The Beatles on the Vee-Jay Label

The Beatles on the Vee-Jay Label

Collecting with Jeff
Jeff Figler
February 9th, 1964 is a red-letter date. Think back quickly and try to remember. The date may come to some of you. If it doesn’t, you surely will recall the event. A huge hint… it was a Sunday night television show. Now you may know. It was the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
Not just any “Ed Sullivan Show.” No. It was the highly anticipated first appearance of the Liverpool quartet, The Beatles. I’ll forgive you for not remembering the date.
Countless books have been written about the group (enough to fill a huge section of the Library of Congress), and enough trees have been cut in the name of the Beatles to make you blush. However, even though you can probably find a Beatle historian on every street corner, and double that in Manhattan and Hollywood, let me relate a scenario that might surprise you about their initial record sales in the United States.
As Beatle record sales were reaching record heights in their native England, Vee-Jay records signed a licensing agreement with the British EMI affiliate Transglobal, to pair foreign masters with U.S. record labels. Vee-Jay was given the right of first refusal on Beatle records for five years. In turn, Vee-Jay was to release the album “Please Please Me” in the U.S. in early 1963, which they were going to re-name “Introducing… The Beatles.”

However, in probably one of the all-time blunders in record label management, a reorganization at Vee-Jay occurred. Company president Ewart Abner resigned, presumably because he used company funds to pay personal debts. The Beatles’ “Introducing… The Beatles” album was put on the back burner (along with albums by British star Frank Ifield, Alma Cogan, and a Jewish cantor), and the highly anticipated Beatles album was not forthcoming as agreed upon.
Transglobal proceeded to try to void the contract with Vee-Jay. With Capital Records ready to seize the opportunity to promote The Beatles, Vee-Jay decided to release “Introducing… The Beatles,” despite knowing that legal action was about to implode, which it certainly did.
Restraining orders came and went, and when all the legal hoopla was over, Vee-Jay was given about six months, until October 15, 1964 to use the sixteen Beatles songs it controlled. From then on the rights would revert to Capital records.
Vee-Jay quickly did what it could in its limited time. They issued different albums, containing most of the same songs in each. Each one was a hit, with only the packaging being different. Besides “Introducing… The Beatles,” there was also “Songs, Pictures, and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles” and “The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons.” That album had “Introducing… The Beatles” in one pocket of the cover and “Golden Hits of the Four Seasons” in another.
One can only imagine how Vee-Jay would have promoted the Beatles had it not had its internal problems. Would the record company have had a Butcher cover album as well? That Capitol cover of “Yesterday and Today” stirred a fair amount of controversy to say the least. Collectors eagerly purchase any Butcher cover album they can find, as the original Capitol recall did not leave many to begin with.
Speaking of collectibles, a Vee-Jay mono album of “Introducing… The Beatles” sold at auction for slightly under two hundred dollars. A collector should keep in mind that almost all of the Vee-Jay Beatle albums were mono. There were some stereo albums, but not nearly as many as the monos.
The rarest of all the Vee-Jay Beatles albums is “The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage.” This portrait cover album has sold for almost $20,000. Of course, price will often depend on condition.
A signed Beatles 45 single or album will cause a little dent in your bank account.
You might be wondering about the rarest U.S. Beatle 45 single. Look no farther than the Decca record of “My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. You guessed it… for that one record, the Beatles were the Beat Brothers. It’s value? Anywhere from $20,000 -$30,000.
By the way, “Ed Sullivan Show” tickets in which the Beatles appeared are extremely rare. An August 1965 ticket of an “Ed Sullivan Show” featuring the Beatles, was auctioned for over $10,000 several years ago.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

The Beatles on the Vee-Jay Label