By Bruce Spizer
The summer of 2008 marks the 45th anniversary of when Introducing The Beatles was not released. And if that sounds like the strange start to an article, well it is. But, it’s also fitting as the history of the first Beatles album issued in the United States is one of the most convoluted stories in record collecting and all of rock ’n’ roll.
When the first complete Beatles discography was published in 1975, Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrzik’s “All Together Now” listed July 22, 1963, as the release date for the record.
For more than two decades, that date, for the most part, went unquestioned and appeared in numerous Beatles books and discographies as the gospel truth. And although I proved that the summer of 1963 date was incorrect in my 1998 book “The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay,” many subsequently published books list July 22, 1963, as the release date for the album.
The authors came up with their release date based upon the “6-29-63” (June 29, 1963) etchings in the trail-off areas of some copies of the album. They reasoned that if the record was prepared for pressing at the end of June, it would be in stores about three weeks later. While this was a reasonable assumption given normal production schedules, there was nothing normal about Introducing The Beatles.
For starters, the first recordings by The Beatles did not appear on EMI’s American subsidiary, Capitol Records.
Although the Hollywood-based company had a right of first refusal for all masters owned by EMI’s vast holdings of record companies throughout the world, Capitol was completely autonomous from its British parent, EMI.
So, in 1962, Capitol was under no obligation to issue The Beatles first single, “Love Me Do,” which had appeared in England on EMI’s Parlophone label.
At that time, Capitol’s Dave Dexter was in charge of International A&R for the label. It was his job to listen to every foreign recording sent to Capitol by EMI. Dexter, a former jazz journalist for Down Beat magazine and producer of R&B artists such as Julia Lee, was in his mid-to-late 40s and was still attracted to the big-band music and jazz he grew up with. He wasn’t terribly fond of rock ’n’ roll and was hesitant to issue British recordings, because popular artists from across the pond had found little, if any, success in America.
Thus, it was no surprise when Dexter gave the thumbs down to “Love Me Do,” because it was, in his mind, not suitable for the American market. He would later say that he was bothered by the harmonica, which he considered to be an R&B instrument that had no place in pop music.
EMI and even Beatles producer George Martin took this rejection in stride, because the Beatles were yet to achieve stardom outside of Liverpool, and although “Love Me Do” was a decent debut disc, it wasn’t really that great a song as evidenced by its stalling at #17 on the British charts.
But things changed with The Beatles second single, “Please Please Me.” Martin was excited about their performance, telling the group, “Boys, you’ve got your first #1 hit.” He believed that the single was strong enough to make an impact in America and was extremely disappointed when Capitol and Dexter decided to pass on the record. Martin pressured EMI to have the disc issued in America.
In 1961, EMI had set up an entity in New York known as Transglobal Music Co., Inc. Its primary function was to obtain master recordings from American labels for licensing foreign rights to EMI for worldwide distribution. But Transglobal also attempted to place foreign records made by EMI artists with American companies when recordings were turned down by Capitol.
Transglobal’s attorney, Paul Marshall, had several other clients in the music business, including Vee-Jay Records, an independent label based in Chicago that specialized in R&B and gospel recordings. When Capitol turned down Frank Ifield’s “I Remember You,” a 1962 British #1 hit on EMI’s Columbia label, Marshall placed the single with Vee-Jay.
The move paid off as the song worked its way up the Billboard charts to #5 on Oct. 13, 1962, the same week that Vee-Jay’s debut Four Seasons disc, “Sherry,” was enjoying its fifth and final week at #1.
Paul Marshall recalls being told by EMI that The Beatles’ management was frustrated with Capitol’s refusal to issue Beatles records. EMI transferred the American rights to the Beatles recordings to Transglobal with instructions to get “Please Please Me” issued in the States as quickly as possible to appease George Martin and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
The disc was rejected by Atlantic Records, who told Marshall that the song was derivative and “not pure.” Recalling Vee-Jay’s success with Ifield, Marshall offered the single to Vee-Jay. As the label had profited from the Ifield deal, Vee-Jay felt it had nothing to lose by issuing The Beatles 45.
