Catching Up With Bruce Spizer
by Brad Howard
©2007 Brad Howard/Beatlology
used with permission
Bruce Spizer is a Louisiana lawyer, a publisher, an author, and a Beatles fan. He recently completed his series on American Beatles records with the publication of his latest book, The Beatles Swan Song. Over the years, Mr. Spizerís research about The Beatles has been revealing and staggering. His innovative catalog / numbering system is now a standard in Beatledom. Bruce is a spellbinding guest at various Beatles conventions and often appears on national and local radio and television programs to discuss various aspects of The Beatles. His Beatles knowledge and accomplishments have not gone unnoticed and he was asked by Capitol Records to participate in the Beatles Capitol Albums project.
My first interview with Bruce Spizer was published five years ago, July 2002, in The World Beatles Forum fanzine, (issue 37). This current interview was conducted, via e-mail, on March 25 - 26, and briefly on April 9, 2007. Added comments from March 29 and 31 have also been included.
Brad Howard (BH): Congratulations on your latest effort, The Beatles Swan Song. This is your seventh book about The Beatles in America and the sixth one to focus specifically on their American records. In the book, you state that this is your personal swan song, your last book about The Beatles American records. "Say it ainít so, Joe. Say it ainít so." Is there any future possibility of seeing Bruce Spizer authored books about The Beatles on tapes and compact discs or other Beatles topics?
Bruce Spizer (BS): With the publication of The Beatles Swan Song, I completed my goal of covering all of the record releases by the Beatles in America. It's been a wonderful experience researching and writing the books, but it was very time consuming. I was planning on taking a break to recharge my batteries, but it was not to be. I agreed to edit and publish Perry Cox's new Beatles price guide, which he co-wrote with Frank Daniels. That proved to be more time consuming than imagined. The good news is that I completed my work on the project last night. I am confident that it will be very well received.
The price guide book is in the same format as my books, with over a thousand color images of records, tapes and CDs! So while I have no plans to write a book about the Beatles tapes and CDs, the price guide will cover those items in greater detail than in any previous book or price guide. As for other Beatles topics, only time will tell. But now, I really do need that break!
(BH): The Beatles Swan Song contains more than just the Swan Records releases and, in part, updates your previous efforts. Have any new discoveries come to light, since the bookís recent release?
(BS): There were some really exciting updates included in the Swan book, including the Vee-Jay acetate of the Please Please Me LP before it was renamed and trimmed to 12 songs. Another exciting find was a copy of The White Album containing the original Capitol mastering job, which was rejected by George Harrison. All of the original masters were supposed to be destroyed, but we now know that one set was used to press a limited number of albums.
Although the Swan book has only been out a few weeks, collectors are already telling me about things they have that were not in the book. I now know that there were commercial copies of Ed Solomon's Beatle Flying Saucer single. I was also sent an image of the genuine pressing of the WQAM single from 1964. Both of these items were added to the price guide. Talk about quick decimation of information!
(BH): The Beatles Swan Song premiered at the recent New Jersey Fest For Beatles Fans. How are fans and collectors reacting to the book?
(BS): Rather than doing my usual press run of 8,000 copies, I only printed 5,000 books because I was concerned that many people would view the book as an afterthought covering loose ends that were unimportant. But that has not been the case. People are telling me that they have learned as much from this book as from my prior books. Some have even called it their favorite book in the series, but I think that's just because it's the latest. Perhaps the biggest compliment was someone who told me he had nearly the same anticipation for the release of my books as he did for Beatles records when he was a kid!
(BH): Could you tell our readers your story about how you helped persuade Capitol Records to release the original album configurations with original Mono and Stereo mixes of the American records?
(BS): There were a devoted handful of people at the Capitol Tower who wanted to see the release of the Capitol albums from the sixties. I was brought in as a consultant after Apple had already green-lighted Volume 1. My main involvement was in advising which albums to include in the box set and serving as an advocate for including both the mono and stereo Capitol masters. I wrote an essay that was to serve as a companion to Mark Lewisohn's essay, but the booklet was too far along to allow for its inclusion. Rather than letting my efforts go to waste, I published a companion CD-size booklet with my essay that can be purchased from my web-site for $3.
I was more involved with Volume 2, writing the essay prior to Apple giving the go-ahead on the project. I had input on what was to be included in box set and the booklet. I really enjoyed working with the people at the Tower, as well as Wherefore Art?, Apple and the PR firm. I felt honored and blessed to assist with the project.
(BH): Were other Beatles people pushing Capitol for these releases, too?
(BS): While I am sure my Capitol album book had some impact on educating Beatles fans about the virtues of the Capitol albums, I was by no means the only person pushing for their release. Nor was I the only person to defend the albums, which have been wrongly crucified for years. I'm glad that they finally came out and that I was able to contribute to the project.
(BH): Are you happy with the quality of the box sets and the efforts by Capitol, so far?
