Rear Window


My copy is part of the Alfred Hitchcock-Limited Edition-The Essentials Collection.

The movie is described on the back cover as:

James Stewart and Grace Kelly star in this voyeuristic masterpiece about a photographer who becomes obsessed with watching his neighbors and discovers a possible murder.

My immediate thought as the opening credits begin: the jazz score is pretty cool. There’s a hint of classic movie score feel to it, but it’s jazzy enough to make it hip. I wonder if a copy of just the score is available.

The credits are shown over a shot from the inside of our main setting with the window blinds going up as if a curtain rising before a play. Let the show begin!

Having watched the movie many times and being aware of its background by having read up on a few sources, I have so many initial thoughts after seeing just the first three shots post- introductory credits:

  • I’m aware of how the apartment building/courtyard/street is one big set, and I’m amazed at how real and complete it is as, in the first shot, we pan around counter-clockwise. Every detail for such a setting seems to have been considered as we see a stray cat in the courtyard, and birds fluttering around and gathered up on a roof, and withered plant life, and a dog tied to a post in an alleyway. It’s obviously morning, and we see the different activities neighbors are involved in mornings: shaving, preparing breakfast, just waking, or sleeping in, as Stewart’s character is.

  • We learn that a heat wave is going on: a close-up of a thermometer shows it’s over 90° already this morning, some neighbors are sleeping on their balcony, children are seen chasing a water truck down the street (I wonder how long that street was), a bead of sweat is seen running down sleeping Stewart’s forehead.
  • In the third tracking shot we learn Stewart’s character’s name, L.B. Jefferies, as signed on his leg cast, his occupation as a photographer, and probably how his leg was broken by seeing a broken camera and some framed action photos.

… Again, I’m amazed at all Hitchcock was able to teach us in only three shots.

We also learn a lot from the first dialogue scene. Stewart’s character Jefferies (“Jeff”) receives a call from his employer and we have confirmed Jeff’s occupation and the reason for his broken leg. We also learn that he’s a bachelor in no rush to marry and that he’s spent the past few weeks recuperating in his apartment, bored, with nothing to do but watch his neighbors.

Jeff is shown doing this while on his phone call, and we witness the goings-on of some of the neighbors: the dancer (“Miss Torso”) preparing another meal, the musician composing, the old woman annoyed by Miss Torso’s music, the salesman returning home to his nagging wife. Hitchcock described all this in Hitchcock/Truffaut as ‘a group of little stories that mirror a small universe’. I like how Ty Burr, in The Best Old Movies for Families, describes it: “every one of the windows in the apartment complex is its own mini-movie”.

A funny early scene is when Jeff’s broken leg itches, causing him to reach into the cast with a backscratcher. His panicked look replaced by his look of relief … 😁

Thelma Ritter’s character Stella, Jeff’s nurse, has some of the best lines in this movie:

(Putting a thermometer in Jeff’s mouth) “See if you can break a hundred.”

(Discussing economic collapse) “When General Motors has to go to the bathroom ten times a day, the whole country’s ready to let go.”

Stella: “You’ve got a hormone deficiency.”
Jeff: “How can you tell from a thermometer?”
Stella: “Those bathing beauties you’ve been watching haven’t raised your temperature one degree in a month.”

“Look, Mr. Jefferies, I’m not an educated woman, but I can tell you one thing: When a man and a woman see each other and like each other, they oughta come together, wham, like a couple of taxies on Broadway.”

“Intelligence. Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.”

… a whole blog post could be written on Stella’s sayings.

Jeff is shown napping, and a shadow covers him as someone is approaching him sleeping in his wheelchair. Being a Hitchcock film, a first-time viewer might expect that this is a danger situation. But we then see a close-up of Grace Kelly leaning in to kiss Stewart. It’s a great introduction to Grace’s character Lisa Fremont; it reminds me of the zoom-in introduction to John Wayne’s character in Stagecoach.

I have to say that I’m not one to fawn over a character in a movie. But Grace’s performance here is pretty great. Her introduction of herself as she turns on three lamps in the room:

(lamp one) “Lisa …”
(lamp two) “Carol …”
(lamp three) “Fremont”  😊

… I think this is Grace’s best movie performance.

Of each of the ‘mini-movies’ of Jeff’s neighbors, the one of the woman referred to as Miss Lonelyhearts is the one that I find most interesting. She’s a single woman who’s very lonely, and, in our introduction of her story, we see her setting a table for two. She then walks to open her apartment door, although we can see that there’s no one waiting there. She acts as if she has a guest, a date, and she mimes as if inviting him in, taking his hat, receiving a kiss on the cheek, pouring wine … and she then breaks down crying because she’s actually alone. What I find most interesting about her part of Rear Window is the reactions of our main characters to her story. While Jeff and Lisa watch the scene just described and initially seem sympathetic, they’re quickly distracted by activities of surrounding neighbors. This happens often in the movie, situations of concern regarding Miss Lonelyhearts being quickly overshadowed by other happenings, some not as serious. I see this as evidence of Hitchcock’s well-known wicked sense of humor.

I think a nice detail is that, just before we notice that there’s trouble in the living situation of the movie’s antagonist, among the background sounds of the neighborhood, we can hear a siren of, I think, a fire truck. It kind of sets the stage for what’s to come ⚠

While Jeff is watching those two just-mentioned neighbor moments, Lisa is preparing a meal for herself and Jeff, and Jeff makes slightly rude comments about their relationship as he talks about what they see across the courtyard. This is followed by a scene where Jeff and Lisa discuss the difficulty of being together with their widely-different individual lifestyles. These scenes are uncomfortable to watch, in my opinion, because I’ve already come to like both characters, and I want them to be happy together. It’s one of my least-favorite scenes in the movie: Jeff seems to be acting too rude to Lisa, and Lisa seems to be acting too stubborn to accept Jeff’s reasoning. I’m no film analyst (and I’m definitely no analyst of relationships), but I do see how these scenes play an important part in the development of the story of their relationship, but they’re not my favorite part of the movie.

The next few scenes have almost no dialogue. They occur overnight as Jeff dozes off-and-on while watching his neighbors: we hear what was probably the antagonist’s crime being committed, a light rain starts and catches the neighbor couple that sleeps on their balcony (a funny scene), the dancer and the musician are each seen returning to their homes after evenings out, the antagonist suspiciously leaves and returns a few times. This all happens with no dialogue but only ambient noise and Stewart’s reaction-acting to set the mood. It’s masterful moviemaking, evidence of Hitchcock’s genius, in my opinion.

Another of my favorite scenes (I have many favorite scenes 🙂) occurs the next morning. The couple who sleep on the balcony have rigged up a pulley system to lower a basket containing their small dog from the third floor to the courtyard. I dig animals in movies, and I like that the dog patiently waits in the basket as he’s lowered to the pavement.

Stella: “You’d think the rain would have cooled things off. All it did was make the heat wet.”

Jeff (referring to Miss Torso): “She sure is the ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ girl.”
Stella: “Yeah, she’ll wind up fat, alcoholic, and miserable.”

A cool effect occurs when Stewart’s character decides to commit to his investigation. When he uses binoculars, and also when he uses a long-focus lens, to spy on the criminal, the building across the courtyard is seen reflected in the lens glass. Movie posters and publicity photos often use reflections in lenses to show significant details. It’s interesting to see such detail in an active scene.

