‘You won’t have heard of them. It’s by a group called The Beatles’

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It was 55 years ago today – at around 3pm on Saturday 28 October, 1961 – that 18-year-old Raymond Jones walked into a shop in Whitechapel, Liverpool, and asked for a disc called My Bonnie that he said had been recorded in Germany. The store’s director, a young man named Brian Epstein, shook his head and asked who it was by. “You won’t have heard of them,” was the reply. “It’s by a group called The Beatles.”

Epstein had indeed never heard of them but wrote on a pad: “My Bonnie. The Beatles. Check on Monday.”

My Bonnie, which had been recorded back in June in Hamburg, featured rock’n’roller Tony Sheridan on vocals, backed by “The Beat Brothers”, a pseudonym for The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best. The flip side was The Saints, a version of the traditional jazz standard When the Saints Go Marching In. (Check out George’s excellent guitar solo.)

The recordings, and a subsequent session featuring Sheridan without The Beatles, were produced by Bert Kaempfert, best known for numerous easy listening albums but also the composer of Elvis’s Wooden Heart and Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night. My Bonnie, released in October, reached Number 32 in the German charts. (Much later, when The Beatles were famous, it was to enjoy a week in the British charts at Number 48.)

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Bert Kaempfert soon gave up producing Beatles records to concentrate on easy listening albums with covers like this.

Back in Liverpool, Brian Epstein ordered some copies for the shop (if you have one today, it’s worth $500) and went to see The Beatles at the Cavern Club. Soon he became their manager and the rest is history. Without Epstein, it’s unlikely that they would have become the biggest act on the planet, an unprecedented cultural phenomenon that would change all our lives for ever.

Epstein later wrote in his autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise (a sketchy affair, which now reads poignantly, produced at the height of Beatlemania in 1964): “I wonder sometimes whether there is not something mystically magnetic about the name ‘Beatle’? Now they are world famous, The Beatles defy analysis as to the specific ingredients of their success but I do wonder whether they would have been quite as big if they had been called, for example, The Liverpool Four, or something equally prosaic.”

It may sound a rather corny pun these days but it’s hard to imagine John, Paul, George and Ringo as anything other than The Beatles. It’s certainly better than the Fab Four’s previous incarnations as The Quarrymen or The Silver Beatles, although Johnny & The Moondogs – now there’s a cool name.

 

 

Last modified: January 23, 2017

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