The Beatles were no exception in 1962. They were just another wannabe rock band trying to score their first recording contract with an International label. In fact, the whole demo session was got via a friend who worked at Decca Records. It was not from a talent scout who had spotted them in the now famous Cavern Club in Liverpool.
At the time, January 1, 1962, the band was still without Ringo, and they had paid their musical dues in Hamburg, Germany, for nearly two years getting paid very little and sleeping in a shack-like room eating cornflakes. While they were very popular with the German bar crowds because of their loud rock music and their antics on stage (to get attention), they were also a backup band for the singer, Tony Sheridan, whose singing style was more like a Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. They had done an "informal recording session" with him for Polydor (a German record company). This session was in 1961. The songs recorded by the band without Tony were:
- Ain't She Sweet
- Cry For a Shadow (an instrumental by Lennon and Harrison)
- My Bonnie
The remaining songs: Let's Dance, Take out Some Insurance on Me Baby, What I'd Say, Sweet Georgia Brown, The Saints, Ruby Baby, Why, Nobody's Child, and ya Ya, were with Tony and shared vocals at times. While My Bonnie was sold as a single in Germany and sold well, nothing happened and that was it. Although the Polydor talent scout and Tony knew that the Beatles had enormous talent and appeal with their infectious personalities, it just was not their time- yet.
The Decca Demo Session
Decca Record executives and talent scouts were looking for the next big music act, like all companies do. But, they had an already built in prejudice about rock bands or related types in Pop music. Elvis was the pop music king and that is what most record companies were looking for. For Decca, they actually thought that rock groups were a thing of the past or just a phase. So, with that in their minds, as they listened to this unknown group with a funny name, it was a tough sale.
The Beatles arrived in a very nervous state yet confident as a band. They had traveled far from Liverpool and were cold, their van with them and their gear had no heater. They were neophytes in a REAL recording studio and felt awkward about things in general and being told what to do, where, doing sound checks and the usual things. They were only in control of their songs and performance. This was ar different than being in total control or out of control in a bar on the stage. It was an alien environment filled with men in suit and ties.
For the Beatles, who had a wide song list to chose from covering many different musical styles, the hardest thing was what few songs should they do to show they have star power and attraction. This was a difficult task but they had decided to pick what they thought were their best "covers" of songs and two original compositions.
At the time, only two originals were ready: Hello Little Girl and Like Dreamers Do. The first was sung by John Lennon (22) and the latter, Paul McCartney (19). As one listens to either, one can see why neither song would impress Decca. Hello Little Girl is just a B-side, at best, and just sounds rather silly for a 22-year old to sing. We know John is talking about a teen or woman, yet, the title is demeaning. The vocals and arrangement are well executed, however, there is just no "hook" in the song. One can almost see from the lyrics how John views a hot woman who passes by and responds with, "Hello Little Girl", as he tries to pick her up.
Like Dreamers Do is McCartney trying to imitate Elvis. At times, the vocals do resemble the King but overall it is rather catchy tune and lasts after the record stops. The one thing that is a total turn off for the listener and probably the Decca people is in the middle section where Paul is singing, "ay ay ay ay" as the vocals go downscale. That does ruin the song. Remove this part and there is a decent 1961 pop song. Paul's voice sounds a bit shaky from nerves, but overall, one can that both John and Paul are good vocalists.
The other songs at the session included: Searchin', Three Cool Cats. In Searchin', it demonstrates the band's love of American black musical artists. Paul is using his Little Richard voice and John is in the chorus belting out "searchin'. While the Decca people in 1962 may not have liked, it shows great abilities in doing covers of former hit records. It shows Paul's vocal versatility. Of all the songs they did then, when listened to in 2021, this is the standout song!
Three Cool Cats is another cover song. This one demonstrates the vocals of George Harrison. The song itself is rather silly about three guys trying to pickup women. It is not a great song but does show George can also sing.
One can gleam their own conclusions from this failed bid at Decca Records. As a band, the songs were well executed and rehearsed. The band does have three main vocalists with Paul showing the most promise, although John is good for certain other types of songs. George is nothing special but can hold a tune. The band shows creative promise from two original songs. Overall, some star quality potential is there, but....
Perhaps had the Beatles chosen a solid rock song for John to sing (like Dizzy Miss Lizzie) and a revised Like Dreamers Do, might have changed some minds at Decca, but this was early 1962 and most pop stars then were single singers not rock bands. Pop music in England was also rather new and mostly American sensations were filling the airwaves.
In the end, the failed attempt and rejection from Decca demoralized the band with too high of hopes. In fact, the members took a hiatus from playing together for sometime to ponder their own futures.
That future of fame and fortune was just another year away, 1963!