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20th December, 2021

Becoming The Beatles: Raymond Jones

‘There’s a record I want. It’s “My Bonnie” and it was made in Germany. Have you got it?’

Those were the famous words which piqued Brian Epstein’s intrigue about a local band who would go on to conquer the world.

It is thought that one day in 1961, a young man called Raymond Jones brought The Beatles’ existence to the attention of Brian Epstein, when he asked for their single ‘My Bonnie’ at Brian’s NEMS record store in Liverpool.

In his autobiography In A Cellarful of Noise, Brian says: “At about three o’clock on Saturday, October 28th, 1961, an eighteen-year-old boy called Raymond Jones, wearing jeans and a black leather jacket, walked into a record-store in Whitechapel, Liverpool, and said: ‘There’s a record I want. It’s “My Bonnie” and it was made in Germany. Have you got it?’

Behind the counter stood Brian, who shook his head. “Who is the record by?” he asked. “You won’t have heard of them,” said Raymond. “It’s by a group called The Beatles.”

Raymond Jones was not unique - a dozen customers would call in daily for unknown discs but for some reason after he left the shop Brian wrote on a pad: ‘My Bonnie. The Beatles. Check on Monday.’

Shortly after on 9 November 1961 Brian paid a visit to the Cavern Club with assistant Alistair Taylor to watch The Beatles perform. However Alistair’s first meeting with The Beatles didn’t leave such a positive impression.

He claimed the band were loud, awful and scruffy, and that he and Brian looked out of place in their smart suits. But as The Beatles continued to play, the pair began tapping their feet to the rhythm – he knew they had something, but couldn’t say for sure what it was.

A Costly Error

After watching The Beatles perform, Brian and Alistair went for a bite to eat at a local restaurant.

Here Brian asked Alistair if he would work for him directly as a personal assistant, and manage The Beatles. As payment, he was offered a percentage of The Beatles. Alistair was unable to contribute anything financially, so declined the offer. Alistair has called this the biggest financial mistake of his life.

Is Alistair Taylor Raymond Jones?

In a 1995 interview published in the Manchester Evening Standard newspaper, as well as a more recent interview with Beatles Historian David Bedford (link to david’s blog), Alistair Taylor claimed that he was in fact, Raymond Jones.

He told David: “I was Raymond Jones. Kids were coming into the shop and asking for this record ‘My Bonnie’ by The Beatles. We didn’t have it and, until somebody put in an actual order, Brian wouldn’t do anything. You see, Brian had this claim that if you ordered a record by anyone, anywhere, he would find it. However, no matter how many people asked for it, nobody had ordered it by paying a deposit. Particularly as this was a German import, this was even more important.

I knew we would sell lots of copies, so I made out the order form and paid the deposit from my own pocket in the name of Raymond Jones, one of our regular customers.”

Now an order had been placed, he and Brian began to track the single down. It had been recorded in Germany under ‘Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers’ and once found, Brian ordered a batch and it sold out in no time at all.

The Real Raymond Jones

Recently, Liverpool radio presenter Spencer Leigh tracked down the real Raymond Jones and former Cavern Club announcer Bob Wooler even had an address for him in Liverpool.

Alistair admitted that a Raymond Jones existed and even had possibly asked Brian about the record in NEMS, but he never formally placed an order. Alistair took Raymond’s details, paid the deposit from his own pocket (as it was a foreign import) and placed the order formally placed the order.

Whether or not the ‘real’ Raymond Jones or not placed the order, he became an integral cog that helped turn The Beatles into the global superstars they went on to become.

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