Not a lot of people today know that in North America, The Beatles albums were quite different than those we find on all modern issues. The versions available to us today are the official UK versions. But why were they different in North America?
If you ever need to find a culprit, just follow the money. Essentially, their US record label was doing everything they could to exploit the hype in order to sell more records. This lead to the creation of albums that didn’t exist in the UK. After their Capitol debut in the US “Meet The Beatles”, they quickly followed it up by “The Beatles Second Album”. The US version of “A Hard Days Night” featured only one side of actual Beatles music, while the other side had orchestrations from the film, making it an actual film soundtrack instead of an official album. Tracks taken from albums and compiled into others resulted in a number of albums not seen in the UK, such as “Something New”, “Beatles VI”, “The Beatles Story”, and eventually “Yesterday and Today”. When John Lennon got wind of this, he had some pretty harsh criticisms of Capitol Records, and the man responsible was released from his duties. The last album to be lacking in tracks was “Revolver” in 1966. Afterwords, all their albums would be identical to their UK counterparts, with the exception of “Magical Mystery Tour”, which I believe the US got the better deal on, because it features new material for the film, as well as a slew of some of their best work which was previously only available on singles. Whereas the UK just got an EP of the new songs, and as such, MMT does not appear in album box sets. However, it was officially released as an album on CD.
The one thing that was perhaps a stroke of genius that came out of Capitol’s meddling of Beatles albums was their late 1965 album “Rubber Soul”. Capitol stripped the album of four songs, and replaced them with two songs from their previous album “Help!” which didn’t appear on the US version in favor of orchestrations from the film once again. The result however really worked! Along with changing the colour of the title on the album cover and making it all appear more brown, the US version of “Rubber Soul” ended up sounding like a folk rock record, which was a very popular genre at the time.
I didn’t get my first CDs until probably the end of middle school, around 8th grade. But before that I had records and tapes. I remember going to a yard sale where I bought the original tapes of “Rubber Soul” and the 1968 double album “The Beatles”, otherwise known as “The White Album”. So I had been listening to the US version of this album for years before I got my copy of the CD with its different coloured cover and different track listings. Around the same time I discovered a hoard of original UK vinyl records at a local antique shop, and had been acquiring them as I could afford them. I was able to get all the ones they had except for “Yellow Submarine” which had been snatched up by a friends sister, quite by coincidence. They had all the albums with the acception of the first two: “Please Please Me” and “With the Beatles”, which I would later get copies of during my first trip to the UK (at a record shop on Matthews Street in Liverpool, where the Cavern Club is!). So I may have been aware of the differences in the UK vs. US albums before I had the CDs, but that would have only been by a couple of months.
I think the one thing that I would have changed if I had a choice, would have been to leave George Harrison’s “If I needed Someone” on the US version since I feel like it still fits with the US track lineup. Otherwise, the other three songs that were removed weren’t my favorites on the album anyway, which sadly means that my Rubber Soul CD has probably seen fewer plays than most of the others.
So anyways, to wrap this up. I strongly encourage you to find a playlist or copy of the US version of the album to hear it for yourself. If “Rubber Soul” isn’t near the top of your favorite Beatles albums, hearing it presented this way may change your mind!
Here is a link to the Wikipedia page for Rubber Soul.