(BS): I think the CDs sound terrific. I was pleased with the booklet for Volume 2. Although David Costa of Wherefore Art? has a style completely different than mine, I think he did a great job.
(BH): The first issues of The Capitol Albums Vol. 2 contain improper mono fold-downs of the stereo mixes for two of the four albums. I was hard pressed to obtain corrected copies, while on a recent trip to Florida. The onus for obtaining the correct mixes was placed on the purchaser. Do you think that Capitol should have issued a total recall of these wrongly mixed albums?
(BS): Capitol regrets the problem that occurred with the original run of the Beatles VI and Rubber Soul CDs. The mastering plant used the wrong tapes when it compiled the CDs for production. Capitol signed off on the correct masters, but someone at the mastering plant used the wrong mono masters for the two albums. When I informed Capitol of the error, production was immediately halted and the correct masters were used for the remainder of the run. Unfortunately, a significant number of box sets had been shipped to distributors before the error was brought to Capitol's attention. A replacement program, approved by EMI, was promptly put into effect.
While most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the fold-down mixes and the correct original mono mixes, Capitol agreed that it was important for the original mixes to be used to preserve the historical accuracy of the albums. Thus, anyone who wanted to get the correct mixes could do so. But, the bottom line is that both versions of the affected albums sound great.
While working on the Swan book, I listened to several Capitol acetates of Beatles albums from the sixties. Interestingly enough, I discovered that Capitol prepared acetates of all of its 1964 and 1965 albums with both true mono and fold-down mono mixes! These fold-down mixes were used on Meet The Beatles!, The Beatles' Second Album, The Early Beatles and Help! Although Capitol did not use fold-down mono mixes on Beatles VI and Rubber Soul, such mixes were prepared in 1965! Due to an error at the mastering lab, Capitol ended up releasing fold-down mono mixes of those albums two decades later! How's that for a strange coda to the story of the "mono glitch" on the box set?
Added Question from April 9 (BH): When you got involved in the Beatles Capitol Albums project, did you get to listen to the actual Capitol masters?
(BS): I was not in New York when the albums were mastered for CD. I discussed the masters in great detail with someone at the Capitol Tower. We both made sure that the proper masters were used. The reference discs were correct. Unfortunately, someone at the mastering plant pulled the wrong tapes for two of the albums when the production masters were made.
(BH): Will there be more box sets of Capitol Records originals?
(BS): Despite rumors to the contrary, Volume 3 is not on the schedule as of this interview. I do expect it to come out after Apple releases the remastered catalog. As for the contents of Volume 3, that will depend on what Apple includes or doesn't include on its remastered albums. I can say no more!
(BH): Is there any chance of EMI releasing a box-set of the three, uniquely Canadian albums?
(BS): There are no plans for release of the Canadian albums at this time. I would be in favor of a two CD set containing the three mono albums. The set could also include the 1963 & early 1964 singles that were unique to Capitol of Canada. Because the albums were not originally issued in stereo, I'm not sure stereo mixes should be included.
(BH): As a first generation Canadian fan, Iíd like to setup a silly scenario that might be a little ridiculous, maybe itís more of a crazy conspiracy theory or perhaps itís just a really dumb idea. In the early days of Beatlemania, The Beatles American recordings were available on Vee-Jay, Swan, Tollie, and Capitol. In Canada, they were available on Capitol of Canada from the very start. The Canadian company was a subsidiary of its American parent company. Therefore, all of the Canadian profits eventually made it to its U.S. counterpart. Is it possible that Capitol (U.S.A.) deliberately imported Canadian records into the U.S. to thwart the profits of these smaller record labels or, at the very least, imported the records to lessen the legal claims to the recordings by these smaller companies?
(BS): No. You watch too many Oliver Stone movies! Capitol (U.S.A.) was disturbed with the importing of Beatles records from Canada. In an effort to quash their success, Capitol even issued an EP containing two of the unique Canadian singles. Capitol also allowed Vee-Jay to release the single Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You as part of its settlement with Vee-Jay. Finally, Capitol president Alan Livingston ordered Capitol of Canada to conform with the U.S. releases, bringing to an end any future unique Canadian releases.
(BH): Okay, so much for my Perry Mason impression. Let me try my Matlock. The Beatles Swan Song documents the numerous Swan label variations for She Loves You b/w Iíll Get You and Sie Liebt Dich b/w Iíll Get You. Did Swan have any legal right to release Sie Liebt Dich?
(BS): No. Swan had the right to release two Beatles master recordings, namely She Loves You and Iíll Get You. They did not have the right to release either of those songs in any version other than the master recordings supplied by EMI. Therefore, they had no right to release the German-lyric version of She Loves You, which was a totally different master recording than what they had the right to release. Case closed.
