During Vee Jay Records’ mad scramble to get as much Beatles product out while they still could, the troubled US record label came up with an idea for a new LP release for February 1964. Jolly What! The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage was a curious collection of tracks that I will discuss here, beginning with some preliminary information.
By January 1964 Beatlemania had struck in America. Vee Jay already had three singles and a hit album out by the fabs. The first two singles, released in 1963, fell on deaf ears in America, during a time before anyone west of the Atlantic had heard of the band. These two singles were Please Please/Ask Me Me Why (VJ 498) and From Me To You/Thank You Girl (VJ 522). Shortly after Capitol Records released their initial breakthrough Beatles offering, the I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There single, Vee Jay quickly followed up by getting their Introducing The Beatles LP in the stores a good week and a half before Capitol’s Meet The Beatles! made it’s appearance. To compete further with Capitol, Vee Jay strategically combined the A sides of their initial two Beatles singles to create the double-sided hit single Please Please Me/From Me To You (VJ 581).
Vee Jay initially had control over 16 Beatles songs in the United States: stereo and mono mixes of all but two of the original 14 tracks from the British debut LP Please Please Me (“Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” didn’t have stereo mixes) and the mono mixes of the two tracks that appeared on the British follow-up single to Please Please Me – “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl”. The Introducing The Beatles album initially contained 12 of the 14 tracks on the British Please Please Me LP omitting “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” which were already released on a Vee Jay single. In January 1964, one of 3 Beatles-related lawsuits issued against Vee Jay, prohibited them from distributing records containing “Love Me Do” or “P.S. I Love You.” This was because Vee Jay neglected to pay the required royalties to Beechwood Music Inc., the publishing company for these songs. Vee Jay quickly reconfigured the album by replacing these two tracks with “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why.”
Vee Jay needed a way to put out a new Beatles album despite not having the rights to enough Beatles music to do it. Also, with other other “British Invasion” bands such as Dusty Springfield or the Dave Clark Five recently getting noticed in the U.S., Vee Jay’s Jay Lasker came up with the idea to combine The Beatles with the company’s only other British artist, Frank Ifield. Frank had scored four number ones in the U.K. between 1962 and 1963 and a #5 on the U.S. Billboard singles charts in October 1962 with “I Remember You”. The idea was to create an album by combining 8 songs from 4 Frank Ifield singles with 4 strategically selected Beatles tracks. The Beatles tracks would be the two songs that were not on either configuration of Introducing The Beatles (“From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl”) along with two others. Perhaps reasoning at the time that more people had the first versions of Introducing The Beatles containing “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”, the two replacement tracks were selected – “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why”. The finalized track listing for the album went like this:
1) Please Please Me – The Beatles
2) Anytime – Frank Ifield
3) Lovesick Blues – Frank Ifield
4) I’m Smiling Now – Frank Ifield
5) Nobody’s Darling – Frank Ifield
6) From Me To You – The Beatles
1) I Remember You – Frank Ifield
2) Ask Me Why – The Beatles
3) Thank You Girl – The Beatles
4) The Wayward Wind – Frank Ifield
5) Unchained Melody – Frank Ifield
6) Listen To My Heart – Frank Ifield
Vee Jay’s title for the album Jolly What! The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage was obviously created with impact in mind and was actually quite misleading, since “On Stage” implied live recordings and all tracks on the disc were recorded in the studio. Previously, in December 1962, The Beatles had played a show in England where Frank Ifield was the headliner, but this was well before The Beatles fame had kicked in. With the crowd there mainly to hear Frank’s pop standards, The Beatles received little if any positive response from the audience and even one or more negative reviews about their performance.
In keeping with the “British Invasion” theme, the album’s front cover shows a drawing of an English statesman with a Beatles wig (see photo at left). The liner notes on the back of the jacket conclude with the statement “It is with a good deal of pride and pleasure that this copulation has been presented.” This hilarious reference to The Beatles and Frank Ifield compilation was not a printer’s error. An in-company telegram containing the original liner notes has verified the use of the word “copulation”. A photo of this telegram appears in Beatles historian Bruce Spizer’s book, Songs, Pictures And Stories of the Fabulous Beatles Records on Vee Jay.
Vee Jay issued both mono and stereo versions of the album, with the mono versions making up 90% of the total pressed. Stereo pressing of this album are now very rare. As for the four Beatles songs on the stereo discs, “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” are the only songs actually in stereo. This is because Vee Jay did not own stereo mixes of “From Me To You” or “Thank You Girl”. These two tracks, therefore, appear in mono on both the stereo and mono copies of the LP.
Later in 1964, Vee Jay was distressingly aware that they were prohibited from manufacturing or distributing any Beatles records after October 15, 1964. This was due to the outcome of their court proceedings with Capitol Records that had taken place over the course of the year. Under the terms of the agreement, before this deadline, Vee Jay could only issue records in the same configuration (i.e same track listing) that they had already been issued in. By this time, Introducing The Beatles had already been re-packaged twice. Once as Song’s Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles (simply Introducing The Beatles with a newly designed gatefold jacket) and The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons (an Introducing The Beatles LP packaged with a collection of Four Seasons hits on a second LP). With dollar signs in their eyes, Vee Jay wanted to come up with a way to repackage the Jolly What! LP drawing as much focus as possible to The Beatles tracks on the disc.
