The Story Behind The Beatles’ U.S. Albums — Including Differences Between U.S. and U.K. Mixes

December 26th, 2013

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As the Beatles’ camp gets ready to roll out The U.S. Albums box set next month, we thought it was a good time to explore why this new release even exists.

Didn’t Apple Corps reissue remastered versions of the group’s catalog just a few years ago?

Well, yes. But the 13-CD box, due January 21, includes five albums that have never been officially available on CD. And, as it happens, the Beatles’ U.S. catalog is another animal altogether, thanks to the handiwork of Capitol Records, which licensed the British group’s music in the states.

First, there are the titles and cover art, which almost always differed from the U.K.’s Parlophone Records releases, right through the end of 1965.

Second are the track listings. The Capitol albums typically contained 11 or 12 tracks to the 14 on the Parlophone LPs. Each of the U.S. releases was compiled using tracks from at least two U.K. albums and included songs that were also released as singles, a practice frowned upon by the Brits.

Finally, and most significantly, there is the sound. The American albums released from 1964’s Meet the Beatles! through 1965’sRubber Soul were usually brighter sounding and had more reverb than their British counterparts. In addition, the stereo mixes on several songs were produced artificially, as no true stereo mixes had been created yet by the Beatles production team.

Which raises the question: Who on earth would mess with the Beatles’ music?

Answer: A Capitol Records executive by the name of Dave Dexter Jr.

When Capitol began issuing the group’s records in the states at the end of 1963, Dexter was given the task of overseeing the catalog. And he had some catching up to do: the Beatles had already released four singles and a full-length album in the U.K.

The easiest—and most profitable—approach was to release albums with fewer tracks than the British versions. In this way, Capitol released eight Beatles albums in 1964 and 1965 to Parlophone’s four.

But Dexter wasn’t happy with the sound of the Beatles’ records. He thought they sounded thin and dull compared to what was on the teen hit parade.

His solution was to boost the high end and, in many instances, add reverb to make the songs sound more cavernous and dramatic. The reverb was especially useful on tracks that were electronically processed for stereo: the wash of ambience helped fill the midfield between the left and right channels.

If you think that tampering with the Beatles’ music is akin to desecration, you’re not alone. For years, hardcore Beatle fans have railed against Dexter and Capitol’s tinkering, preferring the British releases for their purer sound and stronger track listings.

But in at least one instance Dexter did a service to the Beatles’ music. As the folk-rock boom took off in 1965, he got the idea to peel away a few electric-guitar-driven tracks from the British Rubber Soul and add a couple of acoustic-guitar-heavy songs from the group’s previous album, Help!, namely “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love.”

The result is a moody masterpiece. Dexter’s decision to open the album with the sullen but fast-paced “I’ve Just Seen a Face” gets things off to a lively start and establishes the somber, reflective mood that continues over many other songs on the album.

Dexter also gave Beatles fans a treat by including, unintentionally, Paul McCartney’s false starts on the Rubber Soul track “I’m Looking Through You.” McCartney attempted the opening riff twice in succession before performing it successfully. Omitted from the British release, McCartney’s flub is a charming revelation that guitarists everywhere can relate to.

Below, we’ve provided a few examples of how Dexter’s versions differed from the Beatles’ British releases.

Note the heavy reverb on the U.S. stereo versions of “She’s a Woman” and “I Feel Fine,” from Beatles ‘65:

Compare them to the much-drier UK stereo versions:

Notice the different stereo separation on Dexter’s version of “You Won’t See Me” …

…and the group’s British version:

And here is the false start on “I’m Looking Through You”:

Notice, also, the difference in stereo separation on the singing here and in the U.K. version, where McCartney’s double-tracked vocals are separated in the stereo field:

  • Lawrence

    Of course being a beatle fanatic I love this stuff, good job with the comparisons. I do have all the US and UK release’s. keep up the good work.

  • Fine review, and I agree Rubber Soul USA is much better than the British Rubber Soul. This is my humble opinion. But this Dexter engineer did a fine piece of magic. And yes the US sound is very interesting, it is the Beatles sound I grew with. So when I heard the British sound, only the Mono versions captures that incredible wall of sound that is so distinctly Beatles.

  • Guy Oddo

    What’s happening with the U.S. album Yesterday and Today? It has never been re-issued.

