Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Perhaps the Biggest Day of 'Em All

June 6, 1962

--->>> Big Big Big Big Day <<<---

The four Beatles and their roadie, Neil Aspinall, ascend the steps and walk down the corridor to Abbey Road's Studio Two for the first time today.  They set up and play under the watchful of eye of George Martin's assistant, Ron Richards.  It is one of EMI's recording engineers, Norman Smith, who's ears are pricked up and who summons George Martin to come and have a listen.  It is the first day of a collaboration between Martin and the Beatles which would last for their entire career.

First, they audition a long list of songs, of which four are chosen for test recordings.  The old chestnut, "Besame Mucho" :-) and three originals, "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why".  None of the originals can be ranked among Lennon and McCartney's best work, but I think you get a sense of what was important to the record company.  Even though Martin is signally unimpressed with their songwriting, three of the four songs chosen for the test are originals.  There are certainly many covers that the Beatles would have done exciting versions of.  No doubt they get the message loud and clear.  WRITE SOME MORE AND BETTER SONGS!!!

For George Martin, this is a golden opportunity.  The rumors have been flying that HMV may be considering selling off perennial underperformer Parlephone.  Martin has a well paid, responsible position and it's up to him to make some things happen for his division.  That's why they give him the big bucks (or should I say colossal quid).  And he happens to like his job.  The obvious answer is a rock and roll band or two.  The teenage market is buying that stuff like it's going out of style!  The Beatles seem to have the makings of  a triple threat.  Great musical style, attractive personalities and novelty appeal (those odd hairstyles and suits).

Right now, Mr. Martin is thinking, which one will be the leader?  At that time, the standard rock band format was almost always "So-and-so and the Such-and-suches" (e.g. Cliff Richard and the Shadows).  In the course of the session, he notices their offbeat humor and the "us against the world" attitude that they bring.  He begins to see that maybe they shouldn't have a designated leader.  That their strength comes from four equally important but different parts.  (What an world shaking insight!)  Now, Mr Martin thinks, I just need to find the right original song for them and - Presto! - a hit record. 

The odd man out seems to be Pete Best.  Handsome guy but he is also very quiet and sullen, in a James Dean kind of way.  Martin doesn't remember him saying a word during the entire test.  He also thinks Best's drumming style is a bit too rough and ready for the recording studio.  At the end of the session, he informs Epstein that, if he does agree to cut a record with them, he will insist on a session drummer.  He assumes that Best will continue to play live dates with the Beatles, but a real professional will be used in the studio.  For Lennon and McCartney, this is the final nail in Pete's coffin.  Ringo Starr fits in so much better with their new more polished direction.  How can they get Pete out and Ringo in?  Pete will continue sitting at the skins for most of the summer's gigs, but Lennon and McCartney must be trying to image how the dirty deed will be done.  I think this episode marks a major turning point for the band.  Loyalty and camaraderie have been essential for the long hours and incessant demands of a traveling jive hall band.  But now it's time to turn the page and go up the next rung of the ladder.  The Beatles history is demonstrably all about change and evolution.  It is sometimes quite difficult and people will be disappointed, but the rules of the game are changing and the band has to be ready to adapt. 

Tomorrow, they make their way home to await the results of the test and to play their welcome home show at the Cavern Club before an amazing 900 young fans.  The kids must have been hanging on the walls like bats and sitting on each others shoulders.

No comments:

Post a Comment