Today In Music, January 10, 2011

On this day in 1964, the Beatles debut album, Introducing... The Beatles, is released in the US on Chicago's own Vee-Jay Records.

As was common back in those days, UK record labels would regularly license foreign albums to small US labels with little regard for how the US labels would market the albums. It was merely another source of income for the UK labels. In the case of The Beatles, EMI had approached Capitol Records about releasing The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me in the US, but the label refused, leaving EMI to pursue other options. As a result, Vee-Jay acquired the rights to The Beatles' first album for a pittance, but soon encountered financial problems in the months that followed after one of their executives embezzled money from the label to cover gambling debts.

These financial difficulties led the label to cancel plans for releasing any music by The Beatles. As a result, their contract with Transglobal (an affiliate of EMI/UK, which owned the original rights to The Beatles' masters) was declared null and void in August 1963.

In serious need of cash and recognizing an opportunity to make some, Vee-Jay executives caught wind of Capitol Records' impending release of a new Beatles album in early 1964 and immediately began issuing the copies of Introducing...The Beatles that they'd pressed, but not released, in 1963.

Six days later, they were served with a restraining order halting further distribution of the album. Four days after that, Capitol released Meet The Beatles. For weeks afterward, the two albums dominated the top two spots on the Billboard album charts, with the Vee-Jay record at #2. Despite further restraining orders and court actions, a judge eventually ruled that Vee-Jay could legally sell Introducing... through October 15, 1964. By the time all was said and done, the label would sell over 1.3 million copies of the album.

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