Today we have Meet The Beatles! It’s the first American release of Beatles material, but no, not really, because Vee-Jay released Introducing…The Beatles! ten days earlier (with two different sets of tracks due to legal issues). And although Meet The Beatles! is basically our version of their second UK album, With the Beatles, a handful of songs were omitted for later inclusion on The Beatles’ Second Album – which was the technically the third.
Yes. It all is a little confusing. Not until the Beatles released their catalog on CD were the albums standardized around the world, utilizing their original UK releases (with the addition of Past Masters for the UK’s non-album tracks the US put on their releases). But for a long time before that, American Beatles fans were getting repackaged grab-bags of Beatles tunes. No matter though. We’re listening to the Mono version of Capitol’s record and will resist any major comparison to the Parlophone release of With The Beatles, of which I’m barely familiar with anyway (yes, I’m really ashamed to admit that).
I pulled the record off my shelve and immediately realized that someone had beaten the hell out of it. The spine was eradicated, making it virtually invisible whenever I quickly eyeball my collecting. The vinyl itself looked like someone used it to test out ball-point pens. My poor little Beatles album needs replacing, and so will my stylus once we’re done here.
Once I got past the excessive cleaning and spotty quality of my vinyl, I found that Meet the Beatles absolutely delivers a fabulous collection of two-minute pop ditties. It embodies the best of early 60’s rock with some British beat (characterized by strong harmonies) and even a touch of Doo-Wop thrown-in for good measure. I can say Capitol put together a nice little package, even if purists beg to differ. There’s no down time here; every song’s a toe-tapper. Eschewing the cover songs from the UK edition in favor of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, and both its B-Sides (“This Boy” from the UK, “I Saw Her Standing There” from the US) may actually have been a rational decision from their standpoint.
Undoubtedly the most interesting song on this record is “Til There Was You”, written by Meredith Wilson from the play The Music Man, a minor hit for Peggy Lee in ’61, and sung beautifully here by Paul McCartney. Not only did the Beatles do a show tune, but it was also the song performed for Decca Records before they passed on the ‘Fab Four’. And dig those crazy bongos, man….
Also of interest is “I Wanna Be Your Man”, a fun but under-appreciated gem. Written by Lennon/McCartney and given to The Rolling Stones who released it as a single a few weeks prior to its inclusion on the UK’s With The Beatles, Lennon admitted it was a ‘throwaway’ track. They handed over vocals duties to Ringo and, despite John’s feelings towards it, I think it’s a lively burst of rock and I can’t stop humming it.
Honestly, we can talk about the songs all day but as I mentioned before, they’re all excellent. Of particular interest though is the copy on the back designed to ‘sell’ US record consumers on ‘Beatlemania’. A quick bio on the band’s a given but then they give various examples of the phenomenon taking place overseas. One in particular states, “In Dublin, Ireland, the Beatles’ first visit set off a mob free-for-all resulting in unnumbered broken limbs.” I’m used to exaggerations during a pitch, but history has told us that Capitol probably employed little-to-no hyperbole when writing this.
Though I wish I had a better copy, it was great to acquaint myself with the Beatles early material, much of which I sadly paid little mind. This album served as a great (official) introduction to American audiences and still sounds fresh today, even after the musical landscape has shifted, evolved, and devolved. Though its from a bygone era of rock history, the Beatles have made it timeless. Once I get a cleaner copy (or better yet, invest in the remastered box set of the now standardized catalog, my baffling loyalty to vinyl be damned), it’ll be revisited quite often.