rather quickly dismissed by EMI from further consideration for Beatle release rights on future material, due mainly to EMI’s reluctance to go with yet another small record label, especially after the problems experienced with Vee Jay.  If Swan had agreed to purchase those 50,000 copies of the record in the initial stages of their agreement with EMI, they would have been given the rights to the next single that came up.

Very likely this could have been “I Want to Hold Your Hand” b/w “I Saw Her Standing There” as it was still a few months away from Capitol Records finally being stubbornly dragged into the Beatle fray. But Swan balked and was left with a basic two-year agreement for “She Loves You”/”I’ll Get You” and nothing more would be sent Swan’s way.

When “I Want to Hold Your Hand” skyrocketed in the U.S., Swan hustled to reissue “She Loves You” in late January of 1964.  (Notice that the Swan trade ad above came out 2-1/2 weeks before “I Want To Hold Your Hand” hit the Hot 100.)  “She Loves You” followed hot on the heels of the Capitol release hitting the pinnacle position on the nation’s charts – number one for two weeks after trailing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for 4 consecutive weeks at the number two position.

Swan’s Freddy Cannon with Dick Clark founder

Swan’s Beatle single sold more than 2 and a-half million copies, and would reign forever as the label’s only number one record.  Swan’s other premier recording artist, Freddy Cannon, placed 20 singles on the nation’s Hot 100, achieving two number three hits first with “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” in 1959/1960 and then “Palisades Park” in May of 1962.

In a somewhat desperate move in the Spring of 1964, Swan decided that perhaps they could begin promoting the flip side of their big hit and so encouraged radio stations by shipping out promotional copies of “I’ll Get You” leaving the other side blank.

It was no go for “I’ll Get You” but Swan was to realize one more chart ‘success’ with the Beatles.  In a rather desperate move, Swan obtained rights for the German version of “She Loves You” titled “Sie Liebt Dich”.  The German version was recorded in January of 1964 along with “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand” by the four boys in while in Paris, France at the request of EMI’s German operation.  So in May of 1964 the song was again paired with “I’ll Get You” (still in English) and released in the U.S.  The result?  Number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a single week and then gone, other than spending four weeks on the “Bubbling Under” charts.

Little is known of exactly how Swan obtained obtained the German version.  It is speculated that the company simply got it’s hands on a German Odeon record label copy and copied it.  Under those rather sneaky tactics – Swan was hoping that EMI or U.S. Capitol records would not raise a fuss about the legality of the maneuver.  But Capitol naturally did fuss and some sort of agreement was reached to withdraw the record from production.  Court records of such a ruling have since been destroyed and no one knows the exact details.  Down the road Capitol would release “Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand” but the company elected to keep “Sie Liebt Dich” buried.

After all of this, Swan managed to hold on for a few more years sans Beatles before closing it’s doors in 1967.

The Swan 45 “Catalog”

45 Swan 4152 – She Loves You b/w I’ll Get You – Released September 16th, 1963 – Did not chart

(Label Variations shown)

45 – Swan 4152 – She Loves You b/w I’ll Get You – Released January 25th, 1964 – Charted number 1 for 2 weeks – 15 weeks on Hot 100

(Label variations shown)

45 – Swan 4152 – I’ll Get You (blank side 2 promotional) – Released April, 1964

45 – Swan 4182 – Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves You) b/w I’ll Get You – Released May 21st, 1964 – Charted number 97 – One week on Hot 100

45 – Swan 4170 – The Buddies – The Beatle b/w Pulsebeat – Released February, 1964 – Did not chart

Swan released this very simple ad on February 22nd, 1964 in an attempt to keep cashing in on the Phenoms as so many record labels would do especially in those first months of Beatlemania.  The composer of these tracks was Joey Reynolds who was in fact Joey Pinto a radio disc jockey and television personality out of Buffalo, New York.  Reynolds has a connection to Denver, Colorado where was employed on radio station KOA-AM

Joey Reynolds a ‘Beatle Buddy’

Roger Webb was a British jazz musician and composer who composed songs for many motion picture sound tracks – He passed away in December of 2002.

