Monday, June 09, 2008

Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles Records On Vee-Jay



First published April 27, 1998
498 Productions

Complete story of their records on Vee-Jay--

How creative marketing turned 16 Beatles songs into a comprehensive catalog of multiple 45, EP and album releases taken together, are worth more today than all other American Beatles records combined.

How the Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, a Chicago-based independent label that specialized in R&B and Gospel recordings.

Court records and Vinyl records
Capitol Records, Inc. vs. Vee-Jay Records, Inc.
Beechwood Music, Inc. vs. Vee-Jay Records, Inc.
The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons

The stories behind the ad back and Jolly What!

The legal battle over Songs, Pictures and Stories.

When the records were pressed.
Where the records were pressed.
How many copies were sold, and
Why some records are so much rarer than others.

How to tell the difference between counterfeit Vee-Jay records and the real thing.

How Vee-Jay lost, reclaimed and lost the Beatles.

Hundreds of color pictures, including all known variations of album covers, picture sleeves and record labels, Billboard and Cash Box trade ads, royalty statements and checks issued to Capitol Records, promotional mailers, catalogs, posters and other cool stuff!

"Well researched and masterfully compiled, this colorful book is a must have for Beatles record collectors and historians, as well as anyone having any interest in the group. No matter how much you think you know about the Beatles and their records, you'll know so much more after reading this entertaining and informative book!"
-Perry Cox