And now a scene that includes the pet owner whistling for the little dog and his coming to his basket, climbing in, and being towed up to their third-floor apartment. Animals in films are cool 🐶

That scene segues into what I consider Stewart and Kelly’s best scene in the movie. It starts with the two of them kissing, Jeff and Lisa having reunited and made up. But Jeff is obviously distracted by what he thinks has happened across the way. He speculates about the crime and again uses his binoculars. Lisa’s frustrated , not just by not having Jeff’s full attention but also by his spying actions, and she pulls his wheelchair around away from the window, and she scolds him. They argue a bit … and then Lisa’s look changes as her attention is caught by something she notices past Jeff, out the window, and across the courtyard. She slowly stands and asks Jeff to tell her again all his suspicions, she having now been convinced a crime has been committed.

A funny scene occurs the next morning. Stella has served Jeff his breakfast, but he’s not able to eat it while she shares her gruesome thoughts about the crime.

I’m not a fan of Doyle, Jeff’s detective friend who comes over to help Jeff with his investigation. Although the actor’s performance is adequate, it can only pale in comparison to the performances given by Stewart, Kelly, and Ritter.

Another chapter of the Miss Lonelyhearts story occurs. She’s shown bringing to her apartment a young man she’s met. She serves him and herself drinks, but, too soon after, he gets too friendly with her, causing her to slap him and throw him out of her apartment, and she again collapses in tears, all while party guests at another apartment sing “Mona Lisa”. Jeff and Lisa again idly watch, although this does cause them to question the ethics of their spying activity. But neither lifts a finger to come to Miss Lonelyhearts aid. Hitchcock was a cruel man 😈

Doyle appears in a scene that’s my earliest memory of Rear Window. Lisa has served snifters of brandy, and the three characters swirl their brandy as they discuss the case. Many years ago my mom was watching Rear Window, and I, a young boy, was kind of watching along while doing something else I thought was more interesting, like reading a book. At this scene, I didn’t understand why the people on the screen were swirling around their drinks, and I asked Mom about it. I don’t remember what her explanation was, but my takeaway was that it was a grown-up activity and not anything I’d take part in for many years. I didn’t realize at the time what movie Mom was watching, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this scene again when I discovered Rear Window for myself many years later.

The brandy scene also adds dimension to the character of Lisa. She started off as, although intriguing, too much a society girl, a bit superficial and too concerned with image and class status, in my opinion. But almost immediately after believing Jeff’s suspicions, she becomes cooler: in the next scene, she’s gone over to the criminal’s building, looked up the address and name of the persons involved, and called Jeff with that information. It’s like she’s now willing to leave her high society position to come down to our level of the investigation of the crime. But it’s not like she’s now a superhero. During the brandy scene, she shares her speculations about the crime, but each one is explained away by Doyle’s detective reasoning. Actually, Lisa is kind of made to look foolish in this scene. It’s like she’s not the brains but the brawn of the operation. But she wins, in my opinion, when, after Doyle leaves, she closes the blinds, walks by Jeff, shows him her overnight bag, and says, “Preview of coming attractions”.

Although Jeff and Lisa were convinced by Doyle that no crime had been committed, a small tragedy in the courtyard changes their minds again. What they see is the criminal sitting in a darkened apartment, smoking a cigarette, only the glow of the lit end visible. It’s kind of an eerie sight, but it’s cool that we’re allowed to understand what’s happening without too much explanation; we’re able to piece it all together because of a similar scene earlier. It makes me think of another situation where we’re allowed to discern what’s going on: Earlier there’s a scene where a character lays out on his couch to take a nap, but we can’t see the couch because it’s just below our line of sight. In a later scene, we see the same view, but with puffs of smoke rising from one end. Obviously the man is again reclining on the couch and is smoking a cigarette. I appreciate that Hitchcock doesn’t oversimplify everything but trusts that his audience is intelligent enough to follow along.

The investigation really picks up now when Jeff, Lisa, and Stella are together in Jeff’s apartment considering how to prove the crime. Lisa’s ideas are again inadequate, but she again wins over any doubters by her willingness to act on what they know. My favorite of all of Grace’s scenes is when she’s taking a message to the criminal’s building and she stops and gives a little wave to Jeff from across the way. And, after almost being seen by the villain, she returns to Jeff’s apartment, and the admiring look on his face show that he’s overcome also any doubt he had about her being the right girl for him.

I dig the three-dimensional nature of the scene where Lisa delivers the note. We see her at the end of the alleyway, waving to Jeff. We don’t see her enter the building or ascend to the second story. But we see her come into the far end of the hallway and quietly walk up toward us, to the criminal’s door. She bends down, and, while we can’t see her slip the note under the apartment door, we see the criminal’s reaction to it: going to the door, opening it, and looking down the hallway, having just missed seeing Lisa. From Lisa’s entering the hallway to her leaving, everything’s seen in one static shot, Lisa’s actions visible through a window on the left side of the screen and the villain’s reaction through a window on the right. Masterful moviemaking in my opinion.

The ‘3D’ action continues. We see the villain, after having read the note, go down the hallway after Lisa, and, simultaneously, we see Lisa on the next floor down come up that hallway to the courtyard. She hides just outside the doorway until she hears the criminal come back up the second-story hallway and out onto the balcony above her, causing her to run back down the first-floor hallway. I’m no film student, but I dig when film takes advantage of all directions in scenes: up and down, left and right, front and back. And I dig how the Rear Window set is not just a façade but has depth and dimension; I wish I could have toured it.

During this action, we see another chapter, probably the most significant, in the Miss Lonelyhearts story. After Lisa leaves the scene across the courtyard, Stella notices Miss Lonelyhearts pouring out a large handful of sleeping pills, get herself a glass of water, and sit holding a Bible. But, while Stella and Jeff start discussing what such a quantity of pills could mean, Lisa bursts into Jeff’s apartment, after avoiding being noticed by the criminal, and Jeff and Stella are distracted from Miss Lonelyheart’s situation. Actually, our attention is also turned and mostly kept away from her and onto the main investigation. There is a quick cutaway while Jeff, Lisa, and Stella are planning their next move, where we’re allowed to see Miss Lonelyhearts letting down the blinds in her apartment, but nothing is said by our main characters about it because they probably didn’t notice it.. A few minutes later Jeff sees, through the blinds, Miss Lonelyhearts sitting to write a letter, and he comments that Stella was wrong about the sleeping pills. But a few more minutes after that, at the same time as one of the most critical scenes of the movie, Stella notices that her assumption was correct when Miss Lonelyhearts is ready to take the sleeping pills. Stella and Jeff are calling the police to intervene when Miss Lonelyhearts stops due to the actions of a tenant in a nearby apartment. What’s cool is that Hitchcock had this other activity occurring in the background throughout most of what we’ve been witnessing. The Miss Lonelyhearts story isn’t over yet, but, despite not being our main focus, it still has a lot of emotional effect.

Another favorite scene is when Stella and Lisa first mention taking impulsive action in the investigation:

Stella: “Let’s go down and find out what’s buried in the garden.”

Lisa: “Why not? I’ve always wanted to meet [the victim].”

Jeff: “What are you two talking about …?”

Stella: “You got a shovel?”

Jeff: “Of course I don’t have a shovel.”

Stella: “Probably one in the basement.”

Lisa: “Jeff, if you’re squeamish, just don’t look.”

Even though Jeff stops them before arranging matters to keep them safe, we see that these are brave women of action.

