… The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records in West Hampstead, London. A&R boss at Decca Dick Rowe turned them down in what is considered one of the biggest mistakes in music industry history, Decca decided to reject the band, selecting instead Brian Poole and the Tremeloes – well I suppose the year could only get better after that start!
The Beatles’ famous audition for Decca Records took place in London on New Year’s Day in 1962.
The session followed the label’s A&R representative Mike Smith’s attendance at a Cavern performance on 13 December 1961. The Beatles’ performance that night hadn’t been strong enough to secure them a record deal, but the label was willing to offer them a session in their studios at 165 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, London.
The group – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best – travelled down from Liverpool with driver and roadie Neil Aspinall. Beset by snowstorms, the party eventually arrived just in time for the 11am audition. Brian Epstein had travelled separately on train.
The group was annoyed that Smith turned up late, having spent the night before seeing in the new year. Smith further unnerved them by insisting they use Decca’s amplifiers, having judged The Beatles’ own gear to be substandard.
The Beatles recorded 15 songs altogether.
Three of the songs – Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved – were Lennon-McCartney originals. It is likely that the majority of songs were recorded in a single take without overdubs; the entire session, which began at 11am, took roughly an hour.
Five of the Decca recordings – Searchin’, Three Cool Cats, The Sheik Of Araby, Like Dreamers Do and Hello Little Girl – appeared on the Anthology 1 collection in 1995. The rest have been widely available on bootleg since 1977.
Although nerves meant The Beatles didn’t perform at their best, all four members and Brian Epstein were confident that the session would inevitably lead to a contract with Decca. The label, meanwhile, was erring towards Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, who had also auditioned that day. As head of A&R Dick Rowe later remembered:
I told Mike he’d have to decide between them. It was up to him – The Beatles or Brian Poole and the Tremeoloes. He said, ‘They’re both good, but one’s a local group, the other comes from Liverpool.’ We decided it was better to take the local group. We could work with them more easily and stay closer in touch as they came from Dagenham.
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Listen to the audition here