The first record released in the United States to bear the Beatles name was VJ 498, which was released on or about February 20, 1963. The single contained the group's second British 45 RPM single, Please Please Me backed with Ask Me Why, and was released in England on January 11, 1963, as Parlophone 45-R 4983. Both songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The version of Please Please Me released on the single was recorded on November 26, 1962. As was the practice at that time, the song was recorded with all the band members simultaneously playing their instruments and singing. Only John's harmonica part was overdubbed. The group's producer, George Martin, was very satisfied with the feel of the song and predicted it would be a number one hit.
The group had previously attempted to record Please Please Me on September 11, 1962, at a session in which Ron Richards served as producer in place of George Martin. After P.S. I Love You and a remake of Love Me Do had been recorded with session drummer Andy White on drums, the group began recording Please Please Me when George Martin arrived at the session. According to Martin, the song was "a very dreary song," which "was like a Roy Orbison number, very slow, bluesy vocals." He told the group to speed up the tempo and work out tight vocal harmonies. Following Martin's advice, the group recorded the song at a quicker pace, but failed to nail it down. This early version is interesting, but suffers in comparison to the released single. Conspicuously absent from this version is John's distinctive harmonica and John and Paul's Everly Brothers style harmonies. It is presumed that Andy White also played drums on this run through of the song. This unsuccessful attempt at the song was uncovered in 1994 and made its debut on Apple's Anthology 1 in 1995.
After the single was released, the Beatles played the song a dozen times on various BBC radio programs, first as a performance before a live audience at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester on January 16, 1963, which was broadcast on Here We Go eight days later. Unfortunately tapes of this performance, as well as six other performances of the song on the BBC, have yet to surface. Great Dane's excellent 9 CD bootleg box set. The Complete BBC Sessions, does contain four performances of the song; however, the song does not appear on Apple's 1994 Live At The BBC.
During their first visit to the United States, the group performed the song at their February 11, 1964, Washington Coliseum concert, which was filmed for release to theaters. The live version of Please Please Me on part three of The Beatles Anthology video is from this concert. The Beatles also taped a performance of the song on the afternoon of February 9, 1964, for broadcast on February 23 on The Ed Sullivan Show. This performance is included on The First U.S. Visit video.
The Beatles included a portion of the song in a medley of their first five British singles, which was recorded on April 19, 1964, at IBC Studios. The group lip-synced the medley on the television program Around The Beatles, which was broadcast nine days later. The musical portions of the show were released on the video Ready Steady Go! Special Edition/The Beatles Live.
The B side, Ask Me Why, was recorded at the same November 26, 1962, session as Please Please Me. The song had been part of the group's stage show for at least a half a year as evidenced by their recording of the song before a live audience at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester on June 11, 1962. This performance was broadcast four days later on the BBC program Here We Go and appears on The Complete BBC Sessions. The arrangement is very similar to the later recorded single, but features Pete Best on drums since it was recorded prior to his being replaced by Ringo Starr. Of the three other BBC performances of the tune, only one is currently available and can be found on The Complete BBC Sessions. A live version of the song also appears on the Live At The Star Club album, which was recorded at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, in late December of 1962.
When the single was released in England on January 11, 1963, George Martin's prediction of the song becoming a number one came true, at least on some of the charts. While Please Please Me only reached the number two position in the Record Retailer listing published by Record Mirror, it hit the coveted number one spot in Melody Maker, New Musical Express and Disc.
In the United States, the record suffered an entirely different fate. For starters, Vee-Jay wasn't quite sure what it had with the Beatles. Was the group pop, R&B or country & western? A Vee-Jay ad in Cash Box, shown on the following page, covered all three chart possibilities. Interestingly enough, Vee-Jay did not even know how to spell the group's name. All initial issues of the record, as well as advertisements in the trade journals, added an extra "T" to the name. Thus, when VJ 498 was released in February of 1963, it was credited to THE BEATTLES. The songwriters were listed as "J. Lennon-P. McCartney."
Although the single received minimal attention and failed to chart in any of the major trade magazines, it was not a total stiff. Vee-Jay sold approximately 5,650 copies during the first half of 1963. By mid-year the record had run its course as evidenced by Vee-Jay's claim that only two copies were sold in the last six months of 1963. A limited pressing of the single in 1964 added sales of approximately 1,650 units, raising total sales to 7,310 copies.
There are six label variations to the stock (retail) copies of this historic and highly collectible single. In addition, there is a promotional copy and an oddball stock copy that pairs different label types for the A side and the B side. Although some of the variations are relatively minor, all variations have been given separate numeric listings as collectors have placed significance on each different pressing. The Disc Jockey Advance Sample copy of the record and three distinct variations of the stock copy have the word "BEATTLES" misspelled on the label.
