Schedules gone awry

American Airlines has a software package to help with the scary task of making sure enough pilots are available. Sometimes it even works:

Their computerized leave request system is supposed to deny leave if no one is available to take assigned flights during the time involved. But whoopsie, somehow the alarm didn’t trigger and now the airline is in scramble mode to find reserve pilots or entice vacationing pilots back by offering them 150% of their usual pay for any flights they return to handle.

Then again, it doesn’t require high-powered CPUs to make things not happen. Return with us now to the fall of 1963, when Capitol Records, which had right of first refusal for anything issued by its British parent EMI, decided that maybe they’d take this upcoming single by an English band called the Beatles. EMI had never offered them “Love Me Do,” and they passed on “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You” and “She Loves You.” But this one maybe had a little more zing; it might even make the Top 20. The pressing plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania was given its instructions: initial order of about twenty thousand 45s.

According to legend, a flight attendant for one of the two extant British airlines landed in an East Coast town — maybe Washington, D.C. — and played a record she’d bought in England for her boyfriend, a local DJ. He thought enough of it to put it on the air, and the program director be damned. The phones lit up. Acetates were cut and sent to sister stations in major markets. Their phones lit up. Word of this eventually got back to Capitol, who concluded that they might have screwed the pooch. “One million copies!” they commanded.

And they were ignored. The major record-pressing plants were unionized, and by now it was December, time to shut down for the holidays. Neither begging nor browbeating could get Scranton opened in time. This left one B: bucks. And not only Capitol’s plant, either; they wound up paying double, even triple overtime to rivals Columbia and RCA Victor, across the river in New Jersey. And they got their one million copies.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” its release date moved up from mid-January to the day after Christmas, wound up shipping three million copies.


  1. McGehee »

    1 December 2017 · 11:20 am

    Maybe that’s why George decided to sing it with me.

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