On Jan. 10, 1963, Vee-Jay president Ewart Abner signed a licensing agreement with Transglobal for the exclusive rights to use the master recordings of “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” for the purpose of manufacturing and selling phonograph records in the U.S.
To Marshall, EMI was obviously a more important client than Vee-Jay, but he did look after Vee-Jay’s interests by adding an important addendum to the five-year contract that gave Vee-Jay the right of first refusal of all EMI recordings of The Beatles, exercisable within 30 days of receipt of the master recordings.
Shortly after signing the licensing agreement, Vee-Jay received a tape from EMI containing “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.” The tape was sent to Universal Recording Corp. in Chicago for mastering. On Jan. 18, 1963, Universal sent two lacquers for each side of the record to Audio Matrix in the Bronx, New York, for preparation of the metal parts needed to manufacture the single.
Audio Matrix prepared and shipped metal parts for The Beatles’ single to the three primary record plants used at that time to press its records: American Record Pressing Co. (ARP) in Owosso, Mich.; Monarch Records in Los Angeles; and Southern Plastics in Nashville, Tenn.
During this time, Vee-Jay began gathering the information needed to prepare the label copy for the record. Based on information obtained from Transglobal, Vee-Jay misspelled the group’s name as “The Beattles” with two Ts. This error appears on all first pressings of the disc, which was assigned catalog number VJ 498.
On Jan. 21, 1963, Vee-Jay sent a letter to Transglobal’s lawyers requesting the name of the American publishing company for the songs. After learning the publisher was Concertone, Vee-Jay sent the company a telegram stating that “Please Please Me” by “The Beattles” would be released on Feb. 7, 1963. Thus, The Beatles’ first single in America was released exactly one year prior to the group’s triumphant arrival at New York’s Kennedy Airport that kicked off their first U.S. visit.
In an article appearing in the Feb. 16, 1963, Billboard, it was reported that Vee-Jay’s Barbara Gardner was in London, and that the label had made a deal to release records by The Beatles.
This falsely gave the impression that Gardner had discovered The Beatles while in London, a story that was more likely to draw favorable attention than an article titled “New York Lawyer Brings British Band to Vee-Jay after Group Rejected by Capitol and Others.”
“Please Please Me” most likely made its American radio debut on Chicago’s WLS courtesy of DJ Dick Biondi, perhaps as early as Friday, Feb. 8, 1963, during his 9 p.m. to midnight shift.
Biondi frequently got together with Vee-Jay’s Ewart Abner, who pushed for Biondi to spin the local label’s discs on the air. The song peaked at #35 on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey of March 15, 1963, but got little airplay outside of Vee-Jay’s hometown Chicago and failed to make the national charts.
Vee-Jay promoted the disc with trade magazine ads, including one that appeared in the March 2, 1963, Cash Box that claimed the single was “Going Great R&B, C&W & Pop!” This demonstrated that Vee-Jay didn’t quite know how to market the group, which it still identified as “The Beattles.”
VJ 498 was not a total flop, selling approximately 5,650 copies during the first half of 1963. By mid-year it had run its course, selling only two copies during the last six months of the year. A limited pressing of the single in early 1964 added sales of approximately 1,650 units, raising total sales to 7,310 copies.
Because Vee-Jay had a right of first refusal for all EMI Beatles masters under its five-year licensing agreement with Transglobal, the company was sent stereo and mono tapes of the group’s Please Please Me LP in April of 1963. Vee-Jay had Universal prepare a reference acetate from the 14-song mono master tape that fully duplicated the British album. Due to the lukewarm sales of the “Please Please Me” single, Vee-Jay delayed its decision on whether to issue the album.
Vee-Jay also received a tape containing the group’s next single, “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl,” which the label released as VJ 522 on or about May 6, 1963. Initial sales were similar to the group’s prior single, with only 3,900 units being sold in May and June.
