THE BEATLES B.C. -- Before Capitol

Part One

Last Updated: 24 My 06

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Beatles records in the United States are typically found on the Capitol or Apple label. But people often ask about records, such as Introducing the Beatles, which were released by companies other than Capitol/Apple. In these articles, I will attempt to discuss the history of Beatles recordings in the US which predate their Capitol contract. Known variations of those records will be listed, along with their approximate values.

The first Beatles record released anywhere was "My Bonnie" and "The Saints," with the Beatles backing Tony Sheridan. This German record (Polydor NH 24-673) was issued in two forms (with a German intro or an English intro) and with a picture sleeve. [More information can be found in this article about the Beatles' association with Tony Sheridan.] "My Bonnie" was Tony's first record and his break into the record industry.

As many people know, the word "Beatles" was considered difficult to interpret by Germans, so Polydor billed the artist as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (October 1961). From that point on, Tony's band was known as the Beat Brothers, which caused some confusion to later Beatles fans.

In January of 1962, Beatles manager Brian Epstein began negotiating with Polydor to release "My Bonnie" in England. Because of his negotiations, the UK "My Bonnie" release (Polydor NH 66-833) showed the artist as "Tony Sheridan and the Beatles." The record sold modestly, apparently well enough to consider releasing it in America.

Decca Records in the US was responsible for issuing most of Polydor's Deutche Grammophon series records, of which "My Bonnie" was one. Therefore, it was Decca who released the first Beatles record in the US, credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (Decca 31382). Actually, the word "released" has to be used loosely. It can be verified that promotional copies were sent out, but since there are so few copies of the commercial single in existence (about twenty), it is generally believed that these were scrapped in production due to poor airplay of the promo single. This single is the "English intro" version and dates to April, 1962. As the first American release, it deserves mention here:

"My Bonnie"/"The Saints" Decca 31382

pink label (promo). NOTE: This record has been counterfeited. Original copies have the matrix number stamped into the trail-off by machine. All copies with "My Bonnie" on both sides are fakes.
SI = 8
                                               NM value:  $2250

"My Bonnie/The Saints" Decca 31382
black label with "DECCA" at left and rainbow at right. This single can be found with or without print in the rainbow. While rainbow print copies are fewer in number, the overall rarity of the single makes differentiating their values impossible. This record has been counterfeited. Originals must have the rainbow at right and should have the matrix number stamped into the trail-off by machine. All copies with all-black labels are fakes.
SI = 10
                                               NM value:  $12,000+

From this point on, this article will deal exclusively with the Beatles' material recorded for Parlophone (EMI) in England and released here. The aforementioned article on the Sheridan material deals with that body of work in more detail.

Although the Beatles had a (suspicious) top 20 hit in the UK with "Love Me Do," EMI affiliates outside England were reluctant to pick up the single. The US affiliate, Capitol records, declined to issue the single. When it came time for the Beatles second single to be issued, Capitol again passed on their opportunity to issue Beatles records. Parlophone (EMI) transferred US rights of all Beatles recordings to Transglobal Music Co., a partner of Capitol-EMI who sought record companies to release EMI recordings in the USA. Vee Jay Records, a Chicago-based record label known mainly for gospel and R&B (and the Four Seasons), was partnered with Transglobal and picked up the Beatles US contract, signing an agreement on Jan 10, 1963 to issue one Beatles single. Within eight days, lacquer discs of the single were prepared, and metal mothers and stampers were ordered to be produced. By January 29th, the stampers were produced. On February 7th, the songs were entered into copyright in the US, and the record was released on about Feb 20, 1963. Tradition gives the date as the 25th.

"Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why" promo copies were sent out, garnering some airplay. Apparently due to a mistake at Transglobal, promo copies and the first commercial copies misspelled the group's name "Beattles." The single was available all the way through 1963 (and into 1964), and later copies corrected this mistake.

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
white label with grey rim. Label reads "Disc Jockey Advance Sample" and "NOT FOR SALE." The Vee Jay logo appears in an oval with a treble clef, henceforth called the "oval logo". Artist shown as THE BEATTLES.
SI = 7
                                                           value:  $1200

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. Oval logo. Artist shown as THE BEATTLES. On this issue, the authors' credits use up almost as much space as "PLEASE PLEASE ME."
This is commonly called the "thin print" version. Pressed by the American Record Pressing Co. (called ARP from here on)
SI = 9
                                                           value: $1500

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. Oval logo. Artist shown as THE BEATTLES. On this issue, the authors' credits are much smaller than the song title "PLEASE PLEASE ME."
Pressed in styrene by Monarch Records (MR).
SI = 8
                                                         value: $1200

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. Oval logo. Artist shown as THE BEATTLES. On this issue, the record number is shown as # 498 instead of "VJ 498" like the preceding three records. "CONCERTONE SONGS" is in all capital letters.
Manufactured by Southern Plastics (called Southern from here on)
SI = 9
                                                     value: $1800

The above are all original issues (from three different factories), dating to 1963. Later in 1963, the spelling error was corrected.

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. Oval logo. Artist's name correct. On this issue, the titles are not in bold face. The record number is shown as # 498. The publishers' credits are in all CAPITALS.
Manufactured by Southern.
SI = 8
                                                     value: $2000

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. Oval logo. Artist shown as THE BEATLES. On this issue, the authors' credits are much smaller than the song title "PLEASE PLEASE ME."
Pressed in styrene by Monarch Records (MR).
SI = 8
                                                        value: $1000

After the Beatles became popular in the US in the beginning of 1964, Vee Jay ordered about 1650 copies of the single to be pressed. These copies appear on Vee Jay's newer "brackets" logo.

Please Please Me/Ask Me Why Vee Jay 498
black label with color band. The company logo is a set of brackets surrounding the letters VJ and the words "VEE JAY RECORDS." This is called the "brackets logo." The artist's name is correct, and the authors' credits are much smaller than the song title. Issued in March, 1964. Some of these were mislabeled with old misspelled "oval labels" on one side.
SI = 9
                                                          value:  $2200+

Unfortunately for Vee Jay, "Please Please Me" failed to chart in the USA. There had been some airplay and spotted sales, but this could not match the #1 status of the single in England. A few months later, the time came to issue the Beatles' third single, "From Me To You," which of course went to #1 in England. Stampers for the second Vee Jay single were sent to the factories on May 2, 1963. In fact, the single was already a hit in England by the time it was issued in America on or about May 6, 1963. This time there had been more airplay, and sales prospects were more promising.

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
white label with grey rim. Label reads "Disc Jockey Advance Sample" and "NOT FOR SALE." Oval label.
SI = 6
                                                        value:  $600

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
black label with color band. Oval logo. The title is not in bold face print. Note: the O's in the titles are circular on this issue, which was pressed by ARP.
The publishing credits are NOT in all capitals.
SI = 8
                                                     value:  $800

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
black label with color band. Oval logo. The title is in bold face print.
Pressed in styrene by Monarch Records (MR). This is the west coast pressing and is the least scarce.
SI = 6
                                                      value:  $500

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
black label with color band. Oval logo. The title is not in bold face print. Note: the O's in the titles are circular on this issue, which was pressed Southern.
The publishing credits are in ALL CAPITALS on this label.
SI = 8
                                                     value:  $900

After the advent of Beatlemania, demand for the single increased, and thousands of copies were pressed during the first few months of 1964.

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
black label with color band. Brackets logo. The title is in bold face print. These copies are from early 1964.
Pressed in styrene by Monarch.
SI = 7
                                                     value:  $800

From Me to You/Thank You Girl Vee Jay 522
black label with two horizontal silver bars. NO color band. Brackets logo. Issued in 1964.
Manufactured by Southern.
SI = 8
                                                      value:  $1000

The "From Me to You" single bubbled under the Hot 100, but never quite caught on in America, except in Los Angeles, where it reached #32 on local charts. In total, just over 21,000 copies were sold, with over 9,000 of those copies being issued in 1964 (with at least 7,500 on the brackets label). Still, Vee Jay decided to go ahead and issue the Beatles first album, which had been available since March in the UK. Vee Jay had received the album prior to May of '63 and had entered master numbers for each of the songs on the LP. By June, Vee Jay was preparing the parts to manufacture the album. Vee Jay removed the two songs that were already available as a single and retitled the album Introducing the Beatles, with a subtitle explaining that the group was popular in England.

In July, cover designs were drawn up, and 6,000 front covers were printed by Coburn and Company. Available evidence suggests that no back covers were printed, since production was halted at the time. The company was experiencing financial difficulties, and there was no reason to release an album by an unpopular group. Vee Jay was also behind in royalty payments to Transglobal and was ordered (8/8/63) to stop producing Beatles records.

The album included the songs "Love Me Do" and "PS I Love You," which were later to cause Vee Jay some considerable grief, since that single had been issued before Vee Jay was contracted to release Beatles records. The album was supposedly issued on July 22, 1963. In reality, although masters were prepared early on, the album was not released until the second week in January, 1964. For the album's eventual release, see below.

For whatever reason, Vee Jay cannot be faulted for not having tried, but they had been unable to sell the Beatles to America. For failing to pay Transglobal, Vee Jay lost the right to issue new Beatles records in the USA (something they later disputed). Capitol Records was offered the Beatles' fourth single, and again they turned it down. Transglobal tried to sell the single to several other companies, but none of the major labels were attracted to the group. So, the fourth Beatles single was sent to the even-smaller Swan label, where it was issued a few weeks after the UK single. Swan Records was best known for Freddy Cannon, whose most well-known hit was "Tallahassee Lassie," and was based in Philadelphia, being partly owned by Dick Clark. For a time, all Swan records carried the words "Don't Drop Out," which were a message to American teens to stay in school. An agreement was drawn up on August 16th, and the record was issued on about Sept. 16, 1963.

"She Loves You"/"I'll Get You"
Swan 4152

The Swan single, "She Loves You," exists in five chief label styles. These will be identified in this table and referred to in all descriptions of the single.

Style "Nickname" Description
Style 1 "Wide Print" The song title appears s p r e a d o u t and does NOT appear in quotation marks. The song credits appear in two lines, but (BMI) is the second line.
Apparently all records with style 1 labels were pressed by Monarch Records of Los Angeles and bear the MR logo and D (delta) number. Their records were pressed from styrene, a less flexible plastic.
Style 2 "Medium Print" The song title, artist name, and catalog number (S-4152) all appear in the same size print. The quotation marks resemble simple hash marks; they are not rounded. On the A-side, "BMI" appears on the same line as "Corp."
Style 3 "Thin Print" The song title and artist name are written in a type face that is much thinner than it is tall. These records were pressed by RCA.
Style 4 "Thick Print" The song title appears in bold face type. The quotation marks appear "serifed". I.e., they do not look like simple "hash marks" but have extra points. The artist name appears in a different style font than the title. On the A-side, "BMI" appears on a line by itself, so that the credits appear in 3 lines.
Style 5 "Thin Wide Print" The song title and artist name are written in a type face that is much thinner than it is tall. The song title on each side appears s p r e a d o u t and DOES appear in quotation marks, which are also spread out. These are later records from 1965. The "AudioMatrix" stamp and "Virtue Studio" appear in the matrix.