Most Beatles historians and record collectors have long held the belief that the stock copy variation of VJ 498 with the "BEATTLES" misspelling and thin print was the first issue of the record because its label has the same typesetting as the promotional copy. A careful inspection of the trail off areas of the records and documents filed in Vee-Jay's New York lawsuit against Capitol reveals that this theory is wrong. To fully udnerstand VJ 498, one must examine both court records and vinyl records.
Vee-Jay entered into a written agreement with Transglobal Music Co., Inc. on January 10, 1963, in which Vee-Jay was given the exclusive right to manufacture and sell phonograph records made from two Beatles masters, namely Please Please Me and Ask Me Why. Shortly thereafter, Vee-Jay received a master tape from EMI containing the two songs. The tape was then sent to Universal Recording Corporation in Chicago for mastering, a process that involves the cutting of lacquer discs. The recording engineer who cut the lacquers hand etched his initials "RA" into the trail off area of the discs, along with each song's master number. Please Please Me was assigned number 63-2967 and Ask Me Why was assigned number 63-2968.
On January 18, 1963, the lacquers were sent to Audio Matrix, Inc., a company in the Bronx, New York, to prepare the metal parts necessary to manufacture the records. As discussed in greater detail on page 88, these metal parts included masters, mothers and the actual stampers used to press the records. The masters and mothers were prepared by Audio Matrix and the stampers were generated from the mothers by either Audio Matrix or the pressing plant. Metal parts produced by Audio Matrix have the company's logo machine stamped into their trail off areas, which transfers to the finished record. The sharpness of the logo varies among individual records. This is due to the image on the stamper wearing down from excessive use. On some discs the words "Audio Matrix" are clearly visible while on others all that remains is what appears to be a series of dots.
Fortunately for Beatles historians, a handful of Audio Matrix invoices were filed into the record of the New York court proceedings. Three separate Audio Matrix invoices dated January 29, 1963, indicate that the company prepared 45 RPM metal parts for master numbers 63-2967 and 63-2968 (Please Please Me and Ask Me Why) for Vee-Jay and shipped these parts to three different factories: "Am Records Press," "Monarch" and "Southern Plastics."
Vee-Jay, like most small, independent labels, did not press its own records. Instead, the company had the metal parts sent to regional factories for manufacture. Records were then sent directly from these pressing plants to distributors, who in turn sent records to retailers and other distributors. In 1963, three of the primary pressing plants used by Vee-Jay were The American Record Pressing Co. in Owosso, Michigan, Monarch Records in Los Angeles, California and Southern Plastics in Nashville, Tennessee.
Records pressed by The American Record Pressing Co. ("ARP") in 1963 and 1964 have a raised relief script "ARP" machine stamped logo in the trail off areas. They also have thin print throughout the label. All Vee-Jay records manufactured at this factory in 1963 have the song title and artist's name in capital letters below the center hole and all other words in upper and lower case letters. The master number and the word "Vocal" are to the left of the center hole and the publishing information and running time of the song are to the right. The records are pressed in vinyl and have a raised area for the label that drops off one-half inch from the center hole. As is the case with the Audio Matrix logo, the appearance of the script "ARP" logo varies among individual records. On some discs all letters are clearly visible while on others only a part of the logo is noticeable. The location of the logo in the trail off areas may also vary among copies of the same release, indicating that the records were pressed by different stampers created from the same mother.
The discs manufactured by Monarch Records are easily identified by a circled symbol machine stamped in the trail off areas, which also contain a hand etched job number preceded by a delta symbol. On Vee-Jay discs pressed by Monarch, the song title and artist's name are located below the center hole in capital letters and thick print. The remaining information is in small print with the master number and the word "Vocal" to the left of the center hole and the time and publishing information to the right. A raised rim separates the label from the end of the trail off space. Monarch singles are made of styrene, a plastic compound, rather than vinyl. Although the sharpness of the logo varies from record to record, it is normally the easiest of the machine stamped logos to detect.
By process of elimination, the third variation of the misspelled VJ 498 must have been pressed by Southern Plastics. These Vee-Jay records have thin print throughout the label, with the song title and artist's name in all capital letters below the center hole. The names of the songwriters are in upper and lower case "microprint." All other information is in capital letters. As is the case with the ARP and Monarch labels, the master number and the word "VOCAL" are to the left of the center hole and the time and publishing information are to the right. There is no factory logo in the trail off areas. The records are pressed in vinyl and have a raised area for the label that drops off about one-half inch from the center hole. Singles pressed by Southern Plastics up to and including VJ 498 have a "#" symbol preceding the record number. Starting with Vee-Jay 499, Frank Ifield's The Wayward Wind, the "#" symbol is replaced with the VJ prefix or no prefix at all.
All variations of Vee-Jay Beatles records pressed in 1963, as well as many pressed in 1964, have the initials "RA" and the master number hand etched and the Audio Matrix logo machine stamped in their trail off areas. The characteristics discussed above apply not only to 1963 Beatles records on Vee-Jay, but also to most of the records of other Vee-Jay artists released during the same time frame.