Roger Webb

45 – Swan 4188 – Roger Webb & His Trio – She Loves You b/w Do You Want To Know A Secret – Released September 18th, 1964 – Did not chart

LP – Swan SW-516 – John, Paul and All That Jazz – Released 1964

Swan Buyer Beware!

The following 45’s are counterfeit productions – with a “fantasy” bootleg thrown in – Some of these bootlegs are very hard to discern from originals and so it is best to consult an expert before spending big bucks!

45 – Swan Bootleg 4152 – She Loves You b/w I’ll Get You”

45 – Swan Bootleg 4182 – Sie Liebt Dich (She Loves You) b/w I’ll Get You

45 – Swan Bootleg 4197 – Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand b/w How Do You Do It

Referred to often as a “fantasy” record

MGM Records – January, 1964

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Aiming for a Rave-Up!

Cash Box January 25, 1964

For the average record buyer back in late 1963 and early 1964 (thinking myself) the flurry of Beatle releases on a seemingly endless number of American record labels was puzzling to say the least – but record labels generally weren’t a point of concern for most of us.

I was very curious when I began to scoop up the latest Beatle release at Arlan’s Department Store on the western Denver/Lakewood border (right next to “Fabulous KIMN Radio” across from Sloans Lake).  There were times when – after getting a new issue home and giving it a spin – actually hearing it for the first time – as as the case with some Vee Jay labels, MGM for sure and Atco – that I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that I was listening to the same four guys!.

Reviewing a bit – the Beatles were involved in the recording of eight tracks which came to be known as the “Hamburg Deuetsche Grammophon” recordings – overseen by Bert Kaempfert.  Two of those tracks – “My Bonnie” and “The Saints” fell into the lap of America’s Decca Record company in 1962.  Those tracks went nowhere and the agreement between Decca and Deuetsche Grammophon lapsed and so eight Fab Four tracks were awaiting for the taker.

Unlike Vee Jay and Swan – MGM were well aware of the soaring fame of the Beatles and eagerly latched onto four of the eight available tracks: “My Bonnie”, “The Saints”, “Why” and “Cry for a Shadow”.  The other four were held back by the German company – remaining unreleased for a time.

MGM Records was created by the famed motion picture studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1946 for one purpose – to promote their movies!  Their first release on long play was that same year with the soundtrack from the film “‘Till The Clouds Roll By” – making it the first soundtrack ever for a “live-action film”.

After a few years of motion picture recording success, the decision was made by MGM to go “pop”. Likely the first MGM 45 rpm was a single by Billy Eckstine & Sarah Vaughan MGM 45-8005 “You’re All I Need” b/w “Dedicated to You” (1950).

A ton of releases would quickly follow from a diverse group of artists – with some of the earliest being Hank Williams, Blue Baron, Kate Smith, George Shearing and so on.  MGM would bide it’s time and not make any drastic moves in the direction of Rock ‘n Roll. In May of 1957 MGM released a quasi-rock-a-billy tune called “You’re My Teenage Baby” by The Berry Kids, close – but no cigar.

Connie Francis came on board in the summer of 1955 with “Freddy” b/w “Didn’t I Love You Enough” – neither approaching being a rocker.  It wouldn’t be until the Summer of 1958 that Connie would bring it up a few notches with “Stupid Cupid”.

Then in the Summer of 1958 MGM latched onto a unknown rocker who had recorded briefly for Mercury releasing a double sided rock single with “Maybe Baby” b/w “Shake It Up” (Mercury 71148 – July of 1957).

Conway Twitty was far from being a teenager nearly 25 years old in 1958 when he signed on with MGM, but he had the ‘look’, and so the door was open a bit further for things to come (souped-up versions of “Mona Lisa” and “Danny Boy” among the earliest for Twitty).  BSN Pubs explains how MGM did not sit well with it’s rock oriented acts – many citing MGM extending overly restrictive control – even ‘censorship’ and so on.

BSN:  “In 1970 MGM fired 18 groups from its roster who had publicized the use of drugs in their songs. Actually, this was an excuse to get rid of some unsuccessful acts, since popular performers like Eric Burdon or Bobby Bloom, who did the same thing, were kept by the label.”