This is mostly evident in Lisa’s decision to climb up the fire escape and into the criminal’s apartment. She’s searching for evidence when we notice that the criminal has returned home and is coming up the hallway to his apartment. The suspense is heightened by our seeing Jeff and Stella’s nervously watching this take place; the camera angle of their reactions is from beside and a bit low, looking up at them … I don’t know why, but this makes them seem more anxious and the whole scene more suspenseful. I’ve never fully understood how camerawork affect scenes, but these filmmakers obviously did.

Not as immediately evident, there are additional moments that add to what I’ve been referring to as the ‘three-dimensional’ nature of the film. Lisa’s in the criminal’s apartment, has just found the evidence she was looking for, and is ready to leave. But she stops before opening the door to exit the apartment. We see that the criminal is approaching the apartment door. Lisa must have heard him coming, so she doesn’t exit. We don’t hear him coming up the hallway; we’re in Jeff’s apartment across the courtyard, and other noise (street and city noises, talk and music from other apartments) prevent us from hearing his footsteps.

Lisa runs back through the apartment into the bedroom and hides somewhere out of sight of our view. As we’re looking in the bedroom window, we see reflected in the open window the criminal entering the apartment. And, after entering the bedroom and noticing that someone’s been looking through his things, he turns, and his body language tell us that he’s found Lisa. Again, a reflection in an open window shows us what’s happening as Lisa backs out of the room away from the criminal. Her actions and gestures show that she’s trying to explain what she’s doing there, but we have difficulty hearing what she’d saying because of music that’s playing in another apartment. And when the criminal grabs Lisa and they struggle, her calls to Jeff for help are at the volume expected in this setting. I’m fascinated with how the window reflections and the sound and volume (or lack of it) add to the dimensions of this film.

Well, the police arrive, and Lisa is arrested. But, while arranging for Stella to bail her out and also explaining to Doyle over the phone what’s happened, Jeff loses track of the criminal: after Doyle’s call, Jeff looks across to the criminal’s apartment, and the lights are all off. He soon realizes that the criminal is coming around to Jeff’s apartment.

Hitchcock has described how he employed a few special effects in the scene where the criminal meets with Jeff. A color effect is used when Jeff tries defending himself when the criminal arrives. And as they struggle, neighbors hear and come out of their apartments; Hitchcock has mentioned having their reaction shots sped up a little to heighten anxiety. And some kind of superimposed technique is obviously used at the end of the struggle. It’s mostly effective.

I say mostly because I’m reminded of a time many years ago when I watched this with a friend, and he commented that the sped up and the superimposed shots looked funny to him. We were watching this on laserdisc (remember laserdiscs? 🙂), and my friend kept rewinding and fast-forwarding over these shots, and we couldn’t stop laughing at how silly they looked. Kinda ruined that part of the movie for me now ☹

Well, the crime is solved, and the criminal is caught, and the final scene is shown. It’s similar to the first scene in that it pans over the apartments across the courtyard. We receive closure in the stories of Miss Lonelyhearts, the musician, the dog owners, Miss Torso, the newlyweds. We see Jeff asleep again in his wheelchair. And we see Lisa reading a book about the Himalayas and dressed casually, not in a usual designer dress, but wearing jeans. The adventure has obviously affected her … but it hasn’t completely changed her: seeing that Jeff is asleep, she puts down the book and picks up one of her fashion magazines. And the blinds are drawn closed. The End.

Is it obvious how much a fan I am of Rear Window? It’s definitely my favorite of Hitchcock’s films and one of my favorites of all movies 😁

The Liebster Award

I’m EXTREMELY honored to have been nominated for the Liebster Award … but I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t aware of the nomination when it was made OVER A YEAR AGO (!?!?) by one of my favorite bloggers, Nicole, at her awesome site an ode to dust.

For the uninformed, the Liebster Award is explained at as:

It is said that the Liebster Award was created to recognize and/or discover new bloggers; and welcome them to the blogosphere. “Liebster” is a German word meaning beloved or dearest. This Award exists only on the internet as pixels, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. Many see it as a way of promoting and recognizing fellow bloggers, for their efforts and accomplishments in becoming a bonafide blogger. Some see it as a nasty chain letter that needs to be snuffed out…

Getting noted for your work and being nominated for an award is a wonderful feeling.

It does follow similar principles as a chain letter, in the sense that it should be passed forward to a certain number of people. Variations have been made over the years to the “official rules”. (Regarding blog size, number of questions answered, how many other bloggers ‘tagged’, if you answer questions set by the nominator or just your own list of chosen facts; and whether or not you ‘thank’ the person who bestowed it upon you.) Other awards are a part of the whole “meme scheme”. These include “One Lovely Blog Award”, the “Sunshine Blog Award” and the “Versatile Writer Award”.

There is no governing body for the award(s) but this site is here to catalog the winners (and maybe help bloggers find new nominees!)

That site also posts the following rules:

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to them on your blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
  3. Answer the questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.
  6. Create a new list of questions for the nominees to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post.
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

So, following the rules, I thank Nicole immensely for the nomination, and I encourage all readers of my posts to visit her fab blog 😊

Following Rule No. 2, I’ve posted the award above, but, honestly, I’m not a fan of the style; it’s a little too posh for my taste. So, I’m including one that’s a little more to my liking (sorry to be so particular):

Rule No. 3 is to answer the questions Nicole has asked. I was hoping to not have to use my brain this weekend, but I guess I’d better turn it on now (I hope it’s got enough of a battery charge).

  1. Are there any movie locations you would like to visit?

While visiting movie locations would be fun, this question leads me to think about movie sets that I wish I could have visited at the time of filming. For example, I find the set of Hitchcock‘s Rear Window fascinating. It would have been awesome to examine the apartments across the courtyard of Jimmy Stewart’s character. I read somewhere that some of the apartments were fully functioning places, with electricity and plumbing. I wonder about what existed that wasn’t seen on screen. For example, what was to the left and right of the sliver view that we have of the street across the way … I know it wasn’t a real street, but what was involved in having a water truck drive by, with a group of children following it as it watered the street. As I said, I find that set fascinating.

Another movie set I would have liked to see was the gateway in Kurosawa‘s Rashomon, where the characters discuss the different versions of the crime that was committed. That gateway looks massive, and I wonder what all was involved in its construction for the movie. Not that I’m interested in construction, but I’m amazed at all the work that goes into setting up these realistic places.

  1. Do you share a birthday with a famous someone?

Well, I don’t do birthdays. But according to Wikipedia, I share a birth year with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Diane Lane, Chris Rock, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Downey Jr., Brooke Shields, Elizabeth Hurley, J. K. Rowling, Shania Twain, Charlie Sheen, Björk, and Ben Stiller.

  1. Which films are on the top of your to-watch list?

Per my Netflix queue:

  1. If you were to make a biopic, who would it be about?

Akira Kurosawa, definitely. It would be specifically during his film-making years from the early’40s to 1965, when my favorites of his films were made. Although his early years and what was going on in the world would be an influencing factor, the film would focus on his film-making efforts: preparations, interactions with cast and crew, maybe a little on the impact the films made on their audience. Kurosawa was an interesting man and a genius film-maker, in my opinion.

  1. What are your other hobbies and interests?

I like adding to my three main collections of Beatles books, classic film discs, and classic rock CDs. I also enjoy playing around with the Excel spreadsheet program (weird as that sounds when I reread my answers).

  1. Is there a film that appeals to your aesthetics?

Wow, that is a hard question to answer. I can’t think of any particular style of a film appealing to me. What this question does make me think about is when film takes advantage of all three dimensions in telling its story. I referred to this in my review of Buster Keaton‘s Our Hospitality here. Specific scenes in films that make creative use of not just up-and-down and left-and-right but also front-and-back I find kind of appealing.

