50 Years Ago Yesterday: The Audition At Abbey Road

It was 7:00 pm, on Wednesday, June 6, 1962.

The Liverpool rock & roll quartet known as “The Beatles” – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best – were in Studio Two of EMI Studios, 3 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood, London, England.

The band’s manager, Brian Epstein, after months of hard work and many rejections, had finally secured a live audition for The Beatles with EMI’s Parlaphone Records and producer George Martin. That evening, Martin assigned his assistant, Ron Richards, to initially take charge of the session. Balance engineer Norman Smith and second engineer/tape operator Chris Neal also worked in Studio Two on June 6.

Once a few problems with the band’s guitar amplifiers – equipment described as “duff” by engineer Smith – were fixed, The Beatles ran through a number of songs from their extensive performance repertoire and settled on four songs to be taped. First up was their cover version of “Besame Mucho” (released in 1960 by The Coasters) and then three Lennon & McCartney originals: “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Ask Me Why.”

During the recording of “Love Me Do,” Smith thought George Martin should be hearing this for himself and sent Neal to “Go down and pick up George from the canteen.” Martin arrived and took over for the rest of the session. 

At the end of the evening, Martin called the four lads up to the control room to listen back to the recordings and “discuss technicalities.”

Norman Smith later recalled: “We gave them a long lecture about their equipment and what would have to be done about it if they were to become recording artists. They didn’t say a word back, not a word. When he finished, George Martin said ‘Look, I’ve just laid into you for quite a time, you haven’t responded. Is there anything you don’t like?’ I remember they all looked at each other for a long while, then George Harrison took a long look at Martin and said ‘Yeah, I don’t like your tie!'”

The Beatles returned to Abbey Road on September 4, 1962, for their first official recording session as Parlophone recording artists under contract with EMI. At George Martin’s request, drummer Pete Best had been replaced. Ringo Starr, “the best drummer in Liverpool,” had joined the band in August.

You know what they say about “the rest…”

All information and quotes for this post were found in two books, both by Mark Lewisohn: The Complete Beatles Chronicle (1992) and The Beatles: Recording Sessions (1988). Very Highly Recommended.

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