Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Record Company That Rejected The Beatles

The Record Company That Rejected The Beatles

As stories go, this one takes the cake. It's one of my favorites and one that has entertained and given pause for deep reflection for a great many over the years. It's a great treat, though, to revisit it by piecing  together a string of YouTube videos. Each one suggests another to follow it, resulting in a very vivid and fresh experience.

The Beatles, that mega famous band from Liverpool,  like all groups, successful or failures, have an origin story, a becoming famous story. This little gem of a video (above) is part of that. The skinny is that The Beatles, while they were still only a local Liverpool act, a band with a strong local following but not much recognition beyond their home turf and no published records or prospects of having any, did have the right manager.

Brian Epstein, owner of a large Liverpool record store, a man who knew the UK recording industry, and who had important connections in it, was determined to get The Beatles a recording contract. Using his influence, he arranged for a much coveted audition for Decca, a significant label at that time. Incredibly, the executive there listened to them play and... turned them down! That's right, this guy - and I'm not sure if he was just a poor dullard who had a particularly off day, or if he was one of the biggest fools in history - had The Beatles come in, set up their equipment, perform a lengthy set for him, and then based on that, decided that they weren't the sort of talent he was interested in signing for his company. By the way, if you've been living under a rock in a galaxy far, far away, The Beatles were quite likely the most popular and successful musical group in the history of the human race (SEE Wikipedia "The Beatles: The best-selling band in history, the Beatles have sold between 600 million[2][3] and (at EMI estimates) over 1 billion units worldwide...")

I think  this story is a perfect focus for those struggling with success and failure, especially those who experience rejection and who seek validation of their voice and work. This audition  didn't result in anything more for The Beatles than their having had to travel to London in a cold van for hours on end and going home exhausted without anything much more than a desire to continue what they were doing. What does it mean that they were rejected by Decca? Whose failure was that?

What I like so much about this story is that failing the audition just didn't matter. And I think The Beatles didn't much care about it. They were doing what they loved and felt things would work out in the end somehow, one way or another... Carpe Diem. I greatly admire that. Further, I think that they knew how good they were and that the world was likely to acknowledge that sooner or later. Or perhaps it wouldn't, but so what? They knew they were very good and did something very special and they were already big winners. And I admire that even more.

Incredibly, this video presents to us 51 years later, a somewhat cleaned up version of the actual audition recordings done on  January 1, 1962. How did that performance go? The story goes that The Beatles were exhausted, hung over, and very much off their game that morning. But play the video! At the very least, what we hear are very competent performances of some rock/pop standards of the day played with style and spirit. This was New Year's day morning and half the population of London was hung over. But hey, there are THOSE voices and guitars, the heavy influence of Elvis, the savvy understanding of the structure of popular songs, and the musical sensibilities that would mature and flourish over the course of the following few years as these guys grew into a monster that would seduce the world.


You want irony? As the story goes, Dick Rowe, the guy who turned down The Beatles, did, on other occasions sign very successful acts, like The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, and  Tom Jones. His explanation for turning down the most successful act in history was that "Guitar groups are on the way out..." which was probably just a convenient line to throw to their disappointed manager for having blown off his clients. Actually, The Beatles launched a renewed interest in 'guitar bands' that eclipsed any previous interest in them. Rowe much preferred another contender for a Decca contract that he auditioned that day, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes and below is a video of the most successful recording of their career. Although, clearly, these guys had 'something' you still have to stop and wonder about the insight and acuity of a record executive who heard and viewed this group more favorably than The Beatles! 

Brian Poole and The Tremeloes - The Three Bells 


The Beatles -Cavern Club 1962 

In this video we see the The Beatles with Ringo Starr on board, which places this scene sometime after Starr replaced original drummer Pete Best in mid August of 1962. This shift in personnel was strongly suggested by  George Martin who signed The Beatles to the Parlophone label and began recording them in June of 1962. The rest is history.

While YouTube would have been far out science fiction during the time The Beatles played together, it performs a vital function for fans of this group who broke up and ceased to work together in 1970, 46 years ago. So acute, though, is the thirst of their admirers and fans, not just to continue, but to deepen their  relationship with them, that YouTube videos on The Beatles continue to be produced and posted with more and more obscure items featured continually. This phenomenon indicates that something much more profound than mere nostalgia is at work behind their creation and consumption. Even for those who remember their emergence into our consciousness and our imaginations through news coverage about their very first visit to the US and their momentous debut on American TV's Ed Sullivan Show, memories of The Beatles go back only to 1964. Curiosity and fondness, though, provide impetus for items to be posted on YouTube that go all the way back to 1960, the very, very beginning of the group's birth. Actually, even back further than that to the lives of Beatles before the group was formed. Clearly there's an emotional hunger for more of something, and the bits and pieces that emerge only perpetuate and intensify that hunger.

The Beatles I Will Always Be In Love With You 1960 Rehearsal

This video comes accompanied by a caption that states " The Beatles taped themselves rehearsing during the spring or summer of 1960 with Stuart Sutcliffe participating.This bootleg is sometimes listed as a 1960 rehearsal recorded in Germany but was actually taped at Paul McCartney's home in Liverpool.The tape contains the only known recordings made during Stu's tenure in the group."

Paul McCartney would have been 18 years old when this was recorded by the way.
These were just young kids. Stu Sutcliffe, by the way, was part of the 5 piece Beetles (earlier spelling of the name), which eventually morphed into the 4 man group the world fell in love with. The final line up of John, Paul, George and... is accounted for by Pete Best being fired and replaced by Ringo Starr as the drummer, and Stu Sutcliffe, bass player, dropping out to pursue his visual art interests. Sutcliffe, by the way, died of a brain hemorrhage in April of 1962, just a few months after his band mates failed their audition for Rowe at Decca in London.

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