As those grand new big Beatles boxed sets continue to clog up sales charts worldwide, let me tell you all a little story.
Being 8 years old in the Toronto suburbs of 1963, I was at the perfect age – and in the perfect place – to, yes, meet the Beatles. Because by the time “those four youngsters from Liverpool” hit the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964, my friends and I had already spent the past six months familiarizing ourselves with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr’s initial A-sides via Ontario’s mighty CHUM-AM.
In other words then, the British beat had no reason to invade Canada. It was invited.
Unlike with our big neighbors to the immediate South, you see, each of the Beatles’ earliest discs garnered automatic release on Capitol Records of Canada, beginning right at the beginning with “Love Me Do” in February ’63 (the version with Ringo on drums, by the way!), and the Canadian Beatles discography boasts many other rare slices of vintage vinyl totally unique to the genre, and as a result is extremely collectable.
For example, the Canadian Beatlemania! album not only sported an identical cover and track lineup, but was released the very same week With The Beatles was in the U.K. (making it the first Beatles album released anywhere within North America), and its 12-inch Capitol Canada follow-up, the Twist and Shout album – No. 1 on the Canadian charts for 10 weeks in early ’64 – was in fact the very first “big record” I ever had the pleasure to have owned.
And what a remarkable record it was: Fourteen action-packed tracks featuring all four of the band’s first U.K. 45 top-sides, plus a generous helping of Cavern-baked covers from their homeland debut album, Please Please Me. Being too young then to know, and still too young to care if nary a Beatle wrote each and every note or lyric herein, Carole King‘s “Chains” stacked so easily around Lennon/McCartney’s similarly George Harrison-sung “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” Burt Bacharach and Hal David‘s “Baby, It’s You” seamlessly followed Lennon and McCartney’s “P.S. I Love You” on T and S side 2, and the magnificent Arthur Alexander‘s “Anna (Go to Him),” which kicked off this entire collection, continues to this day to hold more than its own against any Beatles composition you or even I could mention.
And while Lennon’s wholly larynx-bursting “Twist and Shout” completed the first Beatles album in Great Britain, the ever-inventive Canadian Capitol chose to close its namesake long-player with none other than – wait for it – “She Loves You.” Take that, Sir George Martin! (and tell Dave Dexter Jr. the news)
Meanwhile, in the seven-inch division, “Please Please Me” actually hit the CFGP Top 40 in Grande Prairie, Alberta, in April ’63, while two of Capitol Canada’s most unique couplings, “All My Loving”/”This Boy” and “Roll Over Beethoven”/”Please Mister Postman,” sold sufficient (smuggled) copies to reach even the American Hot 100 a year later. Also, the U.S. Tollie label “Twist and Shout”/”There’s a Place” 45, which hit No. 2 on Billboard in April 1964, was an identically-formed Canadian Capitol Top 10 much, much earlier.
Plus, may I just add that every single one of the above-mentioned original deep-grooved, meticulously mastered Canadian (mono!) pressings put their U.S. counterparts – not to mention even the latest CD incarnations, truth to tell – to total, unequivocal sonic shame. Really!
The moral of this absolutely Fab Four story? Good music is good music, and shall forever remain so — regardless of the size, format, packaging, advertising budget or even country-of-origin of the item in hand.
And of course, any discussion of very, very good music that doesn’t contain multiple uses of the word “Beatles” is a discussion I just must immediately bow out from.
P.S., and in closing: Is it only me, or is the Beatles Rock Band animation a tad cheesier than even that of the old Beatles cartoon series?
Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.