The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the Los Angeles area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some L.A. TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums BUT the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) FIVE-STAR albums. This edition we discuss one of your screwy scribe’s favorites The Beatles’ “Yesterday” . . . and Today or (Yesterday And Today).
Whether you live in L. A. or the UK, most people know The Beatles were a British rock group formed in Liverpool in 1960. They were one of (if not THE) most commercially and critically successful bands in history. The line-up from 1962 on included: John Lennon (rhythm guitar/vocals), Paul McCartney (bass, guitar/vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar/ vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums/ vocals). Born of skiffle music and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the group would go on to work in numerous genres using elements of country, pop, psychedelic and even classical music. They began as the leaders of the British Invasion then went on to become legends that embodied the ideals the cultural and social revolutions of the 1960s.
“Yesterday” . . . and Today is The Beatles’ ninth Capitol album and their eleventh American release. This 11-track album was sold only in North America and contained material recorded from 1965 through 1966. The songs—previously unreleased in America–were off of two recently released UK recordings (Help! and Rubber Soul) and an upcoming Brit release (Revolver).
The near 28-minute platter opens with the humorous hit “Drive My Car” off the UK release of Rubber Soul. The second selection is a new duophonic mix of “I’m Only Sleeping” which is highlighted by a reversed guitar duet played by Harrison. The next number is “Nowhere Man” also off the UK version of Rubber Soul which would later be animated in The Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine.
The duophonic mix of “Doctor Robert” follows. This too was a new song and precedes one of the biggest Beatles’ songs ever—“Yesterday”. “Yesterday” was off the UK Help! and had previously been a huge commercial success as a US single. It’s one of the most covered songs in the history of music with over 1600 cover versions out to date.
The side’s closing cut is a cover of the Morrison-Russell composition “Act Naturally”. Originally off the UK Help! platter, this is one of Starr’s first country cuts. (Starr still often performs this tune live today.)
The flip side opens with a duophonic mix of “And Your Bird Can Sing”. This song, like the other then new numbers, would eventually be featured on the upcoming UK version of the yet to be released Revolver although they would not be duophonic versions.
A Harrison song follows. Titled “If I Needed Someone”, this is off the UK Rubber Soul release. (Another UK band, The Hollies, also put out the song as a single but failed to break the top twenty with it.)
“We Can Work It Out”, released in 1965 as a single, is also included here. It was recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions and is one of the first “double-A side” singles to be released by the band. It is also generally felt to be one of the few true post-1963 Lennon-McCartney collaborations.
Another country cut, “What Goes On”, is included. Unlike most of the music here, this is not only credited to Lennon and McCartney but Starr as well. Originally off of the UK Rubber Soul release, the song was previously put out as a Capitol single.
The platter’s closing cut is “Day Tripper”. This was previously released as the other side of a “double-A single”. The song was first written when the band was pressured to put out a single for the Christmas market. McCartney once commented that the song is about drugs and was based on an idea of Lennon’s. He also noted that the lyric “she’s a big teaser” was first written as “she’s a prick teaser” and later changed. The track is also critically-acclaimed for its blues influence.
The album would be produced by George Martin—as always—and released in June 1966. The title was based on the hit song “Yesterday”. Early album cover proofs put the song title in quotation marks. Oddly enough, while it was a popular and critically-successful album it actually holds the record as being the only Beatles LP to lose money for Capitol which due in part—no doubt—to the “butcher cover” controversy.
Indeed, the record is perhaps remembered mostly for its controversial original album cover. Nicknamed the “butcher cover”, it portrayed the group dressed in white butcher smocks, covered with pieces of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. The pics were meant to be part on a conceptual art piece by photographer Robert Whitaker. McCartney pushed for one of the pictures to be used for the album cover as the group’s “comment on the war” and Lennon thought it was “as relevant as Vietnam”.
In the US, Capitol Records printed almost 750,000 copies of Yesterday and Today with the photograph in four different locations: Los Angeles, California; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Winchester, Virginia; and Jacksonville, Illinois. Some of the records with the original cover were shipped to DJs as promo copies. Once copies hit the dealers’ doorsteps, complaints began to pour in and the LP was recalled. The label first chose to paste a new picture of the band around a steamer trunk over the original.
Tens of thousands of these “trunk” covers went out and once fans learned about this move, they tried —often unsuccessfully—to peel off the pasted-over cover. Long story short, eventually the label put out the record with just the “trunk cover”, making all the previous versions highly collectible. The platter pushed its way up to number one on the US Billboard charts and went gold. It camped at the top for five weeks.
The “/butcher cover” versions were never released in any other format. The work was not issued on 8-track tape & reel to reel tapes until a month later and the cassette version would not hit stores until 1968. Half a decade later, (1973) the albums would contain either true stereo or duophonic mixes.
The next year, the sale of a mono ‘butcher cover’ album would sell for $457.00. (The value has gone up to more than $40,000.) Former president of Capitol Records, Alan Livingston released two dozen original “butcher covers” from his private collection in 1987. He had taken a case of the sealed albums from the warehouse back in 1966. His son put them on the market at a Beatles convention at the Marriott Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.
The multiple mixes also make the albums items of interest to collectors. In fact, it was not until recently, 2009 that the original mixes of the Help! and Rubber Soul songs would be released on CD. Perhaps the controversy often eclipses the actual music though. While the band sometimes objected to Capitol’s releases, many listeners enjoyed the US releases.
Artists such as John Tabacco, for example, who liked this album said: “The songs on there worked for me. In fact, a lot of the American releases I really enjoyed. I know the English albums were the ones the Beatles chose but those Capitol ones had a certain flare and included stuff that was originally just single cuts. Not to mention the duophonic sound which was weird if not charming.”
Perhaps what’s most important to remember is The Beatles’ brilliant “Yesterday” . . . and Today/Cap. ST-2553may be largely a collection of singles but it is nonetheless one of the band’s most delightful discs. The guitar support on “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Dr. Robert” is incredibly active and “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Day Tripper” and “Yesterday” are among some of the boys’ finest songs.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.