Sales were adversely affected by Del Shannon’s cover version of the song issued on Big Top 3152, which won the battle of radio airplay and charted at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100. DJs were more open to playing a record by the man who topped the charts with “Runaway” than a disc by a then-unknown pop group on an R&B label.
Shannon’s carbon-copy version of the song even got the nod in Vee-Jay’s hometown of Chicago, where WLS charted his single at 15.
The reason for the snub was that Dick Biondi was no longer at WLS at the time Vee-Jay’s second Beatles disc was issued. He had been fired by the station days before.
Biondi relocated to Los Angeles, where he was hired by KRLA. When Biondi persuaded his new station to play the Beatles disc in July, 1963, it worked its way up to #32 on the Aug. 11 KRLA Tune-Dex. This increased airplay led to additional sales of 8,775 units from July 1 through Sept. 30, 1963, with most of those sales coming in the Los Angeles area.
It also led to The Beatles’ version of “From Me To You” entering the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 listing at 125 in the Aug. 3, 1963, Billboard. The following week it reached its peak spot of 116. In 1964, VJ 522 sold an additional 9,451 units, raising total sales to 22,126.
By June, 1963, Vee-Jay had decided to place the Beatles LP on its release schedule. To save on publishing royalties, Vee-Jay trimmed the album’s 14-song program down to the American standard of 12 selections.
Because the “Please Please Me” single had failed to generate airplay or sales beyond the Windy City, Vee-Jay dropped “Please Please Me” and its flipside “Ask Me Why” from the lineup.
With the title track to the British LP missing in action, a new name was needed for the album. As most Americans still had not heard of the group, Vee-Jay selected the descriptive title Introducing The Beatles for the LP. The album was assigned catalog number 1062.
Printing the record
On June 22, 1963, Universal prepared two sets of mono and stereo master lacquers of the 12-song album for Vee-Jay at a total cost of $368.95.
When the engineer at Universal heard Paul’s “One, two, three, faaa!” lead count-in to the album’s opening track, “I Saw Her Standing There,” he didn’t realize it was intended to serve as the energetic introduction to the album.
Thus, he decided to edit out the intro. Because he did not want to miss the song’s first instrumental note, he only cut out the first three numbers. As a result, both the mono and stereo versions of Introducing The Beatles begin with Paul shouting “Faaa!”
The metal parts required for the manufacture of the album were prepared by Audio Matrix in late June, 1963. The company sent the metal parts for the Beatles LP, along with metal parts for another proposed Vee-Jay album, Africa Calling by The Dungills, to ARP, Monarch and Southern Plastics. The Monarch discs have hand-etched dates in their trail-off areas: “6-28-63” on stereo and “6-29-63” on mono.
For the front cover to Introducing The Beatles, Vee-Jay used an Angus McBean color photograph taken the same day as the picture appearing on the British Please Please Me LP. Vee-Jay chopped off the lower extremities of the boys and reversed the negative.
Thus, members of the group are shown with their famous hair flowing in the wrong direction. It is not known whether the reversal of the image was deliberate or accidental. The correctly printed uncropped photo was later used on the back side of the picture sleeve to the Parlophone and Capitol 30th anniversary reissues of the “Love Me Do” single. Vee-Jay’s cover described The Beatles as “England’s No.1 vocal group.”
Vee-Jay hired Magna Graphic Inc. of Lexington, Ky., to prepare the set of four-color separation film positives needed to print the front cover slicks. Magna’s July 9, 1963, invoice indicates that Vee-Jay was charged $375.
Vee-Jay used Coburn & Company of Chicago to print 6,000 front-cover slicks for the album. These original slicks differ from later slicks by the appearance of “Printed in U.S.A.” towards the lower left corner.
Coburn’s July 23, 1963, invoice shows that Vee-Jay was charged a total of $790 for the Beatles slicks, plus 6,000 slicks for another proposed album, Young People’s Introduction to Hebrew Music…Presented by Cantor Samuel Vigoda and the Oscar Julius Choir. This indicates that in the summer of 1963, Vee-Jay thought the Beatles album and the Cantor Samuel Vigoda album would each initially sell close to 6,000 copies. As it turned out, the Hebrew music LP was never issued, and Vee-Jay underestimated sales of the other album by well over a million units.
