Listen to The Beatles' iconic Decca Records audition
(Credit: Capitol Records)

The moment Beatlemania began: Listen to The Beatles’ first-ever audition for Decca Records

In 1962, while starting to make a name for themselves around the clubs of Liverpool, a small band called The Beatles were invited to London to audition for the prestigious record label Decca.

The band’s manager, Brian Epstein, was fighting all major record companies in the early 1960s in a bid to propel The Beatles into the mainstream. After being rejected by the likes of Columbia, HMV, Pye, Philips, and Oriole, he sat down with EMI and Decca in the December of 1961 in the hopes of securing a deal.

Decca, clearly interested, sent A&R executive Mike Smith to Liverpool to watch the band perform at the iconic Cavern Club in Liverpool. Smith, clearly impressed by the show, invited the band and their manager down to London to arrange an instant audition for the major names at Decca Records.

With their chances of finally landing a record deal looking promising, Decca pencilled The Beatles into their diary for a session on New Year’s Day in 1962 at Decca Studios in West Hampstead, north London. The group—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best—travelled down from Liverpool with driver and roadie Neil Aspinall. However, intense snowstorms led to Aspinall losing track of his directions and, subsequently, the journey took a gruelling ten hours.

Arriving just in time for their 11am audition, The Beatles recorded 15 songs during their time in the studio—overshooting the required amount by quite some margin. Decca’s high profile meant that a number of bands would audition on a regular basis and, to save time, they normally asked artists to lay down between two and five songs in total. Feeling optimistic about their performance, the Liverpudlians headed home and waited for Decca’s response.

About a month later, however, the band would learn of Decca Records decision to reject the Beatles who had decided to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes who audition on the same day. In what now appears to be a remarkable oversight, an executive for the company would later say that “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” With one more option left to manager Epstein, he handed over the demos recorded a Decca Studios to the execs at EMI subsidiary Parlophone and the rest, they say, is history.

You can stream the demos—and view the tracklist—below.

Track Listing:
01. Money (That’s What I Want) [0:00]
02. To Know Her Is To Love Her [2:26]
03. Memphis, Tennessee [5:01]
04. Till There Was You [7:22]
05. Sure To Fall (In Love With You) [10:23]
06. Besame Mucho [12:27]
07. Love Of The Loved [15:07]
08. September In The Rain [17:00]
09. Take Good Care Of My Baby [18:57]
10. Crying, Waiting, Hoping [21:26]

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