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BRITONS STILL LOVE ‘EM, BUT DO AMERICANS?

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Britain still loves them, yeah yeah, yeah.

Now it remains to be seen whether American record buyers also hold a soft spot in their hearts for the Fab Four. "The Beatles: Live At The BBC" was released in U.S. stores Tuesday.The album was selling well at New York City's Tower Records, where manager John Bauer said 144 copies had sold by late afternoon.

"It's definitely a very brisk pace," he said. "It's not often we sell 100 of anything on the very first day."

The 56-track album of live radio performances, remastered by the group's legendary producer George Martin, is the first new release in some 25 years by the Liverpool phenomenon who broke up in 1970.

In Britain, the album - featuring some 30 previously unreleased songs - has topped the charts.

If American sales follow suit, will anyone be surprised?

Maybe not. After all, this was the group that changed rock 'n' roll forever with its irresistable blend of superb vocals, innovative songwriting, wit and style.

In February 1964, the Beatles turned the pop world on its ear with hits like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," intensely melodic tunes inspired by their American rock 'n' roll heros: Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

But two years earlier, the scuffling mop tops - without so much as a record deal but guided by their ever-resourceful manager, Brian Epstein - passed a BBC audition with the high praise "an unusual group . . . with a tendency to play music."

Between March 1962 and and June 1965 they appeared on some 52 BBC radio shows, programs like "Pop Go The Beatles" and "Side By Side." They performed their current hits along with American cover songs that made up their early stage act.

It is this diverse selection of pop, rock, C&W and R&B that makes up the bulk of these bristling, mostly thrilling, tracks.

The boys weigh in heavily with their favorite rockers, offering nine songs by Chuck Berry, four by Little Richard and five by Carl Perkins. There's also 15 originals including one unreleased gem, the smooth poppish "I'll Be On My Way."

The eclectic repertoire runs from the raucous "Hippy Hippy Shake" and their own "I Saw Her Standing There" to such tender left-field oddities as "The Honeymoon Song" and Ann Margaret's "I Just Don't Understand," an almost startling blend that explains the range their original material would later take.