Meet The Mono Beatles!
A look at John, Paul, George and Ringo's first Stateside LP Meet The Beatles! - which, as you will see, was very different to its UK counterpart(s)...
What Is It?: Before 'the album' became a valid art form (man), 'product'-hungry American record labels used to chop and change releases by the latest British pop sensations in the hope of artificially creating two albums out of one, thereby hoodwinking Anglo-obsessed youngsters into parting with twice as much cash for the oddly titled likes of Hey It's England's Rolling Stones and A Birthday Beatle For You. The Beatles’ early albums were often tampered with for American release, right up to and including Revolver, and were often almost unrecognisable from the original albums, giving rise to a weird alternate history of a story you thought you knew only too well. This mangling of official second album With The Beatles - running to a mere twenty seven minutes - was how Capitol chose to introduce those crazy Beatle Boys to the American public.
The Cover: It's pretty much the iconic nasally-advantaged cover of With The Beatles, only with a subtle 'blue' tint to prevent Stateside pop fans from getting confused and hyperventilating on the freeway or something, and a standard issue 'Original Cast Of West Side Story Sing Songs From Seven Brides For Seven Brothers'-type strap across the top. 'The first album by England's phenomenal pop combo', it says here.
The Back Cover: Seemingly endless sleevenotes by one Rory Guy - apparently a highbrow pundit who had his name removed lest his association with those goddamn moptops led to him being expelled from 'classical' - about how 'today there isn't a Britisher who doesn't know their names' and 'only a hermit could be unaware of The Beatles', accompanied by some Beatlemania-gauging facts and figures.
1. I Want To Hold Your Hand: Fifth UK single and first US single becomes first track on US first album based on UK second album. Confused? You will be. Anyway, you all know how this goes (unless you've spent your entire existence wearing special 'Beatle-blocker' attachments), so there's little point going on about it, apart from to say that on this album it appears in a rare 'fake stereo' incarnation. Not exactly high on the list of must-hear rarities.
2. I Saw Her Standing There: And here's the b-side of that second US single, originally the first track on the first UK album. Well, we did say it was going to get more confusing. Again, it's a bit too well known to really warrant further discussion, though the mono version of the album apparently features a rare mono mix made by simply combining both stereo channels into one. Save your money.
3. This Boy: Doo-wop friendly b-side of the original UK I Want To Hold Your Hand, once again presented here in completist-exciting 'fake stereo' uninterestingness. One of the uncelebrated gems of the early Beatles catalogue (which, as we shall see, tend to be a bit thin on the ground), and indeed the one that controversially saw Lennon & McCartney named 'Composers of the Year' by The Times, though perhaps better known in its George Martin-shepherded instrumental version as heard in the bit in A Hard Day's Night where Ringo goes for a stroll through some bins.
4. It Won’t Be Long: Finally we're on to the first track of With The Beatles proper, and it's the one that should have seen their 'Composers of the Year' award taken away, as it's pretty much a jumbled-up retread of all of their hit singles to date (along with, erm, The Rutles' Hold My Hand). Apparently Bob Dylan liked the 'chords'.
5. All I’ve Got To Do: We're still on a proper tracklisting bearing with this Lennon-instigated number specifically written for the 'American market', in that it contains references to phoning a girl when at that time all British citizens had one phone between two and had to go to a special 'Phone Emporium' to use it, and even that caused Tony Hancock to roll his eyes at the unstoppable march of modernity. Pretty good song, mind you.
6. All My Loving: Side One closes with the Beatles song that everyone thinks was a single even though it actually wasn't, and the best song on this album (and, for that matter, on With The Beatles) by some considerable distance. Everything that was great about pre-Swinging London sixties pop in two minutes flat. Pinky And Perky's version is better, though.
1. Don’t Bother Me: More by accident than design, Side Two opens with a George Harrison number; his first released composition in fact. 'The Quiet One' was already starting to add a bit of colour and variety to Beatle releases with his moodier and more introspective compositions, and it's this understated minor key marvel, more than anything else on the album, that points the way towards the music they would go on to make.
2. Little Child: Written for Ringo but sung by Lennon, the song that even Paul McCartney describes as 'filler' fails to impress on any level, despite it apparently having taken them an unprecedented three recording sessions to get a satisfactory performance on tape. The lyrics, meanwhile, are probably best skirted over.
3. Till There Was You: A Merseybeated-up rendition of a song originally from striped-blazers-ahoy Broadway musical The Music Man, and doubtless included to emphasise the Fab Four's versatility as all-round entertainers.
4. Hold Me Tight: Space-saving begins in earnest as workmanlike covers of Please Mr. Postman and Roll Over Beethoven are dropped from the running order, and instead it's straight on to a straight-ahead rocker that both Lennon and McCartney are on record as having hated. Well, at least it's not an uninspired amble through somebody else's song.
5. I Wanna Be Your Man: A cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me gets the boot – like all of the jettisoned With The Beatles tracks, it would show up Stateside on The Beatles' Second Album a mere three months later – and instead here's an uninspired amble through a song that they gave to somebody else. Argue if you must, but there's really no way a polite hello-all-our-pals-at-the-Royal-Variety-performance Ringo-sung original could compete with the ferocious Rolling Stones snarl released a couple of weeks earlier.
6. Not A Second Time: And it's bye bye to a retread of forgotten rock'n'roll hit Devil In Her Heart by forgotten rock'n'rollers The Dovays, skipping ahead to this celebrated bit of moodiness with George Martin doing some weird piano. With The Beatles' one hlafway decent cover version Money is lopped off the end too, meaning that this is the last track, and so the first American Beatles album ends not with a raucous rock'n'roll thud but with a hastily-executed fade-out. Still, it must have left them wanting more.