LaBudde & Marr | Dave E. Dexter, Jr. Collection: Capitol Records & The Beatles

How the Beatles landed at Capitol Records has its roots in the division for international albums and singles: Capitol of the World (COW), launched March 1956. An A&R man and record producer, Dexter oversaw daily operations which included auditioning records optioned to the American market. By the early 1960s concerns arose on how to handle the influx of foreign pop records, including those arriving from Capitol's London-based parent company EMI.

The Beatles: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison

EMI also owned Parlophone, the record label in charge of the Beatles' U.K. releases. Capitol, being EMI's subsidiary stateside, had first rights of refusal on EMI recording artists optioned to the U.S. EMI was free to contract with another record label if Capitol refused a given record. If an artist was signed and later dropped by another label, Capitol regained first rights for the artist's next EMI record optioned to a U.S. label.

Internal memos in the Dexter Collection provide a glimpse into Capitol before, during and after the company signed the Beatles in late 1963. They show a record label at a crossroads in the music industry, attempting to understand and anticipate emerging foreign pop talent – particularly U.K. bands that purveyed what would become known as the "British Invasion" sound. Of note in the collection is an original 1964 report, EMI-Capitol Singles Resumé, submitted by Dexter to Capitol's President Alan Livingston. In it, Dexter spells out the reasoning for accepting or rejecting certain recording artists, including the Beatles.

Dave Dexter

Dexter On The Beatles (1988 interview)

EMI-Capitol Singles Resumé Dexter's 1964 report Livingston's request for 1964 report Capitol President's memo to Dexter All memos referencing the Beatles Featured memos + others from Dexter Collection

March 29 - April 30 Dexter's proposal to eliminate COW & market Releases same as popular releases Memos among Dexter, Lloyd Dunn (Dexter's immediate boss), Capitol's President Alan Livingston & others
May / June Beatles negotiate U.K. record deal with Parlophone/EMI
June 6 directive that all import records - singles & albums - be submitted to DexterMemo from Livingston to Dunn, removing Joe Csida as contact for import singles
October 5 Beatles' first U.K. single "Love Me Do" is released by ParlophoneCapitol passes on U.S. record option
December 19 - 27 More discussion about marketing COW releases Memos among Dunn, Livingston & Capitol/EMI executive Stan Gortikov
February 25 Beatles' first U.S. single "Please Please Me" is released by Vee-Jay Records Vee-Jay given first rights on future records after Capitol passes
May 27 Beatles' single "From Me To You" is released by Vee-Jay
September 16 Beatles' single "She Loves You" is released by Swan Records Swan given one-record contract after Vee-Jay forfeits contract & Capitol passes
November 20 Further discussion about marketing COW releases Memo from Dunn to Dexter & Capitol/EMI executive G.R. Fraser
November / December Beatles negotiate U.S. record deal with Capitol/EMI Beatles' single "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is released November 29 in U.K.
December 9 Dexter's request for regular sales figures of EMI records Memos among Dexter, Dunn & Fraser
December 17 Directive That Dexter review existing COW music catalog Memos between Dunn and Dexter as per November 20 memo
December 26 "I Want To Hold Your Hand," the Beatles' first U.S. single on Capitol, is released
January 10 Introducing The Beatles, the band's first U.S. album, is released by Vee-Jay Released after months of legal wrangling only to be supplanted by Capitol's album ten days later
January 20 Meet The Beatles, the band's first U.S. album on Capitol, is released
February 7 Request for all records that Dexter rejects be sent to Dunn Memo from Dunn to Dexter
February 20 Six British rock artists promoted by EMI & their status with Capitol Memo from Dexter to Livingston
April 10 The Beatles' Second Album is released by Capitol
May 5 Setting up group to help Dexter audition foreign pop records Memo from Livingston to Dexter
June 26 Beatles' album A Hard Day's Night is released in the U.S. by United Artists, who also own film rights
July 20 Beatles' album Something New is released by Capitol
August 13 Beatles charity garden party at Livingston's home Memo from Livingston to Capitol supervisors
September 14 Revised procedures for marketing COW releases Memo from Dunn
September 21 Request for information about EMI masters submitted to Capitol Memo from Livingston to Dexter
October 1 EMI-Capitol Singles Resumé Dexter's report to Livingston as per September 21 memo
November 23 The Beatles' Story, a documentary-style double album, is released by Capitol
December 15 Beatles' album Beatles '65 is released by Capitol
March 22 Beatles' album The Early Beatles is released by Capitol
April 7 Informing Dexter to now report to Voyle Gilmore Memo from Livingston to Dexter
April 8 - June 14 Turning down Herman's Hermits & Livingston's push that Capitol "should not be asked to give up an artist until they have had a success or failure in England" Memos among Livingston, Dexter, Gilmore & Capitol/EMI executive Robert Carp
June 14 Beatles' album Beatles VI is released by Capitol
August 13 Beatles' album Help! is released by Capitol
August 31 Discussion about Beatles' request that Capitol use same cover art as U.K. albums Memos among Livingston, Gilmore & Dexter
December 6 Beatles' album Rubber Soul is released by Capitol


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