For the back cover, Vee-Jay planned on using Tony Barrow’s back liner notes from the Please Please Me LP, except that the text would be modified to delete references to the two songs dropped from the lineup. It is unlikely that film was ever prepared for this proposed back cover.
Vee-Jay’s hard times
Although Introducing The Beatles was initially planned for summer or early fall release, Vee-Jay encountered severe cash flow problems that forced the label to put all releases on hold.
The company was on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to pay pressing plants, printers, payroll taxes or royalties. Vee-Jay president Ewart Abner had taken a few hundred thousand dollars of company money to pay off personal gambling debts. Vivian and James Bracken, the founders and majority owners of Vee-Jay, were heartbroken and reached an agreement with the popular Abner that they would not press charges in exchange for his forfeiting his stock in the company.
Although the record industry was kept in the dark, Marshall was aware of the troubles facing Vee-Jay and was concerned about the company’s future without the leadership and marketing savvy of Abner. Because Vee-Jay had failed to prepare statements or pay royalties on its Ifield and Beatles sales, he sent Vee-Jay an Aug. 8, 1963, telegram on behalf of Transglobal demanding that Vee-Jay “immediately cease manufacture and distribution of any and all records containing performances of Frank Ifield or The Beattles [sic].”
Although it was later determined that Vee-Jay owed $7,430 in Ifield and Beatles royalties (with under $900 owed on 1963 Beatles sales), EMI owed Vee-Jay over $20,000 in royalties at that time.
The unilateral termination of the licensing agreements between Transglobal and Vee-Jay meant that Capitol Records once again had the right of first refusal of Ifield and Beatles recordings. EMI sent Capitol the latest discs from the artists, Ifield’s “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)” and The Beatles’ “She Loves You.”
Both were auditioned by Dexter, who determined that only one was suitable for the American market. Incredibly, Dexter had Capitol issue the Ifield disc and pass on “She Loves You,” which later saw its American release on Swan. Dexter’s rejection of The Beatles’ latest record shows how out of touch he was as his decision was made at the time when the group’s “From Me To You” was a Top 40 KRLA hit in Capitol’s own back yard!
Meanwhile, Vee-Jay had much bigger problems to deal with than the loss of a pair of British artists. Under the leadership of Randy Wood, the label reworked its finances and release schedule. Although the company had taken orders for nine proposed new pop albums, most of these, including Introducing The Beatles, Africa Calling by The Dungills, Frank Ifield Favorites, How About Love by Alma Cogan and the Hebrew music LP, were canceled.
On Dec. 4, 1963, Vee-Jay’s board of directors met to discuss what could be done to improve the company’s precarious financial situation. The minutes from the meeting contain discussions about the importance of product and the need “to give the public what they want… and sell it for a profit.”
There are no references to The Beatles, indicating that at that time Vee-Jay had no idea that Beatlemania was about to invade America or that it could profit from the group. Vee-Jay had totally forgotten about the band. Ironically, Capitol Records issued a press release that same day which would start a chain of events that would reintroduce The Beatles to Vee-Jay.
Details from the Capitol press release appeared in the Dec. 14, 1963, Billboard. Word quickly spread throughout the music industry that Capitol was planning an extensive publicity campaign to launch The Beatles in America.
Vee-Jay employees remembered that their company had released two Beatles singles, and that preliminary steps had been taken during the past summer to release an album by the group. In fact, the metal parts needed to press the album were still sitting at the three primary factories used by Vee-Jay to press its records. In addition, front cover art had been prepared and 6,000 slicks printed. The pieces were in place for Vee-Jay to take advantage of huge demand for Beatles product.
By the time Vee-Jay’s board of directors met again on Jan. 7, 1964, nearly a year had expired since the label signed its five-year licensing agreement to release Beatles records in America. Exactly one month later the group was due to arrive in America.
