The first recording contract signed by The Beatles has sold at auction in New York for $75,000 (£48,000).
The six-page contract was drawn up ahead of the recording session for the ‘My Bonnie’ single, for which The Beatles performed as the backing band for singer Tony Sheridan in Hamburg, Germany.
It includes the signatures of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best, and is thought to be one of three copies of the contract signed by the group and producer Bert Kaempfert.
The contract was sold by Heritage Auctions in New York to an unnamed purchaser. With the buyer’s premium the total cost was $93,750 (£60,000). It was previously part of the estate of German Beatles collector Uwe Blaschke, who died in 2010.
Written in German, six pages total, and with original signatures by the Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and original drummer Pete Best – this is one of perhaps three copies executed between the group and the German music producer Bert Kaempfert. As was the practice at the time, the contract was typed onto standard weight paper with onion-skin paper beneath, forming an immediate copy of the top sheet. With multiple identical copies on hand, the parties to the agreement could sign all, so that original signatures would be affixed to each. This document is on onion-skin, and with original signatures in blue fountain pen by James Paul McCartney, and in blue ballpoint by J.W. Lennon, George Harrison, and Peter Best. This is an official legal copy of the contract and would have been executed at the same time as the top copy – the whereabouts of which are unconfirmed. This copy came to Uwe Blaschke through a private purchase in 2001.
Bert Kaempfert was the producer of My Bonnie. The likely date of the recording session is 22 June 1961.
The session took place during The Beatles’ second residency in Hamburg, when they performed at the Top Ten Club on the city’s infamous Reeperbahn. Four songs were recorded over two consecutive days: My Bonnie, ‘The Saints’, ‘Why’ and ‘Cry For A Shadow’. The Beatles were paid less than $20 each for the sessions.
My Bonnie was released as a 7″ single on the German Polydor label in October 1961, with The Saints on the b-side. It was credited to Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers, and sold modestly. It did, however, allow fans in Liverpool to purchase a record by the group. One such fan was Raymond Jones, who ordered the song from Brian Epstein’s NEMS music store, which led to Epstein checking out the group at the Cavern Club and eventually becoming their manager. Read a 2010 interview with Raymond Jones.
Also on this day...
- 1977: UK album release: Ringo The 4th by Ringo Starr
- 1969: John Lennon reveals he is leaving The Beatles
- 1968: Recording: Piggies, Glass Onion
- 1967: Filming: Magical Mystery Tour
- 1966: BBC interview with George Harrison
- 1964: Live: Paramount Theatre, New York City
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
- 1960: Live: Indra Club, Hamburg
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.