Friday, March 26, 2021

The Beatles - The Beatles EP Collection (Plus) (18 Discs)


In addition to the thousands of CDs I have in my possession, I also own a couple hundred extended plays (EPs).  Included in that group are some of the most important and celebrated EP releases by some great artists over the years: Flying Nun Records' legendary Dunedin Double EP; The Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch; The Clash's Cost Of Living; R.E.M.'s Chronic Town; U2's very first release, Three; An Ideal For Living by Joy Division; The Pixies' Come On Pilgrim - along with some personal favorites: Slates by The Fall; Pavement's Watery, Domestic; Mission Of Burma's Signals, Calls And Marches; The Raveonettes' Whip It On; Nirvana's Hormoaning; Stink by The Replacements; pretty much all of The Cocteau Twins and Stereolab's EPs... and many, many more, including some I've written about and posted here in the past, such as Ratcat's 'Tingles' EP, the S.F. Seals Baseball Trilogy and the vinyl B-52's remix EPs.

Based upon all of this relatively recent activity, you'll be forgiven if you thought (as I once did) that EPs were a fairly recent innovation to music sales. If so, than like me, you would be wrong. A combination of market factors and competition drove the development of extended play discs. What follows is an abbreviated history of record playing formats:

78 rpm records (discs made of shellac or vinyl. with a playing speed of 78 revolutions per minute) were generally the standard recording format from the beginning of the 20th century into the mid-1940s. These discs came in two sizes, 12" and 10", and due to its fast rotation speed and larger playing groove, contained a maximum sound duration of five and three minutes, respectively.

While since the early 1930s some companies had made half-hearted attempts to market longer playing records for home use (all of which failed for economic reasons, as the Great Depression was in full swing), it wasn't until 1941 that a recording concern (Columbia) made a concerted effort to extend the playing duration of discs. Although research was interrupted by World War II, in the summer of 1948 Columbia unveiled their new creation: a disc rotating at 33 revolutions per minute (less than half of that of a 78) with a finer groove, in two sizes identical to that of the reigning format: a 12" and 10". These new long players (otherwise known as LPs) had an original capacity of 22 minutes per side, a playback capacity that only increased with subsequent improvements in technology.

In response to this, RCA Victor released the 7" 45 rpm record in the spring of 1949, as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the shellac 78s. To compete with the LP, boxed album sets of 45s were issued. But despite intense marketing efforts by RCA Victor, by the mid-50s, the 45 ultimately succeeded only in replacing the 78 as the preferred format for singles. While most of the unit volume in those days was in 45 rpm sales, in terms of dollar sales, LPs led singles by almost two-to-one.

Partly as another attempt to compete with Columbia's LP, RCA Victor introduced the first "Extended Play" 45s during 1952. Their narrower grooves, achieved by lowering the cutting levels and sound compression optionally, enabled them to hold up to 7 and a half minutes per side [Generally speaking, an EP is described as "a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but less than a full album or LP" - a pretty vague description, all in all. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) officially defines an EP as containing three to five songs or under 30 minutes in length, which fits the original EP running time to a tee. While other recording organizations around the world have other varying descriptions of what an EP is in terms of track numbers and overall length, for the sake of time and argument, let's just use the RIAA's].

RCA issued more than two dozen Elvis Presley EPs during the decade after it signed him away from Sun Records, and they were fairly popular releases. But other than those Elvis discs, EPs were relatively uncommon and hard to find in the U.S. by the early 1960s, all but fading away here as the Album Era gained strength and popularity from the late Fifties onward.  In the UK, however, the EP format continued to be successful, with chart-topping releases throughout the decade from such artists as The Shadows and Cliff Richard.

But the undisputed kings of British EPs were, believe it or not, The Beatles. Their first EP, Twist And Shout, sold over two million copies, topped the UK EP charts for more than five months, and was on the charts for more than a year. This disc and the three #1 UK EPs that followed (The Beatles' Hits, The Beatles (No. 1) and All My Loving) all contained songs that had been included in previously released Beatles albums. It wasn't until the release of the Long Tall Sally EP in the summer of 1964 that some original content was included (although all of the songs on this disc would be released on albums before that summer was out).

