Friday 9 August 2013

Commercial Release of The Beatles Decca Audition

Following The Beatles’ failed audition for Decca Records, Brian Epstein asked for the tape, since Decca would have no use for it without the artists being signed to a contract. He was given a copy of the audition on two ten-inch reels. Between them, these contained the fifteen tracks recorded by The Beatles on 1st January 1962.  Epstein hawked these around London, eventually landing The Beatles a recording contract with Parlophone Records. In the years since then, Epstein’s copy has gone missing. When Apple were compiling the Anthology albums in the mid 1990’s, they had to ask collectors for copies of the audition from bootlegs.

Around 11th April 1962, The Beatles gave a tape containing eight of the tracks to Astrid Kirchherr, their friend from Hamburg, and who was also the fiancĂ© of former Beatles’ bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe. The tape was probably intended for Sutcliffe, who, unknown to The Beatles, had died of a brain haemorrhage the previous day. Kirchherr gave the tape to a friend of hers a year later.

Tracks released on the 1973 bootleg LS Bumblebee
were mostly lifted from the Let It Be sessions, although it
did include an extended version of
 Love of the Loved.
It was the first time that a track from the Decca audition
was released. The title track, thought to be The Beatles,
was actually by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
The first time a recording from Decca audition surfaced was in 1973, when the album L.S. Bumblebee was released. This included an extended but poor quality version of Love of the Loved. At the time, this was thought to be a demo version of the song made for Cilla Black, who had released the song as her debut single in September 1963. It was not until the remaining Decca tracks appeared a few years later that it became clear that this was the Decca version. Where the bootleggers got their copy is not known, but the poor quality would suggest that Kirchherr's tape may have been the source.

In 2012, this tape, purporting to be the original Decca
master tape, was sold at auction for £35,000. However, it contains
only 10 songs (
Like Dreamers Do, Money, Take Good Care Of My
Baby, Three Cool Cats, Sure To Fall, Love Of The Loved,
Memphis, Cryin', Waitin', Hopin', Till There Was You and
Searchin'). A handwritten note stuck to the cover gives the
number BSR-1111, the catalogue number of Backstage
Records 1982 bootleg,
Like Dreamers Do.
The Decca master remained in their studio for at least a couple of years after the session, but Decca had no policy for holding onto audition recordings, so the original 2-track tape was probably re-used. Nevertheless, Mike Savage, the engineer who had recorded them made copies of the audition after the Beatles career took off, which he would play alongside the audition tape of Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, recorded the same day, to illustrate why The Tremeloes were signed and The Beatles were rejected. Decca tried to release the audition officially many years later, using Savage’s copy as a source, but was blocked from doing so by legal proceedings brought about by Apple.

How the tapes came to be in the public domain is open to debate. One story goes that in late 1976 or early 1977, an unknown journalist from the UK approached Decca seeking permission to review the audition for a music paper feature. Surprisingly, Decca agreed to lend the tapes to the journalist. Before returning the tapes, the journalist arranged for a copy to be made.

The Deccagone single release of 
Like Dreamers Do/Searchin'.
Another source suggests that one of Epstein’s assistants acquired Epstein’s two original ten-inch reels after his death. These were later sold on to collectors for an unknown sum of money. This would certainly explain why Apple does not have Epstein’s copy in their possession.

Possibly both versions of the tale are true. What is known is that two copies of the Decca Tapes were sold to private collectors in the late seventies.

One went to Joe Pope, who acquired the tape (given the timing, probably the version made surreptitiously by the journalist) for $5000. Pope ran the Beatles fanzine, Strawberry Fields Forever, from his store in Boston. He had the tape professionally mastered, then released fourteen of the tracks, omitting Take Good Care Of My Baby, as a series of seven 45rpm singles between April 1977 and February 1979 on his own Deccagone label. These were pressed on coloured vinyl and sold through his fanzine. The world finally had some idea of why Decca Records had turned The Beatles down.

Circuit Records' The Decca Tapes was
released in mock stereo, and with
the audio running too fast
Misterclaudel's Historical Decca Audition
Tape contains both known versions
of the recordings.
The entire audition, including Take Good Care Of My Baby, was subsequently released on an LP, The Decca Tapes, issued by Circuit Records in December 1979. This was sourced from the second copy – probably the Epstein tapes. Unfortunately, some of the tracks suffered from tape dropouts. Circuit chose to release the recordings in fake stereo and with the audio running too fast.

Angry that Circuit had stolen his thunder, Pope immediately released his own LP, The Deccagones. This compiled the fourteen tracks he had previously released as singles, plus Take Good Care Of My Baby.

The recordings have been issued many times in the years since, but all have been sourced either from Joe Pope’s Deccagone releases, or from Circuit Records The Decca Tapes. On 10 March 2009, Japanese label Misterclaudel released both the Deccagone and the Circuit versions on a CD named Historical Decca Audition Tape.

Decca Audition Bootleg Releases
An Incomplete List
SingleThree Cool Cats / Hello Little GirlDeccagonePRO 1100April 1977
The Sheik of Araby / September In The Rain
DeccagonePRO 1101August 1977
SingleMemphis, Tennessee / Love Of The LovedDeccagonePRO 1102November 1977
SingleSearchin' / Like Dreamers DoDeccagonePRO 1103November 1977
AlbumThe Deccagone SessionsSmilin' Ears7701December 1977
SingleSure To Fall / MoneyDeccagonePRO 1104February 1978
SingleCrying, Waiting, Hoping / Till There Was YouDeccagonePRO 1105October 1978
SingleTo Know Him Is To Love Him / Besame MuchoDeccagonePRO 1106February 1979
AlbumThe Decca TapesCircuitLK 4438-1December 1979
AlbumThe DeccagonesDeccagoneNoneDecember 1979
AlbumDawn Of The Silver BeatlesPAC RecordsUDL 233316 April 1981
AlbumLightning Strikes TwicePAC RecordsUDL 238216 April 1981
AlbumLike Dreamers DoBackstage RecordsBSR 1111May 1982
AlbumThe Complete Silver BeatlesAudio Fidelity Enterprises /
Audio Fidelity
AFELP 1047September 1982
AlbumThe Complete Silver BeatlesAudio Fidelity Enterprises /
Audio Rarities
AR 2452October 1982
AlbumThe Silver Beatles Vol.1Audio Fidelity Enterprises /
PHX 352October 1982
AlbumThe Silver Beatles Vol.2Audio Fidelity Enterprises /
PHXC 353October 1982
AlbumThe Audition TapesBreakaway RecordsBWY 72December 1983
AlbumRaw EnergyRomance RecordsSB-18Spring 1988
AlbumThe Silver BeatlesTeichikuTECP-302191990
AlbumLost Decca SessionsRecall RecordsRR0700072008
AlbumHistorical Decca Audition TapeMisterclaudelMCCD11910 March 2009

Note:- Much of the information here has been collated from postings on this forum. Other sources are Bill Harry's The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia , John C.Winn's Way Beyond Compare , and Richie Unterberger's The Unreleased Beatles .

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