Monday, June 9, 2014

Turn Left at Greenland, Part 6: ‘Beatles VI’

In this monthly feature on Psychobabble, I’ve been looking at how The Beatles were presented on long-playing vinyl in the United States.

Capitol started 1965 with a bit of necessary closet cleaning. Now that Vee-Jay’s lease was up on The Beatles’ early recordings, Capitol was free to put them out in an imaginatively titled package called The Early Beatles. For those who hadn’t picked up Introducing… The Beatles, this was a required—if out of date— purchase. Capitol made up for that with its next LP. Though the title of Beatles VI implied yet another routinely pushed out piece of product, the contents were actually fairly interesting. Several tracks were available for the very first time anywhere. Parlophone’s Help! was still a month away from publication in the UK, and George Martin gave Capitol the go ahead to use “Tell Me What You See” and George’s “You Like Me Too Much” since they weren’t used in the film. Of even greater historical interest are two Larry Williams covers the band recorded on May 10 because the Capitol record would have been short material otherwise. Although “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (misprinted on the Beatles VI album cover as “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”) would end up as a bit of filler at the end of Parlophone’s Help!, where it would be the final significant cover song on a non-compilation Beatles LP in the UK, “Bad Boy” would be The Beatles’ first and final recording intended for the U.S. market exclusively (nevertheless it would be put out in the UK soon enough as part of the A Collection of Beatles Oldies compilation when the guys couldn’t get together an LP in time for Christmas 1966), not to mention their wittiest and liveliest homage to the underrated New Orleans rocker. The inclusion of the gorgeously melancholy B-side “Yes It Is”, the only track to suffer from duophonic reverb excess this time, also helped to make Beatles VI the most unique Beatles LP Capitol slapped together since Second Album. 

The remaining six tracks were all left over from Beatles for Sale, though their lean toward trad Rock & Roll (with a couple of covers from Little Richard and Buddy Holly), rather than the band’s new brooding folk-rock direction made for a record with a decidedly different feel from Beatles ’65. Ironically, even as a number of these songs are fresh recordings that hadn’t even seen light in Britain yet, Beatles VI ends up sounding like a bit of a step backward after Beatles ’65. Only “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”, “Every Little Thing” and “Tell Me What You See” fall in line with the folkier feel of For Sale/’65 and much of the upcoming Help! Thus The Beatles’ story was becoming increasingly confusing in America. Not that it did anything to impede their success. The Yanks apparently weren’t too concerned about the relative lack of Lennon/McCartney songs or innovation, ensuring an appropriate six-week stint at number one on Billboard’s LP chart for Beatles VI. Interestingly, it would be the next Capitol LP that would really point toward future directions for The Beatles, and it wasn’t even the mere seven band originals that indicated that progression.
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