Cover artwork

In the summer of 1963, Vee-Jay commissioned Magna Graphic Inc of Lexington, Kentucky, to prepare the four-colour separations required to print the covers.

The label then paid Coburn & Company of Chicago $395 to print 6,000 cover slicks. These initial copies can be identified by the phrase “Printed in U.S.A.” running vertically near the bottom left corner.

Vee-Jay opted to use a different photograph by Angus McBean for the cover, taken on the same day as the Please Please Me image.

The Introducing The Beatles photograph also appeared on the UK EP The Beatles’ Hits. However, for reasons unknown, Vee-Jay reversed the image for the US album.

Initial pressings featured three different rear cover designs, due to the different printing presses used by the label. Vee-Jay had originally intended to use an edit of Tony Barrow’s sleeve notes from Please Please Me, but by January 1964 the label could not locate the text.

Instead the first pressings showed an advertisement showing 25 Vee-Jay album thumbnails, heading by the words “Other fine albums of significant interest”. This is known as the “Ad Back” cover, and rare stereo copies are highly sought after.

A second variant, the “Blank Back”, had a plain white rear cover, four years before the White Album. This was likely to have been a stopgap design to meet demand after the initial cover prints had all been used.

The third version, known as “Titles on Back” or “Column Back”, simply showed the album title and twelve song titles, with the somewhat ambitious claim “America’s greatest recording artists are on Vee-Jay Records” underneath.

All three cover variants were printed in January 1964, and by the middle of the month Vee-Jay had shipped 79,169 mono and 2,202 stereo copies to its distributors. Yet on 16 January the label was hit with a restraining order prohibiting the manufacture and distribution of Introducing The Beatles because it contained ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’ – songs which the label did not have the rights to release.

Vee-Jay hurriedly replaced the songs with ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘Ask Me Why’, and rushed the new configuration into production. The two different tracklistings are known as Version One and Version Two, with the latter going on sale around 10 February 1964.

Version Two also had several variants in its cover design. Most, but not all, back covers added a comma to ‘Please Please Me’. Some copies came with a sticker stating “Featuring Twist And Shout and Please, Please Me”.

Some mono covers were used for stereo pressings, with a “Stereophonic” or “Stereo” sticker being affixed to the cover, or with “Stereophonic” and “SR 1062” machine stamped at the top.

The label’s use of numerous pressing plants to meet demand meant that there was a huge variety of label designs on the vinyl discs. Some had a rainbow band around the outside, whereas others were plain black with white lettering. At least three different Vee-Jay Records logos were used.

Chart success

Introducing The Beatles entered the Billboard Top LPs chart at number 59 on 8 February 1964. In week two it was up to 22, and the following week it reached number three.

On 29 February the album spent the first of nine consecutive weeks at number two, but was unable to surpass sales of Capitol’s Meet The Beatles!. Yet the Vee-Jay release spent 49 weeks on the chart, including 15 in the top ten, and sold over 1.3 million mono and 40,000 stereo copies.

Vee-Jay did not allow the RIAA to audit its sales, so Introducing The Beatles was not eligible for gold certification. Yet on 23 August 1964, at a ceremony held backstage at the Hollywood Bowl, the label’s president Randy Wood presented The Beatles with its own gold award.

Other titles

Vee-Jay’s licence to release Beatles music expired on 15 October 1964. Prior to that date, they issued a total of four albums, four singles, and an EP out of the 16 tracks it had rights to release.

The other albums, two of which were joint artist releases, were Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles And Frank Ifield On Stage , Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles, and The Beatles Vs The Four Seasons.

Counterfeit copies

The relative rarity of Introducing The Beatles, and its limited window of availability, meant that Introducing The Beatles was widely counterfeited from the mid-1960s onwards. The bootlegs can normally be identified by the cover printing quality, label design, or sound fidelity.

The first counterfeits featured a blurry cover photograph, and a colourband on the label which missed out some colours. A variant with a plain black label showed a Vee-Jay logo with large brackets, in a style which was not used by the label.

Many counterfeit covers were printed with a brown border surrounding the band photograph. Other dodgy versions omitted George Harrison’s shadow.

The most common way to spot a counterfeit is the positioning of The Beatles’ name on the record label. On all official releases it appeared above the spindle hole, just below the album title. On most – but not all – fake versions it appears below the hole.

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