Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lost or Missing Tapes 1957-1962

Documented in various references are tapes that The Beatles or their antecedents made between 1957 and 1962, which may or may not exist in somebody’s desk drawer or vault. Following are ten which may see the light of day in some future utopia (references in parentheses):

(1) Hunter Davies mentioned that in (perhaps Autumn) 1957 Stu Sutcliffe and John Lennon, while at Art College of Liverpool Institute, persuaded a college committee to buy a tape recorder, “ostensibly for use by all students.” This John “borrowed” in order to record and hear how The Quarrymen were doing. Davies claimed that Stu later gave Astrid Kirchherr a reel from these recordings. However, it is now known that Kirchherr received a different reel (1960, April circa). It anyway makes no sense that Stu, having actually joined the band in January 1960, would have given Astrid a recording made without him, especially three years prior. Such tapes are unlikely to exist.

Davies, The Beatles, pp. xlv, 58.

(2) It has been noted that, from perhaps late 1957 into 1958, Geraldine Davies, who lived next door to Colin Hanton, intermittently recorded Quarrymen rehearsals on a Grundig machine. In 1993, Rod Davis borrowed these so-called "Davies/Wong tapes," but found that The Quarrymen recordings had been taped over with other material. It is possible, but unlikely, that a reel escaped notice in some corner.

Harry, The John Lennon Encyclopedia, p.186; Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul, p.371; Unterberger, The Unreleased Beatles, p.11.

(3) A recording of “Pick a Bale of Cotton” (Leadbelly) was made by Paul McCartney, Neil Harding, and two others during a lunch break at Liverpool Institute, circa late 1958 to early 1959. It is suggested that the tape (aka the “Burfitt tape”) may be in Northern Ireland, where Harding relocated.

Curley, Beatle Pete (2005), p.448; Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul, p.371.

(4) Several times in 1959, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (Ringo on drums and vocals; sometimes George Harrison on guitar) were recorded while playing at Liverpool clubs, particularly at the Morgue Cellar. This appears to be the extent of knowledge on these tapes.

Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul, p.371.

(5) Alan Williams, early booking agent/manager for the lads, recalled a tape he made at the Jacaranda, which in 1960 (perhaps June) he played for Bruno Koschmider in order to book "The Silver Beetles" (and other bands) to the Kaiserkeller Club in Hamburg. Williams described the tape as “an absolute cacophony” and a “sound track for a very poor horror movie.” This tape is thought to exist.

Ryan, John Lennon’s Secret, p.60; Williams, The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away.

(6) On October 15, 1960, The Beatles (with Pete Best) and members of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (including Ringo) played backup to Lu Walters, singer and bass player for The Hurricanes, for an acetate made in similar fashion to “That’ll Be the Day” (1958, Spring or Summer). This occurred in Hamburg, with Alan Williams in attendance. The songs “Fever” and “Summertime” (and possibly “September Song”) were recorded to the disc. Williams later lost his copy (four are assumed) while en route to present it to Ringo. A photo of this acetate appeared in Williams' book, and a 1963 Mersey Beat article claimed that the recording was popular on the Liverpool underground pop scene. It is likely that a copy of the disc still exists.

Unterberger, The Unreleased Beatles, p.13; Williams, The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away.

PHOTOS & INFORMATION: Lu Walters acetate: here.

(7) Tony Sheridan mentioned, in an interview for the September 6, 1975 issue of New Musical Express, that he believed The Beatles (with or without Sheridan) recorded the songs “Kansas City,” “Rock and Roll Music,” and “Some Other Guy” at the Hamburg sessions (1961, June 22-23). It is doubtful, however, that these still exist (if ever they did), since Gottfriddson did a thorough material search for the CD-set Beatles Bop – Hamburg Days. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal.

Russell, The Beatles on Record, p.5.

(8) A tape from the Summer (likely) of 1962, consisting of eighteen songs performed by The Beatles at the Cavern Club, was purchased by Paul at a Sotheby’s auction on August 29, 1985. No part of this was used for Anthology, so the sonic quality is assumed to be awful. The tape exists, but not for you.

Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul, p.116.

(9) What we have next is disputed. Reputedly from July 1, 1962 is a tape of Gene Vincent singing “What’d I Say,” with The Beatles backing. Now, both the Beatles and Vincent did play the Cavern Club on this date, and The Beatles did meet Vincent (photos prove it), so most would say, “Why not?” Others have provided good analysis showing the tape to be from another date (perhaps 1965, sans Beatles). This tape circulates (for example, on the bootleg Artifacts II, disc 1), so it’s a cheat for the category at hand. The question is, Does it truly belong in the Beatles canon, except by reputation?

Miles, The Beatles: A Diary, p.48; Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul, p.371; Unterberger, The Unreleased Beatles, p.44.


(10) On November 26, 1962, The Beatles performed in Abbey Road Studios several passes at “Tip of My Tongue.” Though considered for a time as a B-side, the Fabs decided to give this song to Tommy Quickly (also under contract to Brian Epstein). Although documentation so far denies it, a tape of the Beatles performances may still be in EMI vaults.

Lewisohn, Recording Sessions.


There are several other known tapes or acetates from this time period which are lost or missing, but they are even less likely to exist (if that's possible).


Tom Wise

Although I use quotes from sources, or cited fact, much of the material on this and other pages of my blog is original, from my own pen. This is not cut-and-paste, it is a work of art. Copyright © 2010 Tom Wise

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