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WHAT A THING TO DO: The Alpha Omega Incident

WHAT A THING TO DO: The Alpha Omega Incident

In 1972 a small company in New Jersey brazenly flaunted copyright statutes and sold a huge four-disc set of well-known Beatles songs - even advertising the collection on television and radio.

The collection was being sold by a company called Audiotape Inc. and was titled The Beatles Alpha Omega -- and it was quite the curiosity. Containing 4 LPs (and also available on 8-track), it collected 60 Beatles songs including several current (at the time) Beatles solo tracks. The tracks were arranged more or less in alphabetical order (some may have been shuffled around due to time concerns), and edited haphazardly; Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band fades out just before the "Billy Shears" introduction on With A Little Help From My Friends, which appeared on a separate disc.

The Beatles Alpha Omega Vol. 1 front and back
The front and back box cover of Alpha Omega. The box held the vinyl records in sleeves.

The track list for The Beatles Alpha Omega (Audiotape Inc. ATRBH 3583) was as follows.

Record 1, Side 1

  1. Act Naturally
  2. All I've Got to Do
  3. All My Loving
  4. And I Love Her
  5. Baby's in Black
  6. Yesterday
  7. The Ballad Of John And Yoko
  8. Bangladesh [live version from The Concert For Bangladesh]

Record 1, Side 2

  1. Can't Buy Me Love
  2. Come Together
  3. Day Tripper
  4. Do You Want to Know a Secret
  5. Eight Days a Week
  6. Eleanor Rigby
  7. Uncle Albert

Record 2, Side 3

  1. I Should Have Known Better
  2. It Won't Be Long
  3. I Want to Hold Your Hand
  4. Lady Madonna
  5. Ticket to Ride
  6. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
  7. Michelle
  8. Mr. Moonlight

Record 2, Side 4

  1. I Feel Fine
  2. If I Fell
  3. I'll Be Back
  4. Hey Jude
  5. I'm a Loser
  6. I'm Happy Just to Dance with You
  7. I Saw Her Standing There

Record 3, Side 5

  1. Nowhere Man
  2. Obladi Oblada [sic]
  3. Paperback Writer
  4. Penny Lane
  5. Help [sic]
  6. Roll Over Beethoven
  7. She's a Woman
  8. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Record 3, Side 6

  1. Get Back
  2. Hello Goodbye
  3. Revolution #1 [sic]
  4. Here Comes the Sun
  5. I'll Follow the Sun
  6. Imagine
  7. Honey Don't

Record 4, Side 7

  1. We Can Work It Out
  2. With a Little Help from My Friends
  3. Yellow Submarine
  4. Baby You're a Rich Man
  5. You Can't Do That
  6. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
  7. Maybe I'm Amazed
  8. A Hard Day's Night

Record 4, Side 8

  1. She Loves You
  2. Something
  3. Strawberry Fields Forever
  4. Tell Me Why
  5. The Long and Winding Road
  6. Let It Be
  7. Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby

The recordings were all sourced from American Capitol LPs featuring the Dave Dexter, Jr. edits found exclusively on those albums - compression, bass reduction, and additional reverb. Given that those Capitol masters were edits of second, third, and even fourth generation reels from EMI, one can imagine the quality of the recordings on The Beatles Alpha Omega.

The Beatles Alpha Omega

The set was advertised for $13.95 and the commercial guaranteed delivery. It was amazing price for such a huge amount of music, but as Audiotape, Inc. wasn't paying royalties it was easy to sell so cheap.

The copyright question

Prior to 1972, sound recordings were not subject to federal copyright in the United States; they were, instead, subject to various applicable state torts and statutes. The Sound Recording Amendment of 1971 extended federal copyright to recordings fixed on or after February 15, 1972 (the effective date of the act), and declared that recordings fixed before that date would remain subject to state or common law copyright. Those statutes as they existed in New Jersey, where Audiotape, Inc. was based, were lax compared to other areas, and restricting the sale of the set to mail order ensured they could continue to hide behind the pirate-friendly laws. The federal law was basically untested and being that there was no career-spanning Beatles compilation on the market (official or not), The Beatles Alpha Omega tested the boundaries of the new laws as it met demand for a product people wanted.

The fact that this set was available in such a manner is amazing. Put in the context of today's copyright laws, try to picture a television commercial for a torrent site offering downloads of Beatles 1 and one gets an idea how audacious such marketing really is!

Volume 2 and...Volume 2?

The Beatles Alpha Omega Vol. 1 front and back

The set was apparently successful enough to warrant 2 more volumes - Volume 2 which featured an additional 4 LPs of music, and another collection also confusingly titled Volume 2 but featuring a track listing different from either volume or what was advertised on TV.

