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Recording: My Bonnie, The Saints, Why, Cry For A Shadow

22 June 1961 was the date of The Beatles’ first recording session with singer Tony Sheridan in Hamburg.

The Beatles had been approached by orchestral leader and Polydor agent Bert Kaempfert, who wanted them as the backing band for Sheridan. On this day they were recorded, not at a professional studio, but at a converted stage at Hamburg’s Friedrich-Ebert-Halle.

The venue served as a function hall for the town of Harburg, and as an assembly hall for the local grammar and high schools. A number of musical performances took place there, including some skiffle and jazz shows, but rock ‘n’ roll was a rarity. The good acoustics, however, meant that it was often used by Polydor and Philips for recordings.

The Beatles and Sheridan recorded four songs over two consecutive days: ‘My Bonnie’, ‘The Saints’, ‘Why’, and ‘Cry For A Shadow’. The latter was an instrumental, whereas the others all featured Sheridan on vocals.

The musicians were John Lennon on rhythm guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, Paul McCartney on bass and Pete Best on drums. The musicians’ instruments and amplifiers were set up on the stage, and engineer Karl Hinze operated the twin-track stereo recording equipment.

The first song to be recorded was ‘My Bonnie’, a beat version of the old standard ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’. Harrison performed lead guitar, although Sheridan played the solo, which was later spliced in from a different take. Two edit pieces were also recorded for the introduction, in English and German – the translation was by Bernd Bertie.

It was followed by ‘The Saints’, a new arrangement of another old song, ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’. The musicians also recorded Sheridan’s self-penned ballad ‘Why’, and ‘Cry For A Shadow’, the latter a Lennon-Harrison original which appeared on 1995’s Anthology 1.

Sheridan has also claimed that he and The Beatles recorded versions of ‘Some Other Guy’, ‘Kansas City’, and ‘Rock And Roll Music’, although these have never been found.

The Beatles were given 300 marks for the sessions, and the ‘My Bonnie’ single – credited to Tony Sheridan and The Beat Brothers – was released in October 1961. It reached number five in the German charts.

Recording continued at Friedrich-Ebert-Halle on the following day. A third day of recording took place at Hamburg’s Studio Rahlstedt in Hamburg on 24 June 1961.

Last updated: 28 February 2023
The Beatles live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
The Beatles live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
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