The company had begun taking orders for a new Beatles single, VJ 581, that combined the previous A-sides “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You” on a single disc. The record would go on to sell 1,185,725 copies and peak at #3 on the charts behind “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”
Vee-Jay was advised by counsel that they had the right to release the four tracks that previously appeared on singles but could not issue the album, because the company did not exercise its right of first refusal on the LP within the time period specified in the licensing agreement.
This advice would soon lead Vee-Jay to issue an album combining the four Beatles songs from the singles with eight tracks by Ifield which had also appeared on Vee-Jay singles. The album was titled Jolly What! The Beatles And Frank Ifield On Stage.
While the board recognized that Vee-Jay probably didn’t have the rights to issue an album containing songs from the Please Please Me LP, they reasoned that the company’s need for the cash generated by a Beatles album outweighed the risk of being sued by Capitol. After all, such a law suit could take years to settle. Executive vice-president Jay Lasker informed the board that its contract factories could ship 30,000 albums on Jan. 10, 1964. This date is now recognized as the release date for Introducing The Beatles.
Although Vee-Jay had a front cover prepared for the album, it had no time to design a back cover. The company had misplaced the text for the back liner and obviously could not ask EMI to resend it. To avoid delays and issue the LP as quickly as possible, Vee-Jay decided to construct the initial batch of covers with glossy back slicks printed from the film used for the company’s colorful inner sleeve, which promoted 25 Vee-Jay albums.
Because these back slicks advertise other Vee-Jay LPs, this cover variation is known as the “Ad-Back” cover. The covers to these rare and highly collectible first-issue albums have “Printed in U.S.A.” running vertically along the lower left front cover slick. The stereo version of this cover is one of the most valuable and sought after Beatles album variations.
A second cover variation, known as the “Blank Back,” has a blank white back liner. In all likelihood, the Blank Backs were a limited transition run substituted after all Ad Back slicks had been used, but prior to receipt of the new back liners that would be used on future production runs. Blank Back covers had been documented with and without “Printed in U.S.A.” front cover slicks.
Vee-Jay ultimately decided to rush out a simple back liner that merely contained the album’s title and its songs listed in two columns. This version is known as the “Titles on Back” or “Column Back” variation. Although Ad Backs were manufactured first, all three cover variations were assembled within days of each other and were issued at the same time in January 1964.
To get copies of Introducing The Beatles to its distributors as quickly as possible, Vee-Jay placed large orders with its three primary factories, ARP, Monarch and Southern Plastics, and had metal parts prepared for a fourth factory, Allentown Record Co., Inc. in Allentown, Pa. By Jan. 15, 1964, Vee-Jay had shipped 79,169 mono and 2,202 stereo copies of the album.
Vee-Jay’s album orders were happening so fast that the company did not have enough covers ready to ship to its factories. To avoid delays while pressing plants waited for the covers, Vee-Jay instructed the factories to keep pressing the albums and send the discs to their distributors in inner sleeve dust jackets. Records would then be inserted into the covers by the distributors. By having covers manufactured and records pressed simultaneously, Vee-Jay was able to shorten its production schedule and enable its distributors to quickly get product to the stores.
After releasing its Beatles album on Jan. 10, 1964, Vee-Jay knew it was only a matter of time before Capitol would sue. Hoping to avoid the inevitable, Vee-Jay attempted to avoid service by keeping its employees away from its offices at 1449 South Michigan in Chicago.
This ploy failed as service was made upon Vee-Jay’s corporate counsel, Earl Strayhorn, at 12:15 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13, 1964. Capitol’s lawsuit was based on its exclusive agreement with EMI to distribute Beatles recordings in America. It requested that Vee-Jay be enjoined from manufacturing and distributing Beatles records.
The following day, Vee-Jay brought its own lawsuit against Capitol, Transglobal and Swan in New York, arguing that its five-year agreement with Transglobal for the exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute Beatles recordings in the U.S. was still in force.
