Beatles Demo Tape Up For Auction

On News Year's Day in 1962, The Beatles cut a demo tape for Decca Records, but the label said no thanks. A copy of that audition tape is going up for public auction next week. But some questions are being raised about the authenticity of the recording. Audie Cornish talks with Ted Owen of Fame Bureau, which is running the auction.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On New Year's Day, 1962, The Beatles recorded a demo for Decca Records.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE COOL CATS")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Three cool cats, three cool cats...

CORNISH: Decca executives passed, EMI didn't, and The Beatles went on to make history. What might be a copy of that recording is going up for auction Tuesday. The 10-song demo is credited to the Silver Beatles, the name the group used before making it big. Bootleg copies of this recording have been available for decades, so authenticating this one is difficult, and many questions are being raised about its authenticity. We put some of those questions to Ted Owen in London. He is with The Fame Bureau, which is auctioning the tape.

TED OWEN: It is true, a colleague of mine in Philadelphia, he called me over and he would like to sell some things. I went over to his warehouse, and there on the side was sitting this tape, and that's how we discovered it.

CORNISH: Now, how do you go about verifying this, because there has been some questions raised today about the authenticity of the tape, one noting that its got references to Dolby test tone, which didn't exist in 1962. People are also looking at the issue of it being titled the Silver Beatles, a name that the group didn't use at the time that they were auditioning for Decca. How did you verify this, and can you say that it's authentic?

OWEN: We don't know exactly. The way we have catalogued it is as a copy master, a safety master. Now, the recordings have never been released as they are, apart from three tracks on "Anthology." The Dolby issue, I can't answer because I'm not an engineer. But we authenticated it on the basis that it came from a Capitol Record executive. And I've spoken to a lot of the collectors around the world who specialize in Beatles tapes, and still the issue has come up. That's not really relevant as far as I'm concerned. My concern is, and our reason for selling this tape is, it's the original tape with superb quality, which has never ever been heard before.

CORNISH: So you're saying essentially that you're not totally clear what year it might have been or - help me understand what you mean by the Dolby issue doesn't matter here.

OWEN: Well, you tell me about the Dolby issue. What is the Dolby issue?

CORNISH: No, just the idea that the tape makes reference to it even though the technology wasn't in existence then.

OWEN: But I'm not aware of that, so I don't really - I can't really answer that question without looking into it. The authenticity comes through the sound of the tape, which has never ever been heard before.

CORNISH: And who verified the sound for you?

OWEN: Me and a colleague in America. Our catalog description is Beatles mono safety master tape. We're saying what it is. We're not saying this is the master. We're saying it's the safety master.

CORNISH: That was Ted Owen in London. He is managing director of auction company The Fame Bureau. Again, we can't verify the authenticity of the tape. But on eBay, we found an LP collection from 1982 called "The Silver Beatles - Like Dreamers Do." One of the records in that collection contains the same 10 songs in the same order as the tape in question. The tape's notes and the LP's also have the same catalogue number. We'll give the last word to The Beatles themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO GOODBYE")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) You say yes, I say no. You say stop, and I say go, go, go. Oh, no. You say goodbye, and I say hello...

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR.

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