The track list for the first Volume 2 (Audio Tape Inc. ATRBH, no catalog number) is as follows:

Disc 5, Side 9

  1. Twist And Shout
  2. It Don't Come Easy
  3. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite [sic]
  4. Getting Better
  5. Goodnight [sic]
  6. Because
  7. Why Don't We Do It In The Road [sic]
  8. What You're Doing

Disc 5, Side 10

  1. Love Me Do
  2. In My Life
  3. It's Only Love
  4. She's Leaving Home
  5. A Day In The Life
  6. You're Gonna Lose That Girl [sic]
  7. Another Girl

Disc 6, Side 11

  1. My Sweet Lord
  2. Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
  3. Don't Bother Me
  4. Till There Was You
  5. Taxman
  6. Here, There And Everywhere
  7. Good Day Sunshine
  8. Got To Get You Into My Life

Disc 6, Side 12

  1. I'll Cry Instead
  2. Rocky Racoon
  3. Helter Skelter
  4. Back In The USSR
  5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  6. Heart Of The Country
  7. All Together Now

Disc 7, Side 13

  1. Crippled Inside
  2. The Lovely Linda
  3. And I Love Her
  4. Every Little Thing
  5. Ringo's Theme (This Boy)
  6. Wah Wah
  7. Long Tall Sally
  8. Please Mr. Postman

Disc 7, Side 14

  1. If I Needed Someone
  2. Don't Let Me Down
  3. Rain
  4. Old Brown Shoe
  5. I've Got A Feeling
  6. Kansas City [sic]
  7. Tell Me What You See

Disc 8, Side 15

  1. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  2. Oh Darling [sic]
  3. Octopus's Garden
  4. You Never Give Me Your Money
  5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  6. Golden Slumbers
  7. Across The Universe
  8. Maggie Mae

Disc 8, Side 16

  1. The Fool On The Hill
  2. All You Need Is Love
  3. I Am The Walrus
  4. Rock And Roll Music
  5. No Reply
  6. I'm Only Sleeping
  7. Dr. Robert [sic]

The second (mislabeled) Volume 2 (also Audio Tape Inc. ATRBH, no catalog number) consisted of:

Disc 1, Side 1

  1. No Reply
  2. Rock N Roll Music [sic]
  3. Too Many People
  4. Heart Of The Country
  5. Back Of My Car
  6. Magical Mystery Tour
  7. The Fool On The Hill

Disc 1, Side 2

  1. Lovely Rita
  2. When I'm Sixty-Four
  3. A Day In The Life
  4. Getting Better
  5. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
  6. Good Day Sunshine

Disc 2, Side 3

  1. Taxman
  2. She Said She Said
  3. All Together Now
  4. Pepper Land
  5. Crippled Inside
  6. Oh Yoko
  7. I'm Looking Through You

Disc 2, Side 4

  1. I've Just Seen A Face
  2. Norwegian Wood [sic]
  3. You Won't See Me
  4. The Lovely Linda
  5. Drive My Car
  6. Doctor Robert
  7. What Goes On
  8. My Sweet Lord

Disc 3, Side 5

  1. All Things Must Pass
  2. Apple Scruffs
  3. Baby It's You
  4. A Taste Of Honey
  5. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  6. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  7. Golden Slumber [sic]

Disc 3, Side 6

  1. Mean Mr. Mustard
  2. Love Me Do
  3. Twist And Shout
  4. Please Please Me
  5. Dizzy Miss Lizzie [sic]
  6. Rocky Raccoon
  7. Helter Skelter

Disc 4, Side 7

  1. Kansas City [sic]
  2. Tell Me What You See
  3. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
  4. Birthday
  5. Goodnight [sic]
  6. Why Don't We Do It In The Road [sic]
  7. Across The Universe

Disc 4, Side 8

  1. Maggie Mae
  2. Two Of Us
  3. I've Got A Feeling
  4. I Dig A Pony [sic]
  5. All You Need Is Love
  6. I Am A Walrus [sic]
  7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite [sic]

Variations

Both Audiotape, Inc. and Cincinnati company TV Products were manufacturing the sets and the releases and reprints were hardly coordinated, leading to a number of variations:

The Beatles Alpha Omega Vol. 1 variation
This variation of Alpha Omega Vol. 1 omits the alpha and omega symbols and features the "Vol. 1" text in their place. The colors are also arranged differently.

The Beatles Alpha Omega Vol. 2 black & white cover
Vol. 2 black and white variation published by TV Products in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Beatles and Allen Klein respond

If there was any question as to how the Beatles and Apple would respond to Alpha Omega it was answered in February when Beatles manager Allen Klein filed a lawsuit on behalf of George Harrison, Capitol Records, and Apple Records against Audio Tapes, Inc. and ABC and various local affiliates who aired the commercials for $15 million in damages and the end to sales and distribution of the set. Those affiliates were removed from the suit as they agreed to stop airing the ads. The case still appears in court records but the documents attached to it are missing, so it is unknown how the case was settled.

Interestingly, the suit claimed that the Beatles collectively earned $19 million in royalties between September, 1969 and the filing of the suit on February 16, 1973.

The success of The Beatles Alpha Omega helped identify a market for a Beatles career retrospective, and just a year later EMI issued the double LPs 1962-1966 and 1967-1970. Ads for the collection made regular mention that they were "the only authorized collections of the group's music" as did inserts included with the albums and promotional posters appearing in stores.

Copies of The Beatles Alpha Omega have popped up in recent years, and ads for CD releases later appeared in the fan magazine Beatlefan and featured "needle drop" transfers (copy of a copy of a copy of a copy!) of the vinyl in very poor quality.

Buy 1962-1966 & 1967-1970 now!

The Beatles: 1967-1970


Artist: The Beatles
Binding: Audio CD
Format: Original recording remastered
Publisher: Capitol
Manufacturer: Capitol
Offers - Buy New From: $15.42 Used From: $11.99

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