I guess that’s related to the appeal of the sets for Rear Window and Rashomon. In Rear Window, I think of the scene where Grace Kelly’s character has left a note at the door of Raymond Burr’s character and then quickly runs down the hallway, back away from our point of view. Also from that film, I think of when Stewart’s character is falling from his window, and we see the scene looking up from down in the courtyard, the first time our point of view leaves Stewart’s apartment; that change of our viewpoint added to the three-dimensional nature of the set. And Rashomon, our point-of-view was mostly from the front of the gateway. But later in the film, we go further into the gateway and turn to the left, and that turn, in my opinion, added so much to the largeness of that already larger-than-life set.

Maybe I should answer that 3D films appeal to my aesthetics 😊

  1. If you could visit a specific era, which one would it be?

Late ’50s through mid-’70s. Half of that time period overlaps my lifetime, but I’d like to see the world from another location and from an older and wiser (???) viewpoint.

  1. How did your interest in classic cinema evolve?

It was a book. I’ve described the details here.

  1. Which film would you like to see on the big screen?

I’d love to attend a Kurosawa film festival. If I had the time and resources, I’d organize one myself. Who wants to attend?

  1. Is there a movie you wish you could have taken part in?

A Hard Day’s Night; Rear Window; Seven Samurai; Steamboat Bill, Jr.; It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; The Last Waltz; The Party; You Can’t Take it with You

  1. Are there any actors or directors you would like to learn more about?

I’ve been getting into Yasujiro Ozu’s films. I enjoyed Tokyo Story and Late Spring, and I have a copy of Early Summer that I haven’t watched yet. I’d like to learn more about Ozu and his stars Chishu Ryu and the amazing Setsuko Hara.

I’m gonna skip Rule No. 4; I think I’ve shared enough random facts about myself in the answers above.

Rule No. 5 says to nominate other blogs. I nominate:

Per Rule No. 6, I need to come up with questions for my nominees. Ugh, this is gonna be more difficult than answering Nicole’s questions. Let’s see, how about we go with a Three Favorites theme; just make quick and simple lists of your:

  1. Three Favorite Films
  2. Three Favorite Actors/Actresses
  3. Three Favorite Directors
  4. Three Favorite Musicians/Bands
  5. Three Favorite Songs
  6. Three Favorite Books
  7. Three Favorite Authors

I’ve followed Rule No. 7 above.

And I’ll follow Rule No. 8 after publishing this posting.

And with that I’ll end this. Please visit the blogs I’ve linked above; each one has entertained and instructed me many times, and I’m happy to consider it a privilege to direct other potential fans to them. And definitely visit Nicole’s site an ode to dust, my favorite of the bunch 😊

The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay

The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay – Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles Records on Vee-Jay, by Bruce Spizer

Description (from back cover):


Complete story of their records on Vee-Jay –

How creative marketing turned 16 Beatles songs into a comprehensive catalog of multiple 45, EP and album releases that, taken together, are worth more today than all other American Beatles records combined.

Court records and Vinyl records
Capitol Records, Inc. vs. Vee-Jay Records, Inc.
Beechwood Music, Inc. vs. Vee-Jay Records, Inc.
The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons

When the records were pressed,
Where the records were pressed,
How many copies were sold, and
Why some records are so much rarer than others.

How to tell the difference between counterfeit Vee-Jay records and the real thing.

How Vee-Jay lost, reclaimed, and lost the Beatles.

Hundreds of color pictures, including all known variations of album covers, picture sleeves and record labels, Billboard and Cash Box trade ads, royalty statements and checks issued to Capitol Records, promotional mailers, catalogs, posters and other cool stuff!

I purchased my copy of this book at Beatlefest Chicago in 2001. I got it autographed by the author …

… I’d approached Spizer‘s table in the Marketplace at the Fest and glanced through some of the books he was selling. I didn’t plan on buying a book, as they’re kind of pricey, but I let Spizer go into his spiel to try to sell me one. I don’t recall at all what he said, but he got me to agree to buy one. Making a light joke, I commented that his sales pitch was convincing and that he should be a lawyer. He stood there quietly, looking at me and thinking about how to respond; we’d never met before, so he didn’t know if I knew that he is a lawyer. I let him stand there sweating for a bit, and just before he said anything, I smiled and said that I was making a joke and knew his profession. He acted relieved that he didn’t have to explain himself. I pulled the same stunt the next year.

I should mention that the book is no longer available in hardcopy form. Spizer’s website has an ebook version available that includes additional content and interactive features. One day I’ll download a copy for myself; I enjoyed the print version and have high hopes for the digital version.

Spizer’s signature calls me ‘a significant fan of The Beatles‘. This is related to the idea of ‘significance’ that’s referred to throughout the book and explained in one of the introductory sections.


Introductory Sections

The Contents page divides the book’s 40 chapters into four main sections. The names of each of these sections and of many chapters refer to the theme of ‘significance’.

The book’s Foreword was written by Perry Cox, author of many popular Beatles record price guides. (This introductory section includes a text box About Perry Cox.) Cox lays on thick praise (rightly so! in my opinion) of Spizer’s work in discovering and explaining the history of The Beatles’ records on Vee-Jay. It’s interesting how, as of this edition of the book, Cox’s comments were composed before Spizer had written any other books, and Cox encouraged Spizer to continue writing using the same diligent methods he used for this book. I think that we can appreciate that Spizer followed Cox’s encouragement.

The Acknowledgments pages list, of course, people who assisted, in various ways, Spizer’s release of this book. I enjoy reading through such lists to see what names are familiar to me. Some of the names I recognized are Perry Cox, Jeff Augsburger, Matt Hurwitz, Mark Lewisohn, John Tefteller, Alan Livingston, Dick Clark, and Sir George Martin.

The next introductory section, titled Introducing … The Beatles Book, gives a brief synopsis of the main Sections of the book and includes a text box About the Author. This is followed by Discoveries of Significant Information, which describes Spizer’s method of research (very interesting, in my opinion) and the large variety of resources to which he had access. Numbers of Significance describes the numbering system used to differentiate between variations of Beatles releases on Vee-Jay.

Singles of Significance

Following these introductory sections, the first main section of the book, titled Singles of Significance, begins with the chapter titled Vee-Jay 498 – Please Please Me b/w Ask Me Why (The Beatles’ first US single). The chapter provides details about both songs: their release in the UK and in the US, their recording sessions, live performances, and availability of many of these on audio or video releases. Information about the single include chart activity, marketing (pictures of some advertising are featured), and detailed descriptions of the record’s manufacture. As mentioned earlier, a numbering system is used to differentiate between variations of copies of records; I found it interesting and kind of fun to read about the details of the varieties and then see them in the many pictures provided. Especially interesting is a ‘significant’ misspelling that appeared too often with this single 🙂

The second main chapter is named after The Beatles’ second single released in the US, Vee-Jay 522 – From Me to You b/w Thank You Girl. This chapter follows the same format as the previous one, discussing the single’s release, recording, performances of the songs (including availability), chart action, manufacture, and label variations. Reference is made to Del Shannon‘s version of “From Me to You“, including pictures.

Vee-Jay’s third Beatles single release was a combining of the A-sides of the previous two singles. Vee-Jay 581 – Please Please Me b/w From Me to You details the distribution, release, and chart action of this single. Descriptions of the record’s variations is extensive; while the first two singles each had nine variations, this single has 18 variations described in this chapter.

