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“Introducing…THE BEATLES”

(VJLP-1062)

Released January 6th, 1964

Vee Jay records had the historic privilege of releasing the very first Beatles album in the United States.  Vee Jay records was a successful black label based in Chicago which boasted its major successes with R&B, blues and soul records.  By 1962, they had grown in strength to include popular music artists, most noteworthy the Four Seasons, and had multiple placements in the Billboard Hot 100 to its credit.

In 1962, Vee Jay records were offered a chance to release a #1 British single in America by Frank Ifield called “I Remember You”, which Vee Jay took to the top 5 in the US.  As part of the deal, they accepted a five year contract with an unknown new British band called The Beatles, even though they had yet to have a proper recording session.

Vee Jay released the very first Beatles single in the US, “Please Please Me/Ask Me Why”, on February 7th, 1963 (misspelling the artist as Beattles), which got very little attention and did not place at all on the Billboard charts.  They then released a second single on May 27th, 1963, “From Me To You/Thank You Girl” which did get some attention in certain US markets, but only reached number #116 on the Billboard pop charts.  Part of the problem, it is claimed, was that Del Shannon had released a cover version of “From Me To You” which was competing with the Beatles original version on the charts.  Since Del Shannon’s version only reached number 77 on the Billboard pop chart in June of 1963, it is evident that the timing was just not right for the Beatles to make an impact in the United States.

Origin of the Album

Since Vee Jay records had the US contract for releasing the Beatles records at the time (EMIs US affiliate Capitol Records passed at their opportunity), Vee Jay had prepared to release the first Beatles album in July of 1963, which Vee Jay titled, “Introducing…THE BEATLES, Englands No. 1 Vocal Group”.    

For pressing the album, they had the mother plates constructed on July 22nd, 1963.  This is why some conclude that the album was released in July 1963, being that this date can be seen in the run-off area of many of the original albums.  Distribution of the album didn’t happen at all until months later because of a “shake-up” at Vee Jay headquarters.

Vee Jay Management Problems

On August 3rd, 1963, it was released in the press that Vee Jay’s president, Ewart Abner, Jr., as well as others in executive positions, had exited the firm.  Also, significantly, The Four Seasons had filed suit against Vee Jay for nonpayment of royalties.  This had also been the case with the Beatles US royalties, as little as they were.  Being that the Four Seasons were their top money maker at the time, Vee Jay had no choice but to cut expenses somehow, which resulted in halting the release of many of the proposed albums on their future roster, including “Introducing…The Beatles”.

A gray area then presented itself concerning Vee Jay’s contract to release the Beatles records in the US.  EMI asked Vee Jay to release them from the contract they had for Frank Ifield, which Vee Jay did.  The future releases for Frank Ifield were on Capitol records.  It was then assumed by EMI that this negotiation also released the Beatles from their five year contract with Vee Jay records.  Vee Jay claimed that this was not the case, and that they still had the rights to release any Beatles product they had in their possession as they saw fit to do in the future.

Enter Capitol Records

Capitol records then enters the Beatles picture.  They negotiate a contract with Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, to have the rights for all Beatles product, past and future.  Capitol agrees to a $50,000 campaign to promote their new Capitol single and subsequent album.  Ed Sullivan had already agreed by this time to have the Beatles appear on his show in February 1964.  Television news and magazines had been running features on “Beatlemania” as it was happening in England in late 1963.

This temptation was too great for Vee Jay to pass up.  Even knowing that a “gray area” existed regarding their still having their initial five year contract with the Beatles, they were in enough financial straits to hold their breath and finally release the proposed “Introducing…The Beatles” album, as well as re-releasing the single “Please Please Me” (this time backed with “From Me To You”).  The album was rush released on January 6th, 1964, becoming the first Beatles album ever released in the United States.  They beat Capitol records at their own game by releasing their album two weeks before “Meet The Beatles”, the first “official” Capitol Beatles album.

This event did not go unnoticed by Capitol.  They filed suit against Vee Jay with an injunction against manufacturing, distributing, advertising, or otherwise disposing of records by the Beatles.  This legal fiasco went on for months with multiple suits and countersuits being filed.  An early court ruling was against Vee Jay because of their inclusion of the songs “Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You” on their Beatles album, being that both songs were published through Beechwood Music, a subsidiary of Capitol Records.  Vee Jay acted quickly by re-pressing the album without those two songs, replacing them with “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me”.   This new version of the album was released on January 27th, 1964.