In 1972 MGM was sold to Polygram Records (which explains later appearance of the MGM Beatle/Sheridan tracks on a long play).  Polygram would continue to release artists and reissues with the familiar MGM label into 1976 and then an occasional release beyond that.  But the Beatle releases were simply a footnote in history with no further activity via MGM and the once proud Lion.  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer – the motion picture company – continues on today.

NOTE:  Mayer was Louis B. Mayer – and “Goldwyn” was a combination of the names Samuel Goldfish and Archibald Selwyn founders of “Goldwyn Pictures” which merged to become MGM.

Fast Forward Back to the Beatles

(Is it possible to ‘fast forward’ backwards? – We just did)

Cash Box Ad – February 22nd, 1964

MGM didn’t waste any time, release their first Beatle single – MGM K-13213 – “My Bonnie” b/w “The Saints” on January 27th, 1964 complete with a graphic 45 sleeve – with no likeness of the Beatles included.  Most likely MGM was aware that behemoth Capitol Records was riding herd over their new acquisition and was patrolling aggressively to prevent any unauthorized marketing (i.e. Vee Jay).

MGM elected to edit “My Bonnie” slightly from the German version – taking out a vocal slow introduction – and instead jumped right into the rocker portion.  Lead vocals were the work of German singer Tony Sheridan with John, Paul, George and Pete Best on the backup – both instruments and vocals.

Tony Sheridan

Hot on the heels of the single, MGM quickly prepared a long play containing the four acquired tracks coupled with a couple of solo Sheridan tracks plus six tracks by an instrumental group called “The Titans” ,  The LP label credits backing on the two Sheridan tracks “Swanee River” and “You Are My Sunshine” to “The Beat Brothers”.  Turns out that Deuetsche Grammophon pretty much called anyone who back Sheridan “The Beat Brothers” – and this time it was not the Beatles as it had been on the Decca releases in 1962.

So these “Beat Brothers” were in reality Roy Young (piano(, Ricki Barnes (sax), Colin Melander (bass), and Johnny Watson (drums).  Apparently The Beatles did record a version of “Swanee River” in Germany as a backing band but the track never surfaced and was completely lost to the ages.

Danny Davis

As for the Titans, folks were told that these guys were  “related to their British cousins” but were definitely an American group.  They were not in the formal sense a group.  Like so many others – they were New York studio musicians led by Danny Davis.  Danny’s first “Titans” effort was a long play released in 1961 titled “Today’s Teen Beat”.  Titan band members included Billy Mure (guitar), Danny Davis (trumpet), Dick Hickson (bass trombone), Milt Hinton (bass) and Don Lomond (drums).

The single “My Bonnie ( Lies Over the Ocean)” entered the Hot 100 on February 15th, 1964 – rose to number 26 – and departed after a short six-week run.  The LP “The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests” entered the Hot 200 Charts on the same week peaking at number 68 and running for 14 weeks.

Next up for MGM was a second single MGM 13227 “Why” b/w “Cry For a Shadow” released on April 18th, 1964 entering and exiting at number 88 – enjoying a ghost-like one wee appearance.  On an interesting side note “Cry For a Shadow” was a unique moment in Beatle Time – it would be the only time John Lennon and George Harrison would team up as song writers – and secondly – it was an instrumental – a rare nonoccurence for The Beatles.

“Cry for a Shadow” is credited on the label as being performed by Tony Sheridan along with the Beatles but – alas – Tony was nowhere to be found on this one.

Things were quiet for a considerable amount of time for MGM and their Beatle ventures – until the summer of 1966 when they elected to repackage most of the content from their MGM long play and release it on their budget label – Metro MS-583.  Two Titan tracks were dropped and this time Tony was credited as a soloist on his two tracks (no Beat Brothers cited).  The album was released in August of 1966 closely following the release of the killer Beatle album “Revolver” – a kiss of death for this final gasp of air from MGM.

