‘Holy grail’ acetate of Beatles’ Decca recordings to be auctioned

A super-rare 78rpm acetate disc containing two songs from The Beatles’ unsuccessful audition for Decca Records is to be auctioned in March.

The disc contains recordings of ‘Till There Was You’ and ‘Hello Little Girl’, credited in manager Brian Epstein’s handwriting to “Paul McCartney & The Beatles” and “John Lennon & The Beatles” respectively. It has been described by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn as one of the “rarest and most collectable of all Beatles records”.

The Beatles’ failed Decca audition took place on 1 January 1962. Shortly afterwards Epstein took a reel-to-reel tape of the songs to HMV in London’s Oxford Street to have have some acetate discs cut.

HMV was part of EMI at the time. The record shop had a small recording studio in which members of the public could pay to make their own recordings and press discs.

The shop’s disc cutter was Jim Foy, who was impressed by the recording and mentioned The Beatles to music publisher Sid Colman. Colman then informed George Martin, setting wheels in motion that resulted in the group signing to EMI.

In 1963 Epstein gave the disc to Les Maguire, keyboard player in Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers, after it was returned by Martin. Maguire, now 74, kept it carefully wrapped in paper in his loft for over 50 years.

I’ve never been a big fan of memorabilia, but people seem to like it. It’s no good to me so I’ve given it to my granddaughter, who is hoping to buy a house after passing her accountancy exams. I hope it goes for a good price.
Les Maguire

The acetate disc is to be auctioned by Omega Auctions in Warrington on 22 March. The auction will be broadcast live online. The record is conservatively estimated to fetch £10,000, although due to its extreme rarity the sale price may be far higher.

This is one of those Holy Grail items, like the original Quarrymen acetate that the band recorded themselves.

This acetate is a unique item that, in many respects, helped Brain Epstein to start the ball rolling to musical world domination.

It will fascinate Beatles collectors worldwide and no doubt attract bids from those with deep pockets.

Ian Shirley
Editor, Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide
Last updated: 21 September 2021
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