Four cool cats

On the first day of January 1962, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best showed up at Decca Records in London and recorded fifteen songs — two written by Paul, one by John, and twelve covers — in the hopes of getting a record contract. Staff producer Tony Meehan presided over the session.

“Guitar groups are on the way out,” read Decca’s official rejection, sent to the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. This seemed implausible, inasmuch as Decca eventually signed the Tremeloes, a guitar group, who had auditioned the same day. My own theory, for what it’s worth, is that Meehan, who’d been a professional drummer — with the legendary Shadows, no less — was unimpressed by Best’s kit work, and recommended to the higher-ups that the Beatles be passed by.

Epstein had apparently paid Meehan to produce a ten-track demo which could be theoretically shopped elsewhere. That tape is now about to go up for auction:

[T]he original safety master tape the group recorded at Decca’s London studios on New Year’s Day 1962 has come to public light for the first time.

It is thought the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein held on to the tape he had paid to make, and later gave it to an executive associated with EMI… He sold it in 2002 to a prolific buyer of music memorabilia, who is now selling it at auction with a pre-sale estimate of £30,000.

Bootlegs of this material have been circulating for years, and five of the tracks were subsequently released on the Beatles’ Anthology 1. The ten tracks on the demo, presumably the ones Epstein deemed strongest, include both McCartney tunes. And the Beatles redid two of the covers — “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Till There Was You” (yes, from The Music Man) — for With the Beatles, their second album for EMI’s Parlophone label.

The one track that fascinates me the most is “Money,” not so much because John really stretched his voice on the lead, but because it’s a piano-driven song, and no piano was available for the audition. (George Martin himself played the piano part on the With the Beatles version.) The result could almost be passed off as a surf record.







2 comments

  1. Roger Green »

    24 November 2012 · 4:35 am

    An interesting artifact, but what would one DO, if one actually GOT it? It wouldn’t include recording rights, I presume, and one wouldn’t play it, even if one had the machinery.

  2. CGHill »

    24 November 2012 · 11:07 am

    Well, here’s a wrinkle I had started to think of, and failed to see through. EMI clearly was able to negotiate with Universal Music, the owner of the Decca label, for use of five tracks on the Anthology. There’s no particular reason why Universal would turn them down again, especially since Universal just bought EMI. Which means that the only stumbling blocks would be Apple Corps, which of late has not objected to trips through the vaults, and the new owner himself, who stands to make a mint.

    I bet we have the whole thing in release by this time next year.

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