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, August 23rd, 1964

Success of “Introducing…The Beatles”

The album ended up selling well over a million copies, evidenced by Vee Jay presenting the Beatles with a gold album for “Introducing…The Beatles” backstage at their Hollywood Bowl concert on October 23rd, 1964.  The album spent nine straight weeks at the number 2 position on the Billboard album charts, not quite being able to beat out Capitol’s “Meet The Beatles” to the number 1 spot.

It was a shame that the first Beatles album to appear in the US was rush-released in an unflattering record sleeve.  The front cover picture was actually a reversed image of the original photograph (as can be seen on the British EP “The Beatles’ Hits”) which is why the parting of their hair and their facial features look somewhat odd. 

Usually the reverse side of American LP record sleeves had pictures of the artists as well as liner notes encouraging potential record buyers of the quality of the music contained therein.  In this case, because of the rush-release, the back of the sleeve contains only a list of the song titles, underscored by the statement, “America’s greatest recording artists are on Vee-Jay Records.”  In fact, the first record sleeves pressed didn’t even have this.  The first back cover had advertisements for other albums released on Vee Jay records, such as Jimmy Reed and the Four Seasons.  When these ran out, blank white sheets of paper were placed on the back of the album jacket before the back sleeve with the song list could be prepared.  Because of the immense hype generated through the Capitol records ad campaign, Vee Jay felt this album would sell even without informing the customers what songs were contained on it.  And they were right!

Vee Jay had to eventually relinquish its’ rights to the early Beatles catalog by October 15th 1964.  Before that time came though, they released as many singles, EPs and albums as they saw fit to cash in on the Beatle craze while they could.  They even re-released the “Introducing…The Beatles” album in two additional forms.  The first was “The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons” (VJDX 30) on October 1st, 1964.  This was a double album consisting of the Beatles disc coupled with “'The Golden Hits of the Four Seasons”.  Being a higher priced double album, this compilation only peaked at number 142 on the Billboard charts, selling only 20,000 copies.  The second form was the album “Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles” (VJLP 1092) on October 12th, 1964.  It was the actual original “Introducing” album placed in a new sleeve.  It managed to fool some Beatle fans, as it peaked at number 63 on the US charts, selling 400,000 copies.

Capitol records decided to focus on the early Beatles catalog on March 22nd, 1965 with their album releaseThe Early Beatles”.  As this album only peaked at number 43 on the Billboard charts, Beatles fans were showing themselves not willing to buy the same group of songs they had already purchased many times over.  Being that Vee Jay records finally went out of business in May 1966, and “Introducing…The Beatles” has been out of print since October 1964, Capitol records had the official release of the early Beatles catalog, and will for the indefinite future.

It is of interest to note that Capitol records failed to release two of the songs on the “Introducing” album on any Beatles’ album during their career, even when they were in dire need of songs to release on their makeshift US albums.  Misery” and “There’s A Place”, two Lennon/McCartney originals, failed to be released by Capitol on any album until March 24th, 1980 on the compilation album “Rarities”.  Until this date, most Beatles fans considered these two songs “lost” Beatles tracks, as they were not available on any album in the US until then. 

Beatles early recording session in EMI studios, London

Recording The Album

Recording the entire album in just over 12 hours (excluding the previous single releases) seems like an enormous feat considering the weeks, months and even years recording an album can take today.  Although it has been admitted by the Beatles that it was hard work, it wasn’t something that they weren’t used to.  Paul stressed in a 1988 interview that, since they were used to the riggers of playing in Hamburg, Germany, having a 12 and a half hour recording session was “no big deal.”  They were used to playing sometimes from 7:00pm until 3:00am, six nights a week.  Since mid-1960, they had been performing live non-stop on a virtual daily basis.  In actuality, the day this album was recorded was on an off day from their first headlining national tour.  They weren’t exactly in the peak of physical condition this day, having worked throughout the country through one of the coldest British winters on record.  The album had to be completed on this day because of two scheduled performances they had the next evening.

The many books written about their early performance experiences in 1960-62 can make Beatle fans only wonder admiringly at what they sounded like way back then.  Lennon, in an interview in 1976, described this album as the closest thing you can get to experiencing how the Beatles sounded live in Hamburg and Liverpool, less the audience of course.

This website is designed to give as much detail, track by track, of the album as it was heard in the United States.  Analysis of this album, along with the details herein, will give as accurate of a picture of what the pre-fame Beatles sounded like that is possible without actually being there. 

Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski 

CLICK ON THE SONG TITLES BELOW TO READ THE IN-DEPTH HISTORY OF THE SONGS ON "INTRODUCING THE BEATLES"

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