Something Lost in the Translation
New CDs don’t match old LPs track for track.
by Dr. Spin
June 30, 2003
Recently I was listening to the radio, where they were playing vinyl LPs. They were playing the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, and the first track was “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” In my CD collection, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is on my Help CD, and “Drive My Car” is the first song on Rubber Soul, which wasn’t played at all. How is this possible?
The reason for your confusion is simple; up until 1967 (and mainly due to the release of Sgt. Pepper) Beatles albums were released in Britain and the United States with slightly different mixes. Whereas in Britain the Beatles released 7 albums and numerous 45s and EPs between 1962 and 1966, in America the Beatles released 11 albums and numerous singles (and a few EPs) in the same time period. How was this possible? Shrewd people at Capitol (the Beatles’ American label) decided to cut the “lengthy” 14 song albums of Great Britain into 11 and 12 song albums, thus having a surplus of “extra” songs to create other albums. Plus A Hard Day’s Night and Help! were made into “soundtracks,” meaning a number of Beatle tunes were replaced by George Martin’s movie score.
When the Beatles’ albums were scheduled to be released on CD, the record executives at Capitol decided to restore the albums to their original order, finally allowing American audiences to enjoy the Beatles’ albums the way the rest of the world heard them. They also created two “new” albums, Past Masters, Volumes 1 and 2. These were all the singles the British LPs missed. This brought the Beatles’ catalog to a solid 16 set (2 CDs for the “White Album”).
The Beatles were not the only British act to suffer from “butchering” on their American releases. The Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Who all received similar treatments, in fact some bands had the same song appear on two or three albums!
For the most part George Martin and the Beatles were correct in the way they recorded and released their albums. Yet whoever chose the track sets in America deserves some credit; American albums such as The Early Beatles and Beatles IV are some great compilations, and I think “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is a much better opening track than “Drive My Car,” plus I miss the “false start” on “I’m Looking Through You” (a slight variation on the American track). And the Beatles’ decision to tack on “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” to the UK version of Help! seems like a strange choice; it’s the only cover song on the album, and it is a musical step backwards to a phase the Beatles were already outgrowing. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” sounds much more at home on Beatles VI.
As I lamented before, there is sometimes something lost with the extinction of the old LP. I am glad that some music stations revive the LP every now and then, and dust off their old vinyls for one more spin.
About the Author:
Dr. Spin still cherishes the very first Rock LP he ever received, The Beatles '65.
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