Due to a procedural blunder by Vee-Jay’s attorney in the Chicago action, the court granted a temporary injunction on Jan. 15 prohibiting Vee-Jay from manufacturing or distributing its Beatles records. During the next few months, the injunction would be lifted and reinstated over and over again, thus undermining the company’s ability to get its Beatles records into the stores.
Vee-Jay’s legal problems were added to on Jan. 16 when a judge issued a restraining order prohibiting Vee-Jay from manufacturing or distributing Introducing The Beatles, because the album contained two songs that Vee-Jay did not have the publishing clearance to issue.
Capitol’s subsidiary, Beachwood Music Corp., owned the publishing rights to “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” and refused to grant Vee-Jay permission to issue the songs. To get around this hurdle, Vee-Jay removed the two songs from the album and replaced them with “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.”
Universal prepared lacquers for the reconfigured album on or about Jan. 22, 1964. Metal parts were prepared two days later. The companies used by Vee-Jay to construct the album covers were sent revised film to change the back liners to reflect the new lineup. By mid-February, the second version of the album was in stores.
Copies of the album containing “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” are called “Version One” albums. The later LPs with “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” are designated as “Version Two” albums.
Charting a new course
Despite the hardships and confusion resulting from the multiplicity of lawsuits, Introducing The Beatles had tremendous success on the charts.
The album made its debut in the Billboard Top LP’s chart at #59 on Feb. 8, 1964. By Feb. 29, the album began its first of nine straight weeks at #2, unable to pass Capitol’s Meet The Beatles! LP. All told, Introducing The Beatles spent 49 weeks on the charts, including 15 weeks in the Top 10 and 21 weeks in the Top 20. The album also held down the second spot in Cash Box and peaked at #1 in Record World.
Interest in Introducing The Beatles was aided by Vee-Jay’s release of two unique-to-America singles pulled from the album. In late February 1964, the company issued “Twist And Shout” and “There’s A Place” as the debut single (catalog number 9001) on its Tollie subsidiary. The single sold approximately 1,210,000 copies and topped the Cash Box and Record World charts, although it stalled at #2 in the Billboard Hot 100, unable to surpass the group’s Capitol single, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Vee-Jay’s next Beatles single, VJ 587, was issued on March 23, 1964, and paired the album track “Do You Want To Know A Secret” with “Thank You Girl,” which had appeared as the flip side to “From Me To You” 10 months earlier on VJ 522.
The single, featuring George Harrison on lead vocal, sold approximately 1 million units and peaked at #2 in the Billboard Hot 100, blocked by the song that broke The Beatles 14-week lock on the #1 spot, Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly.”
In and out of the courts
On April 1, 1964, Vee-Jay and Capitol entered into a settlement agreement that brought all litigation between the companies to an end.
Vee-Jay was given the right to manufacture and sell its previous released records until Oct. 15, 1964, at which time Vee-Jay would cease manufacture of its Beatles records and the rights to the songs would revert to Capitol. The agreement also gave Vee-Jay the publishing clearance to issue “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You.”
Vee-Jay responded by quickly pairing the songs, pulled from its original version of Introducing The Beatles, for release on Tollie 9008 on April 27, 1964. Although “Love Me Do” was not one of the group’s best efforts, the hunger of American record buyers for “new” Beatles product drove the song to the top of the charts in all three major American trade magazines and generated sales of approximately 1,165,200 units.
Because Vee-Jay used the Please Please Me album version of “Love Me Do” on the single, purchasers of the Tollie 45 got the recording of the song with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine.
Americans who had previously purchased the Canadian import “Love Me Do” single (Capitol of Canada 72076) got the version of the song with Ringo on drums. In all likelihood, no one in 1964 noticed that different versions of the song appeared on the Vee-Jay and Capitol of Canada singles.
