How is Anthology I the Beatles' only "official release"including Pete Best?

When it comes to vinyl records, and CDs which now seem to be joining LPs on the dust heap of history, isn’t an “official release” anything other than a bootleg, or possibly a promotional DJ release not for general sale?

According to Wikipedia, Anthology I is the first official release to include the playing of original drummer Pete Best. (Stuart Sutcliffe also, but since he really never appeared on any former release, the question doesn’t apply to him.) Yet, there have been several earlier releases during Pete’s tenure on the drummer’s throne–at least two of the Tony Sheridan sessions, and one of the Decca audition. Those weren’t bootlegs, so why weren’t they official?

Regarding Pete Best and Anthology I, I’ve read that he received a considerable sum of money in residuals for this–as much as a million or two pounds. Since the recordings he was on were only auditions, and never released for sale, why did he have his coming to him? And if he did, shouldn’t he have been getting at least a small stream of this money from the earlier Decca audition and Polydor issues?

First of all, the Tony Sheridan stuff was cut for Polydor in Germany. They were merely the backing group used, and they were total unknowns at the time. Best was their drummer, but the real star of these sessions was Sheridan.

These were for supposedly German consumption only (despite the fact that Brian Epstein was able to order them to sell at his store in Liverpool), and weren’t exported to other countries until The Beatles “hit”, at which time they were brought out these other labels or their foreign subsiduaries in competition to legitimate Beatles albums on EMI based labels (which differed,depending on the country, eg. Parlophone in the UK, Capitol in the US, Odeon in Japan, etc). They were legal, but just legal enough to be tolerated even though they were usually sold deceptively as true Beatles albums. For years they hovered around the fringe of “what true Beatles albums were”, more people having become acquainted over time with the background of the group in general and their Tony Sheridan episode in particular, and were released under several different covers over and over again.

Correct me if I am wrong, but nothing out of the Decca audition was ever a legitimate release until it appeared in Anthology. Any appearances of Decca auditon cuts prior to this time was on bootleg only.

Decca and Tony Sheridan cuts only became legitimate by release by EMI, because that is when they were included with “real” Beatles releases. As for Pete Best royalties/residuals, it all depends on the terms of the contract that was in place for each. As I have stated, Decca audition tapes were never released by any legitimate record company; as to Tony Sheridan sessions, it is unlikely that there was much of a contract in place at all. If anyone was getting residuals it would have been Sheridan; the backing group was likely just hired as a “one off” as casual session players, and if they did sign any form of contract it was likely heavily biased in favour of the record company or Sheridan or both, basically stating, “You will play and we will pay you X number of Deutschemarks for doing so.”

I knew this. Again, they only got a session fee for this, so when the Anthology came out, why did any of the former Beatles or their estates, let alone Pete Best specifically, receive any money at all? Unless it was just for the two numbers they did without Sheridan.

There were a few non-bootleg issues of this, really only one if you discount different labels, different countries of issue and so forth. Most of them seem carry the title “Silver Beatles”, quite incorrectly as they had not called themselves that for nearly two years. This example is fairly representative of the breed, although it’s not the same issue I owned. Of course, I’m assuming that a record that had been professionally printed and packaged and was being offered for sale in an actual record store (e.g. Tower) was a legitimate or “official” release.

Yeah, any Decca audition tapes under the band name “Silver Beatles” were still bootlegged releases, even though you may have bought them at a legitimate store. I found, back in the early 80s, a two volume cassette set of the Decca tapes (with some duplication between the two volumes so that there could still be four or five cuts on each side) at Pamida (however, back in that timeframe, I also remember finding Hendrix bootlegs at K-Mart, as well as Irish pressings of Black Sabbath albums cheaper than the domestic product). In the mid-90s, I also found, at K-Mart, a legitimate looking album of a rehearsal at Paul McCartney’s house taped by his brother Mike. All were somewhat professional appearing albums/tapes, but they were all bootlegs. Seems to me I remember reading in Billboard sometime around 1998 of a big raid in New York of a warehouse filled with bootlegs that were being sold to American rackjobbers, which were being distributed to legitimate stores.

As to royalties on Sheridan cuts, it is quite possible that the former Beatles themselves cut a deal with EMI for royalties if EMI was able to purchase these tapes/masters for inclusion on Anthology, which would have been poorer in the first place without samples of these tapes. The net result was that they were “legitimized” by this act.

As others have said, there were no legal publications of the 1962 Decca audition recording before Anthology I. Bootlegs with very sophisticated covers and sold in legitimate record stores are still bootlegs.

As for the Polydor recordings made in June 1961, John C. Winn writes in* Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’ Recorded Legacy*, “The Terms of the Beatles’ contract were for a flat fee of 300 DM [Deutschmarks] per man over the period of one year, with no future royalties.”

Because the Beatles were under a one-year contract to Bert Kaempfert Productions, they were called back to record again for Tony Sheridan in June 1962. The resulting recording of “Sweet Georgia Brown” received limited release, and when the Beatles became famous, Sheridan re-recorded his vocals in January 1964 to mention the Beatles. That latter recording has all but replaced the earlier.

P.S. In June 1961, the Deutschmark traded at US $0.23, so 500 DM = US $115.

Actually, there were pre-fame releases of the single “My Bonnie / The Saints” in both the UK and US: After demand as a German import, Polydor released it in the UK in January 1962 (as Tony Sheridan & The Beatles), and Polydor affiliate Decca released it in the US in April 1962 (as Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers).

Capitol/Apple wants you to buy their collection of outtakes/rejects. So they are going to advertise this as “first authorized”.

I heard a radio interview a few years ago with Pete Best and he said the Anthology records were the first he’s ever received money for recording with the Beatles. He also said the Beatles never told him why he was kicked out.

The Albert Goldman biography of John Lennon had a lot of critics and holes in it but it does make clear that Brian Epstein was very inept in business deals he made for the Beatles.

Ah, well, the Goldman book also makes it very clear that Lennon was as gay as the day is long, something vehemently denied by surviving friends, relations, and associates. Though, I realize, by today’s standards that running off to Spain with Brian episode points strongly in that direction; did John expect people not to talk about that?

Speaking of Pete, Goldman also asserted that he was considered by many the best drummer in Liverpool, which I doubt. At the same time, I doubt he was as horribly inept as indicated by some of the nasty things the others said about him in the following years. No question, though, that Ringo had (and has) an engaging personality and would, I suppose be a fun person to be around. And he is a great drummer too.

Yeah, there was nothing unofficial about that release. Also, it was because of fan requests for that recording that The Beatles got Epstein’s attention.