The next Beatles single released by Vee-Jay is described in the next chapter. Titled Tollie 9001 – Twist and Shout b/w There’s a Place, the chapter describes why the single wasn’t released on the Vee-Jay label but as the first release of subsidiary label Tollie. Details on the single’s sales and chart action are provided, including its participation in The Beatles’ achievement of the never-done-before-nor-since placing of the top five positions on Billboard‘s Top 100 chart.

Vee-Jay 587 – Do You Want to Know a Secret b/w Thank You Girl was the next single released by Vee-Jay. This single was ‘significant’ in that it was the first released in the US that contained a track featuring George on lead vocal. That fact is related to an interesting letter, displayed in the chapter, written by the editor of 16 Magazine to the President of Vee-Jay Records. The chapter discusses the release of the single, its songs’ chart action, its sales, and variations of its labels.

The next chapter, titled Vee-Jay VJEP 1-903 – Souvenir of Their Visit to America, discusses Vee-Jay’s release of a Beatles EP (a 7″ single featuring four tracks instead of the standard two). The chapter details other Vee-Jay (non-Beatles) EPs, marketing of Vee-Jay’s Beatles EP, chart activity of Beatles EPs by Capitol Records, and label variations of VJEP 1-903. Highlights of this chapter include information on Vee-Jay’s decision to promote the EP as a two-song single, tie-ins with food products, and a mystery concerning a related promotional single that’s now considered “the rarest of the Beatles American singles”.

Tollie 9008 – Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You was Vee-Jay’s last official Beatles single. This chapter discusses the release of these tracks as The Beatles’ first UK single, their recording, live performances of the songs and their availability, the release of “Love Me Do” in Canada, and chart activity, sales, and label variations of the Tollie single.



After discussing each of these main singles, this first main section of the book includes a few additional chapters related to singles:

    • The Beatles on Oldies 45 discusses a subsidiary label that Vee-Jay set up to rerelease many of the tracks it had previously released, including eight by The Beatles. The chapter describes Vee-Jay’s major contribution to the concept of oldies records and features advertising and examples of a promotion pairing singles with “Teen Fun Cards”. The chapter includes details and examples of label variations of their four Beatles singles.
    • The Beatles Christmas Picture Sleeves describes an additional promotion by Vee-Jay to sell more singles before losing their right to do so. The chapter shows how Vee-Jay was relatively successful in repackaging their current Oldies singles in a Christmas-themed sleeve.
    • Foreign Singles & Other 7″ Wonders of the World explains how Vee-Jay arranged to sell its Beatles singles in markets outside the US. The chapter includes some specific markets and sales data, but Vee-Jay didn’t retain much of this information, so details are skimpy. The chapter also provides details of a novelty record, “Bingo”, by The Baby Bugs. The recording is described as an Alvin and The Chipmunks wannabe. I’d like to hear the track once … and probably only once.
  • Metal Parts of Significance describes the masters, mothers, and stampers that were used to make Vee-Jay’s Beatles singles. I don’t know much about record manufacture, so I wouldn’t have minded if this chapter’s section titled How Records are Made appeared earlier in the book. Details include record numbers and documents including dated evidence that Vee-Jay intended to continue creating Beatles singles past the date on which they were to cease production.
  • The Tollie Singles Story discusses Vee-Jay’s subsidiary label on which they released two Beatles singles. The chapter describes Tollie’s history, including the origin of its name, and the ‘success’ of its 50 records. Included are a couple of novelty songs by Jimmy Cross which are remotely related to The Beatles; the descriptions lead me to prefer to hear their B-side instrumentals over the weirdness of the A-sides.
  • Fine Fakes of Significant Interest describes bogus records, which claim to be Vee-Jay releases, but not legitimate. While applying the same numbering system to label variations of these records, the book is very detailed in presenting these fake releases, a few even to a Hall of Shame page.
  • Vee-Jay Record Sleeves & Mailers features large captioned pictures of the main packaging used for Vee-Jay’s Beatles records. I found slightly interesting that Vee-Jay had to switch to a newer mailer when zip codes began to be applied to their mailing address.

Fine Albums of Significant Interest

Prior to the beginning of this second main section’s first chapter, pictures from Vee-Jay’s catalog are shown, featuring a list and photos of artists appearing on Vee-Jay records. For The Beatles, pictures from 1962 are shown (with George sporting a black eye).

The first chapter in the albums section is titled Vee-Jay VJLP 1062 – Introducing The Beatles (Version One) and is the book’s longest chapter. This first Beatles album for the American market is appropriately compared to ‘Please Please Me‘, the first UK Beatles album. As with the book’s chapters on Vee-Jay’s Beatles singles, for these albums details are provided on their release and chart history, and concerning ‘Introducing The Beatles” tracks, details on their release history, performances, and availability are shared. For tracks which are covers, information about their original versions, including pictures of those releases, are provided. Of course, label variations and the use of Spizer’s numbering system are a big part of this chapter. Highlights include the uncovering of a more accurate release date for the album, speculation on ‘Young People’s Introduction to Hebrew and Beatles Music’ 🙂 , and interesting comments on two Phil Spector-produced singles.

The chapter titled Vee-Jay VJLP 1062 – Introducing The Beatles (Version Two) is a great example of how detailed author Spizer gets in his research for his books. Although this version of the album differs from Version One in only the replacing of “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” with “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me”, there are numerous differences among all the variations of this version of the album. After discussing manufacturing dates, chart history, and sales data for the album, the chapter goes into great detail, using the numbering system, describing the many variations. One highlight, in my opinion, was what Spizer calls ‘the “Coffin-King” typo’. The chapter ends with comments on how so many variations cause mistakes, how these affect collectors, the sound of Vee-Jay’s records, and the use of stereo on early Beatles records.

Vee-Jay VJLP 1085 – Jolly What! The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage was the strangest Beatles album, in my opinion. This chapter describes why Vee-Jay released this album that contained only four Beatles tracks; the description speculates on Vee-Jay’s reasoning for including the words “On Stage” in the title when none of the tracks by either The Beatles or Ifield are live recordings. A funny detail includes a liner note typo (or, as Spizer continues to speculate, a possible inside joke) that I don’t care to copy in this review. Vee-Jay seemed to have a habit of allowing typos; it’s surprising that the album wasn’t released as ‘The Beattles & Farnk Ifield On Stage’. The chapter details the album’s sales data, label variations, and Ifield’s chart history apart from this album.

The next chapter is titled Vee-Jay VJ 1092 – Songs, Pictures and Stories of The Fabulous Beatles. This album is a repackaging of the second version of ‘Introducing The Beatles’, and the chapter describes Vee-Jay’s reasoning for re-releasing these twelve tracks in this format. Included are pictures of teen magazines that inspired the look of the album’s cover. In addition to information on the album’s sales and chart history, the chapter details Vee-Jay’s marketing of the album as a souvenir of The Beatles’ summer tour in America 1964, labeling some copies to mention specific concert venues and dates.

Vee-Jay again released the second version of the ‘Introducing The Beatles’ album in a repackaged format as part of Vee-Jay DX-30 – The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons. This album was a two-disc set that paired the twelve Beatles tracks with the twelve tracks of Vee-Jay’s ‘Golden Hits of the 4 Seasons‘. The album is presented as a ‘battle’ between the two groups with listeners instructed to use the back cover score card to compare and rate the listed pairings of songs. In my opinion, the pairings aren’t ideal, with tracks that had also been released as singles being matched with lesser album tracks. Regardless, the chapter is interesting in briefly describing the Four Seasons‘ history with Vee-Jay and providing information on their Vee-Jay single releases.

