Good bands, fast popularity, teenybopper marketing Part IV (The Beatles on Capitol Records)

I would hope this final planned installment in this series needs no introduction! Unless you live under a huge rock, you know who The Beatles were. Even if you don’t personally care for them, find them overrated, or haven’t heard many of their songs, you at least know about them.

For a long time, it was common practice for record companies in different countries to repackage albums, by putting tracks in a different order, keeping off some tracks and substituting others, changing the album title, or using different cover art. I can’t accuse Capitol Records of doing this dastardly when just about all record companies did this once upon a time, and most serious music fans eventually discovered American and British releases differed for many bands.

However, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. There was a reason the powers that be eventually stopped doing this. It ruins artistic integrity, misrepresents a band’s vision, and it’s inconvenient when fans in different countries have different versions of what’s supposed to be the same album. The product should be consistent across all markets.

Capitol primarily repackaged The Beatles’ albums through 1966. The only times after Revolver they did that again were in late 1967, for Magical Mystery Tour (the only repackaging they got right, which is far superior to the British EP), and in 1968, when they cobbled together an album called Hey Jude, consisting of singles and B-sides. To their credit, they rightly understood Rubber Soul and Revolver were something special, not like other albums of the time, and so kept the titles and cover art.

I personally most strongly prefer The Beatles’ middle period (RS through MMT), with their late period coming in second place. However, that doesn’t mean I think their early period sucks. It just means I’m more into the stuff they made after they started coming into more musical maturity and complexity. That said, you can’t get away from the fact that their early period coincides with the highest peak of teenybopper madness. The massive teenybopper fan base is what compelled Capitol to do these repackagings, beyond the fact that this was common practice anyway.

The Beatles’ British albums typically contained 14 songs, whereas American albums of the time tended to have 11. That might’ve only been a handful of songs Capitol held back from each album, worth pennies each, but that added up to millions of pennies for the record company. The teenyboppers bought anything with The Beatles’ names on it, and wouldn’t have cared these weren’t the original British releases.

Capitol gave these manufactured albums generic, cliché, insipid titles like Something New, Beatles ’65, Beatles VI, The Beatles’ Second Album, and The Early Beatles (the lattermost of which was an 11-track version of Please Please Me). They mismatched songs from very different-sounding albums, like putting Help! tracks on RS and mashing together RS and Revolver songs on Yesterday…and Today. This gave fans the completely false impression that The Beatles were still stuck in a certain style long after they’d moved on and matured.

I wish I could say I don’t understand why there was even a market for boxed sets of these repackagings some years back, but everyone knows what nostalgic, aging Boomers are like. They wanted to waltz down memory lane with the albums they grew up with, instead of readjusting to the proper British releases. I don’t want to generalise and insult anyone, given how many Boomers I know and respect, but this generation is beyond self-absorbed. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard/read a Boomer referencing being a Boomer when it has absolutely nothing to do with anything:

“I’m a Baby Boomer, and my mother has Alzheimer’s….”

“I’m a proud Boomer, and I have Golden Retrievers…”

“As a Boomer, I have happy memories of Colorforms…”

“Many Boomers have proud memories of…”

“Did I mention, I’m a Boomer?”

“I live in Boston, have cats, and I’m a Baby Boomer!”

“As more Boomers retire, there’s a greater need for home health aides…”

To quote the worst rapper alive, “Me! Me! It’s all about me!”

I was born at the tail-end of Gen X, and I have never seen any of my generation-mates referencing this accident of birth unless it’s relevant. You were born between 1946-64. Big deal. The world won’t stop turning if you’re not constantly reminding everyone you happen to be a freaking Boomer. Believe it or not, you’re not the first or last generation to deal with things like retirement, divorce, raising children, health problems, buying cars, sex, remarriage, working, caring for aging parents, or owning pets. Get over yourselves already!

Advertisements

3 comments on “Good bands, fast popularity, teenybopper marketing Part IV (The Beatles on Capitol Records)

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    I almost get a sense of era envy in this post. There’s so much I could respond to here but properly it would take another complete blog post for rebuttal.

    I can’t think of ever referring to myself as a boomer or hearing anybody I know. If you are actually hearing the kinds of comments that you state here then I agree they are kind of annoying. Personally I’m just me born when I was and lived through the years I did. I have points of reference like anyone else who has memories.

    My musical tastes are mostly rooted in the 60’s through 80’s and prior to those years because that’s when I had more time to listen to and appreciate music. From the late 80’s until now I’ve been too involved with work life, raising kids, and facing retirement years to think about music very much and when I do it’s typically in the background.

    As to the “look at me” attitude, it’s always been for every generation–most of us want to be noticed in some way. I see post boomer generations being just as narcissistic and attention-seeking as any other generation. Overall I think it’s a matter of perspective. Where we are in life sometimes causes us to look across generations with distrust, disgust, or whatever it is we feel. I don’t think about it most of the time–I’m just trying to get through my own life.

    A lot of what you are speaking of I think is media driven. They come up with these labels and the situations connected with the generations they label. Historically, it’s an easy way to look at our time line. We understand more easily terms like the Great Depression, The Wars Years, or the Sixties. Music is more easily referenced when classified in terms The Jazz Age, Big Band Era, or English Invasion.

    The labeling just puts things in context for each of us. I wonder how these things will be looked at in retrospect a hundred years from now when there are new generations with new labels? Will any of our current generations have any individual significance or will they only be the topic of specialized study by history experts of obscure knowledge?

    For us now, the issues of the current generations are real concerns that we’d hope will provide lessons for future generations. Sometimes people just want to talk about their lives and the problems of where they are now. People always have.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

    Like

  2. I was born at the end of Boomers and beginning of Generation X, but I don’t call myself either.
    Repackaging an album like that does destroy what the artist intended. I remember in the early 80’s, the rage was to include a song or two extra on the cassette that wasn’t on the record. (Annoying to those of us who preferred records.)

    Like

  3. […] Emily of The Vintage Cameo and Judy of the Movie Classics blog are hosting the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Frank’s birth. I barely even had to think to know I wanted to cover the teen idol phase of his career, and all those screaming girls. First, my character Violet was one of those hysterical fans (and cried like a baby when Frank passed on in 1998), and second, it’s very similar to my Good Bands, Fast Popularity, Teenybopper Marketing series (More of The Monkees, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Herman’s Hermits, and The Beatles on Capitol Records). […]

    Like

Share your thoughts respectfully

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s