The company did make a bid to acquire the remaining four tracks from the Deuetsche Grammophon Hamburg session – “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Take Some Insurance Out Baby”, “Ain’t She Sweet”, and “Nobody’s Child”, but yikes!  It was too late – giant independent Atlantic Records beat them to the punch assigning the tracks to their subsidiary Atco label.

MGM apparently had anticipated securing those tracks – Bruce Spizer’s excellent book “The Beatles Swan Song” illustrates a mono lacquer of “Ain’t She Sweet” on an MGM/Verve disc – an MGM release that was not to be.

Wishful Thinking

MGM – unlike Decca, Swan and Atco records would eventually sign many British Acts – a couple very successful and all the others very obscure – the two most prominent being first the Animals in August of 1964 leading off with “The House of the Rising Son”, a number 1 recording – and then two months later in October Herman’s Hermits came on board with “I’m Into Something Good”.  The Hermits would bring two number 1’s to MGM – “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry The Eighth, I Am” both in 1965.

MGM Beatle Discography

45 – MGM K-13213 – My Bonnie (Lies Over the Ocean) b/w The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In) – Released January 24th, 1964 – Charted number 26 – Six weeks on Hot 100

45 – MGM K13227 – Why b/w Cry For A Shadow – released 27 March, 1964 – Charted number 88 – 1 Week on Hot 100

45 MGM/Verve Acetate – Ain’t She Sweet – Late 1964 – Unreleased – Rights went to Atlantic Records

MGM LP – E4215 – The Beatles With Tony Sheridan – Released February 3rd, 1964 – Charted number 68 – 14 weeks on Hot 200 (Mono/Stereo)

LP – Metro M563 – This Is Where It Started – Released August 15, 1966 – Did Not Chart – mono/stereo

 

Atco Records – June, 1964

Giant Independent Record Label Grabs for the Magic Ring

Abramson – Wexler – Ertegun with Clyde McPhatter

Atco Records was sought out Deutsche Grammophon’s Polydor operation to fill a gap created in America to replace MGM in 1964.  In 1963, Atlantic Records – Atco’s parent label – was one of the U.S. based labels to turn down any Beatle offerings for release in this country.

But the label’s interest was rekindled when the Capitol and Vee Jay songs took off and captivated the American teen market.  And so – the remaining four German-originated tracks came into the vast Atlantic fold, via a 5-year contract agreement.

These included “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “Ain’t She Sweet”, “Nobody’s Child” and “Take Out Some Insurance On Me Baby” – none of which were Lennon/McCartney compositions.

Atlantic/Atco

Atlantic Headquarters

Atlantic Records was founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson.  There is a ton of information out there relating to this very successful label – but my favorite is a massive volume titled “What’d I Say – The Atlantic Story” by Ertegun – a very impressive and excellently assembled huge volume with best historic photos ever!

Atco came along in 1955 – mostly a project for Abramson  who had just returned from the armed forces and apparently needed something to do.  Atco was primarily utilized to showcase pop and rock and roll musicians – but not always.  There was a considerable amount of jazz on label and other genres as well.

Abramson experienced his best success with the early Coasters recordings but was frustrated by a lack of chart success with Bobby Darin who came over to the label from Decca in 1957.  Ertegun took over the dealings with Darin and hit with “Splish Splash” and Bobby was on his way!

Atco’s Big Two

Abramson stayed on for a few years guiding Atco – but realized rather soon that he had been shoved aside in favor of Jerry Wexler and so his ex-wife along with another Atlantic executive bought his share of the label out in 1958 – and Abramson was gone.  He went to on to form several record labels with limited success and eventually started up his own recording studio with several successful artists passing through including Johnny Nash, J.J. Jackson, Ruby and the Romantics – and later Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Bette Midler and many more.

The Beatles ‘Arrive’ at Atco’s Door

There was a constant parade of very talented artists coming through Atco and nowhere near being the least of which was The Beatles.