Vee-Jay continued its repackaging and re-releasing of Beatles tracks with the ‘Jolly What!’ album. Vee-Jay VJLP 1085 – The Beatles & Frank Ifield on Stage (Portrait Cover) describes Vee-Jay’s mindset in releasing this album and discusses how, despite being an unsuccessful album on its release, it’s currently one of the most rare and sought-after of Beatles records.

Vee-Jay PRO202 – Hear The Beatles Tell All is an interview album recorded during The Beatles’ summer tour in America 1964. Topics covered in the interviews are of the teen magazine type: haircuts, girls, rumors. The chapter discusses the album’s manufacture, sales, and variations. A highlight is information and pictures of a re-issue as a picture disc (I like picture discs).

While the previously mentioned repackaged albums can be considered deceitful releases by Vee-Jay to capitalize on The Beatles’ popularity, Vee-Jay’s last ‘Beatles’ album was the most deceitful. Vee-Jay VJ 1101 – The 15 Greatest Songs of The Beatles prominently featured John, Paul, and George on its front and back covers, but the 15 tracks on the disc were performed by ‘The Merseyboys’, a soundalike band. Spizer’s description of the tracks isn’t the most flattering (I found a webpage that discusses the band here). The book discusses the album’s variations using the same numbering system.

This main section of the book has the following two chapters:

  • Counterfeits of Significance describes how collectors can identify illegitimate copies of Vee-Jay’s Beatles albums. The descriptions are very detailed and are further evidence of how much work went into the research for this book.
  • Inner Sleeve Dust Covers is a single page describing these items, with pictures.

Stories of Significant Interest

This third main section of the book begins with a chapter titled A Brief History of Vee-Jay Records. Despite the events that led to Vee-Jay’s losing rights to release Beatles records, it’s interesting to read about Vee-Jay’s other records and to notice connections to The Beatles. I was surprised at how much of the music that’s in my collection was initially released by Vee-Jay.

After a single-page chapter titled A Very Brief History of Capitol Records, the next chapter, How The Beatles Ended Up on Vee-Jay, Swan and Capitol, gives many details on this topic. I don’t claim to know a lot about the recording industry, so it took some focus and re-reading to get through this chapter, but overall it’s interesting enough. I’ve read about the Vee-Jay records before, in this and other books, so I’ve had a basic understanding of the situation. But I kind of feel that some of the details from this chapter should have been presented earlier in the book to give meaning to some to the information in earlier chapters, especially for new readers/fans. Of course, specific information about Capitol and Swan are detailed in others of Spizer’s books, The Beatles’ Story on Capitol Records-Parts One and Two and The Beatles Swan Song.

The next chapter, Alan Livingston – From Bozo to The Beatles with Sinatra Thrown in for Good Measure is almost exactly the same as the chapter featured in Spizer’s book The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America, which I reviewed here … although, since the Vee-Jay book was published before the Beatlemania book, I guess my review was of the copy and not the original.

And the next chapter, Lawsuits of Significance, is also almost exactly the same as in the Beatlemania book (including featuring a Warning message). One difference I see is that the Vee-Jay book describes a lawsuit concerning Vee-Jay’s plan to release the ‘Songs, Pictures and Stories of The Fabulous Beatles’ album and Capitol’s attempt to prevent the release. Additionally, the chapter in the Vee-Jay book is more detailed in speculating ‘what if’ scenarios if matters had been handled differently.

The chapter titled Gold Record Awards, after briefly describing the process of recognizing gold record sales, discusses the presentation of gold records from Vee-Jay to John and includes a couple of pictures. The chapter mentions an error in a Billboard report on the presentation. And also included is mention from a Record World article of damage done to the Vee-Jay president’s car by Beatles fans.

Significant Promotions from Vee-Jay describes a marketing theme Vee-Jay used from 1963 to 1965. Based on advertising by Avis Rent-a-Car and Tareyton Cigarettes, Vee-Jay self-deprecatingly referred to its less-than-No. 1 position in sales and predicted rising in position by future sales. This marketing technique was used in reference to many of Vee-Jay’s artists, not just The Beatles. In the first example described, a Vee-Jay ad mentions its No. 12 position and, after referring to records it had available, it boldly announces, “We are shooting for No. 10 by January”. The chapter explains that Vee-Jay had no way of knowing its exact placing in record sales but was just using clever creativity in its marketing. The chapter refers to many pictured examples (many elsewhere in the book) and shows how by 1965 Vee-Jay’s claims of sales rose to No. 6!

Beatles with an A (and One T) discusses Vee-Jay’s initial misspelling of The Beatles as ‘Beattles’ and the impact that typo had.

Other Significant Information

The book’s last main section, Section 4, contains the following chapters:

  • Fine Factories of Significant Interest provides very detailed information on Pressing Plants and Distributors involved with the availability of Beatles records from Vee-Jay.
  • Other Fine Books of Significant Interest lists and provides pictures of 16 such books. As my copy of this Vee-Jay book was printed before any others of Spizer’s books, obviously Spizer’s other work isn’t included.
  • Checklist of Beatles Records on Vee-Jay is two pages, one of singles and one of albums, of each of the many variations described in the book.
  • Fine Vendors of Significance is seven pages of advertising by Beatles-related businesses.

Wow, this review got long.

To summarize, I enjoy Spizer’s books. I can’t say that every detail is for everyone; a lot of the details would be overwhelming for casual fans and probably interest only serious collectors. But there’s enough related stories to interest any kind of Beatle fan. And the many color pictures make these books more than just reference works but also coffee table books.

The Vee-Jay book set the pattern for Spizer’s series of Beatles records references. Although Vee-Jay had access to only a small number of Beatles tracks and for only a limited time, their use of the tracks is kind of interesting, and Spizer was able to present the related information in a fascinating way. I recommend the book, for all levels of Beatles fans.

The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America

The Beatles are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America, by Bruce Spizer

Description (from back cover):

HERE AT LAST is the complete story of the birth of Beatlemania in America. The Beatles Are Coming! details the incredible events of the group’s first U.S. visit …. The book also explores the chain of events leading up to the visit, debunking myths and telling what really went on in America in 1963 and early 1964.

Inside you will learn …

  • Why Capitol Records turned down the Beatles four times before agreeing to release the group’s records.
  • How the Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, an independent Chicago-based label that specialized in gospel and R&B recordings….
  • What prompted Ed Sullivan to book the Beatles on his show at a time when the group was virtually unknown in America….
  • Who was responsible for causing Beatlemania to explode in America weeks ahead of schedule.

Over 450 images, all in full color or original black & white, including many previously unpublished photographs and documents.

The back cover includes comments about the book from CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite, Capitol Records president Alan Livingston, and Apple Records manager Ken Mansfield.

I purchased a paperback copy of this book at Beatlefest Chicago in 2009. I got it signed by the author:

My copy includes an additional ‘Special Bonus’ insert page which includes a color photo of The Beatles performing at Carnegie Hall. The insert explains that licensing for including the photo in the book came too late for the initial printing of the book. So, the insert was arranged to include the color photo with an adhesive backing and instructions on where to properly place the photo in the book (on the title page of the chapter named February 12, 1964 [the date of The Beatles’ concerts at Carnegie Hall]).

