Capitol Albums Finally Coming Out on CD

   By Bruce Spizer

Capitol records recently announced the Nov.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 Beatles' Second Album,” “Something New” and “Beatles '65.” 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 eight stereo songs appearing on “The Beatles' 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 Martin's stereo mixes of songs such as “And I Love Her,” “If I Fell,” “Things We Said Today,” “No Reply”and “I'll 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 Capitol's profits. That doesn't 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 CD.)

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 disasters.

”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 disc's 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
album's seven Lennon-McCartney originals, George Harrison's “Don't 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.
Capitol's 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 Capitol's 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. Capitol's 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 format.

”The Beatles' 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 Can't Do That” and “I'll 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 'n'
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 LP's 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 Artists' film contract with The Beatles
that covered A Hard Day's 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. Capitol's album mixed songs appearing on the
UA disc (“I'll Cry Instead,” “Tell Me Why,” “And I Love Her,” “I'm 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 '65” featured eight songs from the group's latest British LP, “Beatles
For Sale” (namely “No Reply,” “I'm A Loser,” “Baby's In Black,” “Rock And Roll
Music,” “I'll Follow The Sun,” “Mr. Moonlight,” “Honey Don't” and “Everybody's
Trying To Be My Baby”), and both sides of their latest single, “I Feel Fine”
and “She's A Woman,” plus “I'll Be Back,” which was on the British “A Hard Day's
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 LP's chart for nine straight weeks and
sold over three million units.

As for Capitol's 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 Martin's part. Other times it was a case of Capitol
getting an earlier mix that was later improved upon.

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 don't like the stereo mixes on the first two
albums, don't 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 version of “With The Beatles.”

For the stereo version of “The Beatles' 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 '65”
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 Day's Night” and “Beatles
For Sale.” Except for the songs “I Feel Fine” and “She's A Woman,” Capitol did
not add echo to the masters 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 in 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 Martin's 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 “I'll Get You,” are
effective simulated stereo mixes. However, the duophonic mixes for “I Feel
Fine” and “She's 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 Beatles' 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, Capitol's 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 Capitol's reasons for doing so. They cooperated with
Capitol's plans by supplying the label with songs to place on the American
albums. When Capitol needed a few more songs to round out “The Beatles'
Second Album,” George Martin, with Brian's 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. Capitol's 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 by 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 Capitol's “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 Capitol's “Yesterday...And Today” LP as a
not-too-subtle dig at Capitol for butchering the group's 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, "It's 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 company's 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 Capitol's
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 “I'll 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.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BRUCE SPIZER is a first generation Beatles fan and well-known Beatles
author/historian. He is considered the leading expert on the group's 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 Beatles' 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 Trippin', Goldmine and American History. He
maintains the popular Beatles collectors internet site www.beatle.net.
Mr. Spizer has been serving as a consultant on the Capitol Beatle albums
box set project.