By Marc Platt
This is a subject near and dear to my heart. In the early 1970’s I traded my U.S. Capitol Records version of ‘Rubber Soul’ for a Parlophone Records UK version. I have regretted that decision since that day in 1973.
Later on I and millions of people were able to get the CD version, which sounded pristine and lacking the warmth of vinyl.
As a longtime musician and Beatles Historian, I need to point out a major difference between the Beatles releases in America and Great Britain separate from the song selection which differed greatly on many of these albums.
They sounded different. The mastering engineers in Los Angeles used “Plate Reverb” on those early records. This was a common practice in the 1960’s by recording companies and the engineers, who were tasked with making the final versions of the LPs and singles that were released.
Just listen to the version of “It Won’t Be Long” on the British ‘With the Beatles’ and the same song on the American counterpart ‘Meet the Beatles.’ The U.S. version sounds louder, bristling with treble. No wonder George Martin and The Beatles were perturbed by the mere sound of these recordings.
Here is the difference is the running order between the two versions
" WITH THE BEATLES"
'MEET THE BEATLES
On the British version, the public gets many more cover songs that would show up on ‘The Beatles’ 2nd Album’ and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was only released as a single in the United Kingdom in late 1963. It is important to understand that it was all about singles in 1963-through-1966. Parlophone and Capitol Records both insisted that the band provide them with radio-ready singles. Both labels looked at albums as a “Collection of B-sides” in those years.
In America, Capitol Records rush-released their ‘Meet the Beatles’ LP FOCUSING on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on that LP. The song had launched the band in the United States and they wanted to make sure that record sold as many copies as possible.
In the United Kingdom throughout The Beatles’ run, Parlophone would release Eps (Extended Play singles) with four songs, often a SINGLE with three other strong songs. These were huge sellers in the UK.
America relied on 45 rpm singles and later double A-side singles like “Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane,” which was the huge single the band rushed out to buy them time to make “Sgt. Pepper” in the spring of 1967.
‘Revolver’ was an album that suffered the loss of three John Lennon tracks in America. Those songs would appear on ‘Yesterday and Today.’ A lot of these omissions were due to contractual commitments The Beatles had to America to deliver albums in a timely manner.
It was after ‘Revolver’ that it all changed for The Beatles and the recording industry. The band was not able to reproduce the quality of ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’ live on stage and they made a decision to start using the recording studio as their main outlet for their growing creativity.
The band never formerly announced that they would never tour again, but within their organization had decided that the studio was their new home. This move was made at first to appease George Harrison, who threatened to quit The Beatles unless they “Stopped Touring.” Once that was decided, it would be Paul McCartney who came up with the concept for “Sgt. Pepper” being a band, thereby liberating The Beatles from being The Beatles.
It is a magical album in that it pretty much runs from start-to-finish without breaks between the songs. There were no singles released. “Sgt. Pepper” is one long single.
The final point I want to make is The Beatles and George Martin insisting to Capitol Records that they release the exact same versions (mono & stereo) in America that Parlophone released in June, 1967. This would be the new normal for the rest of their career, with the exception of Capitol/Apple releasing the ‘Hey Jude’ LP at the end of the band’s run to do a little clean-up on songs that were never released in America on LPs.