She Loves You/I'll Get You Swan 4152
glossy white label with black print. An "X" appears on the label. The label reads "PROMOTION COPY NOT FOR SALE." Label style 1. The words "Don't Drop Out" do NOT appear on the label.
SI = 7
                                               value:  $600

She Loves You/I'll Get You
Swan 4152
glossy white label with red print. Label style 1. The words "Don't Drop Out" do NOT appear on the label.
SI = 8
                                          value:  $650

She Loves You/I'll Get You Swan 4152
flat white label with black print. Label style 2. Two "X's" appear on the a-side label. The label reads "PROMOTION COPY" and "NOT FOR SALE." The words "Don't Drop Out" do NOT appear on the label.
Price guides incorrectly list this variant as from 1964; it dates to 1963.
SI = 7
                                               value:  $600

She Loves You/I'll Get You Swan 4152
flat white label with red print. Label style 2. The words "Don't Drop Out" do NOT appear on the label.
SI = 8
                                          value:  $650

She Loves You/I'll Get You Swan 4152
glossy white label with black print. Label style 3. An 'X' appears on the a-side. The words "PROMOTION COPY" appear on the label. The words "DON'T DROP OUT" also appear on the label. Probably from late 1963 or early 1964.
SI = 7
                                         value:  $550

She Loves You/I'll Get You Swan 4152
glossy white label with red print. Label style 3. The words "DON'T DROP OUT" appear on the label. From late 1963 or early 1964. NOTE: All copies with thin print and quotation marks are counterfeits; see the reference below to counterfeits.
SI = 8
                                         value:  $650

Looking for a white and blue label copy?
These were released in 1964-65 and are listed on the next page, along with the black label copies of the single.

The Swan singles have been widely counterfeited. Genuine early-mid-60's copies have EITHER the master number stamped into the trail-off by machine along with the words "MASTERING RECO-ART PHILA." OR the words "Virtue Studio" etched into the trail-off.
Reco-Art and (Frank) Virtue Studio were located in Philadelphia. Any copies with bubbles in the vinyl or with pock-marked or blurred labels are fakes. Any copies with thin print (as style 3) and quotation marks on the label are counterfeits. Copies of the single can also be found with small (1/16") matrix numbers stamped into the trail-off. These are also fakes. See article 4 for more details.

As 1963 ended, Vee Jay began to take notice of the added press that the Beatles were getting in the United States. Several magazine articles had appeared promoting the group, and so Vee Jay made plans to reissue the A-sides of their first two singles...as 'back to back hits.' They were not taking any chances, but in retrospect they might have sold more records had they not done so. The single was issued during the last week of 1963 and began selling immediately. Promotional copies were sent out both in early January and at the end of January. By the wording on the cover, it may be that only the 506 promo copies sent out before January 15th were issued with a special promo sleeve. A picture sleeve featuring the Introducing the Beatles cover photo was prepared for all copies of the new single, "Please Please Me"/"From Me to You."

Vee Jay was temporarily prevented (by injunction) from issuing any Beatles records. The injunction was lifted in early February. The single was issued on supposedly Jan 30, 1964. In fact, the single had been out for a month prior to that date, but January 30th is close to the date when the injunction was lifted -- something that may have caused people to think that the single was first issued in early February.

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
white label with 4 blue crossbars. Label features two brackets logos. The words "PROMOTION COPY" appear twice on the label.
Promo copies were pressed by Monarch Records. Between 1000 and a few thousand were made.
SI = 7
                                              value: $250

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
Blue and white TITLE SLEEVE for promo record. This is known as "the record that started Beatlemania" sleeve because that line is written across the top of the sleeve. Sleeve advertises the upcoming appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Extremely rare. The sleeve indicates that the Jack Paar appearance on January 3rd was recent. Promotional sleeves were sent out during the second week in January, 1964.
SI = 10
                                              value:$5000+

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
black label with color band. Oval logo.
Six variations exist. These are:
                                              value:  $50

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
PICTURE SLEEVE for commercial copies. Top of sleeve is cut straight. This sleeve has been faked. The photo on many fakes is blurry.
Also, any sleeve with different colors is a fake.
                                                       value:  $800

SI = 5

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
black label with color band. Brackets logo.
Five variations exist. These are:
                                                 value:  $40

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All black label with 2 silver crossbars. Brackets logo.
Pressed by Southern.
SI = 4
                                                 value:  $65

