7 June 2015
Of all the mega stars and groups that came out of the 1950/60s, The Rolling Stones stand alone as NOT having made a personal demo recording before acquiring eventual legendary status. The other three that come under the category of “mega” are Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and The Beatles in that order of time. And they all heard themselves on a personal demo paid for by themselves before entering the pop stratosphere. Yet it was only Cliff Richard’s personal recording of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Breathless”, that directly led to his contract with Columbia and his first hit with “Move It” (1958). It is highly questionable whether Elvis’ “My Happiness” coupled with “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin” (1953) or The Beatles “That’ll Be The day” / “In Spite Of All The Danger ” (1958) had any direct effect or influence on their subsequent success ( In The Beatles case, in was nearly five years later that they commanded attention). It is with a look in the rear view mirror that these two recordings became of interest. In the case of Sir Cliff’s private demo, it was recorded just one month before he recorded “Move It”. Fast work indeed.
Its always interesting to see how the public value these historic discs (and to some extent personal and musical preferences prevail on this – although an historic disc will always be that whoever recorded it). Elvis’ recently sold in January 2015 for $290,000, and The Beatles disc we know was not sold for under £5000, (some say £12,000) to Paul McCartney in 1981, (Paul has not said how much he paid, neither has the seller John “Duff” Lowe) which if inflation was accounted for, would be worth considerably more today – into six figures. And now we see Sir Cliff’s personally-owned demo ( there were three made, but only two remain in “private” hands – the third being with the BBC where we can safely say it will stay) currently up for an asking price of £9950 on a popular music site. My personal opinion is that it is undervalued at that price, given the dizzy heights that the other two have/would reach, and given that all three artists have had an ultra change-effect on the music styles/genres that have come out of the post-war years, and given all music lovers recognise as a golden and creative musical period that we have not seen the likes of since. We could regard The Rolling Stones first debut single “Come On” – a Chuck Berry cover version – as their “personal demo” – so awful was it. But it was a commercial effort, and can not be regarded as being in that coverted “holy grail” league that a pre-fame personal recording occupies. Part of the magic of owning a personal demo, in addition to it being a piece of original history, is in being able to hear how the aspiring artist presents and sees themselves musically at the very beginning of their learning curve and comparing it with what their commercial career produces.
17 December 2012
Some interesting observations, @spiffings, and welcome to the forum. Interesting as your observations are, I am afraid I have to disagree on many points.
I am sorry, but I cannot regard Cliff as one of “mega stars and artists of the 1950/60s”. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great artist, and I like much of his work, but were I to name the most important artists of your time-frame, Cliff wouldn’t be anywhere near my Top 10. The real problem with Cliff, and why items associated with him will never, and have never, reach the prices that the other three you name is that he never cracked America. In the American view of things, Cliff is just a minor British Elvis-impersonator.
Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, all ruled the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Sorry, but Cliff didn’t. That lack of success in America is always going to make him a much more minor figure. Nor do I see anything about Cliff’s career at that time that was game-changing. So far as British acts go, Lonnie Donegan had far more influence on those that followed than Cliff.
However, disregarding our different view on the importance of Cliff, you’re also wrong on several other suggestions made, some in my opinion, others factually.
Elvis actually made two personal demo recordings at Sun Records. The first, My Happiness/That’s When Your Heartaches Begin on 18 July 1953, and I’ll Never Stand in Your Way/It Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You on 4 January 1954. Both were made with the express hope that they would get him noticed by Sam Phillips. There can be little doubt about that as the Presley’s didn’t actually have a record player on which these private demos could be played on. Did they get him noticed? The answer would seem to be yes, since when Phillips was looking for a singer for a particular song a few months later, his secretary reminded him of Elvis, and Elvis was duly called in, leading to his first session in July 1954.
The Quarrymen recordings were truly a personal demo. There was never any thought among them that it could lead somewhere. They were not sending it off to London record companies hoping to get signed. Nor can it be regarded as being by The Beatles, it is rather an early private recording that featured three teenagers who would go on to become The Beatles.
The Rolling Stones actually had a much shorter history between formation and signing a record contract. The first gig to feature all five was on 12 January 1963 at the Ealing Jazz Club, while their debut session for Decca was on 10 May. In the intervening period, did they make a privately financed set of demos intended to draw the attention of the record companies. Yes. On 11 March they went into the IBC Studios in London, where Glyn Johns produced five songs for them (Baby What’s Wrong / Bright Lights, Big City / Diddley Daddy / I Want to Be Loved / Road Runner).
In fact, the only “mega artist” of that period for who I know of no privately financed studios recordings before their first professional sessions is Bob Dylan (who I would suggest is far more deserving as being mentioned alongside Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as pivotal and game-changing). Dylan’s first time in a studio was 30 September 1961, where he was the harmonica player on a Carolyn Hester session, and met John Hammond for the first time. Less than two months later he would record his debut album with Hammond producing. All recordings of him before that are home recordings and a few radio sessions.
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The Beatles Bible 2020 non-Canon Poll Part One: 1958-1963 and Part Two: 1964-August 1966