Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Beatles First EMI Recording Session - 6 June 1962

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Wednesday 6 June 1962
EMI Abbey Road Studio 2 7:00-10pm
  • Besame Mucho (unknown takes)
  • Love Me Do (unknown takes)
  • P.S. I Love You (unknown takes)
  • Ask Me Why (unknown takes)

John Lennon rhythm guitar (Rickenbacker 325 guitar), Vocals
Paul McCartney bass (Hofner 500/1 bass), Vocals
George Harrison lead guitar (Gretsch Duo Jet guitar), Vocals
Pete Best drums (blue Premier kit with 26" kick drum)

Producers: Ron Richards / George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
Technical Engineer: Ken Townsend
Tape-Op: Chris Neal
(Source: Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald, Vintage 2005, and Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments from Stage to Studio, Andy Babuick, Backbeat Books 2002)
On Wednesday, 6th June 1962, The Beatles rusty white van rolled into the car park at EMI's studios on Abbey Road, London, for the first time. Dressed in black leather coats, they unloaded their battered equipment from the van and set up in Studio Two.

This was their first official EMI recording session - George Martin had signed them after a recording audition at Abbey Road Studio 3 on 27 March 1962 (qv. Brian Epstein Negotiates Beatles Deal With Parlophone), but had not yet added an official EMI signature to their contract.

Martin was looking for a group that he could use to compete with his opposite number at Columbia, Norrie Paramor. Paramor was producer for Cliff Richard and The Shadows, and Martin needed a band that would rival them and match their enormous UK chart success. Like The Beatles, Martin did not hold Richard's brand of watered-down rock'n'roll in high regard, and believed that his commercial success could be copied, and perhaps even surpassed.

The Beatles had arrived home from their third trip to Hamburg only four days previously, and had spent two nights rehearsing diligently at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, prior to heading south to London the day before the session.  It was to be Pete Best's second and last EMI session - by the time The Beatles returned to Abbey Road on 4th September, Best had been replaced on drums by Ringo Starr.
The Beatles' Song List - EMI Studios

Opening Medley
  • Besame Mucho (sung by McCartney)
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow (sung by Lennon)
  • Open (Your Loving Arms) (sung by Harrison)
Paul McCartney Song List
  • P.S. I Love You (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Love Me Do (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Like Dreamers Do (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Love of the Loved (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Pinwheel Twist (Lennon / McCartney)
  • If You've Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody
  • Till There Was You
  • Over The Rainbow
  • Your Feet's Too Big
  • Hey! Baby
  • Dream Baby
  • September In The Rain
  • The Honeymoon Song
John Lennon Song List
  • Ask Me Why (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Hello Little Girl (Lennon / McCartney)
  • Baby It's You
  • Please Mister Postman
  • To Know Her is to Love Her
  • You Don't Understand
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • A Shot of Rhythm and Blues
  • Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
  • Lonesome Tears In My Eyes
George Harrison Song List
  • A Picture of You
  • The Sheik of Araby
  • What a Crazy World We Live In
  • Three Cool Cats
  • Dream
  • Take Good Care of My Baby
(Source: The Unreleased Beatles, Richie Unterburger, Backbeat 2006 (p30))

Just as they had with the Decca audition, The Beatles arrived with a song list drawn up by Brian Epstein (see sidebar) designed to demonstrate their versatility. Of the 33 songs on the list, only seven are Lennon/McCartney originals (including the unreleased "Pinwheel Twist"), and only six ("Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You", "Ask Me Why", "Baby It's You", "Please Mr.Postman" and "Till There Was You") would end up on their official EMI catalogue.

Duff Equipment

The Beatles seem to have assumed that the staff at Parlophone were wanting to hear their entire repertoire. They did not get very far into the list before engineer Norman Smith stopped them and pointed out that if they were to do any actual recording, then McCartney's distorted bass amp would have to be replaced.

"They had such duff equipment," Smith told Mark Lewisohn in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. "Ugly unpainted wooden amplifiers, extremely noisy, with earth loops and goodness knows what. There was as much noise coming from the amps as there was from the instruments. Paul's bass amp was particularly bad and it was clear that the session wasn't going to get under way until something was done about it."

"George Martin turned to Norman and I and said 'You know, we've got to do something about this,'" Technical engineer Ken Townsend continues in Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four's Instruments from Stage to Studio. "Fortunately that evening there wasn't a session in Studio One, which meant that studio's echo chamber wasn't in use. So Norman and I went in and carried out the echo chamber's great big Tannoy speaker, which weighed about half a ton. We carried that through - it was on the same floor - into Studio Two for the test. I then fixed up a Leak TL12 amplifier, soldering a jack socket onto its input stage. It wouldn't be considered very high wattage today, but they were quite powerful amplifiers at the time. I think it took about a quarter of an hour to do. We plugged it in and there was no distortion any more on the bass guitar, so we used that system for the session."

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