Throughout the sixties, completely different sets of Beatles albums existed in the world - the original UK recordings, and the American versions1. This inevitably led to a difference in the way those either side of the Atlantic heard the Beatles.
In America, the tendency was for the albums to be shorter, with fewer songs. This was primarily in order for Capitol Records, true to their name, aiming to make more capitol, began to store up songs edited from earlier albums to compile more albums composed of the left-overs. Thus, in the UK, where 13 Beatles albums had been released between 1963-1970, when the Beatles were still together, in America there were 21 albums.
Of these albums, only five, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "The Beatles: The White Album", "Yellow Submarine", "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" were the same both sides of the Atlantic. It was only in 1987, on the release of the Beatles albums on CD, that the Beatles were able to enforce that their original visions were presented as intended throughout the world.
The Beatles And The American Albums
Initially keen to break into the American market, the Beatles had recorded songs specifically to target the allusive American audience, but soon America became a major source of frustration for them. On their concerts in America, it soon became common for the Beatles to introduce songs "Which album's this song on? Er, I think the next number is on Something New."
The Beatles' creative output, the British albums which contained the songs which they chose in the order they wished them to be, was completely and recklessly ignored in America, where Capitol Records, under David Dexter Junior and Bill Miller, were more interested in making money than preserving the Beatles' works of art. Capitol Records claimed at the time that they adopted the strategy of releasing more, shorter albums due to differences between Britain and America regarding how publishing royalties are calculated.
This vastly affected the group's image. When "Rubber Soul" was released in America, the new Beatles' experimental tracks were left off, leading many American fans to think that the Beatles were not evolving or improving their style despite competition from Bob Dylan.
When interviewed by Dennis Elsas on September 28 1974, John Lennon said,
We made only, say, ten albums actually, in America there seemed to be thirty of them. And so we would design [an album] and have more control over our own in England, but in America there was always more albums...
We always used to be very upset because England would have 14 tracks per album, and then we'd only get twelve.
"We used to say, "Why can't we put 14 out in America", you know. 'Cos we would sequence the albums how we thought they should sound and put a lot of work into the sequencing too. And we almost got to not care what happened in America 'cos it was always different, they wouldn't let us put 14 out, they said there was some rule or something against it.
Well, whatever it was, you know? And so we almost didn't care what happened to the albums in America until we started coming over more, and noticing... they'd have outtakes and mumbling on the beginning, which used to drive us crackers."
This situation in America led to the infamous "butcher" cover on the album ""Yesterday" And Today", and eventually in 1967, to a new contract with EMI which gave the Beatles greater control over how their music was released in America.
The five albums identical both sides of the Atlantic all date from after this contract was signed, with only two albums, Magical Mystery Tour2 and the American compilation Hey Jude album not corresponding to the Beatles' British output after 1967.
Singles And Albums
Another reason for the difference in the number of albums was caused by the Beatles themselves. In the UK, the Beatles felt it was unfair to expect fans to buy singles, and then buy albums composed of the songs which they had already bought. This meant that several hit Beatles songs, and their B-Sides, did not appear on the British Beatles albums until the greatest hits album, A Collection Of Beatles Oldies, was released in 1966, the two greatest hits albums, The Beatles 1962-1966 "The Red Album" and The Beatles 1967-1970 "The Blue Album" were released together in May 1973 or even until the "Past Masters" albums were released in 1988.
However, in America where the Beatles did not have control over the songs they had recorded, many of these singles found their way onto American albums, almost at random, and rarely in any particular order. Thus an A-side and a B-side of a single would often end up on different albums altogether.
British And American Albums
This is a list of the Beatles Albums released in Britain and America between 1963 and 1970 - the period in which the Beatles were still together. As you can see, for the 13 albums released in Britain, 21 were released in America.
Only five Beatles albums released while the Beatles were still together were the same both sides of the Atlantic - a constant source of frustration for the Beatles. These five identical albums were Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (The White Album), Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be. All the other albums, even when the titles and even cover photographs were the same as their British equivalent, either had fewer songs or possibly even major changes that affected the whole atmosphere of the album.
It is telling that of all the American albums, only one, Magical Mystery Tour, has become part of the revised and digitally updated Beatles catalogue available today3. All the rest have been consigned to Beatles history.
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- Beatles for Sale
- Sergeant Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Yellow Submarine
- Magical Mystery Tour
- Get Back - The Lost Beatles Album
- Let It Be... Naked - The Album
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- Band On The Run
- The Paul McCartney Death Clues
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