The First Beatles Record

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Most any musical history book will tell you that the first Beatles record was "Love Me Do."

Sure, "Love Me Do," released October 5, 1962. It went to #17 on the British charts.

Ringo Starr had the great indignity of having to play a lousy tambourine on a few takes instead of his customary drums, and a substitute session drummer named Andy White was called in to play drums in Ringo's stead.

Ringo is featured on the single of "Love Me Do," but it's Andy White's drum we hear on the album version of the song.

Yes, that's all true. But let's go back a few years in our imaginary time machine.

Back to a Sunday afternoon on July 14, 1958—the day The Beatles actually did make "their first record."

Meet The Quarrymen!

This was pre-Ringo—it would actually be a full four years before Ringo would find his niche of immortality as the Fab Four's drummer.

The "Beatles" line-up—they were actually called "The Quarrymen" at this early point in their young career—did, however, include John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. The 15-year-old George had only been with the band for a few months at this time. Colin Hanton was the band's drummer and John "Duff" Lowe played the piano.

The five young and excited musicians had rehearsed earlier on that fateful summer day at Paul's house. They trooped off to the bus stop and boarded the local, each carrying his own instrument. A piano must have already been in the studio; obviously Lowe didn't carry one onto the bus.

The five broke band members got the fee together and plunked it down at the Percy Phillips Recording Studio in Liverpool. The fee was roughly $2.00.

Two songs were recorded at this historic session. One was buddy holly's classic "That'll Be the Day." John sang the lead on this number. Even at this early point, Lennon displays a bit of panache as we listen to the first strains of his trademark slightly-nasal voice. For a 17-year-old novice, he displays considerable talent.

Lennon mimics his idol, Holly, in a pretty dead-on hiccuping singing style and tone that belies both his youth and complete lack of experience.

“McCartney-Harrison.” But Mostly McCartney.

But the second song is a bit more interesting. It's called "In Spite of all the Danger." Most every source credits this song to "Paul McCartney-George Harrison," which makes it the only "McCartney-Harrison" song ever recorded.

(Although it's credited to Paul and George, Paul later claimed it was "his" song, written without George's help. Paul does admit that George played lead guitar on this record. Paul claims he wrote the song when he was 14, part of an early batch of songs he wrote at the time).

Another oddity: John sings lead on this song, too.

This is strange, in view of the later unalterable iron-clad agreement between John and Paul throughout all the years of the band: Whoever wrote the song, or a majority of it, automatically would sing the lead.

"We ran through it very quickly," Paul said. "Quarter of an hour and it was all over."

After the 10-inch 78 rpm record was pressed and given to the boys, an agreement was made. Each band member could keep it for a week, then that member would hand it over to the next.

So, John held the treasured record for a week, then Paul held it for a week, then George held it for a week, then Colin for a week, then "Duff" Lowe got it and held it—for 23 years!

The Rarest Record in the World

Somehow, long after Lowe had left and the band had moved on, the record had remained in his possession. In the mid-1960s, he did put in a call to The Beatles, informing them that he still had their "first record."

His call was never returned.

(Who knows why this call was ignored? Maybe the message never got to John or Paul? Maybe at the time they were so busy they couldn't be bothered?)

In the 1980s, Paul discovered the treasured artifact and bought it from Lowe for an undisclosed amount. He made 50 pressings of it and gave them away as Christmas presents to a list of special friends—two of whom were named George and Ringo.

According to Record Collector magazine, this double-sided single is "The rarest record in the world." It's estimated to be worth somewhere between $150,000.00 and $300,000.00. This is probably a conservative estimate.


Eddie Deezen has appeared in over 30 motion pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and The Polar Express. He's also been featured in several TV shows, including Magnum PI, The Facts of Life, and The Gong Show. And he's done thousands of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such as Dexter's Laboratory and Family Guy. Eddie is a self-confessed Beatles nut and has read over 600 books on The Fab Four. This month, he'll be contributing a handful of Beatles stories to mentalfloss.com. Make him feel welcome!

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May 13, 2011 - 6:20pm
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