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“At that time no one had heard of the Beatles here (the US), but I knew they were great writers so I just picked up on one of their songs.” -- Del Shannon

Del Shannon had exploded onto the pop music charts in 1961 with his first top forty hit, “Runaway.” It was number one for four weeks and was Billboard’s #5 ranked song for the year. It was a monster hit, but Shannon would never come close to a number one song again. However, he did have a few more hit records as “Hats Off To Larry” followed “Runaway” in 1961 into the top ten (#5) and after nothing in the top twenty in 1962, “Little Town Flirt” made it to number twelve on February 23rd in 1963. But while he was luke warm in the United States, Del Shannon was a big star in England and a tour in the spring of 1963 took him to the Royal Albert Hall in London for an all-star concert. This would all remain a minor footnote in pop music history, but like so much else in 1963, later events would make Shannon’s experience in England seem much more significant. Also on stage that night were The Beatles who played their new release, “From Me To You.” Shannon liked the song and the group and informed John Lennon that he was going to go back home and record “From Me To You” and hopefully give the group some exposure in the United States. The Shannon single was released in June of 1963 and spent four weeks on the Hot 100 chart, peaking at #77. Obviously, it wasn’t a big hit, but it does have the distinction of being the first Lennon-McCartney song to chart in the U.S.

The Vee Jay label had become a significant player in the recording industry in the early 1960’s, and had one of the biggest recording groups in 1962 and 1963 with The Four Seasons. But 1963 was not a good year for the label. The company suffered from mismanagement and by the end of the year lost its contract with The Four Seasons. Perhaps its financial difficulties limited its ability to take advantage of a big opportunity. In late 1962, the British label, EMI contacted its U.S. partner, Capitol, and offered them a contract with Frank Ifield who had the number one song in Britain at the time, “I Remember You.” To sweeten the deal, EMI threw in a new “up and coming” group. Capitol passed. The contracts were then offered to Vee Jay and the label thus acquired the rights to The Beatles. The Beatles’ “Please, Please Me” was on its way to #1 in England in February of 1963 and Vee Jay decided to give it a try in the U.S. and they released the single on February 25th, 1963. It failed to make the Billboard chart.

When the Beatles’ next British release, “From Me To You” sprinted to #1 in the spring, Vee Jay again gave it a try in the U.S. Ironically, its success was somewhat limited due to competition with Shannon’s “cover” which he had thought would give the group U.S. exposure. “From Me To You” did get some recognition as it was listed as “bubbling under” the top 100.

Vee Jay records also had a Beatles album ready for release, “Introducing the Beatles.” But the aforementioned financial difficulties became further complicated by legal issues and the album remained unissued. Eventually, in 1964, the label would capitalize on its fortunate decision to sign the Beatles with hit singles such as “Please, Please Me” with “From Me To You” as the B side and the album, minus a couple of tracks (“Love Me Do” and P.S. I Love You”) that had some legal right issues. By the summer of 1964, Vee Jay records and the Beatles were experiencing phenomenal success on the U.S. charts. A year earlier, the Shannon cover of “From Me To You” had languished at the bottom of the charts.

In the world of popular music, everything had changed in one short year. And that’s what 1963 was -- a year on the precipice of change. Some of the most successful recording artists of the Elvis Era would still be heard from in 1963, but completely disappear a year later. 1964 would be a new world -- the “Elvis Era” was at an end.

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In 1963, "Beatlemania" dominated popular music in Great Britain. The Beatles released their first record, "Love Me Do," / "P.S. I Love You," in 1962 and it reached #17 in Great Britain. In 1963, their next three singles all went to number one in the UK. This video of "From Me To You" was made at a the "Royal Command (Variety) Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on November 4th, 1963.
"Little Town Flirt" was a top twenty record for Del Shannon in 1963, but it wasn't nearly as historically significant as "From Me to You" which peaked at #77.
Vee Jay ended up in a legal dispute with Capitol over rights to Beatles recordings. Eventually Vee Jay gave up their claim on a five year deal in exchange for the rights to some of the early recordings. "From Me To You" and "Please, Please Me" became a double sided hit for the label in early 1964 and the album, "Introducing the Beatles" reached #2 on the Album chart.
VeeJay made a wise decision when they signed the Beatles, but probably errored when they made "From Me To You" the B-side to "Please, Please Me." While "Please Please Me" reached #3, "From Me To You"as the flip side topped out at #41. Had it been released independently of "Please Please Me," it would have undoubtedlydone much better.