Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Played The First Beatles Record ... Oh, You Guys Know The Drill By Now!!! (More Facts and Figures)

The debate continues. (Trust me, it will NEVER end!!!)

>>>Using my U.S. Beatles Singles logic, the IMMEDIATE problem I found with your story was the fact that Capitol Records never released "Love Me Do" as a single in 1962 ... it was completely passed over. Even when the record DID finally come out in America in the Spring of 1964, it was pressed on the Tollie Record label, a subsidiary of Vee Jay Records, who earlier had pressed singles like "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You" before Capitol finally released something by the group. So my first thought was that he COULDN'T have found the single in a stack of Capitol Records releases because, quite simply, they never had released it! (kk)
Capitol of Canada issued Love Me Do as Capitol 72076 on February 18, 1963. If it sold only 78 copies upon initial release, I doubt it would've gotten played on radio at the time. Just my opinion ... I still say Biondi was first.
Tom Diehl
We DID acknowledge that Capitol Of Canada released "Love Me Do" ... unlike their U.S. counterpart EMI subsidiary, who passed on the disk (and the other titles mentioned above, along with "She Loves You", which ended up on Swan Records here in The States.)
A February 18th, 1963, Canadian release dates puts this record neck-and-neck with Biondi's airing of "Please Please Me" here in Chicago ... EITHER one of these jocks could have been the first to air a Beatles record in North America. (See the email below this one for an even more-detailed argument!) kk

Here’s a little more background on Ray Sonin, also citing his claim to be the first in North America to play the Beatles:
http://www.biblio.com/books/24190568.html -
This website entry advertises the sale of a first printing of one of Ray Sonin’s books published in 1935. Some biographical info is included in the Book Description section:
"Broadcaster, journalist, writer and musician Sonin was a giant influence in the pop culture of his day, discovering a young girl named Vera Lynn singing in a London pub in 1935, and got her career started by introducing her to the famous BBC band leader, Joe Loss. He also influenced the careers of Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, Frankie Laine, Roger Whittaker, Petula Clark and many other well-known musical talents through the years. He was a song lyricist and, among many, wrote "Lonely Woman" for Sarah Vaughan, as well as "Best of All" and "Homecoming Waltz" for Vera Lynn. For 10 years, Ray was also the editor of the UK's famous "Melody Maker" magazine, the first publication anywhere in the world to introduce a "Top Ten" music chart. On moving to Canada, he was the first to play the Beatles, ABBA, the Dave Clark Five and Petula Clark to North American audiences."
http://www.snowbirds.org/csanews/issues/47/32.html -
An account of Ray’s life and passing by his good friend, next-door neighbour and eventual colleague at CFRB.
Source3: Click here: The Beatles are coming!: the birth ... - Google Books

Text published in Beatlemania! published by Bruce Spizer in 2003 also suggests Ray as the first DJ, although there is not enough text in Google’s preview to verify this as fact.
Source 4:
http://www.streamingoldies.com/Challenge/Ray-Sonin.mp3 -
Here’s the word from the man himself: Ray Sonin’s personal account of his first exposure to The Beatles; first a mention from his nephew in the UK, then finding Love Me Do in a stack of records.
Richard Warriner
Toronto, Canada
Unfortunately, Richard, I'm not so sure ANY of this makes your case any stronger ... taking things point by point:
For starters, the first couple of book references are non-specific as to a date ... and they simply state the same "facts" over and over ... unfortunately, this seems to be the trend with FAR too many Internet postings ... the same information (right, wrong or otherwise) keeps getting copied over again and again and again from one source to another until it's just simply accepted as "fact" regardless of what the REAL circumstances may be. Simply stating that something happened doesn't change the course of history ... that's why we've always looked for back-up information and checked a variety of sources in our efforts to determine "The Most Accurate Truth".

