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The Beatles original audition tape - is it a fake?

The tape that got The Beatles rejected by Decca Records in 1962 has unexpectedly been rediscovered. But is it just a (money-making) fake?

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According to an article in the Daily Mail and elsewhere, The Beatles' original audition tape for Decca Records, made in 1962, has been rediscovered after having lain dormant among a collection of memorabilia.

Clearly this recording of ten songs will be of significant interest to Beatles fans, and to whoever is willing to pay possibly £30,000 or more at auction.

But I have to ask the question whether this tape is genuine. It may be a complete fake, or it may be a copy of the original tape.

The reason I wonder is that the spool and box pictured are most definitely not of 1962 vintage. I am absolutely certain that this style of spool was not introduced by Ampex until at least the mid 1970s. A more dedicated enthusiast of recording history may be able to date it more precisely. I further wonder whether Decca would have used a US brand of tape when UK-manufactured tape was available and import duties were high.

I even question the writing in what seems to be felt-tip pen, the modern version of which was only introduced in 1962 and was not in common use until later in the 1960s.

The Beatles audition tape, inside box

Then there is the discrepancy between the outside of the box that states 'stereo 1/2 tk' and the label inside that states '2 track mono'. Decca engineers would not have allowed any confusion to arise over whether the recording was mono or stereo. If the recording was made in stereo (which it could have been in 1962) then it would indeed be stereo half-track. '2 track mono' could make sense as it might refer to a mono recording made on a stereo machine with identical signals going to both tracks. Playback would be a little less noisy on a similar machine rather than on a full-track mono machine that would also pick up noise from the guard band between the tracks.

Of course, it may be that the tape itself is the original, wound onto a different spool and placed in a different box. And even if it is a copy of decent quality then it will certainly make interesting listening.

P.S. One more point - The Dolby noise reduction system was not available until 1965, and the Dolby tone (as mentioned on the inside label) introduced even later!


Note on copyright: As a news item specifically about the appearance of this item, fair use is claimed in respect of the photographs.

By David Mellor Sunday November 25, 2012
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