Introducing The Beatles had net sales of approximately 1,304,316 mono and 41,910 stereo units. Of these, less than 90,000 are believed to be Version One albums. Because Vee-Jay did not allow the RIAA to audit its sales figures, Introducing The Beatles has yet to be certified gold or platinum by the RIAA. Vee-Jay president Randy Wood presented the group with an in-house gold record for the album on Aug. 23, 1964, at a ceremony held backstage at the Hollywood Bowl before the group’s historic concert appearance.
In May of 1964, Vee-Jay devised a scheme to generate additional sales of Introducing The Beatles by repackaging the album with a fancy gatefold cover mimicking the numerous teen magazines devoted to The Beatles. Upon being advised of Vee-Jay’s plans, Capitol demanded that Vee-Jay not market the redesigned album. Vee-Jay went to court and was victorious as the judge ruled that the company had the unqualified right to advertise and promote its Beatles masters in any cover, jacket or package Vee-Jay deemed appropriate.
Shortly after the ruling, Vee-Jay began limited distribution of Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles in late July of 1964. The album’s elaborate gatefold cover has an inner sleeve featuring color-tinted pictures and personal liner notes about the boys. Its back cover has heart-lined spaces for female fans to paste their picture under a color-tinted photo of their favorite Beatle.
Although Vee-Jay assigned the LP a separate catalog number, VJ 1092, the records inside were pressings of Introducing The Beatles, same labels and all. The attractive cover not only generated new purchasers of the album but also lured some owners of Introducing The Beatles to repurchase the album. The repackaged LP sold nearly 400,000 copies and peaked at #63 on the charts.
The ‘Beatles Vs. The Four Seasons’
Inspired by its victory in court, Vee-Jay came up with an additional plan to repackage Introducing The Beatles, this time with an album by The Four Seasons. The company created an “international battle of the bands” LP by placing an Introducing The Beatles and a Golden Hits Of The Four Seasons disc into a double gatefold cover.
The resulting album, The Beatles Vs. The Four Seasons (DX-30), was released in late August 1964, with deluxe packaging that included a poster. Because the double album had a relatively high list price and offered no new songs by either group, the LP sold less than 20,000 copies and only reached #142 on the Billboard Top LP’s chart. As only 725 stereo copies were shipped to distributors, the stereo version of the album is a rarity.
The end of Vee-Jay; counterfeits appear
On Oct. 15, 1964, Vee-Jay was obligated to cease manufacture and distribution of its Beatles records. Within the next few months, the remaining inventory of Introducing The Beatles sitting in stores sold out.
On March 22, 1965, exactly two years after Parlophone issued the Please Please Me LP, Capitol issued an album titled The Early Beatles, which contained 11 of the songs that had previously appeared on Vee-Jay.
In May of 1966, Vee-Jay closed it offices and released its employees. The following year the company was purchased out of bankruptcy. The new owners sold off existing inventory and leased its master recordings to other labels.
In the ’70s, counterfeiters took advantage of Vee-Jay’s relative inactivity and the continued popularity of The Beatles by pressing bogus copies of the label’s Beatles albums. This scheme was done not to fool collectors, but to sell mass quantities of Beatles albums to rack-jobbers for distribution into unsuspecting department and drug stores as well as record stores willing to look the other way.
This proved quite profitable for the counterfeiters, because they did not pay any royalties to the song publishers or The Beatles. The West Coast counterfeit albums were pressed by a former Vee-Jay employee. It is believed that organized crime was behind the East Coast counterfeits.
Obviously there are no sales figures for the bogus copies of Introducing The Beatles, but judging by the large number of counterfeits compared to legitimate copies, it is estimated that a few million copies were sold. If the RIAA had the desire and ability to audit sales of the bogus album, the counterfeit version of Introducing The Beatles would be certified double, triple or perhaps even quadruple platinum!
It is highly unlikely that Apple or Capitol will ever issue either version of Introducing The Beatles on CD. After all, both variations are nothing more that abridged versions of the Please Please Me LP. Collectors yearning for the album on CD can seek out high-quality bootlegs that have been manufactured in very limited numbers.
Forty-five years after its non-release, Introducing The Beatles continues to be the most colorful and most misunderstood of all Beatles records.