The Beatles’ first contract to be auctioned

A recently-discovered contract signed by The Beatles in 1961 is to be auctioned in London this week.

The seven-page contract was signed in 1961 by J W Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, in Hamburg, Germany. It was discovered in Switzerland earlier this month and is to be auctioned with an estimated price of £40,000-£60,000.

The Beatles' first contract, 1961

The contract is written in German, and was also signed by Bert Kaempfert, the band leader and arranger who hired The Beatles as a backing group for English singer Tony Sheridan. The one-year contract, which The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein later had cancelled, led to the recording of a number of songs, including their first German single ‘My Bonnie’/‘The Saints’.

The document is dated 19 June 1961. This was the 80th day of The Beatles’ lengthiest residency in Hamburg, during which they played a total of 92 nights at the Top Ten Club. They recorded My Bonnie three days later.

The terms of the deal awarded The Beatles royalties of two per cent from sales and 25 German marks each per day. The payments were to be received by John Lennon on behalf of the group, who was named as their “representative”.

The Beatles' first contract, 1961

It is believed that the contract was given by Kaempfert to another German producer, who passed it on to his daughter. She kept the papers at her Swiss home until they were recently rediscovered.

It’s a unique document. The recordings we’ve had for 50 years, but the contract that allowed those recordings to be made has never been seen, and it’s the only Beatles recording contract that’s ever come up for auction.

They only found out six or seven months later what it was they had signed. Fortunately, Kaempfert was a fair man.

Mark Lewisohn
The Independent newspaper

The auction takes place on Thursday, at the Theatre Royal in central London. The contract is The event is organised by auction house Fame Bureau.

Last updated: 2 June 2020
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