Bruce Spizer is currently putting the finishing touches on his latest book on the Beatles. The book is titled "Beatles For Sale on Parlophone Records" and will cover the group's U.K. record releases from 1962 - 1970. I recently called Bruce to see how the book was progressing.
Q: Beatles fans have been looking forward to your new book. When do you think it will be available?
A: The book will be officially published on October 4, 2011, but I hope to have copies available before then. My goal is to have the book make its U.S. debut at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago this August and its U.K. debut during Beatles week in Liverpool later that month. I will also be taking internet and phone orders starting in April or May. Those pre-publications orders should ship in August. At least that's the plan.
Q: You previously indicated that the book will cover the singles, albums and extended play discs. That's quite a lot for one book. How many pages will it be?
A: The book will be 444 pages! The singles section covers the 22 singles released on Parlophone and Apple, as well as the export singles, the German-lyric single and the Polydor singles. It runs 126 pages. The album section goes through the 13 Parlophone and Apple albums. It also covers the two unreleased "Get Back" albums, the U.K. Christmas album, the export albums and the Polydor LP of the Hamburg recordings. That section is 220 pages. The extended play discs have never been discussed extensively in any previous book. We tell the stories behind the official 13 Parlophone releases, including "Magical Mystery Tour," plus two titles that were cancelled and the Polydor EP. That eats up 58 pages, which is double what I budgeted for the section when I first planned the book! Finally, there's a cool section at the back of the book covering things of general interest. It has both historical information and things that collectors will love.
Q: That's sounds interesting. Just what will that last section cover?
A: Well, there's a history of EMI and the Parlophone label. It's quite convoluted. EMI was created in 1931 when the Gramophone Company merged with the Columbia Gramophone Company. The U.S. and U.K. record companies had quite a history of getting together and breaking apart. Lots of information crammed into a few pages! The book also covers the coming of the LP and the 45-rpm disc and how records are mastered and manufactured. There are also several pages on the contract pressings of Beatles singles by Decca, Oriole, CBS, Philips and Pye, plus a bit of information on where the labels were printed. We also show all the different sleeves the 45s were packaged in.
Q: As I recall, there were only two U.K. Beatles singles that had pictures sleeves. So what was done for the other singles?
A: EMI printed up company sleeves for Parlophone. They were called "range bags" because they could be used for a whole range of artists. Some of them had advertisements on the back for things like make-up and hair dryers. The hair dryer ads were cartoons featuring "Fran the Fan," who starts a fan club for her favorite group, the Frantics. The book will tell readers what sleeves went with which singles. As singles and sleeves tended to get mismatched over time, this will enable to collectors to have their discs paired with an appropriate range bag.
Q: British collectors seem very meticulous, making references to letters like "ZT" and "KT." Just what were those?
A: The letters ending with a "T" were tax codes. The book explains why they were placed on the records. It also explains why some records have multiple tax codes appearing on both the label and in the trail off area.
Q: And what about "Sold in U.K." that is on some, but not all of the labels?
A: That language was added to tell retailers that they were required to sell the record at its list price and could not sell it at a lower price. It was called "Retail Price Maintenance," but we'd call it price fixing! EMI apparently was the only company to put the language on its labels. It was done on the advice of counsel. When RPM was abolished, they quit putting the language on the labels.
Q: How did you research the information for the last section?
A: I got a lot of information from U.K. trade and music magazines published in the sixties, which were great because they contained contemporaneous information, not someone's faded memories. I spent many a day at the British Library periodical annex. I took a field trip to the old EMI factory at Hayes in Middlesex. EMI sold the facility many years ago, but there is still a record factory there. I interviewed a man who began working at Hayes back in the mid-fifties! He was quite helpful. I also spent a pleasant morning sharing tea and memories with former Beatles engineer Ken Townsend.
Q: Obviously this book will be a must have for collectors. What about the casual fan?
A: Because the book covers the writing, recording and marketing of the songs, it will be of great interest to even casual fans. Remember, the book covers every song released by the Beatles from 1962 through 1970. So it's the perfect book to learn about all of the great music recorded by the group. I promise that no matter how much you know about the Beatles, you will learn something new from the book.
Q: Your books always have great images. Are there any pictures of rare or seldom seem items?
