Budget Beatles

For many years now Apple Records have pursued a deliberate policy of maintaining the entire Beatles recorded catalogue as a premium product and brand.

Compact Discs (and vinyl LP’s in an earlier time) are very rarely discounted or put on “sale” with discounted prices. They always come with a high recommended retail price. The long-running fight with iTunes (which saw Beatle songs unavailable for download for years) only added to this perception in the marketplace giving the Beatles product an aura of exclusivity stretching right back through their entire back-catalogue.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Beatles music, both as a group and as individual artists, has never been re-packaged and offered at a discount prices over the years.

In the vinyl days this came in the form of a small number of selected albums being re-issued on the Music for Pleasure label in Britain and Europe, on the Fame label in Britain and Europe, and on the Axis label here in Australia. Many of these titles came with unique covers and labels, making them collectable items for fans.

The Music for Pleasure (or MFP) label was set up in Britain as a joint venture between EMI Records and the Paul Hamlyn group – which was better known as a book publisher. The result of the deal meant that these titles were largely sold in supermarkets and department stores rather than the traditional record shops of the day. As a result of the EMI connection most titles on the label came from the rich and extensive EMI back-catalogue of artists, both classical, jazz and popular.  The complete listing of all releases can be found here.

The first Beatles album to be re-released as an MFP title was “At the Hollywood Bowl” from 1977. The cover has a variation in the typeset and the way the title is displayed, and of course there’s that MFP logo in the top right-hand corner:

The Beatles album “Rock’n’Roll Music”, initially issued as a gatefold double album on the Parlophone (UK) and Capitol (US) in 1976 was re-issued on the MFP budget label in Britain in 1980 and instead of being a double LP, you could buy these as two separate discs, “Rock’n’Roll Music Vol. 1” and “Rock’n’Roll Music Vol. 2”:

Also in 1980 came three re-issues of solo Beatles work. John Lennon’s “Mind Games” (originally released in 1973); George Harrison’s “Dark Horse” (originally from 1974); and Ringo Starr’s self-titled “Ringo” (also originally from 1973). Lennon’s “Mind Games” had a unique cover – a kind of mash up image from the original LP:

George’s “Dark Horse” got a unique treatment (using the image from the rear of the 1974 release), while Ringo’s LP front cover looked much the same, with the addition of his name in large letters across the top:

1981 saw an MFP re-issue of Lennon’s “Rock’n’Roll” album (with a slightly different cover to the original – the neon sign above his head was larger). Also in 1981 came Ringo’s compilation “Blast From Your Past”, and a second George Harrison MFP release “The Best of George Harrison” – with quite a different cover:

The budget Fame label (another EMI subsidiary which released both vinyl and CD’s as budget items between 1983 and 1994 in Britain and in Europe) issued just one actual Beatles title, the compilation “A Collection of Beatles Oldies”. This appeared on vinyl in 1983 and the front cover is distinguished only by a very small “Fame” logo written diagonally across the top right-hand corner of the LP. The rear cover is also the same as the original Parlophone one (but with  Fame logo at the bottom), and the LP came out with a Fame label:

Fame also re-issued three Beatles solo works on vinyl: the John Lennon “Plastic Ono Band” (in 1984); Paul McCartney’s self-titled “McCartney”; and George Harrison’s “Extra Texture”. Each of these came out using the green Apple label on the record itself. Here’s the cover of a German Fame pressing of “Extra Texture”. Again, note the Fame logo on the top right-hand side:

In 1987 and 1988 Fame also released the Paul McCartney and Wings titles “Wildlife”, “Red Rose Speedway”, “Venus and Mars” and “London Town” – all these (as far as I can tell) were issued on CD only.

In Australia EMI’s budget label was called Axis Records and it followed along the same lines as MFP. Axis released a range of very similar Beatles and solo titles, although it had some interesting and unique cover variations – and of course a label variation. The Beatles “A Collection of Beatles Oldies” was joined on Axis Records by their “Rock’n’Roll Music” compilation – again made available in two separate volumes like the MFP release – but with a slightly different cover to the British releases:

The Australian Axis “Rock’n’Roll Music” LP covers are pretty much the same as the budget Capitol US releases of these titles. There were a couple of Axis label variations for this title as well.

Axis also produced vinyl re-issues of Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band”, “Mind Games” and “Rock’n’Roll” albums; Harrison’s “Dark Horse” and “The Best Of George Harrison”; McCartney and Wings “Wildlife”; and Ringo Starr’s “Ringo”. Note the Axis logo top right-hand side, and the title of the LP is printed as well on the top left:

The Axis “Best of George Harrison” got the same cover as the US Capitol records budget release. This cover image was also used by Parlophone/EMI for the official Australian LP, but is different to the UK’s Music For Pleasure re-issue, and different again from the CD release of the same title:

So, that’s a quick trawl through the collection for budget Beatles items. It’s not exhaustive, and if you’d like to add or comment please do by using the email beatlesblogger@gmail.com or by using the comment box below, or now by tweeting us onTwitter. We’re at beatleblogger.