The Foreword of the book was written by Walter Cronkite. He describes how he first learned of The Beatles, his participation in The Beatles’ coming to America, his family meeting The Beatles, and, of course, his opinion of The Beatles and of that time in history. It’s impressive that Spizer was able to get Cronkite to write the foreword of the book; after all, Walter Cronkite was considered the most-trusted man in America.

A prologue, titled It’s Been a Long, Long, Long Time …, briefly describes Spizer’s introduction to The Beatles before discussing his mindset while writing this book. Including sections entitled “Timing is So Important”-Brian Epstein, The Time Compression Factor, and Time Capsules, this prologue explains why Spizer includes or omits various accounts in the book, in his effort to present the truth about what transpired when The Beatles came to America, even if such truth contradicts what might have been presented in other Beatle books.

Bruce Spizer (

The book begins with a chapter titled February 7, 1964, which briefly describes highlights of The Beatles’ first day in America. The second chapter jumps back one year to February 7, 1963 (the title of this chapter) and discusses events leading up to that day’s U.S. release of the “Please Please Me“/”Ask Me Why” single on Vee-Jay Records. Subjects covered include how The Beatles ended up on Vee-Jay, initial attempts to release the single on other labels, and preparations, including manufacturing and advertising, for the release of the Vee-Jay single. The chapter includes sections entitled A Brief History of Capitol Records, A Brief History of Vee-Jay Records-The First Decade, and The Recording of the First Two Beatles Singles (the information in these sections are covered in much more depth in author Spizer’s other books). The chapter also features many pictures of related documents and labels and includes tidbits of interesting trivia.

The next chapter is titled February 11, 1963 and covers the major Beatle event of that important day: the recording of ten tracks for PLEASE PLEASE ME, The Beatles’ debut album. I was impressed with the detail of the description of the session, believing that compared to the information provided by Mark Lewisohn in his The Beatles Recording Sessions book. This chapter includes a picture of the album’s cover and label and also labels and related photos of the many songs covered by The Beatles on PLEASE PLEASE ME.

The Beatles Recording Sessions (

February 22, 1963 is the title of the next chapter. It focuses on the release of the “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” singles in Canada and shows how Capitol Records of Canada promoted the singles by use of its Sizzle Sheet flyer. The chapter includes two sections, The First Decade of Capitol Records of Canada and The First North American Airplay of The Beatles?, and photos of related releases.

The May 6, 1963 chapter also discusses Canadian activity of the next Beatles single and includes information reaching from the composition of “From Me to You” in February through the recording of the single in March, its release in England in April and in the U.S. in May, the U.S. release of Del Shannon‘s version in June, and chart activity of both The Beatles’ and Del’s versions in the U.S. through September. I thought it was interesting to see that some promo copies of The Beatles’ version were stamped ‘THE ORIGINAL HIT’, alluding to this being the second version to chart (after Del Shannon’s recording).

The chapter titled June 22, 1963 details the manufacture and release of INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES, their first U.S. album, by Vee-Jay Records. The chapter includes a section that describes How Records are Made and another that shows that slicks for the album’s cover were prepared at the same time as another Vee-Jay (unreleased) album, YOUNG PEOPLE’S INTRODUCTION TO HEBREW MUSIC … PRESENTED BY CANTOR SAMUEL VIGODA AND THE OSCAR JULIUS CHOIR.

Chapter August 8, 1963 discusses how release rights of Beatles recordings changed from Vee-Jay Records to Capitol Records. Unfortunately, Capitol’s A&R man wasn’t interested in The Beatles; a section included in this chapter, entitled Dave Dexter: The Man Who Kept Turning Down The Beatles, shows how he was more interested in recordings by Frank Ifield than in anything by The Beatles.

The next chapter is titled September 16, 1963, which is considered the date on which the “She Loves You” single was released in the U.S. by Swan Records. The chapter discusses the history of that record company and the history of the single’s tracks. What I thought was most interesting about this chapter was the section entitled George Harrison’s Reconnaissance Mission, which detail’s George‘s visit to the U.S. September, 1963, and refers to Jim Kirkpatrick’s excellent book Before He Was Fab.

Before He Was Fab (

The chapter titled November 15, 1963 discusses American media coverage of Beatlemania in Time, Newsweek, and Life magazines, The New York Times newspaper, and television networks. The chapter includes details of the report made on the CBS network. The following chapter, November 22, 1963, details the CBS coverage of the assassination of John Kennedy and includes a section about the claim that Kennedy’s death led to The Beatles’ popularity in the U.S.

I thought the chapter titled December 4, 1963 was fascinating. That was the date on which a press release from Capitol Records announced the company’s exclusive rights to The Beatles’ recordings in the U.S. What I found most interesting were instructions given to Capitol employees as part of the company’s campaign to promote and market The Beatles. The campaign included the distribution to retailers, disc jockeys, and “potential Beatle buyers” of advertisements, buttons, stickers, wigs, tabloids, easel standees, promo albums and jackets, and “an extremely exciting motion display” (a video describing the motion display is embedded below). The book includes pictures of each of the items listed. Capitol employees were instructed to distribute the promotional tabloids and albums, make arrangements for placing of the advertisements, standees, and displays, and plaster the stickers everywhere, all while wearing the wigs. Capitol Records must have been an interesting place to work in late ’63/early ’64. The chapter includes a section about Alan Livingston, President of Capitol.

The “extremely exciting motion display” (

The next chapter, December 26, 1963, discusses the release of the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single. One page describes a contest held by New York radio station WMCA encouraging fans to submit pictures modified to include Beatle wigs.

January 3, 1964 details the broadcast of a Beatles performance on The Jack Paar Program, the first Beatles broadcast in the United States. Interesting details include reactions by Brian Epstein and by Ed Sullivan and also comments from Paar and from journalist Jack Gould. The chapter also describes how Beatles releases fared on the American charts (including the April 14, 1964 placing of five Beatles records at the top of Billboard‘s main chart) and includes two pages of pictures of variations of labels of Beatles singles that existed then.

The chapter titled January 10, 1964 discusses the release of the INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES album on Vee-Jay, the first Beatles album released in the U.S. The chapter explains how Vee-Jay got the album released and is very detailed in describing variations of the album’s release. The section entitled Consumer Alert! explains how to identify counterfeit copies of the album.

The next chapter, January 13, 1964, details lawsuits between record companies Capitol and Vee-Jay about the distribution of Beatles records. Although the chapter contains the following warning (click on the picture to zoom in),

if the chapter is read slowly and carefully, interesting facts about the situation can be understood.

January 16, 1964 is a chapter describing The Beatles’ learning that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reached No. 1 in the Cash Box Top 100 chart in America. Two sections discuss related myths.

The chapter titled January 20, 1964 discussed the release of the MEET THE BEATLES! album, Capitol’s first Beatles album released in the U.S. The chapter details Capitol’s arrangements for the release, the album’s chart success, specifics about the album’s tracks, Capitol’s marketing tools, and variations of versions of the album’s cover and label, including many pictures.

February 4, 1964 discusses initial plans that Capitol, working with CBS-TV and United Artists, were arranging for The Beatles’ visit to America. The chapter describes a memo that detailed these plans, but it doesn’t include a picture or reproduction of the memo. A reproduction of a related press release is featured along with pictures of the day of The Beatles’ arrival and with sections on related myths.

February 7, 1964, was the day The Beatles arrived in America. This chapter focuses on time The Beatles spent resting in their hotel suite. The chapter includes sections on disc jockey Murray the K and American girl group The Ronettes.

