Meeting The Beatles!

Meeting The Beatles!

Sixty years ago today, Capitol Records issued the “Meet The Beatles!” album, which was the American version of the “With The Beatles” LP that had been issued the previous November in the U.K.

I actually didn’t get to listen to “Meet The Beatles!” until I received it as a gift from my parents that Easter, which was on March 29 that year. (Yes, my brothers and I actually got Easter presents from our parents!)

I was impressed right away with the cover, which was a moody, magnificent masterpiece, with that unforgettable portrait of the Fab Four printed in a bluish black ink.

I remember my brothers and I standing in front of my mother’s portable suitcase stereo. We spent hours engaged in what later would become known as “air guitar,” silently miming the words, because we didn’t want to interfere with the music.

In those early days of our Beatlemania, my parents were our source of records. In fact, my father bought my very first Beatles recording — the single of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” b/w “I Saw Her Standing There” — without ever being asked to do so!

And, just about every time Mom went downtown in 1964, she returned with yet another Beatles single on what at the time was a bewildering assortment of labels (Capitol, Vee-Jay, Tollie, Swan).

When you look at the track listing of “Meet The Beatles!,” it would have been hard to compile a better way of first experiencing a Beatles album. Side 1 opened with the double-sided smash “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” followed by “This Boy,” “It Won’t Be Long,” “All I’ve Got to Do” and “All My Loving.

Then, on Side 2 you had George Harrison’s “Don’t Bother Me,” “Little Child,” Paul McCartney doing one for the parents with “Till There Was You,” Ringo Starr getting his lead spot with “I Wanna Be Your Man” and John Lennon’s “Not a Second Time,” which had prompted a critic for the London Times to go on about its use of Aeolian cadences (of which Lennon knew absolutely nothing).

Years later, when I was in college and bought a copy of the British “With The Beatles” album, it was a weird listening experience for me, as it was for many U.S. fans. It was like someone took the terrific “Meet The Beatles!” album, shaved off three of its strongest tracks (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “This Boy”) and stuck in a bunch of cover versions. It’s a fine album, but let’s face it, the Capitol configuration beats it hands-down.

Bill King