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.

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