Early Beatles recordings?

Do any recordings exist of Beatles shows in Liverpool and/or Hamburg before they were signed? They played hundreds of shows at the Cavern and Star Club; it seems unlikely to me that none of them were taped. Yet there are no official live releases from this period and I’ve never seen a bootleg either.

fishbicycle - paging fishbicycle (he collects Beatles bootlegs and has pretty much every one that is available…he should be with you shortly). And I am curious, too!

There are a few boots that have been released, which include “Besuma Mucho” “Till There Was You”, etc., but the sound quality is very poor, nothing of interest except for the die hard fanatic perhaps.

The Beatles got work as a backup group for the English singer Tony Sheridan at a couple of Polydor recording sessions in Hamburg in June 1961. They also got to record two songs on their own: “Ain’t She Sweet” with John on vocals, and the instrumental “Cry for a Shadow”. Various albums of the recordings are widely available today.

The Beatles’ audition tape for Decca Records, recorded in January 1962, is available, and I heartily recommend it.

The recording of them playing at Hamburg’s Star-Club in December 1962 is widely available. Technically, that is after they were signed by EMI in June 1962, but it’s still very much before they were known: like a lot of club audiences, the crowd continues to talk amongst themselves as John or Paul introduces the songs.

Not anymore, at least not legally. The Beatles’ legal team worked for years to get those recordings taken off the market, and finally succeeded a few years back.

There have been several issues of the Star Club tapes in both vinyl and CD. The most widespread were on the Lingasong label, which owned them, but they keep getting sued for releasing them. There’s another grey-market CD issue on Rockartoon, but they got sued, too. Several smaller labels have put them out, but they all get a restraining order and the pressings go out of print right away. There are several bootlegs of alternate recordings from the Star Club, but they are all severely edited and out of the order of original performances, and all but impossible to find now.

So far, no album has been issued with all 30 songs that were on the Lingasong label. Originally, you had to buy the UK and US albums to get them all, as the track listings were different for each. There are none in print at the moment that I know of.

The Decca Tapes have been issued in pristine quality on Yellow Dog and Vigotone labels, back in the early-mid '90s, but they both had all the tracks running way fast. Vigotone put them out again, with the whole affair slowed down, but not by enough, and each track is at a slightly different degree of off-key. The only freely available Decca recordings are on Anthology 1.

The Polydor recordings with and without Tony Sheridan from Hamburg, produced by Bert Kaempfert, have always been in print. They appear on literally hundreds of Polydor issues around the world. The best compilation of these is on the Bear Family label out of Germany. It’s a 2CD that compiles all of the various stereo and mono mixes and differerent edits of those tracks - even the ones from the US where Bernard Purdie overdubbed the drums over Pete Best. That’s how he is able to claim he played with The Beatles.

EMI has already released “Besame Mucho” and “Love Me Do” from their audition, and also found the long-lost George demo “You’ll Know What To Do.”

Any radio broadcasts they made, and almost all of them have been bootlegged, were made after they got signed to EMI.

The Beatles Anthology I has two pre-Beatles demo recordings of the Quarrymen: “That’ll Be the Day” and “In Spite of All the Danger”.

From the Beatles-discography.com website:

Between Mrs. Best’s letter-writing campaign and the filming date, Pete had been replaced by Ringo Starr.

BTW, the Star Club tapes are of terrible quality. I have them on album from waay back when they were released. ( Lingasong) Interesting only in terms of the novelty of it. The quality is horrible. If I remember it was recorded on a little home
reel to reel. I don’t know if any effort was made to clean up the material for CD.
Fishbike?? The Decca stuff is better, but some of the songs chosen aren’t my favorites.

For a fairly high-quality hint of what they were like early, I recommend Live at the BBC. These sessions were all after they were signed, of course, but they do a lot of the covers that they did in the Cavern and Hamburg days, along with lots of their early hits.

Great recommendation, Crotalus - I love The Hippy Hippy Shake, A Shot of Rhythmn and Blues, You Really Got a Hold of Me and countless others on that collection…

Thanks for the info, all. I was aware of the Anthology and Live at the BBC material and was wondering specifically about live material from that early era. Looks like there’s precious little to be had! Thanks.

I remember reading years ago that the night this recording was made, Pete Best was unable to be at the show for some reason, so the Beatles had a replacement drummer–someone by the name of Ringo Starr! Can anyone confirm?

Yes, that was Ringo sitting in that night at the Star Club. He was in town, playing with Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, and he and The Beatles used to hang out.

No, that’s the story that was put out at the time of the Lingasong release to obscure the fact that these tapes do not in fact predate the Beatles’ signing to EMI. The performance was from December 1962, by which time Ringo was a full fledged Beatle.

Ringo Starr permanently replaced Pete Best as the Beatles’ drummer in August 1962, and as we’ve said, the Star-Club recording is from afterward, in December 1962.

Lingasong records lied and claimed on the album notes that it was recorded in April 1962 and that Ringo just happened to be “sitting in” for Pete the night of the recording. Why? Because Lingasong knew that the Bealtes signed with EMI/Parlophone in June 1962, and the legal rights of any music recordings made of them after that date belonged to EMI/Parlophone.

Oops, sorry. That’s what I get for writing from work, where there is no means to look in my Beatles encyclopedia, and I have to rely on my slowly fading memory. I’ll make an honest effort not to do it again.

I figured you were just testing us.