(That being said, one of the most unreliable sources we've found on the Internet seems to be Wikipedia, which, despite this fact, then seems to be quoted EVERYWHERE else as "gospel". And I say this knowing that, as of today, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1800 Wikipedia entries currently credited to Forgotten Hits ... and I have NEVER ... EVER ... submitted a single one of them!!! I don't know WHO'S been sending these in, but apparently since we tend to back our facts up with some pretty substantial documentation, they're now putting some "weight" behind these claims. Who knows, we may unwitingly be rewriting history as we speak ... bringing "The Most Accurate Truth" to the masses simply by digging a little deeper in our research!)
The short interview interview you included only makes me MORE suspicious that the facts may not be recalled entirely correctly by Ray Sonin himself! In it, Sonin ADMITS as much when he states that for YEARS he referred to "P.S. I Love You" as being the first Beatles record he played ... then changes his story to being "the one with the harmonica." Well, "the one with the harmonica" could be "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me" or "From Me To You" for that matter ... The Beatles almost OVER-USED the instrument on their early recordings, as perhaps a way of "defining their sound" or making it more identifiable as a Beatles recording. Interestingly enough, it was that very harmonica sound that most turned off Dave Dexter of Capitol Records here in America, thus preventing him from jumping on any of these early Beatles singles for release here in The States.
The fact that Sonin himself seems a bit "confused" lends NO credence to his claims. Add in to this the fact that he first began discovering acts in the 1930's (I believe I read that he was born in 1907 which, by 1963, would have made him 56 ... sorry to say but perhaps just a bit "too old" and "out-of-touch" to recognize what sounds would click with the day's teenagers, especially a brand NEW developing trend like a British Act crossing over to these shores) and I find it a bit hard to believe that The Beatles caught HIS ears before they caught anybody else's. Also take into account that he began making this claim some 25 years later, which would have put him in his late 70's or early 80's, by which time ANYBODY's memory could have faded a bit ... particularly regarding the circumstances surrounding what, at the time, could ONLY be described as a pretty insignificant event.
But the most damaging piece of evidence on your list is the Bruce Spizer book "The Beatles Are Coming!", published in 2003.
It was in THIS book that Spizer first used OUR article as concrete evidence that Dick Biondi was the first deejay in America to play a Beatles record on the radio. In fact, you'll even find us credited (although just BARELY ... which is to say that at least he spelled my name right!!!) in the beginning of the book. However, what you WILL find (on Page 17 to be exact) is a query that reads: "The first disc jockey to play a Beatles record in America was ... " followed by a series of events outlining EXACTLY what we had first pointed out in our article a year earlier. In fact, you'll even find a copy of the March 15, 1963, WLS Survey that we sent him (courtesy of FH Reader Bill Hengels, uncredited) that shows that "Please Please Me" (recorded by the mis-spelled Beattles, which is the way Vee Jay Records first credited them on their record label) had already been receiving WLS Airplay for four weeks by this time. In conjunction with this publication, we ALSO set up a one-on-one interview between Bruce Spizer and Dick Biondi (thanks to FH Reader Ron Smith, ALSO uncredited, who worked side-by-side with Biondi for YEARS over at the old Magic 104 FM here in Chicago, our one-time premier oldies station.) During this interview, they narrowed it down to February 8, 1963, as being the MOST LIKELY DATE that Biondi first played this record on the air ... Biondi aired

new releases on his Friday Night Program back then and this coincides with when Biondi would have first been presented with a copy of this brand new Vee Jay release, as it was officially released the day before, at which time a representative of the label personally ran a copy over to the station.
Further weakening your case (in this same publication) is DOCUMENTED PROOF that Capitol of Canada did not release "Love Me Do" as a single until MID-FEBRUARY of 1963. (In fact, on page 24 of Spizer's book you'll see an actual copy of the Capitol Of Canada "Sizzle Sheet" dated "Week Ending February 22nd, 1963) where "Love Me Do" / "P.S. I Love You" (Capitol 72076) first appeared on their new releases / hot sheet, along with these instructions:

"Give this side a couple of spins and you'll be hooked! This is an English record and a recent top 20 disc over there. Don't neglect this side!"
Again, this would have ALL happened about two weeks AFTER Biondi had already aired the "Please Please Me" record on WLS here in Chicago. (And keep in mind that "Please Please Me" was The Beatles' SECOND release ... Capitol of Canada was just first hopping on their FIRST single which, by then, had already fallen off the charts in England after being released some three months earlier!) The book then goes on to reiterate total sales of about 78 copies ... although stating now that "some accounts list sales at 170 units" ... STILL not enough to make a dent on any type of sales chart.
The first and ONLY mention of Ray Sonin that I could find then appears on Page 27 where Spizer acknowledges that "Toronto, Canada, may well have been home to the first airplay of a Beatles record in North America." It goes on to say that "towards the end of 1962, Ray received a copy of the Beatles' first single 'Love Me Do' b/w 'P.S. I Love You. The disc was sent by a Toronto listener (NOT his nephew as was also later claimed) who had just returned home from a trip to Liverpool. The accompanying letter told of the Beatles massive popularity in their hometown. Sonin read excerpts from the letter and played 'Love Me Do' on his show one late Saturday afternoon in December, 1962. This predates any known broadcast of a Beatles record in either Canada or the United States."
Only problem with THIS story is that it COMPLETELY changes the scenario of Sonin finding the single "in a stack of Capitol Singles that had just come over to the radio station" as, again, "Love Me Do" would not be pressed as a Canadian single until February of 1963, and this COMPLETELY contridicts the story that has been told for all these years and years ... NOT that a copy was submitted by a fan from England ... NOT that Sonin had picked up a copy of the Parlophone single on one of his many trips to England (which he was, in fact, making at the time in conjunction with his radio program "Calling All Britons") ... instead, the story has been CHANGED to reflect a more conductive timeline to allow for Sonin to have played the record first.