With this in mind, around September 1964, the cover was redesigned using the striking portrait of The Beatles that was also used on the picture sleeve of Tollie Records’ (one of Vee Jay’s subsidiary labels) “Love Me Do” single (see photo at right). The four Beatles tracks are listed prominently on the front cover by themselves. The “Jolly What!” portion of the title was dropped and the picture of the English statesman in the Beatle wig is nowhere to be seen. The back of the jacket uses the same cover slick that was used on the original “Jolly What!” covers (see photo above). This revised version of the album is known among collectors as “the Portrait cover”. Both versions of the album have catalog number VJLP 1085.
Since the record had no new Beatle music to offer and only contained four Beatles tracks anyway, the new Beatle-dominating cover was not enough to generate sufficient sales for the record to chart. Even the original “Jolly What!” version of the record only made it to number 104 in the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. Due to it’s poor sales performance, the “Portrait Cover” version of this record has all but “disappeared” from history, making it the rarest of all of the Beatles Vee Jay albums. Both mono and stereo versions of the “Portrait cover” are extremely difficult to find. Although you might’ve found it hard to give away free in 1964, the passage of years has made it one of the most sought after Beatles records of all time.
Spotting the fakes
Like lots of other collectible Beatles records, there are certainly counterfeit versions of these. For the original “Jolly What!” jackets, the fakes will often have a more blurred picture of the Englishman on the front. The “Portrait Cover” jackets have speckled blue-green background, whereas most counterfeits have a solid blue background. Also be aware that confirmed counterfeits lack the printing that appears on the jacket spine that is on all authentic copies. Print on record labels may also appear blurred on fakes. When in doubt about a copy you are evaluating, consult one of the dealers listed toward the end of this article.
Here is a general idea of what different pressings of this release is valued at today (near mint/very good). Note: “Near mint” (NM) or “Very Good” (VG) conditions are in line with the standards of Goldmine magazine as defined here:
- Mono with oval Vee Jay logo and colorband on label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $700/$175
b) w/Portrait cover = $7000/$1750
- Mono with brackets Vee Jay logo and colorband on label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $820/$200
b) w/Portrait cover = $8200/$2000
- Mono with Vee Jay silver print (block letters) and all black (no colorband) label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $580/$150
b) w/Portrait cover = $5800/$1500
- Stereo with oval Vee Jay logo and colorband on label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $1300/$325
b) w/Portrait cover = $25,000/$6250
- Stereo with brackets Vee Jay logo and colorband on label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $1500/$375
b) w/Portrait cover = $25,500/$6400
- Stereo with Vee Jay silver print (block letters) and all black (no colorband) label –
a) w/Jolly What! cover = $1300/$325
b) w/Portrait cover = $25,000/$6250
Note: These estimates on worth are based on Stanley Panenka’s 2011 record price guide – Introducing The Beatles Record Price Guide, with additional interpolations for the various pressings added using the 6th edition of The Price Guide For The Beatles American Records (6th edition) by Perry Cox & Frank Daniels. Naturally these values can vary based on specific condition of the vinyl and it’s packaging and other physical attributes as well as immediate demand and availability, and many other factors. For additional information please consult with one of the reputable dealers listed below.
The subject of all photographs of singles, album jackets, etc., in this article are of actual items within my very own record collection. These items are listed as entries in my online vinyl inventory as linked below:
- VJLP 1085 Jolly What! The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage (US LP)
- VJLP 1085 The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage (Portrait cover version) (US LP)
A few dealers in Beatles collectibles
Happy Nat would like to credit the following people and resources for assistance with this article:
- Gary Hein
- Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles On Vee Jay by Bruce Spizer
- Introducing The Beatles Record Price Guide by Stanley Panenka
- Price Guide For The Beatles American Records by Perry Cox & Frank Daniels
- Heather for photography and proofreading
Please let me hear from you if you have questions, comments, corrections or anything to add about this obscure Beatles Vee Jay album. I’d love to hear from you!
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, Beatles music related to this post:
1) Please Please Me (Remastered) 2009 CD remaster of original 1963 UK stereo LP. Contains stereo mixes of “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why”.
2) Past Masters (Remastered) 2009 2-CD set containing Beatles tracks not on original UK LPs. Contains stereo mixes of “Thank You Girl” and “From Me To You.”
3) 1962-1966 (Red) Remastered – 2010 remaster of original 1973 Beatles hits compilation covering 1962-1966. Contains mono mixes of “Please Please Me” and “From Me To You.”
4) Complete A Sides & B Sides 3-CD compilation of Frank Ifield hits containing all but one of the tracks on Jolly What! The Beatles & Frank Ifield On Stage.