The Beatles in their Plaza Hotel suite (

The Beatles’ second day in America is detailed in the chapter titled February 8, 1964. George was suffering a throat infection. The other Beatles took part in a photo session and got to visit various locations in New York. They held a rehearsal for their upcoming appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and George arrived briefly after the rehearsal. The other Beatles later met with a representative of the Rickenbacker guitar company, and they all returned to the hotel to present George with a 12-string electric Rickenbacker. After the other Beatles took another tour of the city, they all spent the evening back at their suite listening to Murray the K’s radio program and calling in to that show. The chapter includes a section about the true fifth Beatle and a section detailing the rehearsal held that day.

The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is featured in the chapter titled February 9, 1964. The chapter is very detailed in discussing the Sullivan show’s history, interesting facts related to the build-up to The Beatles’ appearance, and numerous minutia concerning the events of this memorable day. Although this momentous event has been covered many times by various Beatle authors, Spizer’s chapter is an interesting read.

February 9, 1964 (

The following chapter covers the following day, February 10, 1964, in which The Beatles were presented with gold record awards for their million-selling American records. The presentation was made among the many press conferences held that day. The chapter includes a section about reports made by psychologists and sociologists on the Beatles phenomenon, and it included reproductions of biographical material on The Beatles that was handed out at the press conferences.

The next chapter, February 11, 1964, details The Beatles’ visit to Washington, D.C. Events of the day described include the train ride to D.C., a press conference, an interview by disc jockey Carroll James, The Beatles’ concert at the Washington Coliseum (a section of this chapter discusses the concert’s supporting acts), and the controversial after-concert charity ball held at the British Embassy. A highlight of this chapter, in my opinion, concerns a hand-written set list for the concert.

February 12, 1964 was the date of The Beatles’ concerts at Carnegie Hall. This chapter describes The Beatles’ return from Washington to the Plaza Hotel in New York, Sid Bernstein’s arranging for the concerts at the Hall, and the concerts themselves. Additional sections discuss Bernstein’s ‘contract’ for The Beatles, promotion of the concerts, supporting act The Briarwood Singers, and related myths. I highly recommend Bernstein’s autobiography Not Just The Beatles for more details.

Not Just The Beatles (

The next chapter is another fun read. February 13-20, 1964, is when The Beatles were in Miami. Their stay consisted of a performance at the Deauville Hotel for The Ed Sullivan Show and also an extended rest. The chapter details the chaos surrounding their arrival in Miami and around the Deauville performance. But it also describes the down time The Beatles were able to enjoy on their vacation. Highlights include fan-related incidents at the airport and the hotel, visits to the home of the Pollak family, the inspiration of The Beatles’ use of the word ‘zap’, and the meeting between The Beatles and Cassius Clay.

The Beatles in Miami (

The last of the dated chapters, titled February 21, 1964, discusses The Beatles’ return home. Nothing about their flights, from Miami to New York and then to London, stood out to me. But the chapter contained two bits of interest, in my opinion. One was a quiz question related to the lyric, “Flew in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C.” And the other was speculation that author Spizer makes about the significance that certain Americans had in this whole account. It’s very interesting to consider.

Following the dated chapters are a few general chapters (not that they have any less significance or are any less interesting). The first is titled The Third Sullivan Show. The Beatles’ performance for this show was taped before they returned to London, obviously, but was broadcast two days after they left America. What I found most interesting is that the other acts on the show were also taped previously but not the same day as The Beatles. Spizer points out that noticing which necktie Sullivan was wearing helps to know on which day recording took place: the stripes on the ties run in different directions on different days.

The next non-dated chapter is an interesting one. It’s titled What if Capitol Records Released She Loves You?, and it’s presented as an account told by an other-dimensional character called The Watcher (?!?!). The account describes events on a mirror world where The Beatles’ break in America occurs earlier. But, although success and fame follow, a tragedy leads to a situation similar to the ‘bigger than Jesus’ debacle, and the outcome is very different that what really happened. The chapter’s speculation is an interesting diversion within the book, but I thought the comic book spin of the Watcher narrator was cheesy.

The next few ‘chapters’ are each only one or two pages long and are mostly pictures and captions. Radio, Radio discusses The Beatles’ fascination with American radio and details how Beatles songs fared on stations in New York and Miami. I dug reading about the little Pepsi transistor radios The Beatles used while in America (I wish I had one 🙂 ).

Pepsi transistor radio (

The chapters titled Magazines and Merchandising each feature pictures of their subjects that existed at the time of The Beatles’ visit of America. Miscellaneous Myths shares facts related to, among other topics, the lack of crime during The Beatles’ appearance on the Sullivan show, male fans of The Beatles, and the payment of bills incurred while The Beatles entourage stayed in Miami. The Ed Sullivan Show Remembered is a list of quotes about the show; each Beatle is quoted as are members of the Sullivan crew. Autographs discusses signed promotional pictures that fans received during The Beatles’ visit. Highlights include a picture of The Beatles’ signatures on the back of the Sullivan show’s set wall and also a letter by a member of the crew of The Beatles’ flight to America; the letter, to a fan in London, describes interaction with The Beatles during the flight and includes a postcard that each Beatle signed. Fab Four Firsts in America lists topics (such as first American record company to sign The Beatles and first Beatles album issued in North America), briefly describes each topic, and refers to where else in the book each topic is discussed in more detail.

Following is a chapter titled How Vee-Jay Squeezed 16 or So Records from 16 Beatles Songs. Although it briefly describes events covered in more detail earlier in the book, it continues past the events of the dated chapters, to November 1964, in describing the singles and albums that Vee-Jay was able to release. The chapter includes pictures of most of Vee-Jay’s Beatles records.

The rest of the book is additional ‘chapters’ (listed in the Table of Contents) of mostly pictures and not much text. Beatles American Discography 1962-1964 begins with a chronological list of this discography, featuring Release Dates, Record Numbers, and Titles. The chapter includes pictures of, I assume, the records on the list that haven’t been shown already in the book. It also includes a paragraph listing other books by Spizer which detail these records. Other Albums of Interest is a ‘chapter’ that features performers that were billed along with The Beatles in America in ’64. Books of Interest show 46 books and magazines related to this topic; the first three are by Spizer. Vendors of Interest are eight pages of Beatles-related ads. The Index is two full pages and is very detailed.

Overall I enjoy Spizer’s books, especially the detail that he presents, which shows the hard work that went into his providing such a quality product. This is my favorite of his books. I find the subject and its time period fascinating. Even though Beatlemania in America has been covered in many other Beatles books, I think that Spizer’s book discusses it at a level far above all the others. I’m very happy to recommend this book.

Our Hospitality

Our Hospitality movie poster

As mentioned in the introductory post for this section, Our Hospitality was my introduction to Buster’s films. I was in a video store (remember those? Are they still around?), wandering the aisles, trying to decide on what to watch. Coming across a copy of Our Hospitality reminded me of a film clip I’d seen many years previous. It was the jump Buster’d attempted in Three Ages from the top of one building to another … As we know, the jump failed. But Buster’s resilience and quick thinking and reflexes allowed him to survive the fall in an impressive acrobatic manner. I attest to the fall being impressive because I mentally filed away the name “Buster”, meaning to look up this acrobat.

The discovery of the Our Hospitality video occurred a number of years later. I distinctly remember that seeing Buster’s name on the cover caused me to wonder if it was the same man I saw trying to jump across the building tops. I rented the video, took it home, and discovered my favorite actor. Continue reading