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02nd January, 2020

Memorabilia: the record that launched The Beatles

A unique 10-inch, 78 RPM acetate disc which can be seen on display in the replica Abbey Road area of The Beatles Story exhibition has been called a Beatles “Holy Grail” item. The rare recording is essentially the group’s demo disc, responsible for getting the band into Abbey Road for the first time.

The acetate features the songs ‘Hello Little Girl’, with ‘John Lennon and The Beatles’ on side one and ‘Til There Was You’, with ‘Paul McCartney and The Beatles’ on side two, indicating which Beatle sings the lead vocal.

Brian Epstein, whose handwriting is on the disc, had the record cut in the Personal Recording Department of HMV record store on Oxford Street, London, using The Beatles’ Decca audition tapes recorded on New Years’ Day, 1962.

By this point, the Beatles had already been rejected by other labels, including Decca, whose Head of A&R, Dick Rowe, had told Epstein that "guitar groups are on their way out". Epstein however, tried again, and in another desperate attempt to get the band a recording contract presented the disc to George Martin of EMI studios in London.

Despite Martin’s initial reticence, the disc eventually led to the breakthrough the band were looking for. The meeting between Brian and George, which took place on 13th February 1962, led to The Beatles being signed to EMI’s Parlophone label, with Martin as their producer.  This is the record that launched The Beatles!

After the contract was signed, George Martin gave the Beatles an ‘artist test’ at EMI to assess their musical talents. The audition was held on 6th June 1962 and acted as the band’s first EMI recording session. It was also their drummer Pete Best's only recording session with the group at EMI before he was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Just 90 days afterwards, on 4th September 1962, The Beatles returned to the studio with Ringo, to record their debut single, ‘Love Me Do’, in Studio 2. The Beatles would go on to record most of their material in Studio 2 over the next eight years, and in 1985, EMI Studios was renamed Abbey Road Studios, following the success of the Beatles’ final studio album, which they named after the road on which the studios were based on. 

In his book Tune In, leading Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, describes the disc: 

"Its uniqueness is enhanced by Brian Epstein’s handwriting on the labels, and the recognition of what it led to – making it one of the rarest and most collectible of all Beatles records."

According to Ian Shirley, Rare Record Price Guide Editor: 

"This is one of those ‘Holy Grail’ items like the original Quarrymen acetate that the band recorded themselves. This acetate is a unique item that, in many respects, helped Brian Epstein to start the ball rolling to world domination."

The disc is currently on display within The Beatles Story’s recreation of the Abbey Road Studios recording environment, and will be available for visitors to the award-winning attraction until November 2022.

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