In effect, this story has turned into a "moving target", with the scenario constantly changing to better fit the timeline. Whereas the WLS Silver Dollar Survey documents WLS jumping on "Please Please Me" as absolute fact, here we're being asked to believe any variety of scenarios that would allow for the possibility that Ray Sonin MAY have played "Love Me Do" earlier. Simply put, there are just TOO many holes in this story to state CONCLUSIVELY that this is the way it happened.
Hate to be just a gloomy-gus but, hey, I'm just using the sources you gave me to shoot those holes in this theory. As I stated before, I believe Ray Sonin was most likely the first disc jockey in Canada to play a Beatles record on the air as I have NO reason to doubt so ... nor is there anybody else coming forward to make a similar (or earlier) claim otherwise ... but he did NOT play it in 1962 as it wasn't even released in Canada until February of 1963. (This proof is ALSO documented in Spizer's book.)

And even if he DID, in fact, play it the MINUTE it came out in Canada as a single, that puts him in AT BEST in a TIE with Dick Biondi for playing the record in mid-February. (Vee Jay Records released "Please Please Me" as a single here in The States on February 7, 1963 ... Capitol Of Canada held off on this release until APRIL, trying to give "Love Me Do" a chance to catch on.)
It never did ... in fact, it never even charted ... until it was re-released over a year LATER to catch the wave of worldwide, rampant Beatlemania ... and those are just the facts, Jack! (I mean Richard!!!)
One more point ... how cool is it that even if Biondi and Sonin SOMEHOW, remarkably BOTH played a Beatles record ON THE EXACT SAME DAY here in North America ... as unlikely a scenario as that may be ... that each of them would have played a completely DIFFERENT Beatles tune. In hindsight, pretty remarkable for a then unknown band trying to make a dent on the airwaves of our shores! (kk)

By the way, out of ALL of the Bruce Spizer books published, I find "The Beatles Are Coming" to be the most "fan-friendly". Jam-packed with statistic, it also presents an incredibly interesting diary of events of The Beatles' first year here on the charts in America. (TV appearances, U.S. tour dates ... they're ALL here ... along with TONS of historical photographs and documents that run cover-to-cover as Bruce paints a riveting portrait of what that first year was like as we were all being swept away in the throes of Beatlemania.)

Some of his other books are probably a bit too fact-and-detail oriented for the more casual reader ... but THIS one is an absolute delight from cover to cover ... and we HIGHLY recommend it.
Copies are still available through Bruce's website:
Click here: The Beatles In America - Books by Bruce Spizer
And tell him that Forgotten Hits sent you!!! (kk)

As an anxious junior high school student, I always had trouble sleeping on Sunday nights. But in 1963, that wasn't such a bad thing, because I always listened to a KFWB show (unfortunately, I've forgotten who the DJ was) that played 45s that did NOT make the station's playlist. The first time I heard the Beatles was definitely on this show, and the song was "From Me To You," not "Please Please Me" or "Love Me Do." As I remember, KFWB had the L.A. exclusive on "I Want To Hold Your Hand," and I immediately recognized the vocal blend. It feels like it was somewhere in the vicinity of 6 months to 1 year before the Capitol release that would change rock and roll forever.

Love Forgotten Hits.
Dave Feldman
"From Me To You" got enough airplay in California to chart in several local markets ... and that would have been just about six months before "I Want To Hold Your Hand" hit the U.S. airwaves ... so your recollections are likely correct. (Check our website to see "From Me To You" on a California Top 40 Chart!)

Click here: Forgotten Hits - Who Played The Very First Beatles Record In America?
In fact, airplay in California of "From Me To You" was significant enough that the record actually "Bubbled Under" on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart in 1963 before giving way to the more-accepted Del Shannon cover version. (Shannon had just wrapped up a tour of England with The Fab Four and, after seeing the reaction they were getting from their fans over there, decided to cut a version of their latest #1 Hit. Being the "established recording star" at the time, it was DEL's version who got the majority of the airplay back here at home.)
"Love Me Do" wasn't picked up by ANYBODY here in The States and, because it wasn't really all that big a hit at home either (it peaked at #17), EMI was willing to let that one go. But when "Please Please Me" shot up the charts in The U.K., eventually peaking at #2 (and #1 in some British markets), they pretty much INSISTED that their subsidiary Capitol Records release it. When the honchos at Capitol said they didn't "hear anything hit-worthy", EMI shopped it to some of the smaller independent labels ... and that's when Vee Jay Records (right here in Chicago) picked it up for distribution. Honestly, it flopped the first time around ... but before it was withdrawn, it DID chart for two weeks on The WLS Silver Dollar Survey, making Dick Biondi the first deejay here in The States to play a Beatles record on the air. Again, click on the link for more details. Thanks, Dave! (kk)

I've nothing to add to the "Who played the Beatles first in North America" argument, though as an ex-Brit living in the Toronto area for many years I find the Ray Sonin, CFRB Toronto angle interesting.
I just want to commend you for the time you spend trying to get to the bottom of topics like this.
Mike Ogilvie
Hey, it's what we do ... "The Most Accurate Truth" has become our motto ... and it's the reason we're quickly becoming the "go to" source for this kind of stuff. (Of course having the cooperation of the artists and many of the folks who were actually THERE at the time make the whole thing a lot more INTERESTING!!!) kk