Atco 45-6302 “Sweet Georgia Brown” b/w “Take Out Some Insurance On Me Baby” was released first on June 1st, 1964 and was met with stone silence from the record buying public.  Obviously there was just too many gems flooding the market by The Beatles that these two tracks just didn’t stand a chance.  That as well as another couple of factors, with no Beatle singing lead on either song, and the recent disappointment at the release of the other four German tracks by MGM – sealed it’s fate.

“Sweet Georgia Brown” had initially been recorded by Tony Sheridan in late December, 1961.  The Beatles’ backing was later added in a separate session in May of 1964.  John, Paul, George and drummer Pete Best were joined by a piano player Roy Young on the session.  Later on down the road – when the Beatles were firmly established super stars – Deutsche Grammophon dusted off Tony Sheridan – bringing him back into the studio, reworked the lyrics to included references to twisting and to the Beatles themselves – then released the reworked version in Europe in April of 1964.

(NOTE:  during this time, MGM began moving ahead with plans to release “Ain’t She Sweet” even producing a test pressing – only to learn that Atco was now in possession of the song/s – bummer).

Atco was not entirely pleased with the quality of the tracks they received from Germany and so worked them over enhancing them with additional instrumental overdubs by other musicians.  Who would ever know among us?

Back to the U.S. on July 6th, 1964 Atco released their two-remaining tracks “Ain’t She Sweet” backed with “Nobody’s Child”.  “Ain’t She Sweet” distinguished itself from the other seven German tracks – with John Lennon providing lead vocals.  The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 on July 18th, 1964 and achieved a respectable number 19.  Nine weeks later – it was gone and that was that for the Atco Beatles’ Era as far as singles went.

Atco Beatle Long Plays

Much like MGM, Atco got creative with it’s four Fab Four songs, releasing three long play’s – the first in October of 1964 on Atco LP 33-169 titled “Ain’t She Sweet – The Beatles & Other Great Group Sounds From England”.  The LP did not enter the Hot 200 charts and is moderately collectible today with stereo copies bringing higher dollars.

The second LP release was on Atco’s budget label “Clarion” in June of 1965 – titled “The Amazing Beatles & Other English Group Sounds”.  Not sure just how “English” the other group on the LP was because I am not sure who they were – called “The Swallows” – had to be a group of studio musicians – and most likely U.S. based.

Then as a last ditch effort to get some Fab Four action going – “Discotheque in Astrosound”, one track was included on a various artists LP again on the Clarion label grouping the Beatles with some Atco/Atlantic heavy weights – an interesting project but a last breath for Atco’s Beatle Days.

Like all the other American labels who had latched onto Beatles tracks both from Germany and from EMI in England, the door for any future consideration was slammed firmly shut by Capitol Records and their contractual stranglehold on the Liverpool Lads and future recording releases. In 1994 the Atco label was put to bed replaced by “East-West” Records.  The Atco name has made a subtle come-back via Rhino Entertainment and the Warner Music Group.  A “New York Dolls” LP appeared on the Atco label in 2009.

Who’s Who?

During the ‘Invasion Era’ Atco signed several British-type acts with The Bee Gees (originally Australian) and Cream becoming the most successful.  Parent label Atlantic also inked groups from great Britain including the hugely successful and popular Led Zeppelin.

One of the earlier Brit groups featured on Atco would be The Who.  This came about in 1966 when the raucous foursome was having difficulties with Decca records, their producer and so on.  Only two tracks would appear not meeting with any chart success.  The tracks were actually released twice with two different catalog numbers – Atco 6409 in April of 1966 and once again in August of 1967 on Atco 6509 when the Who were attracting more attention over on Decca where they had returned.

Atco ‘Invaders’

Below are the first Atco singles for several of Invasion-Era acts several who went on to bigger success on other American labels:

United Artists Records – June, 1964

United Artists Records Bests Capitol in the U.S. at Their Own Game

Capitol Records must have believed that – once they got rolling with the Beatles and efficiently and ruthlessly had dispatched any semblance of a challenging American record label (Vee Jay – Swan – MGM – Atco) that they were home safe – and free to now reap the rewards of any future Fab Four success on vinyl.