(BH): In your new book, is there one fact or dispelled rumor, one item that will surprise collectors, in general? Personally, I was caught off guard by the true meaning behind "DONíT DROP OUT" on the Swan label - I was always told that it was a Beatles in-joke requesting that the single not to drop out of the charts. Boy, is that totally wrong!
(BS): I like to joke that "Don't Drop Out" was a warning to hold the paper sleeve with the open top facing upward so that the record wouldn't drop out! But I knew better. I actually remember the "Be cool, stay in school, don't be a fool" campaigns in the sixties that record companies often got behind.
My favorite discovery was solving the mystery of the Titans. I even wrote an article about my investigation of the band's identity that ran in a recent Beatles issue of "Goldmine" magazine. The truth about the band and those six Titans songs appearing on the MGM Beatles album is finally revealed. At long last, we can remember the Titans!
(BH): You also detail how George Martin tweaked the recordings for the Rock ĎNí Roll Music album. Does this mean that completist collectors need the original 45 or album releases of the various tracks found on RíNíR, the RíNíR album, the CD releases and the latest The Capitol Albums box sets to get the various mixes for these songs (not to mention the foreign anomalies)?
(BS): Completists definitely need the Rock ĎNí Roll Music album to get the unique versions of the songs. Although the tracks were not remixed from the original two-track and four-track masters, they were certainly reworked by Martin and sound different. If there is a fourth volume of the Capitol Albums series, I will push for the album's inclusion. In the mean time, enjoy the vinyl set!
(BH): Your Vee-Jay book is long out of print and is now commanding over $175 on ebay and even higher amounts through various private sources. This is very impressive. But, it also screams for the release of a second edition. Are there plans for additional editions (with all the current updates) for some of your books?
(BS): There are no current plans to publish a new edition of the Vee-Jay book at this time. If I believe sufficient demand warrants a second edition, I will consider it.
(BH): In 2001, The World Beatles Forum published an article by Robie Hartling about a previously-undocumented Beatles Capitol Records acetate album, Ď65 Tour Narrated by Jerry "G" (from the Gareth Pawlowski collection). I still have scans of the original labels for this disc. With all of the incredible details in your books, you must be amazed that new information is still being discovered. Could you comment about this and how can collectors contact you with additional information about the American Records?
(BS): My books would not be as complete as they are without the help of the dealers and collectors who send me information on previously undocumented items. People can email me at: email@example.com.
(BH): Do you know if Capitol or Apple are closer to releasing the Hollywood Bowl album on CD? Can you discuss anything on this?
(BS): There are no plans at present. It is another candidate for Volume 3 or Volume 4.
(BH): Other than the pending Capitol Albums box set(s) project, are there new Beatles albums in the works (maybe a BBC update or another Anthology)?
(BS): The main project now is the remastered Beatles catalog. I would like to see all of the albums eventually released in deluxe editions with mono, stereo, singles recorded during the sessions, outtakes and 5.1 surround. I am glad the Beatles catalog is finally being upgraded. I can say no more.
(BH): You live in New Orleans and you and your family suffered from, but survived, the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. With no disrespect to the numerous human tragedies that have befallen the city, did you lose any prized possessions?
(BS): I was truly blessed in that my home and family survived the storm. None of my Beatles collection was damaged. As for my book business, we lost about 10% of our inventory due to a leaking roof at our storage facility. Had the storage company not moved to a different part of the area a few months prior to Katrina, we would have lost 100% of our books!
(BH): You mentioned earlier that you will be publishing the next Beatles Price Guide by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
(BS): The book will be the same size and format of my books, meaning a 9" x 12" hard cover book with high quality paper and color images. I haven't yet counted, but there are thousands of listings of vinyl records, tapes (including 4-tracks, 8-tracks, playtapes, cassettes, etc.) and CDs. There is also full color throughout the book. Each page of listings has four images of items described on the page. I would imagine the guide has about a thousand color images! The book incorporates the numbering system used in my books, so collectors can match descriptions in the guide with the actual images in my books. The books also has check boxes by each listing. I suspect many collectors will order two copies - one to preserve and one to mark up. Our first press run is only 5,000, so collectors should order early to avoid disappointment.
(Added comments from March 29 and 31: The new Perry Cox and Frank Daniels book will be like no other price guide previously published. We hope to have the book out by mid-summer.)
(BH): How can readers obtain your books?
(BS): I'm glad you asked. The books can be ordered from my web-site: www.beatle.net or other Internet sellers and book stores. The advantage of ordering the books directly from my web-site is that you can request that the book be signed and/or personalized by me. As you know, the Vee-Jay book has sold out. We are close to selling out of the Capitol books and all of the collector's editions are nearly gone. So buy them now to ensure they find good homes! End of unashamed plug and interview! Now, I gotta get back to my law practice.
(BH): Bruce Spizer, as always, it has been a pleasure. Thank you.
Readers interested in purchasing the published version in Beatlology magazine should contact the assistant editor, Brad Howard at: firstname.lastname@example.org