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The Failure of the Beatles in America 1963

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The first US single in 1963

The first US single in 1963

The last single in a desperate attempt 1963

The last single in a desperate attempt 1963

In 1964, rare Beatle recording were issued like this recorded in 1961

In 1964, rare Beatle recording were issued like this recorded in 1961

America Was Not Ready For Long Hair

The first American record company to show any interest in the Beatles in late 1962 was Vee-Jay Records, an R+B label with several black artists. But before anything could be done about it, the company had to secure licensing agreements with EMI, which they did via the US firm, Transglobal Music, who had rights to all EMI artists. EMI used Transglobal to secure rights to American artists for the British market and Europe. When EMI bought Capitol Records, USA, for $8.5 million, EMI had an open door to license American artists and allowed first rights to any British EMI artists for America.

The Key Man at Capitol

Dave Dexter, a man in his 40's in 1962, was a jazz music lover and one that had a bias against rock\pop music. He would be the reason why the Beatles were rejected by Capitol Records over and over in 1963. Dave was the only man responsible for screening all foreign EMI artists. When the Beatles released their first single, Love Me Do, on Oct.5, 1962 in England, it was just mediocre release for the most part. Sometime in November, a copy landed on Dexter's desk in L.A. for review. After hearing it, it was rejected for John's harmonica. Dave did not think it belonged in a pop song. He dismissed the band as just "kids". The only success Capitol had was with Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys.

The Beatles quickly released a follow-up single, Please Please Me, on Jan, 11, 1963. The first version of the song recorded was a slow, blues, song, which nobody was very happy with. It was later speeded up and altered. George Martin, the band's producer, declared it to be their first #1 song. They also had recorded, Tip of My Tongue, but that was rejected. In England, Please Please Me, was a huge success for them. By the end of December, Mr. Dexter had received and heard a copy of the song. Like before, he rejected the band with the same reason- John's harmonica did not belong in the song. When George Martin heard this, he flipped, but little could be done to force Capitol Records to release it in the USA.

Enter VJ Records

Since Capitol had rejected it, VJ, which also had a licensing agreement with EMI\Transglobal, was offered. EMI wanted the single to be released in the USA. Thus, VJ would receive 10% royalties. The song was released in the USA in February 1963, all 5,650 copies!

Airplay for the first Beatle song in the USA was minimal at best. The first disk jockey to play the single was at WLS. Dick Biondi played the single during his 9-12 slot. On the charts, the song never got passed #35 in the Top 100. Beating it in the ratings was Jan & Dean's song, Linda, at #9. The song had been written by Jack Lawrence for his six-year old daughter, Linda. Linda grew up to marry into the Eastman family and subsequently after divorce, married Paul McCartney, a Beatle! How strange is that? Also, at this time, the Beatles own idol as teens, Elvis, had a song in the #20 spot called, One Broken Heart For Sale.

In Canada

Back then, there was also a Capitol Records Canada. Their "Dave Dexter" was a Paul Wright, in charge of screening British artists. He was in his 50's then and was looking for something new and exciting. In January, 1963, he also had received the Beatles Love Me Do single for review and liked it very much. It was very different to the usual artists he heard and their look was new. He highly recommended its release, which was done on Feb. 22, 1963. He also had heard Please Please Me, That single was released in April 1963. Despite his own enthusiasm, Canadian youth, like Americans, rejected them. Love Me Do sold only 100 copies, while Please Please Me, just 180 copies!

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VJ Continues

VJ records saw modest success with Please Please Me and to follow up, released their From Me to You\Thank You Girl single on May 6, 1963. Like the previous songs, it failed. It never got into the Top 100. It managed only to reach #116. The same single was released in Canada from Capitol and only 500 copies sold. In the USA, VJ sold 12,675 copies. Now, in England, where Beatlemania had taken hold in parts, it was a #1 song for six weeks straight and high in charts for 16 weeks! Once can clearly see the impact of Beatlemania of things to come in North America.

But not yet. By August, 1963, VJ records was a failing company and near broke despite signing the Four Seasons that had several hits. The gamble with the Beatles never materialized. Because of the financial straits, VJ had failed to send the royalties owed to EMI. For Beatle sales, just $860, for all other artists, $7500. EMI terminated the licensing agreement which allowed Capitol Records USA to decide if they wanted the Beatles. Again, Dave Dexter, did not recommend them to the president of the company. Dave had received the Beatles latest single, She Loves You (their blockbuster) and laughed at it due to the "yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain. He told the president they were nothing special and president relied on this. George Martin was furious again. He was told that America is not ready for Beatle music.

After EMI had received another Capitol Records rejection, they shopped the song around to any American record company- RCA, Decca, A+M, Atlantic. All rejected the song in August 1963.

Enter Swan Records

This was just a little record company of no real value. One of the owners was Dick Clark of American Bandstand TV show fame. The show was for teens and the Top 40 songs were played and danced to. Swan had nothing to lose and all to gain with a release of She Loves You in mid-September 1963. When the song was played on American Bandstand, the teens rated it and Please Please Me poorly. They laughed at their longer hair styles and at the "yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain. The Swan print run was also small. In contrast, when the single was released in England on August 22, it sold 500,000 copies in two weeks and by November, over one million! However, in Canada, Capitol promoted more and by December, it was #1 there.

The Revelation

By November,1963, Canada, Britain, had fallen to Beatlemania for sure. It seemed like through bias and unawareness or negligence, Capitol Records USA, prevented success of the Beatles. There was Dave Dexter, the gatekeeper with personal bias against pop\rock music. There was the president of the company relying on underlings to discover talent.

That changed when the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, flew to New York on a promo tour. On Nov. 11, he met with Ed Sullivan TV fame, whose Sunday variety show was seen across the USA. Brian sealed a deal for their first US appearance for $3500 per show plus hotel expenses paid. This would happen on Feb. 9, 1964. During the tour, Brain called the president of Capitol records USA. He asked him why Capitol did not release them. Brian was shocked to hear that the president of Capitol records had never heard any of their singles because he relied of Dave Dexter and his opinion. Flabbergasted, Brian sent singles directly to the president. Once the president of Capitol records heard them, the president wanted to sign them to give the Beatles a shot.

Capitol Records USA signed with EMI by December, 1963. The company would spend over $50,000 in promos beginning in 1964. In 1963, the Beatles earned $280,000. In 1962, they earned $60 a week, at best. On Nov. 11, 1963, Time magazine was the first US publication to devote space to them in the headline, The New Madness. A week later, Newsweek, covered them with, Beatlemania.

Then, on Nov. 22, 1963, the first Beatle LP in England was released. In the US, President Kennedy was assassinated, and a nation mourned in shock.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. 1964 was the year Beatlemania hit America and the rest of the world.

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