Alan Lockie produced for EMI.
“I was in Ardmore and Beechwood when The Beatles made their test recording in the HMV shop (below). The Ardmore & Beechwood guys phoned Norman (Newell) who was in Spain and then called George Martin.”
Wayne Bickerton, himself a Liverpudlian and a musician, remembers hearing of Brian Epstein’s frustration at his inability to attract any interest from London.
“I can remember being in a flat with a man called Joe Flannery who was the manager of the band I was in (Lee Curtis & the Allstars). He was talking about Brian coming back (from London) saying ‘these people, they just can’t see it, yet another failure, yet another record company.’ Like Mike Smith and Dick Rowe, Dick saying to Mike: ’OK, make a choice, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes or The Beatles?’ ‘The Tremeloes.’ I had to live with that for all time!
Memories play tricks, so not all of these stories can be true. But they coincide on one point – The Beatles and Brian Epstein were just one step away from possibly never making a recording.
Ron Richards was George Martin’s assistant at Parlophone.
“George (Martin) asked me to listen to this tape that Sid Coleman (Ardmore and Beechwood Publishing) had sent over. Norrie (Paramor) had already turned it down. The thing was that Wally (Ridley), Norrie and Norman (Newell) all had successful acts at the time, so they weren’t in a hurry to sign any unknown kids. George didn’t (have any successful acts). So that’s how George came to take them up. I think he was the last one to hear them. So he asked me to listen to this tape of The Beatles. I must admit I wasn’t terribly impressed at the time. He saw in them more than I did. If it had come to me I would have turned them down, because I had Shane Fenton and the Fentones. But George did a good job with them. Because he wasn’t so au fait with rock & roll, he allowed The Beatles to more or less do their own thing. If they had been with Norrie, or particularly with Wally, he would have said: ‘You do it this way, you do it that way’ and they may not have taken off like they did, but George virtually let them get on with it.
“(Sid Coleman) made a record with (them, of a song) that I’d given him called How do you do it. They hated the song and made a terrible job of it. So then George asked me to produce them with Love me do and I did. I went in the studio – he had gone out with his girlfriend at the time – and he came back at ten-o-clock and asked them ‘Is there anything you don’t like?’ and George Harrison said ‘I don’t like your tie.’
I was the one who got rid of Pete Best. I was the first one in the studio with The Beatles for rehearsal. George asked me to take them into (Abbey Road) No.3 studio one afternoon. He rehearsed them with Please please me and one or two others. I had a thing about drummers in those days and I wanted him to do a double beat on his bass drum and he (Best) couldn’t do it. I thought ‘Well, he’s useless’. I said to George ‘Look, that drummer’s useless. You’ll have to get another one’. The next thing I hear they’ve got this drummer, Ringo. Ringo came into the studio when I was recording Love me do and I didn’t trust him. I’d never heard him play so I didn’t know if he was good, bad or indifferent, so I booked a session drummer to be safe – Andy White. He did the session and I told Ringo to go down and play the maracas (or, as Geoffrey Emerick remembers it – tambourine), which he did.”
Geoffrey Emerick had only just joined EMI as an assistant recording engineer, and fate was to pair him with The Beatles virtually from his first day at the Abbey Road studios. He began work under the auspices of established engineer Norman Smith
“The conversation turned to the Beatles session we’d done earlier that week and all of the problems the drummer (Ringo Starr) was having. Apparently, the drummer they had turned up with for the artist test…had been so bad that he had been sacked a couple of months later.”(7)
Tony Barrow feels this autocratic approach was one of the key reasons why The Beatles’ early creativity was seemingly stifled.
“What it really should have taken was a Larry Parnes of the recording industry, but in those days there were no such people. It was the day of the A&R department; it had complete control. I think when The Beatles went into the recording studios for the first time. They found it a very unfriendly workplace. The producer was in control, the producer would say precisely where in the room they had to stand…’this is your microphone…no you can’t have that microphone over there…’ It was almost like the ‘X’ on the floor in the television studio. Because that’s how it was set up for a four-piece, that’s how it was done. Bright lights, very clinical, not conducive for musicians to work. They hated that. They also got the treatment every other newcomer got. The producer would say ‘OK, I’ve got a songwriter for you – his name’s Mitch Murray’. The tie up was directly between producers and music publishers. They brought the songs in. There was the great B-side thing where either the B-side actually written by the producer and was rubbish, or the producer would have written a couple of lines and would say to the band ‘OK, this is going down as band-producer and I want a quarter of the (royalties) on this.’
Wally Ridley at the time was regarded as the Godfather of EMI, having been responsible for a stream of huge hits for HMV in the 1950’s
“I never thought, and I still don’t to this day think they’re the best singers. I don’t think they’re the best instrumentalists…. but the thing they had, the thing that I preached about and the thing that I bought 20,000 shares in were their songs – that was their magic. You can forget everything else. Give me the songs.” (2)
Wayne Bickerton whose link to The Beatles came via Pete Best, who after being dropped by The Beatles joined the band he was in, Lee Curtis & The Allstars, makes this assessment.
“Before The Beatles came along, the UK music industry had no real significance. What The Beatles did was twofold. They changed the whole face of popular music and turned the United Kingdom into a serious exporting industry. If they hadn’t done that, God knows where we would be today – I think that’s something that hasn’t really been acknowledged. They broke the mould, turned the whole damn business upside down and made people realise – hey, we’ve got something special; we can take it back across the pond, which they did and other acts followed over the next 20 years. Everybody who earns money, from a record company to the Performing Rights Society has The Beatles to thank.”
Colin Burn, long-serving EMI employee remembers his first encounter.
“I first met The Beatles when they came in to do The Friday Spectacular (an EMI sponsored programme for Radio Luxembourg, recorded at the Company’s Manchester Square, London, headquarters). They were miming on stage, had only just released their first record. They had driven down in a van and were parked outside EMI and were sleeping there overnight. They hadn’t got any money, not a bean. I gave them loads of cups of coffee and we had sandwiches and biscuits upstairs.”
Brian Poole & Tremeloes