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All black label; no color band. Oval logo.
Pressed by ARP.
SI = 4
                                                 value:  $65

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All black label; no color band. Label simply reads "VEE JAY" across the top.
Pressed by Monarch.
SI = 3
                                                value:  $55

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All black label; no color band. Logo is simply "VJ" with the words "VEE-JAY RECORDS" written underneath.
Comma in "Please, Please Me." A-side credit "Concertone Song" (singular).
Pressed by Southern.
SI = 3
                                                value:  $50

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
Yellow label with black print. Logo is simply "VJ" with the words "VEE-JAY RECORDS" written underneath.
Comma in "Please, Please Me." A-side credit "Concertone Song" (singular).
Pressed by Southern.
SI = 5
                                              value:  $90


Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
White label with black print. Logo is simply "VJ" with the words "VEE-JAY RECORDS" written underneath. Less common than the yellow label version.
Pressed by Southern.
Comma in "Please, Please Me." A-side credit "Concertone Song" (singular).
Two variations exist. These are:
SI = 6
                                              value:  $200

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All black label; no color band. Brackets logo.
Two variations exist. These are:
SI = 4
                                              value:  $50

Please Please Me/From Me to You Vee Jay 581
All purple label. Brackets logo.
Pressed by Southern.
SI = 7
                                              value:  $600

The new "Please Please Me" single charted in the top 5, kept out of #1 by other Beatles singles.

A Word About Condition

The condition of a record is all-important as to determining its value. The values shown are drastically reduced for lesser condition copies, as shown below:

Near Mint, or NM, condition records are unscratched. If the label has stickers or tape, this must be noted. Essentially, they look like they just came from the store.

Very Good Plus, or VG+, condition records will have very few scratches. Without close inspection, they might pass for Near Mint copies. A VG+ record normally sells for half what a NM copy goes for. In Europe, this condition is called Excellent, EX.

Very Good, or VG, condition records have a fair amount of scratches, but they by no means appear "beat up". A VG condition record normally sells for one fourth of the NM price. In Europe, this condition is called VG+.

Very Good Minus, or VG-, condition records are starting to appear quite scratched. Still, when played, they play through, although the surface noise is becoming distracting. Many singles are commonly found in this condition. A VG- condition record normally sells for one sixth of the NM price. In Europe, this condition is called VG.

Good, or G, condition records look scratched--basically all over, but they'll play through well enough to enjoy the song. A G condition record sells for one tenth of the NM price. [Some dealers also use a grade of G+, which sells for one eighth of the NM price.]

Fair, or fr, condition records are generally worthless unless the record is rare. They're scratched up and have distracting surface noise, but they're not completely ruined. No chips missing, and not cracked. They sell for one twentieth of the NM price or less.

Poor, or pr, condition records are basically ruined. They may be warped, cracked, chipped, or otherwise unsuitable for collecting. Most collectors only accept poor condition copies of something really rare until a better one comes along. They're virtually worthless.


About the Scarcity Index

A Scarcity Index has been introduced to indicate the relative rarity of records. The rating ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being "very common" and 10 indicating that fewer than 20 copies are known to exist.

Meet the Beatles! in mono without publishers' credits on the label rates a 7 or 8; in stereo, the "no credits" album rates a 9.
The Yesterday...and Today first state butcher covers rate at 8 for mono copies and 9 for stereo copies. The Christmas Album has a rating of 5. The special boxed sets are all 10's.

With few exceptions, then, all of the Beatles' Capitol and Apple records "went gold," and original copies can be easily found (although not always in "near mint" condition). Their Scarcity Indices are normally 2. On the other hand, early Vee Jay and Swan releases are not very common. A record rated 6 or 7 can rightly be called "scarce." A rating of 8 or 9 also merits the term "rare." A record rated SI = 10 is "very rare."

NEXT: What happened with Vee Jay and Swan as Beatlemania exploded.

Beatles Before Capitol, Part 1
Articles 1992, 2005 by Frank Daniels