A: The fun starts from the very beginning. The splash page for the singles section shows a "Love Me Do" single in a colorful NEMS bag, along with the receipt from 1962! It cost 6 shillings, 8 pence, but is now worth a bit more! I had to learn the old non-decimal British currency system to understand the pricing! We also show a "Please Please Me" LP in a NEMS polybag. And there are a bunch of ads from trade and music magazines. One of my favorite items is a promo card for the "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" single. I also got Eric Cash to allow me to run images of three of his Beatles paintings, including one that was done especially for the book. The detail is incredible. His beautiful art work adds some color to the book to make up for those drab black and silver labels! Some of the photos will also be new to most people. I tried to go beyond the usual shots and came up with some rarely seen pictures, including a wonderful picture taken at the Hayes factory of workers readying a Beatles album for release.
Q: Your past books had people like Walter Cronkite and former Capitol president Alan Livingston write the foreword. Who did you get this time?
A: Tony Bramwell. I just got his foreword a few days ago. It does a great job of setting the tone and ends with a fun fact I did not know about the album cover shown on the cover to the book, which is, of course, "Beatles For Sale." Tony Barrow, who has retired from the Beatles scene, was gracious enough to write a brief quote for the back of the book. This is particularly special to me since Tony Barrow wrote some wonderful back liner notes for the Beatles. Many fans will notice a tie-in to one of his earlier notes!
Q: You have been able to keep your books priced at $50 since they first came out over 10 years ago. What will the new book be priced for?
A: Just under $70, which we feel is an extension of the Beatles policy to give fans good value for their money. The hardcover book is full-color printed on glossy paper and is 444 pages long. In addition, there will be a special booklet housed in a pocket attached to the inside back cover. It will have a checklist of all the records plus ads from reputable dealers who specialize in U.K. records. That pushes the page count past 460! I could have easily done the book in two parts and charged at least $50 for each part. That would be $100, so at $70, it really is good value for the money.
Q: In the past, you have prepared slipcase and collector's editions. Will you do the same with this book?
A: Yes. The slipcase will look like a green Parlophone record sleeve. It will feature "Paperback Writer" on one side and "Please Please Me" on the other. It has a simple, classy look, as opposed to a cluttered look you often see these days. The slipcase edition will be signed and numbered and sell for $90. The collector's edition will come in the same slipcase and will have a few special goodies included. It will also be signed and numbered and sell for $150. When you compare this to what other deluxe books are going for, it really is a good deal.
Q: I would imagine that this book will also do well in the U.K. Do you have any special U.K. plans at this time?
A: Well, I hope to be in Liverpool this August. I think the book would sell very well during Beatles week. I am also doing two slightly different covers for the book. One version will feature the mono cover of "Beatles For Sale" on the cover, while the other will have the stereo cover. Naturally, the mono cover will be marketed in the U.K., while the stereo cover will be for the U.S. Those ordering from my website, www.beatle.net
, will be able to order either the mono cover or the stereo cover. The interior content is exactly the same. Of course, people can order both covers if they so desire. Then they could read the mono book when playing their mono Beatles singles, EPs, albums and CDs, and the stereo book when listening to stereo vinyl and CDs. But I don't recommend reading either version of the book while wearing 3-D glasses!
Q: How far along are you at this time?
A: I'm still tracking down some more images of EP and album labels, but the singles section and the last section are both complete and at the printer. I've also sent a bunch of pages from the other sections to the printer. Last week I got back color proofs for section one. It looks fabulous, so I'm getting really excited now.
Q: When will people be able to order the book?
A: We'll do a mailing and have information up on the website by April. Start checking out the website in mid-March.
Q: Anything you'd like to add that I didn't ask you about?
A: Yeah. Frank Daniels has been a great help compiling information and labels for the project. We've had a great time bouncing ideas off each other, trying to solve mysteries like the Odeon pressing of the "Yellow Submarine" LP manufactured at EMI's Hayes factory and the extremely rare tri-center pressing of "All You Need Is Love." Frank's name is on the cover as co-compiler. And, as usual, my graphic designer Diana Thorton has been a joy to work with. She gets what I have in my mind on the page. I can't imagine doing a book without her.
Q: And I can't imagine the book being anything but fabulous. Thanks for your time.
A: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let people know about the book.