United Artists’ Background

Unite Artists Record label was initiated in 1959 by Max E. Youngstein – one of the company’s motion picture executives.  Like MGM, the idea was to showcase the studio’s movie soundtracks.  The label quickly expanded to many genres with a heavy emphasis in jazz.

Then along came the Beatles.

Brian Epstein with “A Hard Day’s Night” Producer Walter Shenson

United Artists’ interest in the FAB four came via a different route than was the case with the other American labels.  We have to travel back to England in 1963.  A United Artists executive in London was witnessing Beatlemania first hand and devised a plan for UA to cash in on the phenomenon.  His idea was to produce a motion picture featuring the FAB four.  No action was immediately taken but then word spread to United Artists in the U.S.  The idea gained merit – but not with the intention of producing a fiscally successful motion picture, instead, to be able to produce a soundtrack album which would certainly be a hit with the kids!

UA England was able to circumvent Capitol Records death grip on the Beatles in the U.S. by negotiating successfully directly with Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein.  The resulting agreement gave United Artists the rights to original Beatles songs which would be included in a Beatles movie.  Capitol Records was taken aback but realized they still had exclusive rights on all new Beatles creations in the U.S. in the single format – and could still release any Beatles songs in long play format as well.  Capitol just couldn’t prevent United Artists from moving ahead with their movie sound track.

First thoughts by United Artists was to produce a Beatles movie – any movie – as fast as possible – based on the premonition that the Beatles would be finished by 1964’s year end.  So it was full steam ahead with the film and the same went for the studio’s demand for new tracks from John and Paul – with a need now for several new Beatles tunes, with the hope that they would be not just good Beatles tunes – but perhaps great ones.

Lennon and McCartney got busy and quickly delivered several gems:  “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “I Should Have Known Better”, “Tell Me Why”, “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You”, “And I Love Her”, “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy)”, “If I Fell” and “Tell Me Why” for starters.

The Lads Frollick on the Set

United Artists decided at the last minute (during rehearsals) that they needed a title song for the movie.  A little earlier – based on a discussion with Lennon, the name of the movie was settled on –  “A Hard Day’s Night”.  But there was no accompanying song.  John and Paul were challenged to come up with something and fast.  That’s just what they did – on the set – delivering a finished number to United Artists in about one day!

In another twist – the movie’s director decided he didn’t like the song “I’ll Cry Instead” which was targeted to be used during the scene when the Beatles were frolicking and jumping across and about a field.  He – without telling anyone – substituted “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  And so “I’ll Cry Instead” made the final LP cut – but was absent from the movie.  (Some copies of the LP list the song as “I Cry Instead”.)  And so “Can’t Buy Me Love” actually was featured twice in the film.

Generally, motion picture soundtracks are released with the motion picture, but an anxious United Artists wanted to get their LP out fast in order to beat Capitol to the punch.  That label was quickly assembling an LP of their own utilizing the output from the motion picture.  This would come to the public in the form of  “Something New” – which included a few of the movie’s tracks.

United Artists filled out their LP with four George Martin Orchestra instrumentals – all Beatles compositions.

United Artists did indeed beat Capitol to the punch by one month.  UA was so confident about the anticipated success of their soundtrack that they advanced ordered 500,000 copies.  The daring move paid off with all 500,000 selling out within four days (an trade journal ad was produced which boasted of 1 million copies being sold in 4 days – see below.)

The LP entered the Hot 200 charts on July 18th, 1964 at number 12.  From there it was a bee line to the top – hitting number one and remaining there for 14 straight weeks – and remaining in the Top 10 for over 20 weeks and the Hot 200 for 51 weeks.  Only Sgt. Peppers would top this chart performance for the Beatles – with 15 weeks at number 1 and a chart run of 175 weeks!  Sgt. Pepper’s was named Rolling Stone Magazine’s number 1 LP of all time where “A Hard Day’s Night” logged in at number 388.  (“Revolver ” ranks as number 3, “Rubber Soul” number 5, “The Beatles” (White Album) number 10, and “Abbey Road” number 14.

