Monday, January 30, 2012

A Rejection!?

February 1, 1961

Word has come up from Decca in London and it is most disappointing.  Thank you, Mr Epstein, but Decca is not interested in recording the Beatles at this time.  Dick Rowe tenders some advice to Brian Epstein.  "The boys won't go, Mr Epstein.  We know these things.  You have a good record business in Liverpool.  Stick to that."

Mike Smith, the Decca A&R man who recorded them, is allowed to make the choice between the Beatles and Brian Poole and the Tremoloes and, based mostly on geography, he chooses the Tremeloes (they are from nearby Essex).  And anyhow, guitar groups are on the way out.  Decca is going for the next big thing, whatever they think that is.

Brian is gobsmacked and is not so easily dissuaded,  He resolves to make one last appeal in person at Decca's offices in London, but the die is cast.  Dick Rowe will wind up with the unshakeable reputation as the man who, on being offered the keys to Fort Knox, said "No, thanks" and walked away.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Farewell to Aintree

January, 27, 1962

The Beatles play their last show at the Aintree Institute, a mainstay venue of their development so far.  And their last for Brian Kelly, a promoter who got them some of their most important gigs in the 1961.  Brian Epstein is infuriated when promoter Kelly pays the band their £15 fee in loose change, straight from the cash box.  No doubt that is the way it is done at the jive clubs, but it doesn't sit well with the new management, who is trying to create a new image of a professional outfit  Epstein will make sure there are no more appearances for Kelly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

January 24, 1962

The Beatles finally sign a management contract with Brian Epstein.  He has certainly been proving his worth to the band.  I think it says a lot about his deep belief in them and his almost naive sense of decency that he did so much for them before he had any official relationship with them.  After all, he got them into a London recording studio and has been beating the bushes for opportunities for them to play and record both in Liverpool and down in London.  He has given the band a new sense of direction (even if it wasn't always universally appreciated by the band members themselves.)

Another indication that his heart was in the right place, he has them sign the contract, has it witnessed by his assistant at NEMS, Alistair Taylor, but leaves the space for his own signature blank, assuming this would give them a way out of the contract if they became unsatisfied.  Not sure what the lawyers would have said about that, but I truly believe Brian is really demonstrating that he didn't want them to be dissatisfied with his management.  No doubt, Brian made some mistakes with royalties and so forth later on, but I think his actions prove they were certainly not motivated by selfishness.

The signature page of the first Epstein contract (from A Cellar Full of Noise by Brian Epstein)

It's not exactly a hard hitting account and was actually ghost written by press officer Derek Taylor, but it has a sweetness like the man himself and if you get a chance, "A Cellar Full of Noise" is certainly worth a look to any Beatle fan.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meanwhile on the German Front

January, 1962

Meanwhile, back in Hamburg, Stuart Sutcliffe's health is visibly declining.  Astrid Kirchherr remembers that at this time he is experiencing headaches that result in temporary blindness.  And that he is very sensitive to bright light.  His artistic work is becoming darker and more pessimistic, too.  He does continue to communicate with John via letters and I think there is evidence that John thought of Stu as a sort of guiding light. Stu is conspicuous in the life of John Lennon as being just about the only person he could truly look up to until Yoko Ono.  No doubt John was looking forward to spending some time with his friend on the Beatles next foray to Hamburg.

In 1962, Horst Fascher was ready for anything
At the same time, Horst Fascher again enters the story of the Beatles rise to pop stardom.  The bouncer and club manager, who worked at both the Kaiserkeller and Top Ten Club during the Beatles residencies there, is now working for Manfred Weissleder.  Herr Weissleder has big plans to open a new club in Hamburg called the Star Club.  Fascher is on a trip to the wellspring of rock and roll for Reeperbahn clubs - Liverpool, England.  He meets the demands of their new manager for 500 DM per band member per week (and accommodation at a Hamburg hotel).  That's about 50 English Pounds a week for each of them, very good pay indeed for 1962.  All agree, they will be going over in April.  Hamburg is in for a bit of a surprise!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marking Time (Again)

January 12, 1962

The Beatles are still hoping something will come of their recent recording test with Decca in London, but there is no word, yet.  In the meantime, they are playing almost everyday (still) at the Cavern, with a few odd dates elsewhere thrown in.

Today, they play another evening show in the Tower Ballroom, where they are last minute headliners. They take the 11:30 pm slot originally planned for another novelty act called "Screaming Lord Sutch" when he couldn't make the gig.  Tomorrow, they play their last gig at Hambleton Hall, where Paul and George were once roughed up by a gang of Teddy boys after their show.  That's not the type of work that Brian Epstein has in mind for them.  He has insisted they limit their appearances to no more than 60 minute sets, with song lists worked out in advance and no kibitzing with audience members.

P.S. I just noticed.  There's a poster on the wall for Long John Baldry on the wall in this video!  Don't try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Bonnie From Over the Sea... Returns

January 5, 1962

A new pressing of the Polydor (of Germany) version of My Bonnie by Tony Sheridan is released in England, mostly due to the dogged efforts of their driven manager.  This time the Beatles are properly credited on the label.

And very incidentally, I turn 10 years old.  :-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beatles Top Poll

January 4, 1962

Everything's coming up BEATLES.  The first annual poll of Mersey Beat readers has voted them the very best of all of the hundreds of Liverpool bands.  (Second place goes to Gerry and the Pacemakers.)

Mersey Beat Magazine is only about six months old when they this article is published in lucky issue number 13.  The photo used in the spread is one of those shot less than a month ago at the instigation of Brian Epstein from their first professional photo shoot.

Beatles Top Poll

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Real Recording Session

January 1, 1962

The Beatles, with Pete Best on drums of course, have driven down south for a recording test at Decca's studios in a suburb north of London.  This day marks a very important change in focus of the Beatles as musical artists because, unlike live shows, a body of original songs is a huge advantage for recording artists.

Lennon and McCartney have agreed by now to put both of their names on all of their compositions and not quibble about who wrote what line or musical hook.  They have been toying with composition since the very early days of the band, but at a dance, the punters want to hear songs they are already familiar with from the radio and their own record collections.

Site of Decca Studios from my 1998 pilgrimage
In a commercial recording studio, it is very different.  Record executives want to hear something new and different.  In any case, the Beatles lay down 15 numbers on tape, but only three are lesser known originals - Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved.  They started at about 11 am and played for about one hour.  15 songs in ONE HOUR!  Shows you how much time they had to set up for each song and there simply couldn't have been any retakes or overdubs.  Just get up there and play, boys, like you do every day and night.  That is powerful evidence that the Beatles were in top form.  And even if the nervousness can be discerned on the resulting recordings, the hard edge of the band, and the very driving beat from Best's drums can also be heard.  The choice of material was made for them by Brian.

Before they could begin, problems with their road weary sound equipment had to be sorted out.  Mike Smith, who had seen them in December at the Cavern and was supervising this session, had to bring in some decent amplifiers for them to use or the recordings would have been of very poor quality, rife with distracting ground loop hum and pops and crackles.  Mr Smith thought these northern yahoos may have a lot to learn but they're on to something here.  He hustled them through the session to be ready for the next bunch, from Essex much closer to London, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.  The Beatles left for Liverpool and home with hopes high that a record was in their future.