All of the British Beatles EP were issued by EMI/Parlophone on the dates indicated below, and all except for the Magical Mystery Tour EP were released in mono format. In 1981, all fourteen of the UK releases were gathered into one box set, The Beatles EP Collection, along with a new disc, titled The Beatles, which compiled previously unavailable stereo mixes of four songs.   Here are some of the specifics on each disc in this set:

The Beatles' Hits EP (originally released September 6th, 1963)
  1. From Me To You
  2. Thank You Girl
  3. Please Please Me
  4. Love Me Do
Twist And Shout EP (originally released July 12th, 1963) 
  1. Twist And Shout
  2. A Taste Of Honey
  3. Do You Want To Know A Secret
  4. There's A Place
The Beatles (No. 1) EP (originally released November 1st, 1963)
  1. I Saw Her Standing There
  2. Misery
  3. Anna (Go To Him)
  4. Chains
All My Loving EP (originally released February 7th, 1964)
  1. All My Loving
  2. Ask Me Why
  3. Money
  4. P.S. I Love You


Long Tall Sally EP (originally released June 19th, 1964)
  1. Long Tall Sally
  2. I Call Your Name
  3. Slow Down
  4. Matchbox


Extracts From The Film A Hard Day's Night EP (originally released November 4th, 1964)
  1. I Should Have Known Better
  2. If I Fell
  3. Tell Me Why
  4. And I Love Her
Extracts From The Album A Hard Day's Night EP (originally released November 6th, 1964)
  1. Any Time At All
  2. I'll Cry Instead
  3. Things We Said Today
  4. When I Get Home
Beatles For Sale EP (originally released April 6th, 1965)
  1. No Reply
  2. I'm A Loser
  3. Rock And Roll Music
  4. Eight Days A Week

Beatles For Sale No. 2 EP (originally released June 4th, 1965)

  1. I'll Follow The Sun
  2. Baby's In Black
  3. Words Of Love
  4. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
The Beatles' Million Sellers EP (originally released December 6th, 1965)
  1. She Loves You
  2. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  3. Can't Buy Me Love
  4. I Feel Fine
Yesterday EP (originally released March 4th, 1966)
  1. Yesterday
  2. Act Naturally
  3. You Like Me Too Much
  4. It's Only Love


Nowhere Man EP (originally released July 8th, 1966)
  1. Nowhere Man
  2. Drive My Car
  3. Michelle
  4. You Won't See Me


Magical Mystery Tour (Stereo Version) EP (originally released December 8th, 1967)
  1. Magical Mystery Tour
  2. Your Mother Should Know
  3. I Am The Walrus
  4. The Fool On The Hill
  5. Flying
  6. Blue Jay Way
Magical Mystery Tour (Mono Version) EP (originally released December 8th, 1967)
  1. Magical Mystery Tour
  2. Your Mother Should Know
  3. I Am The Walrus
  4. The Fool On The Hill
  5. Flying
  6. Blue Jay Way
The Beatles EP (originally released December 7th, 1981)
  1. The Inner Light
  2. Baby You're A Rich Man
  3. She's A Woman
  4. This Boy
[In my opinion, there should be one more Beatles disc that should have been released as 
an EP - Yellow Submarine, which contains only four new songs by the band, then pads the "album" out with songs from the film's orchestral soundtrack recorded and produced by George Martin.  Of all the Beatles albums, this one is truly viewed as a contractual obligation/crass money grab semi-effort by the band, as the four new songs were all but screaming for an EP release... But heck - we already broached this subject, didn't we?
In addition to the British EPs lcollected above, three Beatles EPs were released in America - the first being Souvenir Of Their Visit To America. EMI's US subsidiary Capitol Records consistently refused to put out any Beatles material in the States during 1963 and early 1964 - despite the success the band was having overseas, the label just didn't believe the Fabs could make it in America and had ZERO interest in them. So EMI worked out a licensing deal with small independent Vee-Jay Records for the American release of the group's 1963 singles and debut album Please Please Me (Vee-Jay was actually eager to acquire the license to another popular EMI recording at the time, "I Remember You" by Frank Ifield, and took on the Beatles material as a throw-in/favor to EMI). Vee-Jay had limited resources to promote the music properly, which initially led to poor sales of Beatles product over here.  Once the Beatles were signed in November 1963 to play on the popular and influential The Ed Sullivan Show, Capitol Records SUDDENLY saw the light and changed their minds, exercising their option to release Beatles music in the U.S.

