Time flies. 1962 was the ‘official’ start to The Beatles history as far as we knew it. Their first single was issued in October. But before we get there, let’s start at the beginning.
January 1, 1962 was the big day of the Decca audition session. Brian Epstein had become manager in November of ’61 and immediately set about getting the boys a recording contract. The Beatles had two heavy duty years of perfecting their sound and their act and developed a great following in Merseyside and were now getting desperate to legitimise their existence and efforts by getting a recording contract.
By this time, Brian had got them into suits and they no longer ate, drank or swore on stage so they might be easier to accept by a potential record company.
Mike Smith, A&R man for Decca, scheduled them to come down for an audition based on what he saw when he attended a Cavern show in mid December ’61.
So, on January 1st (overnight presumably) The Beatles with Neil Aspinal hit the road in their trusty van (Brian went down by train), and ten hours later, because of snow storms and getting lost, they arrived pretty much on time for their 11 AM appointment. Mike Smith unnerved them first by being late and then by insisting that they use Decca’s amp set up and not their own equipment.
So with a certain amount of nervousness, fatigue and stress at having to do a set list picked by Brian, they raced through 15 songs in One Hour! And NO overdubs. You thought their debut album was done quickly (14 hours), this was done in One Hour! And 5 more songs to boot. But despite the nerves, the boys and Brian were pretty confident that this tape would lead to an actual recording contract and then they were set.
Five of the songs were included on Anthology 1, including two Lennon/McCartney originals and the rest have never been released officially. And probably never will be! Although twelve of the songs have been packaged and repackaged many times between 1982 and the late ’80s when Apple finally got a hold of the tapes and put the stop to all further releases. (Bah!)
A group called Brian Poole and the Tremoloes auditioned on the same day after The Beatles and the head of A&R, Dick Rowe had to decide which of the two groups to sign. Because The Tremoloes lived closer and that would save on travel expenses, The Beatles were rejected. The official reason given to Brian was that “guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein.” But Dick “The man who turned down The Beatles” Rowe made up for it when he signed The Rolling Stones.
The story was that Brian even offered to buy 3000 singles in order to secure the contract. How different would musical history have been if that had happened. Dick Rowe: “I was never told about that at the time. The way economics were in the record business then, if we’d been sure of selling 3000 copies, we’d have been forced to record them, whatever sort of group the were.”
Well, the Decca tapes were a benefit, because Brian now had good quality tapes to bring around to prospective record companies rather than begging them to come up to Liverpool to see them live. Since late ’61 it was rejection after rejection, including EMI which was one of the first on Brian’s list of companies to approach.
When May ’62 finally rolled around, the manager of the Oxford Street HMV store told Brian to get the tapes pressed to disc to enable even easier playback for A&R men. Which he did.
The chap who did the pressing was impressed with the recordings. Brian said rather proudly that some of the numbers were written by the boys themselves.
What happened next? That story has to wait a bit until the weather gets a little warmer. In fact, I’ll be back in March!