Thursday, December 04, 2014

Selling the Real Beatles

"Beatles For Sale," which was released 50 years ago today, marked a noteworthy shift in the evolution of Beatles' music.

Bookended by the albums that were released with their first two movies — "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!""Beatles For Sale" demonstrated the Beatles' increasing desire to showcase their own compositions and make them more autobiographical.

They still had some cover tunes on the album — by Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly — most of which had been regulars on their play lists in Germany, but more than half of the songs were original tunes. Actually, that proportion of originals to covers was the same as their first two albums before "A Hard Day's Night," but there was more of an edge to the original songs this time.

Gone were the puff pieces like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You." They were replaced with songs of loss and angst.

American listeners didn't get the chance to purchase "Beatles For Sale" for more than 20 years. In the practice of the day, American promoters sold part of the album combined with leftovers from other albums in an attempt to squeeze as much profit from Beatlemania as possible. After all, who knew how long Beatlemania would last?

The closest thing to "Beatles For Sale" that was available in the U.S. was "Beatles '65," which did contain what is probably my favorite song from either version, "Baby's in Black."

"Beatles '65" was a big hit in the United States even though it wasn't the same album that was released in Great Britain — and it had what was, initially, a controversial cover that the promoters had to change. Makes you wonder if, in the end, it was worth it to sell different versions of Beatles albums in the U.S. than were sold in the U.K.

In hindsight, I guess it really did make the American promoters re–think their approach to Beatles marketing. I don't believe any of the albums by other artists that those promoters marketed were sliced and diced that way for American consumption.