Decca Tapes

The Beatles

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Decca Tapes Review

by Richie Unterberger

On January 1, 1962, nearly a full year before the release of their debut single, the Beatles unsuccessfully auditioned for Decca Records. The complete, 15-song tape of the session -- including a dozen covers and three Lennon-McCartney originals -- has been much bootlegged since the 1970s, and has periodically appeared on piecemeal semi-legal releases (always missing the Lennon/McCartney tunes), but is easily available in its entirety on several different packages. The historical significance of this tape is vast; it illustrates where the Beatles were at this crucial juncture of their career. Less flatteringly, it illustrates how vastly they improved between the time of this audition and their first official album release, Please Please Me, 15 months later. In comparison, the sound here is thin and awkward, rife with tentative guitar phrases, nervous lead vocals, and stiff drumming (by Pete Best, who was still in the band at this point). Keeping in mind that this was never intended for public release, in hindsight one finds a great deal of potential and charm, as well as outlines of their great harmonies. The group ended up reprising a lot of the covers, like "Money" and "Till There Was You," on their early albums and BBC broadcasts in much better versions; they also covered some odd popular standards ("September In The Rain," "Sheik Of Araby") that appear nowhere else. Especially fascinating are the three Lennon/McCartney tunes, "Hello Little Girl," "Love Of The Loved," and "Like Dreamers Do," which they never released on EMI, but ended up giving to the Fourmost, Cilla Black, and the Applejacks respectively; the Beatles' versions are much more rock-oriented and much better.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Beatles Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick