Released: 10 January 1964
John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums
George Martin: piano, celesta
‘I Saw Her Standing There’
‘Anna (Go To Him)’
‘Love Me Do’
‘PS I Love You’
‘Baby It’s You’
‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’
‘A Taste Of Honey’
‘There’s A Place’
‘Twist And Shout’
Introducing The Beatles was the first Beatles album to be released in the United States. It was issued on 10 January 1964 by Vee-Jay Records.
The album contained twelve of the fourteen songs on the band’s first UK album Please Please Me. Initial copies omitted ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’, but those songs replaced ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’ on later pressings from February 1964 onwards.
The Beatles had been a growing phenomenon in the United Kingdom throughout 1963. Despite this, they failed to make inroads in the USA until early 1964. Capitol Records, EMI’s US counterpart, declined to issue their early singles, and EMI affiliate Transglobal entered negotiations with a number of smaller labels to release the band’s music.
In January 1963, Transglobal leased the exclusive US rights to released The Beatles’ music to Chicago-based independent label Vee-Jay. The label was required under the deal to manufacture and ship a minimum of 1,000 discs within 30 days of receiving the master recordings.
The agreement was to last five years, with the option of first refusal on all Beatles recordings. In the event of the agreement being cancelled early, the label would retain release rights for a further six months.
Shortly after signing, Vee-Jay received a tape from EMI containing ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’. The single was released on 25 February 1963, a month after the UK version, with initial pressings credited to “The Beattles”. It sold just over 5,000 copies in its first year – not a great success, but not a commercial disaster either.
Vee-Jay issued the follow-up, ‘From Me To You’, in May 1963. It outsold its predecessor, boosted by Del Shannon’s popular cover version, and reached the upper reaches of the Billboard Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.
In April or early May 1963, Vee-Jay received the master tapes for the Please Please Me album. The label decided to drop the previously-released ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’ from the running order, bringing the number of tracks down to the more conventional twelve. They also moved ‘Love Me Do’ to the end of side one.
As with the singles, the mono and stereo tapes were forwarded to Chicago’s Universal Recording Corporation for mastering. An in-house engineer edited Paul McCartney’s count-in for ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, not realising it was intentional, and removed the first three numbers.
Vee-Jay had planned to release Introducing The Beatles in July 1963, but the label was encountering financial difficulties and owed thousands of dollars in tax, printing costs, royalty payments, and to pressing plants, mainly caused by the gambling debts of its president Ewart Abner.
The label’s debts and cash flow problems hampered Vee-Jay’s ability to release further albums and singles. On 8 August, prompted by the label’s failure to make royalty payments, Transglobal sent Vee-Jay a telegram:
REQUIRE YOU IMMEDIATELY CEASE MANUFACTURE AND DISTRIBUTION OF ANY AND ALL RECORDINGS CONTAINING PERFORMANCES OF FRANK IFIELD OR THE BEATTLES STOP PLEASE CONFIRM THAT ALL MANUFACTURE HAS STOPPED AND ALL MASTERS AND PRESSINGS RECALLED AND DESTROYED
This paved the way for Capitol Records to pick up The Beatles’ music for North American release. Vee-Jay lost the rights to the group’s future releases over a debt of $7,430 for royalty payments owed to Transglobal, of which just $859 was for Beatles sales.
Capitol’s A&R man Dave Dexter, however, rejected ‘She Loves You’, just as he had done with their earlier singles. EMI and Transglobal unsuccessfully approached labels including Decca, RCA-Victor, Columbia, and A&M, but all turned The Beatles down. The single was eventually picked up by Philadelphia’s tiny Swan label.
Meanwhile, in the UK The Beatles were onto their second album. With The Beatles was issued on 22 November 1963. Three days later, in Canada, Beatlemania! With The Beatles became their first North American release, issued by Capitol of Canada and containing all fourteen songs from the UK version.
The Beatles had been enjoying increasing success in Canada, and were a bona fide UK phenomenon by this time. Their success finally caused Capitol in America to take note, who on 4 December released a press release announcing that the label now had “exclusive U.S. rights to recordings by The Beatles”.
Plans got underway for Capitol to release ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, with an unprecedented $40,000 marketing budget to promote the single. Yet sales took off rapidly after its 26 December release, without the full marketing budget needing to be spent. Meet The Beatles!, the band’s first US album, would follow on 20 January 1964.
News that Capitol had finally swung behind The Beatles caused Vee-Jay and Swan to take notice. Both labels were entitled to reissue the songs they had already released. Vee-Jay pressed a new single, combining ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘From Me To You’, for release on 3 January 1964.
The single was an immediate hit, and Capitol issued Vee-Jay with a temporary injunction prohibiting the pressing and distribution of any Beatles products. The injunction lifted in February, and Vee-Jay sold over a million copies of the single.
Swan also reissued ‘She Loves You’, which on 22 February reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 behind ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. On 21 March it hit the top spot, remaining there for two weeks, and sold two and a half million copies.
Vee-Jay had planned to release Introducing The Beatles on 22 July 1963, but the label’s financial problems caused it to be abandoned. Yet once The Beatles had become an undeniable money spinner, the label – its financial problems now becoming under control – revived plans to issue the album.
The label already had 6,000 covers printed and the metal plates ready to press the album. There was, however, a legal risk: they only had the rights to re-release the four previously-issued songs, and putting out the full album left them open to legal action from Capitol.
Vee-Jay’s executives decided that its need for cash outweighed the legal risk, and the go-ahead was given for the album’s production. The album went on sale on 10 January 1964.