How Canada Embraced the Beatles First (Yes, Before America)

We’ve been told the story for more than fifty years: Beatlemania hit after The Beatles arrived in America and performed on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. It was the rock’n’roll equivalent of the Big Bang.

But is this the truth? Actually, no.

In a case of almost criminal historical oversight (revisionism?), Beatlemania hit Canada long before that Pan Am flight landed in New York. Months before Beatles songs started going up the US charts, the band had hits in Canada.

“Love Me Do” was released in Canada on February 18, 1963, by Capitol Records but, truth be told, it was a stiff, selling less than 200 copies. “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You” came next, each selling about 300 copies. But when “She Loves You” hit the stores in September, everything went crazy and all the other records started selling. Canada embraced the Beatles months before America.

And there’s more. The term “Beatlemania” appears to be the invention of A Canadian journalist. Sandy Gardiner was an entertainment writer for the Ottawa Journal. While visiting England, he learned of the hysteria Beatles were causing. When he wrote about it for the Journal, he called the phenomenon “Beatlemania.”

The quote read like this: “A new disease is sweeping through Britain…and doctors are powerless to stop it…it’s Beatlemania! This Liverpool group plays to packed houses wherever they go.”

Capitol Records Canada saw Gardiner’s piece and nabbed the term for the title of the first Beatles album to be released in Canada.  And so it came to pass  that our version of Meet the Beatles (the UK title) was released in this country as Beatlemania!

Beatles - Beatlemania
The Canadian version of Meet the Beatles, retitled Beatlemania.

Things brings me to the impending released of a new book on how Canada got into the Beatles before the US, contrary to the standard narrative of the band’s North American success. Entitled The Beatles in Canada – The Origins of Beatlemania, author Piers Hemmingsen has spent years researching the relationship between Canadians and the group. From the press release:

This richly-illustrated book contains 444 pages. It documents the creation, marketing and distribution of the Beatles music in Canada, and lists the earliest radio station chart successes in the most remote outposts of Canada. There are chapters on trans-Atlantic press coverage, the fan clubs, original Beatles advertising, record reviews and profiles of the key people and places that were involved in this uniquely Canadian story.

The book includes Forewords by noted Beatles expert and British author Mark Lewisohn, and extensive contributions by Capitol of Canada’s Paul White – the A&R man who put his career on the line in early 1963 to issue the Beatles music in North America before anyone else.

Thoroughly illustrated with original photos and artifacts, the author has had unique access to the archives of the key players in the history of the Beatles in Canada, and also to private collections of Canadian Beatles artifacts going back more than 50 years. But the best of the book lies in the stories of the young fans that in some wonderful cases brought Beatles records to Canada from England in the summer of 1963 and turned on their friends to these new sounds. This unique book and its approach will set a new benchmark for other Beatles history books. A must read for all of the Beatles history buffs out there.

The hard cover book, published in a limited run of just 200 copies, will be signed by author Piers Hemmingsen and Capitol Records of Canada A&R man in 1963, Paul White, who was responsible for getting The Beatles’ earliest singles released here in Canada a year before they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Both the limited edition hard cover book and the soft cover book will be accompanied by an exclusive poster and audio companion CD.

The book will be out earlier next year.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “How Canada Embraced the Beatles First (Yes, Before America)

  • November 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm
    Permalink

    “BEATLEMANIA” is not a Canadian version of the US album “MEET THE BEATLES’..It’s a version of the Beatles second UK album “WITH THE BEATLES”

    Reply
    • November 20, 2015 at 8:15 am
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      Nope. That’s NORTH America. “America” is just the United States (of America).

      Reply
      • July 30, 2016 at 1:30 am
        Permalink

        The America’s, also collectively called America, encompass the totality of North America,Central America and South America. You say “America” is just the United States (OF AMERICA)??.. NO!…. How do you arrive at this conclusion? It is even in their name.The United States Of America !

        Reply

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