Capitol Records was started by Johnny Mercer in 1942, but in 1955 it was taken over by Britain’s EMI. Thus it was that America’s experience of the Beatles was channelled through a building in L.A. – that looked like the compressor’s heat-sink atop an old fridge.
This SHOULD have been routine – however, despite being wholly owned by EMI, Capitol Records INSISTED on being “autonomous” – which caused all SORTS of problems. For it seems that Capital was determined to USE the Beatles to make their POINT.
Which is why, in America, the Beatles experience was quite different from that in Britain.
It started with the beginning of the Beatles’ canon. In Britain, EMI’s marketing emphasis was on Paul’s melodic compositions – while Capitol concentrated on John’s more hard-edged rock ‘n’ roll output. Therefore, while Britain saw the Beatles as the driving force of a New Sound – America just saw them as a superior rock ‘n’ roll band.
And even when – having scored their first U.S. hit – the Beatles opened in the States, it did not stop. While EMI carefully marketed the Fab Four’s PRODIGIOUS output as a series of “event” singles, interspersed by “concept” albums – Capitol naused up the whole thing.
At this point, the historian could list ALL the differences twixt the U.S. and U.K. Beatles canon – but that would be tedious (and anyway – he cannot be arsed doing the research). Suffice to say that in addition to messing with mixes (like using their basement to add “echo” – and remixing mono mixes for “synth” stereo) the Capitol Beatles RELEASING programme was a MESS.
F’rinstance, “Magical Mystery Tour” was released in Britain as two 7″ discs, in a 7″ (plus a bit) “gatefold” booklet. Both discs had two tracks on one side and one on the other. Plus the booklet had a number of pages with pictures from the “special” that had featured the tracks. It sold for just under £1.
But across The Pond, Capitol wanted NONE of this. In America, records cost less – and not having been hit so hard by WW2, people had more MONEY. Thus the U.S. population bought ALBUMS. But since “Magical Mystery Tour” only had six tracks, this was a vexation.
So they issued the six tracks on Side One of an ALBUM – with a bunch of contemporaneous SINGLE tracks on Side Two. Then they blew up the cover of the gatefold booklet for the front of the album cover – and put a montage of its pages on the back.
The contemporaneous tracks included “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” – which had earlier been released as the first-ever major “double-A-side” single. These two tracks had been DRAGGED from the sessions where the boys were recording “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
This was possibly the ONLY mistake EMI ever made during their Beatles “campaign” – the tracks had originally been destined FOR that landmark album, but not having had a Beatles Hit for a while, EMI PANICKED.
And the fact the boys were about to launch a Pop ICON did not calm them. Having previously had a LEGENDARY run of Number One hits, a GAP in them could have been seen as the Beatles making a COMEBACK (things moved FAST in the Sixties).
But this hiccup was NOTHING compared to the dogs breakfast Capitol made of Beatles releases stateside. Had it not been for the fact that America was regularly treated to live, stadium gigs (something unheard-of in Britain at that time) and appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show – the Beatles might never have had the impact there which they did.
The fact is that thanks to Capitol Records’ POSTURING, it was only the Mop-Tops’ EXTRAORDINARY talent that enabled them to be the same thing in America that they were in Britain – they WERE the Sixties.