Because all three variations of the misspelled "BEATTLES" stock copies were manufactured with metal parts sent to the three different regional pressing plants on the same day, it makes little sense to claim that any one of these discs was released prior to the other two. All three misspelled variations are original issue records. Nonetheless, the thin type version of the record has been assigned number VJ 498.01 in deference to the long held belief that it alone is the original issue. Old myths die hard. This record has thin silver lettering on a black label with an oval logo and outer rim colorband. The initials "ARP" appear in script in the trail off areas, indicating that this record was pressed by The American Record Pressing Co. Although this is not the rarest of the VJ 498 singles, it has been the most sought after as collectors are attracted both to the novelty of the group's name being misspelled and to the record's purported status as the first Beatles record issued in the United States. While the single My Bonnie, Decca 31382, was released over ten months earlier in April of 1962, it is not a true Beatles record as the group only served as backing musicians for Tony Sheridan and was listed on the label as "The Beat Brothers."
The other two variations of the stock copy with the double T misspelling are similar to VJ 498.01, but are clearly distinguishable. VJ 498.02 also has silver print on a black label with the outer rim colorband featuring the oval logo, but the song titles and the group's name are in thicker print than on the other variations. The symbol machine stamped in the trail off areas indicate that this styrene disc was pressed by Monarch Records. The trail off areas also contain the job numbers 46527 hand etched on the A side and 46527-X on the B side.
Although VJ 498.03 has the same colorband oval logo label and thin print as VJ 498.01, there are noticeable differences. These include a "#" symbol preceding the record number, the words "VOCAL" and "TIME" and the publishing information entirely in capital letters, the songwriter credits in microprint and the lack of a pressing plant logo in the trail off areas. It has been determined that this variation was manufactured by Souther Plastics. Of all the misspelled label variations, this "#498" version is the rarest.
The promotional copy of the record, VJ 498.DJ1, is similar to VJ 498.01 as it was also manufactured by ARP. Its typesetting is identical to the ARP stock copy down to the misspelling of the group's name in thin print. The record's white label features an oval logo and an outer rim "colorband" with varying shades of gray. It has black print lettering, "Disc Jockey Advance Sample" to the left of the center hole and "NOT FOR SALE" to the right. Its trail off area markings are identical to those of VJ 498.01, indicating that the ARP stock and promotional discs were pressed from the same stampers.
Vee-Jay eventually realized its mistake of misspelling the group's name, so later issues of the record corrected the error. VJ 498.04 is a crude attempt to fix the misspelled name. The label is identical to the label of VJ 498.03, the "#498" variation, except that one "T" has been physically removed. The label takes on an amateurish appearance as "THE BEATLES" is not recentered and the "LES" part of the name does not line up properly with the first part of the name (see page 9). The trail off areas are identical to those of VJ 498.03, indicating that both records were pressed from the same stampers by Southern Plastics.
The corrected thick print oval variation, VJ 498.05, does have "THE BEATLES" properly centered below the title and above "VJ 498." The markings in the trail off areas are identical to those of VJ 498.02, indicating that both discs were pressed by Monarch with the same stampers. Vee-Jay distributor invoices document that Monarch shipped 1,565 copies of VJ 498 to Field Music Sales during March and April of 1963. It is not known how many of these had corrected labels.
VJ 498.06 has the same thick print and correct spelling as 498.05, but is printed on a label backdrop featuring Vee-Jay's brackets logo. These label backdrops were first printed by Ivy Hill Lithograph Corp. in Great Neck, New York, in January 1964. A review of invoice summary sheets for the first quarter of 1964 indicates that 1,650 copies of the record were pressed and solid in early March of 1964. These bracket label discs were manufactured by Monarch Records with the same stampers used for VJ 498.02 and 498.05.
Vee-Jay was never in a financial position to scrap labels or records that should have been replaced. Thus, existing labels were used until the inventory was fully depleted. This policy led to a strange variation of the single, VJ 498.07, which has the correctly spelled brackets label of VJ 498.06 on one side and the misspelled oval label of VJ 498.02 on the other. There are two variations of this oddball California pressing. VJ 498.07A pairs the correctly spelled brackets label on the Please Please Me side with the misspelled oval label on the Ask Me Why side. VJ 498.07B is a mirror image of the preceding disc, pairing the misspelled oval label on the Please Please Me side with the correctly spelled brackets label on the Ask Me Why side. These are certainly the rarest versions of the record as they are variations of the limited 1964 bracket pressing. They are also the only records to have the group's name spelled incorrectly on one side and correctly on the other.
Unlike many later offerings, no picture sleeve was issued for this early Beatles record. Instead, it was often distributed in center cut sleeves printed with Vee-Jay logos. Versions VJ 498.01 through 498.05 would have originally come in VJ RS.01 (the sleeve shown on page 3). Versions VJ 498.06 and 498.07, which have bracket logo labels, are normally found in VJ RS.02 sleeves. This 1964 sleeve (shown on page 103) features the brackets logo and the phrase "SINGLES OF SIGNIFICANCE."
As it is estimated that less than 7,500 copies of this record were pressed, it should come as no surprise that all version of VJ 498 are quite scarce. Accordingly, the value gap between what were once considered the more common variations and the so-called rare variations is closing.


tommy said...

I have a Vee Jay 45 record that the Label says "Please Please Me" by The Beatles and the record actually plays "Good Night My Love" by the Four Seasons. It appears to be mislabled. Does anyone know about this. Please email me at

Anonymous said...

I have a beatles record album, songs and pictures of the fabulous beatles. does anyone know the value? email