New compilation CD is another milestone

He loves them, yeah, yeah, yeah
New compilation CD is another milestone
for Beatlemaniac Bruce Spizer

by Angus Lind
Times-Picayune, Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Orleanian Bruce Spizer, arguably the country’s leading expert on The Beatles Capitol Records releases, was talking about preparedness.

“There’s always speculation about what we call ‘desert-island discs,’ what you would bring to a desert island,” he said.

So when he was getting ready to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina, he knew he was going to be with his parents, who are in their 80s. “So the two things I grabbed were a four-CD Andrés Segovia collection and ‘The Beatles Capitol Albums Vol. 1,’ which is also a four-CD set.”

If he has to check out of town again this hurricane season, he’ll have something else with him: “The Beatles Capitol Albums Vol. 2.” And his signature is all over it.

Spizer wrote the text for the colorful, nostalgic booklet that accompanies the four-CD package of “The Early Beatles,” “Beatles VI,” “Help! Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” and “Rubber Soul,” the original 1965 Capitol albums in both stereo and mono, many songs in stereo for the first time. It was released nationwide Tuesday.

“I consider it a tremendous honor to be asked to write an essay in an official Beatles product,” said Spizer, who has written six comprehensive books on The Beatles dating to 1966 [Note: this is a typo. Bruce’s first book was published in 1998], including a two-volume set titled “The Beatles Story on Capitol Records.” That clearly identified him as someone who needed to be part of the Vol. 2 project.

A 50-year-old lawyer, Spizer said getting hooked on the Beatles was pretty routine.

“With me it was just hearing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ on the Newman School bus in early January 1964 and just the freshness and excitement of the music. I’ve been a big fan ever since.

“But the big turning point as far as becoming a writer was back in 1996 when I discovered much to my horror that my collection of Beatles albums had been attacked by cockroaches. And they had chewed up the spines on the albums. They left the Beach Boys alone, left The Band alone, and got to every album with the exception of ‘Meet the Beatles.’

“So,” he continued, “I wanted to replace my Beatles albums and in doing so found myself becoming a record collector.”

What has evolved is a Beatles junkie with a collector’s mind-set and that leads to…

“As a collector I wanted to know more about what I was purchasing and I had particular interest in The Beatles records on Vee-Jay,” the recording company that first obtained the American rights to the Liverpool Lads. So after considerable research, Spizer wrote a book, “The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay.”

“I was thinking it would be a one-shot book, sort of a footnote in Beatles history,” he said. But after the book appeared, people started asking, well, when is the Capitol book coming out? So he started working on the Capitol book.

“When I got to about page 450, I realized I had to divide it into two books.”

Six books later, you’d think he’d take a breather. But that’s not Spizer. He does not require much sleep — five hours a night keeps him going. And in the aftermath of Katrina, he shifted gears and wrote a legal suspense novel with the working title “The Plaintiff’s Whore.” That, he said, is a reference to a term in the legal community describing a doctor “who will take the stand and testify to anything an attorney wants him to.”

But clearly the Beatles work is his world. He makes presentations at virtually every major Beatles convention, having just returned from Beatlefest in New Jersey.

“It’s enjoyable. I feel like I’m combining every skill I have in me,” he said. “My legal knowledge comes in handy doing something like this, as does my business knowledge, my love of music and photography.”

Spizer’s concept for his Vol. 2 essay was this: “I wanted to emphasize that The Beatles had been extremely successful in 1964 and all the predictions were that it was a fad that would fade away. So the challenge for Capitol Records was to try to maintain Beatlemania and if possible push it to greater heights.”

Spizer felt that Capitol did a great job marketing the Beatles to America. But the marketing strategies were different in the United Kingdom and the United States, prompting Capitol to release The Beatles records in different configurations — a move that forever changed the buying habits of listeners.

“In the U.K., singles were not placed on albums, with the idea being that it wasn’t fair to have the consumer buy the same song twice,” Spizer explained, “whereas Capitol believed that hit singles would make hit albums. And they actually pushed this to a point where albums replaced singles as the dominant music format in the teen market. Before, teenagers couldn’t afford or wouldn’t buy albums. So clearly Capitol’s strategy worked.”

Having these songs out again is like getting together with an old friend who has discovered the world of technology, he said. “It’s like listening to the albums but without the scratches.”

The four albums also clearly demonstrate the group’s growth, how much they progressed in such a short period of time.

“By the time you get to ‘Rubber Soul,’ ” Spizer said, “you can see they no longer have songs written exclusively about boy meets girl, the songwriting has expanded significantly, the use of instruments expanded and you no longer have, ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ ”

But even though the U.S. and U.K. versions are considerably different — the U.S. version has a cohesive folk rock sound to it and the British version a totally different feel — you won’t find Spizer taking sides. “I frequently get asked, ‘Which album is better — the British ‘Rubber Soul’ or the American ‘Rubber Soul?’ My feeling is that it’s not a fair comparison because it’s like comparing a great red wine to a great white wine,” he said.

“They both have their own subtleties and should be savored.”

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