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Lennon was not a fan of Beatles U.S. album versions, now to be released on CD

On Thursday, Universal Music announced that they will be releasing a new set of The Beatles U.S. album versions on CD. In the 1960s, American Beatles fans never saw the first seven Beatles albums that were released in England -- at least not in the same configurations. The fact is that in the United States, Capitol Records actually released 13 different versions of Beatles albums than were released in the U.K. and this was a constant source of frustration to The Beatles themselves.

The Beatles in Washington DC, February 1964
Credit: Capitol Photo Archives

By the time The Beatles got signed to Capitol Records in late 1963, they had already released two albums in England, "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles." Instead of releasing identical versions of the U.K. albums in the US, Capitol decided to release their own versions of Beatles albums starting with "Meet The Beatles."

Furthermore, the U.S. record executives had a whole different strategy for releasing Beatles records. They did not want to sell the same Beatles albums released in the U.K. because those albums featured 14 songs. Capitol thought it would be better for business to release new Beatles albums with only 11 or 12 songs and featuring different song configurations.

So, while John, Paul, George and Ringo spent their precious time specifically choosing songs for each of their U.K. albums, Capitol ended up rearranging, adding and removing songs to those configurations resulting in noticeably different album versions. You could say the first seven Beatles albums were 'butchered' by Capitol all in the name of business.

"We made only, say, 10 albums actually and in America there seemed to be 30 of them," John Lennon said in a 1974 radio interview. "We would sequence the albums how we thought they should sound. We put a lot of work into the sequencing," Lennon continued. "We almost got to not care what happened in America because it was always different... It used to drive us crackers 'cause we'd make an album and then they'd keep two from every album."

Although they were extremely unhappy with what Capitol was doing with their albums, The Beatles unfortunately had little control over it... until finally the record executives had no other choice but to follow The Beatles' lead. The turnaround happened with none other than The Beatles' groundbreaking album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Since it was a 'concept' album which did not have breaks between the songs, how could Capitol rearrange and 'butcher' the album but still keep the album's artistic integrity?

Luckily, the tide had changed. ''Sgt. Pepper" and The Beatles' remaining albums were, for the most part, kept intact for U.S. fans. Also, the fact that The Beatles started their own record label, Apple, in 1968 also helped the group retain control over their album releases.

If your first exposure to The Beatles music was through their CDs, then you would never know about this U.K./U.S. discrepancy. When The Beatles first released their catalog on CD in 1987, they insisted that only their original U.K. album versions be released.

But still there is a feeling of nostalgia for the U.S. album versions among the fans who grew up with them. Beatles expert and author, Bruce Spizer, commented: "While the Capitol albums are not what the Beatles intended, they are legitimate Beatles records that deserve to be heard today. After all, these are the records that exposed millions of Americans to the brilliant music of the Beatles."

That is why in January 2014, Capitol (now owned by Universal) is releasing a new box set featuring all 13 U.S. Beatles albums that differ from their U.K. counterparts. Eight of the albums were previously released on CD in the 2000s ("The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2"), but this is the first time albums like "A Hard Day's Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)," "The Beatles' Story," "Yesterday and Today," "Hey Jude" and the U.S. version of "Revolver" will be released on CD.

The CDs will be available in a box set or individually (with the exception of "The Beatles' Story" interview album). The release celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America in February 1964.

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