Promotions for “A Hard Day’s Night”

The movie itself was released in the U.S. movie theaters on August 11th, 1964.  United Artists employed some interesting promotional tactics on vinyl in conjunction with the movie release.  Four months after it’s initial release, additional issues of the LP were put out during the Holiday season in 1964 displaying a holiday banner.  Astonishingly price guides list the value for this rare banner at nearly two grand (the banner alone!).

To promote the movie and recordings United Artists distributed a series of recordings for radio station use.  The first mailer package included a one-sided “open-end” interview record accompanied by a “script” for the DJ to employ providing the impression that he was interviewing the Fab Four.  This record was a ten-inch disc which came in a special envelope (not shown).  Only two copies of this package are reported to have survived due to stations dispensing of them after the motion picture ran it’s course.

The next package came in the form of a seven-inch two-sided recording again accompanied by an “open-end interview” script sheet.

This package release was followed by two 12-inch promotional LP’s – the first a special half-hour promotional program for the film and the second a series of radio spots.

The next United Artists’ package was mailed to movie theaters across America – This one contained a cardboard circular tag, a one-side 45 record and a mock movie ticket.  The price guides don’t list this ultra-rare recording with it’s contents.  You can only imagine it’s worth.  The sample illustrated below depicts the “Anyor Theater” on the ticket – Not sure if that was an actual theater and not sure if other theater names were printed – probably not.

And, of course, a package of movie theater lobby display cards were sent out – very collectible today if originals.

“A Hard Day’s Night” Trade Magazine Ads

 

Denver Post Ad for Local Theaters

And what about Capitol’s “Something New”?  It rose to number 2 when it remained for nine straight weeks – held off from the top spot by “A Hard Day’s Night”.

Capitol released three 45 singles with five of “A Hard Day’s Night” tunes – same tracks as included on the LP.  “A Hard Day’s Night” went to number 1, “I Should Have Known Better” to number 53, “And I Love Her” number 12, “If I Fell” number 53, and “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” number 95.  The unused track “I’ll Cry Instead” reached number 25.

One of George Martin’s tracks “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy)” reached number 53 on the United Artists label as Capitol did not own rights to his releases making it the only United Artists Beatles related track to chart on the label.  Martin’s second single from the window with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “I Should Have Known Better” failed to chart but created a hugely valuable picture sleeve!

The movie would gross about 11 million dollars by 1970 – small by today’s standards but very good for the 1960’s.  “A Hard Day’s Night” was nominated for the Academy’s “Best Screenplay” and “Best Adaptation or Treatment Score” categories.  It was beat out by “Father Goose” in the first category and “My Fair Lady” in the second.

Ironically, in 1966, United Artists Records switched it’s record affiliation from Columbia to Capitol and so Capitol Record Club Catalog number T-90828 on the United Artists label was issued in December.  It is very scarce today and can fetch a couple thousand if in perfect condition.  In one final irony in the late 1970’s Capitol Records would purchase United Artists Records – and then release “A Hard Day’s Night in August of 1980 on Capitol 11921.

You Fooled Me Once – “Help!”

The following year, Capitol made certain that the same scenario would not be repeated.  “Help” was issued as a soundtrack by Capitol, landing at number 1 for nine weeks and outranking “A Hard Day’s Night” with Rolling Stone at number 332.  But United Artists was still a beneficiary of the popular second Beatles motion picture, once again being the studio chosen to produce the film.  Based on usual practices, United Artists was still permitted to distribute promotional vinyl for “Help” – again including an open-end interview – as well as an enticing “promotion kit” which a holder today could probably name his price.

United Artists records merged with Liberty and Imperial in 1969.  The Liberty name was dropped in 1971 becoming UA Records.  Then in 1978 EMI England acquired the company renaming it to “LIberty/United Artists Records.  In 1980, the United Artists name was again abandoned for Liberty (can’t these guys ever make up their minds?!!)

During all of this United Artists motion pictures had gone by the wayside and one attempt was made to bring it back to life in 1986 along with the United Artists record label.  Only one recording soundtrack resulted “The Karate Kid Part II” (the movie came out of Columbia).

And that is most of the story.

Image result for the karate kid part ii soundtrack

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