  • Very good article on a band and it’s music which has pretty much consumed my life. All of the books (the good ones) have given a lot of great insight and more “little cared about” trivia that only a true Beatles lover could appreciated. Such a rich history from four young gents who changed the world of music forever. Thanks for the article.

  • jaMesa

    The difference in separation [in the above case at least] is entirely George Martin’s.

    He remixed the Help and Rubber Soul albums circa 1987 with the “more modern” soundstage and more reverb [as was the fashion in the 80’s] compared to the stereo mixes of them he did in the 60’s.

  • Gary Ciminelli

    they forgot to mention the “Meet the Beatles” album.

  • Frank Miranda

    So what exatly did Dave Dexter do to the “Meet The Beatles!” album?

  • Joseph Aiello Jr.

    I realize that Dave Dexter was 49 and strictly a jazz fan when the Beatles came out in America in ’64 and that he tried to block Capitol from releasing their music until he was overruled by his boss.
    But I believe he tried as an A&R man to tailor the Beatles albums to American listeners as best he could and his ideas worked. When I heard the 2009 UK remasters I agreed with Dexter. They did sound thin and dull compared to the US versions! So thank you to the late Dave Dexter for actually making the Beatles US releases sound much more fun than the UK releases!

  • David

    Just read this article and what Dave Dexter did amounted to sabotage to what the original intentions of George Martin as producer and The Beatles. It is little wonder that John Lennon, when interviewed by Rolling Stone in 1974 stated that it seemed like Capitol released thirty albums instead of what they intended to be released.

    Dave Dexter should have had enough respect to leave the recordings alone and allow them to be released as intended, and if they wanted stereo mixes, then asked George Martin to create stereo mixes instead of making false stereo and adding production that was not even asked for. His comments on John Lennon in Billboard after he was killed in 1980, showed that Dave Dexter thought of himself too highly, and completely ignorant of how he saw himself to the band. Basically what the US and Canada got was basically a series of compliation albums up to Revolver, with the artistic intentions compromised.

    When it comes to Rubber Soul, the false starts on I’m looking Through You was supposed to be edited out, and remain unreleased. Also coming from the UK, the fourteen track UK album and seemed to be released in most of the rest of the world in 1965, wins hand down as it was recorded in a time frame from October to November 1965, and shows the musical journey of The Beatles at that point. Taking out tracks because it doesn’t fit the then current fashion of folk rock is deliberate sabotage of what The Beatles and George Martin intended. Also don’t forget they also recorded We Can Work it Out and Day Tripper as a double A side at the same time.

    Thankfully The Beatles/Apple Corps/EMI eventually took control of their artistic destiny from 1967 onwards. When the early 1967 contract was drawn up, The Beatles gained full control of how their music was released, which caused a ripple effect throughout the music industry in that other bands from the same era suddenly got the same control as well. Look at The Rolling Stones releases on London and Decca up to 1967, and then all albums from Satanic Majesties onwards. The UK and US versions of Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (actually I like both versions, and at least the 1997 reissue has all tracks released on both albums on there), and all releases from Axis: Bold As Love onwards.

    The Beatles changed the way music business in more ways than they could have realised, but the only way they should be listened to is the original UK albums, and the US Version of Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol did get that right) and Past/Mono Masters. May not be the exciting sound that you want, but at least it is the way The Beatles/George Martin wanted it listend to and released.

  • Richard H.

    Sorry to disagree, but Dexter’s changes to “Rubber Soul” do not “do a service.” First of all, the U.S. version drops three of the best songs on the album, “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, and “If I Needed Someone” (George’s best composition, perhaps, until “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” comes along). Second, this website continues to repeat the statement that by replacing “Drive My Car” and “What Goes On” with “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” as side openers it makes the album more “folky” or “acoustic”. While this is clearly true with “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, the assertion makes no sense when one compares “What Goes On”, a country-inflected song with a prominent acoustic sound, with “It’s Only Love”, which features electric guitar subject to reverb. If Capitol’s intentions had truly been to make the album more “acoustic”, it should have kept “What Goes On.” (not that it’s a great song, but neither is “It’s Only Love.” Why Capitol didn’t just junk the weakest songs (“Run for Your Life”, “Wait”, “What Goes On”, and “The Word”) and replace them with the single-hits “We Can Work it Out” and “Day Tripper” is puzzling.