However, as a condition of their earlier contract, Vee-Jay was permitted to market any Beatles material they had licensed for another year, through October 1964. Their subsequent mail order EP offering was a huge success, more than making up for those lackluster Beatles sales the year prior.

The other two U.S. EPs, Four By The Beatles and 4 By The Beatles (confusingly similar names, but different content), were both Capitol's belated attempt to hop on the Beatles gravy train. But due to coming out after Vee-Jay's more successful disc, better distribution of full Beatles albums in the States, and the relatively unpopularity of the EP format here, sales for these two discs were not what Capitol anticipated, and they were both quickly deleted from Capitol's catalogue by the end of 1965.

Here are the details on the U.S. EPs:
4 By The Beatles EP (originally released February 1st, 1965)
  1. Honey Don't
  2. I'm A Loser
  3. Mr. Moonlight
  4. Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
Four By The Beatles EP (originally released May 11th, 1964)
  1. All My Loving
  2. Please Mr. Postman
  3. Roll Over Beethoven
  4. This Boy

Souvenir Of Their Visit To America EP (originally released March 23rd, 1964)

  1. Misery
  2. A Taste Of Honey
  3. Ask Me Why
  4. Anna (Go To Him)

After the Beatles' EP heyday ended in the late 1960s, extended plays wouldn't become popular again until the rise of punk in the mid-1970s, when bands found it to be a more cost-efficient way to bring their music to the public's attention. This trend continued through the New Wave and alternative eras. While the use and sales of the EP have declined in the digital age, they are still being made, and are still out there ready for listeners to expand their musical horizons with. I, for one, hope the EP format never dies out.

...and, at least in the case of The Beatles, it lives on here! For your listening enjoyment, here is the entire slate of Fab Four EP releases:

  • The Beatles EP Collection, containing fourteen EPs originally released between 1963 and 1967 in the UK, plus a bonus disc of never-before released stereo material.  This set was initially put out on vinyl by EMI/Parlophone on December 7th, 1981, and subsequently on compact disc on May 26th, 1992; and
  • The three U.S. EPs, originally released by Vee-Jay and Capitol Records, respectively, in 1964 and 1965.

Enjoy these brief but extended blasts of Sixties rock goodness... and as always, let me know what you think.

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  1. Thank you, very much appreciated.

  2. Thanks for this! Thank you for your work!

  3. Thanks so much. Looking forward to hearing Anna when she doesn't Chain Boys.

  4. Glad you're on the right side of the "What Is 'Slates'" Debate, per . . .

    That was my first Fall record, scored at Oceans II store in Annapolis.

    In the EP bin.


    1. Ahhh - Oceans II! Picked up a ton of stuff from there as well, back in the day! I vividly recall bagging my copy of “Fred Schneider & The Shake Sociwty” from there many moons ago! Compared to the music selection at the Mid Store, Oceans II was like an alternative music wonderland!

      As for “Slates”, it contains some of my fave Fall songs of all time… including the title track, which I could listen to on a continuous loop and never get tired of, and “Middle Mass”, which has one of my top-five all time Smith bon mots: “The Wehrmacht never got in here… but it took us six years.”

      Good to hear from you, Eric! I hear you and Jim are working on something together - excellent!

    2. "Slates" turns 40 today . . . are we all really that old?? That and "Hex" would definitely be among the highest ranks in my Fall hierarchy. If you've not yet read Paul Hanley's book on "Hex," it's a great bit of music nerd catnip. I got Fred's album (and "Hex") at Oceans II as well, along with SO MANY OTHER THINGS. In the "Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists" series I'm doing at my site, I try to answer when I first heard the various artists, and that store crops up over and over again in that narrative. Yeah, doing a fun project with Jim . . . looking forward to it seeing the light of day in 2022!