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The Beatles’ first demo tape owned by Brian Epstein to auction at Sotheby’s

By
2019-11-22

Brian Epstein’s personal copy of The Beatles first demo tape will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s next month, in a special auction dedicated to the Fab Four.

The tape, which the band recorded for Decca Records on January 1, 1962, was famously rejected by A&R boss Dick Rowe who told Epstein that “guitar bands are on the way out”.

This version of the demo recording is unique, with slightly longer versions of songs which mark it out as being Brian Epstein’s personal copy.

The reel-to-reel tape was one of two given to Epstein following the failed studio session, and the only one to survive.

Offered with superb provenance, the tape is now is expected to sell for £50,000 – £70,000 ($65,000 – $91,000)  

The Beatles' first demo tape for Decca Records, from the personal collection of Brian Epstein, estimated at £50,000 - £70,000 (Image: Sotheby's)
The Beatles’ first demo tape for Decca Records, from the personal collection of Brian Epstein, estimated at £50,000 – £70,000 (Image: Sotheby’s)

Having learned their trade in the bars of Hamburg, and honed their act as local stars in Liverpool, The Beatles then set out to earn themselves a record contract under the stewardship of new manager Brian Epstein.

On January 1, 1962 the Band drove through snowstorms from Liverpool to London to record their first professional demo for Decca Records (whilst Epstein wisely took the train).

Although dismayed to discover their studio producer was inexperienced, late and hung-over from the night before, the band carried on and rattled through 15 tracks in an hour.

The session was essentially a run-through of their live Cavern Club sets, with covers such as Money and Memphis, Tennessee alongside three early original songs Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved.

Decca turned down the demo and signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes instead, because they were local to London and would cost less than transporting The Beatles down from Liverpool to record.

Although disappointed, Epstein refused to give up and took the demo tape to his friend Robert Boast, manager of the HMV record store in London, which had a small recording studio and pressing plant in the basement.

There he pressed two songs, Hello Little Girl and Till There Was You, onto a series of acetate records to hand out to record label executives.

Six weeks later he gave one of the discs to EMI producer George Martin, and the rest is rock and roll history.

In March 2016, the very acetate that Epstein gave to George Martin sold at Omega Auctions for £77,500 ($110,000), where it was described as a “Holy Grail” item for Beatles collectors.

Given the tape’s personal connection to Brian Epstein, and the central role it played in shaping The Beatles’ career, it would be no surprise to see it surpass the high estimate and fetch a six-figure sum come December 13.


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