Why The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, was not
originally released in the US
by Trina Yannicos
Celebrating The Beatles 50th Anniversary
How could The Beatles not release their first album in the US, you ask? Well, it wasn't just their first album. In the 1960s, US Beatles fans never saw the first seven Beatles albums that were released in England -- at least not in the same configurations.
In 1962, The Beatles were signed to the Parlophone label in the UK, which was owned by EMI. The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, was released on March 22, 1963 in the UK, followed by their second album, With The Beatles released in November 1963. But while The Beatles were busy promoting their first two albums in the UK and Europe, EMI was having a hard time convincing their US label, Capitol Records, to release Beatles records in the States.
Since Capitol initially refused to release any Beatles' records, EMI licensed several Beatles songs to smaller independent labels in the US such as Vee-Jay and Swan. In 1963, these labels put out Beatles singles like 'Please Please Me' and 'She Loves You,' and even an album, 'Introducing The Beatles'. However, since these labels did not have large marketing budgets, these Beatles records went virtually unnoticed in the US.
Finally, towards the end of 1963, Capitol agreed to get behind The Beatles and release their records with the support of a huge marketing campaign. In December 1963, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' was released in the US and, along with The Beatles' historic performances on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, helped launch the tidal wave of Beatlemania in the States.
With Capitol Records now promoting the Fab Four, it seemed logical that the record company would release the band's first two albums, Please Please Me and With the Beatles, which fans across the pond had been enjoying for several months. (By October 1964, Capitol had recovered the US rights to all EMI Beatles recordings from Vee-Jay.)
Capitol released their own version of 'Please Please Me' in 1965 called
'The Early Beatles'
However, the US record executives had a whole different strategy for releasing Beatles records. They did not want to sell the same Beatles albums released in the UK because those albums featured 14 songs. Capitol thought it would be better for business to release new Beatles albums with only 11 or 12 songs and featuring different song configurations.
So, while John, Paul, George and Ringo spent their precious time specifically choosing songs for each of their UK albums, Capitol ended up rearranging, adding and removing songs to those configurations resulting in noticeably different album versions. You could say the first seven Beatles albums were 'butchered' by Capitol all in the name of business.
"We made only, say, 10 albums actually and in America there seemed to be 30 of them," John Lennon said in a 1974 radio interview. "We would sequence the albums how we thought they should sound. We put a lot of work into the sequencing," Lennon continued. "We almost got to not care what happened in America because it was always different... It used to drive us crackers 'cause we'd make an album and then they'd keep two from every album."
Although they were extremely unhappy with what Capitol was doing with their albums, The Beatles unfortunately had no control over it... until finally the record executives had no other choice but to follow The Beatles' lead. The turnaround happened with none other than The Beatles' groundbreaking album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since it was a 'concept' album which did not have breaks between the songs, how could Capitol rearrange and 'butcher' the album but still keep the album's artistic integrity?
Luckily, the tide had changed. Sgt. Pepper and The Beatles' remaining albums were, for the most part, kept intact for US fans. Also, the fact that The Beatles started their own record label, Apple, in 1968 also helped the group retain control over their album releases.
[Note: Magical Mystery Tour was the exception since it was originally released in the UK as an EP, while the US version was an LP. In 1976, the album version was released in the UK.]
If your first exposure to The Beatles music was through their CDs, then you would never know about this UK/US discrepancy. When The Beatles first released their catalog on CD in 1987, they insisted that only their original UK album versions be released.
In November 2012, The Beatles released remastered versions of their original UK albums on vinyl. It only took 49 years* for Capitol/EMI to release The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, in the US -- as it was originally intended.
*Note: Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs released a box set of the British versions of Beatles albums in 1982.