Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The man who rejected the Beatles"

I tweeted about this article a few days ago, but it also seems worthy of a blog post. Via The Independent, it explores the validity of Dick Rowe's infamous place in rock 'n' roll history as "the man who rejected the Beatles." The official narrative may be tainted with sensationalism.

The story will be clarified by Mark Lewisohn, the British author who probably knows more about the Beatles than anyone alive, including Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, in the forthcoming first volume of his long-awaited three-part history of the group. Lewisohn points out that in some respects it was the Beatles who turned down Decca. Rowe had offered to press their records, but at their expense, not Decca's. And it was probably 50 years ago today, to misquote "Sergeant Pepper", that Rowe received Epstein's rejection of that proposal, in a letter dated Saturday, 10 February 1962.

The Beatles had auditioned for Decca. They performed 15 songs but didn't give a particularly good account of themselves. George Martin, their producer at Parlophone, told Lewisohn that, on the basis of those demos, he would have turned them down, too.

Despite that, and despite the fact that Rowe wasn't even present at the audition, his is the name generally besmirched in the story. And indeed it was Rowe who told his more junior colleague Mike Smith to choose between the Beatles and another group auditioned by Decca around the same time, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Smith chose to offer a recording contract to the Tremeloes, not least because they hailed from Dagenham and it seemed more convenient for a London record label to have them on the books than a group from Liverpool.

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