Decca tape for sale at Sotheby’s

The famous spool of tape from the Decca audition.

A tape with part of The Beatles’ famous unsuccessful audition for Decca Records is now the subject of an auction sale.

“This precious tape holds a special place in the annals of music history,” says Dr. Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Specialist. “This is a unique recording from the Beatles’ first commercial for Decca on New Year’s Day 1962—one of the first fruits of Brian Epstein’s management and a huge opportunity for the young band.”

Under Epstein’s management, the yet-to-be discovered band recorded 15 songs for the record company during the Jan. 1 session. Unfortunately, this tape – which once belonged to Epstein himself – only holds seven of the fifteen songs.

Sotheby’s description:

0.25 inch (6.35mm) open reel magnetic tape on a 5 inch (127mm) Phillips brand spool labelled “2” in ball-point, carrying c.15 minutes 20 seconds mono recording at 7.5 inches/second, of The Beatles performing seven songs (‘Money’, ‘The Sheik of Araby’, ‘Memphis Tennessee’, Three Cool Cats’, ‘Sure to Fall (in Love with You)’, ‘September in the Rain’, and Like Dreamers Do’) at Decca Studios, London, on 1 January 1962, housed in a contemporary box (Emitape, for a 5.75 inch spool) labelled “2” and “THE BEATLES” in ballpoint on the base; now housed in a collector’s bespoke cloth box; end of tape frayed and brittle with 280mm detached; [with:] CD transfer, letters of provenance and authenticity

Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has confirmed that this version of the Decca recording is unique: “The ending of Three Cool Cats is a single bass note longer than any version we’ve had before. The song September in the Rain is four seconds longer than any of the circulated versions as it includes a vocal line which is always edited out. These tiny differences do mark out the tape as original to Brian Epstein, not something created from any other known-to-exist source” (private communication, 2018).

The tape has been the property of Brian Epstein’s nephew, Henry Epstein. Sotheby’s estimate a sales price of 50,000 – 70,000 GBP. Online bidding opens 6 Dec 2019 at 03:00 PM CET.

The Beatles auction comprises 25 interesting lots, like clothes worn by The Beatles and John Lennon’s toaster!

Link: Sotheby’s

5 Responses

  1. Teddy Salad says:

    Does anyone want any toast?

  2. James Peet says:

    I've not eaten yet, Teddy, and now I want to eat some toast! I am a Facebook friend of Henry Epstein. We have a mutual friend. I hope it gets a great price for him. I'm sure it won't be too long before we hear the content of the tape.

  3. Peter C says:

    It's about time we had a fully-sanctioned a properly-promoted set covering the Pete Best years (Decca, Polydor, EMI audition). Can't see Ringo giving it the go-ahead though.

  4. RSTVMO says:

    He's sure it won't be too long before we hear the content of the tape.

  5. Unknown says:

    I'm going to be bidding for the reel for our Beatles museum here in Italy, I've been allocated a budget of 1.2 million. In selling the demo over two years we hope to make 10 million.

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