Friday, February 24, 2012

Not a Bowl of Cherries, Just the Pits

February 24th, 1962

Sprinkled in with their pre-Epstein Tower Ballroom dates and the usual Cavern gigs, Brian gets them more and more upscale venues including a spot last Tuesday at a real theatre in Southport, the Floral Hall.  Today, however, they play an evening at the YMCA in Hoylake, upper crust home of Cynthia Powell.  That job is more the result of the persistence on the part of the club organizer who has been trying to get them for six months.  He finally manages it for £30, delivered in person to the home of Pete Best and his mother and quasi-manager Mona.  The gig goes wrong when their shtick between numbers is unappreciated by the crowd, who want to hear some MUSIC.  The Beatles are booed off the stage.

Where are we goin', lads?...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Weary Old Friend

February 16, 1962

Stuart Sucliffe and Astrid Kirscherr make a visit to Liverpool, so he can visit his ailing mother and she can see his hometown.  They stop in at the Cavern for the Beatles show.  The Beatles are shocked by how pale and drawn their friend looks.  Did he know his days were numbered?  Has he come to say goodbye?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Southern Interest

February, 13, 1962

Brian Epstein travels down to London for a meeting with Parlephone A and R man George Martin which was scheduled last week.  Martins office is at Manchester Square in London.  His listens to the still warm audition disks and likes what he hears.  He starts thinking about who they should bestowed the title "leader" of the band upon.  All these rock outfits have a leader, don't they?  OK, Mr Epstein, lets bring them down for a recording test sometime soon.

What with the busy life of a record man and a trip to Hamburg for the band in the offing, nothing would happen on the recording front for three months.  But the gears have undeniably begun turning, slowly at first like the hour hand on Big Ben.  Epstein returns to Liverpool with some very optimistic news.

Whew!  A lot of Beatle activity this month, just two years before they conquer the USA and the rest of the world.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Visit to Broadcasting House

February, 12, 1962

The BBC, a state sponsored entertainment giant in the UK, has a regional headquarters in Manchester, just a hop, skip and a jump from Liverpool.  Brian Epstein has made application to audition there for the Beatles to see whether his band could be of any use to them.  Today, the Beatles attend that audition at the BBC Broadcasting House do their stuff for Peter Pilbeam, a producer of teen radio programs.  They do four numbers from their set, cannily including two originals, and pass the audition.

Pilbeam's impressions are telling.  "An unusual group, not as "rocky' as most, more C&W with a tendency to play music."  (The C&W refers to American country and western music.)  The boys music will soon find its way onto the British airwaves!  They are scheduled for an appearance March 9th (recorded on the 7th) on a radio show called "Teenagers Turn (Here We Go)".  The partnership between the Beatles and the BBC will be a fruitful one for both participants.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First Footage

February 10, 1962

Video Cap from the First Footage
 Today is likely the date of the first moving images of the Beatles.  It is a poor quality 8mm home movie with no sound.  It took place certainly around Valentines Day, based on the heart shaped stage decorations.  Pete Best, probably the most reliable authority we have on the subject, puts it at St Paul's Presbyterian Church Hall in Birkenhead, across the Mersey from Liverpool.  (There is some controversy about  it, but this is my story and I'm sticking to it.)

It's the Zapruder film of Beatle history and here is a wonderful web page dedicated to that one short clip.  I love how Paul handles his Hofner bass as if he's chopping wood.

Meantime, having gotten all that he feels he can from them, Brian Epstein finally severs contact via letter with the people at Decca.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Days Don't Get Bigger Than This

February 8, 1962

Brian Epstein has given up on Decca.  They had been toying with the idea of producing a single with the Beatles, if Epstein would pay for it out of his own pocket.  By now, Brian has convinced himself that route is a dead end.  But while in London, he doesn't see why he can't show the audition tapes around to see if he can scare up any other interest.

Epstein reconnects with a colleague, Bob Boast, who now manages the large and important HMV record store (His Masters Voice, called RCA in the US) in Oxford Street, the heart of London's shopping district.  Another example of a very important door that Brian could politely open that the Beatles themselves and their other Liverpool friends would have had to break down with a fireman's axe.  Epstein had previously met Mr Boast at a record retailing seminar and now he means to use the acquaintance on behalf of his boys.  He meets with Boast, who is in no position to help with a recording contract, but who advises him to have the tapes copied to disk.  That would make it much easier for him to hawk them around town to other record companies.  And that is a job that HMV is very well equipped to do.

The HMV recording engineer, Jim Foy, likes what he hears on the tapes and they talk about music publishing, a topic that Epstein knows very little about.  Foy introduces Epstein to another very important character in the story, music publisher Sid Coleman, who happens to have an office in the same building.  Since there are three original songs on the tapes, Coleman is interested in exploring the music publishing for these two guys.  What are their names?  Lennon and McCartney?

Oh, and he decides, just on a hunch, to give a friend of his a call.  An A and R man for Parlephone records named GEORGE MARTIN.  (HMV and Parlephone are both subsidiaries of record company conglomerate EMI, which also owns Columbia and Abbey Road Studios.)  Parlephone's stock in trade is comedy and novelty records.  Might they be interested in this rather eccentric band named after an insect?  A meeting with Martin is set up for the next week to see.

Here's what the site of these historic events looked like in 2000.  (It was undergoing renovation.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Best Starr

February 5, 1962

The Beatles are scheduled to play the Kingsway Club in Southport, a seaside resort town on the Irish Sea, very near Liverpool.  (This club is not at all a working class jive hall.)  But Pete Best is feeling sick.  The Beatles first choice as a fill-in drummer?  You guessed it!  The inimitable Ritchey Starkey, aka Ringo Starr.  And it so happens that his band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, has a day off today.  Welcome to the Beatles stage, Ritchey!

This it the first time all four Beatles and only them do a show together.   I'll leave it to your imagination to consider what was going through their minds.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Expanding the Scope Cautiously

February 2, 1962

Today provides more evidence that a sea change has taken place in the Beatles fortunes.  Brian Epstein gets them a booking into a club in another city, nearby Manchester.  The place is called the Oasis Club. Manchester at this time is hosting its own burgeoning beat scene and the Oasis is one of the leading clubs there, situated right in the heart of the city.

The set list (an early one for them, insisted upon by Epstein) is quite interesting:

The Hippy Hippy Shake (via Little Tony)
Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry)
The Sheik of Araby (Tin Pan Alley song from 1921)
September in the Rain (from a 1937 movie sound track)
Dizzy Miss Lizzy (Larry Williams)
Take Good Care of My Baby  (Carole King and Gerry Goffin)
'Til There Was You (from the Broadway musical "The Music Man")
Memphis Tennesee (Chuck Berry)
What a Crazy World We're Livin' In (via Joe Brown and the Bruvvers - Love it!)
Like Dreamers Do (Lennon and McCartney)
Money (written by Motown founder Berry Gordy)
Young Blood (Leiber and Stoller of "Hound Dog" fame)
Honeymoon Song (from a movie score)
Hello Little Girl (Lennon and McCartney)
So How Come No One Loves Me (Everly Brothers)
O My Soul (via Little Richard)
To Know Her is to Love Her (Phil Spector - alternate Hully Gully)
Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry)
The Love of the Loved (Lennon and McCartney)
Dance/Twist in the Streets (???)
Dream (Everly Brothers)
Searchin' (Leiber and Stoller)

Only three original songs.

It's their secret - they get material from lots of diverse sources and turn it to the ends of rock and roll!