The Beatles’ first Abbey Road recording session

Wednesday, June 6, 1962 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Anthology 1 Official album.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

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About

From Wikipedia:

After the Decca audition recordings came to the attention of EMI managers through the efforts of the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, a recording contract was executed between Epstein and EMI’s Parlophone record label. EMI would record a minimum of six single “sides” and the agreement would start on 6 June 1962, expiring a year later, but renewable. After the contract was signed, Parlophone record producer George Martin gave the Beatles an audition at EMI Studios in London, to assess their musical quality and respective vocal talents. The audition, held on 6 June, also acted as their first EMI recording session. They performed in Studio 2, the studio in which they would record most of their music. Because none of the recordings was considered worthy of release, the session tapes were destroyed per standard protocol; however, at least two mono recordings have since been discovered. Most documentation from the session has also been destroyed; however, it is known that four songs were recorded in an unknown amount of takes. Martin was not satisfied with Best’s drumming, and Epstein and the other Beatles soon dismissed him from the group. This session was Best’s only recording session at EMI before he was replaced with Ringo Starr.

Interview with Ken Townsend, June 6th 2013:

What was your first impression of the Beatles? – ‏@manyreasonsy, via Twitter

Simple amazement, because I had never seen anything like them before.

Did the band seem to take to the studio quickly or were they very obviously “green?” – Josh Katz, via Facebook

Like a duck to water. They had auditions at Decca and elsewhere and been totally rejected, so it was not their very first time in a professional studio.

Which Beatle was the most nervous and which was the least? The studio can be intimidating the first couple of goes round! – Matthew Loman, via Facebook

They showed no external signs of nerves, in fact the opposite. Their sense of humour was similar to mine – constantly wise cracking.

They looked just like four peas in a pod and I could not tell one from the other for some while, except for Ringo when he took over from Pete Best on the 4th September session.

Which song sounded best on that session? – ‏@manyreasonsy, via Twitter

In hindsight, it was a toss-up between Love Me Do and Ask Me Why (as you have done). What fascinated me was that none of the lyrics seemed to include words of more than four letters.

Did you have any problems when recording [the first Beatles] session? – @VramaW, via Twitter

After running through the songs, it was obvious we were getting distortion from the bass guitar. Norman Smith tried the usual remedy of reducing the level in the studio and cranking it up on the mixer, but to no avail. George Martin said if we could not find a solution, then he might have to abandon the session.

We were strictly forbidden from tampering with artist’s guitar amps due to reports of electrocution of performers on stage, and the studio had no such equipment. I suggested a possible alternative of getting the large Tannoy speaker from Echo Chamber One and driving it with a Leak TL12 power Amp I had upstairs, which I was taking to Rome later that month for an operatic recording.

So while Tape Op Chris Neal and George Martin went to the canteen for a cuppa with the lads, Norman and myself carried this speaker to the studio and I then wired a jack socket onto the input of the leak pre-amp. By some miracle it worked, but I often reflect on what might have happened without this brainwave.

Did you ever feel at that time that the band would go on to become what they are now? – Nishant Shukul, via Facebook

Nobody in the whole wide world could have forecast what was to follow, as it had never happened before. Some artists such as Johnny Ray had received huge adulation from their fans, but the Beatles’ rise to fame across the globe was meteoric and unprecedented. I doubt it will ever be repeated.

Did the session feel magical at the time or only in hindsight? – @Notebookscrawla, via Twitter

Immediately after the session, I could not stop talking about them to my family and friends. This was most unusual, as we were working at Abbey Road with the greatest recording artists in the world on a daily basis and rarely mentioned them unless asked. I was to a degree infatuated by them.

From Abbey Road Studios – On this day in 1962, The Beatles stepped into Abbey Road Studios for the first time and auditioned in Studio Two for Sir George Martin and Parlophone Records. The band played ‘Besame Mucho’, ‘Love Me Do’, ‘PS I Love You’ and ‘Ask Me Why’. The session was the only EMI recording to feature Pete Best on drums, as when the band returned in September, he had been replaced by Ringo Starr. Prior to the session Brian Epstein assembled a list of song suggestions, the majority of which were never recorded by The Beatles at EMI.
From New Musical Express – July 10, 1971

Last updated on August 8, 2022

Songs recorded


1.

Besame Mucho

Written by Consuelo Velázquez

Recording • Unknown number of takes

Album Officially released on Anthology 1


2.

Love Me Do

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Unknown number of takes

Album Officially released on Anthology 1


3.

P.S. I Love You

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Unknown number of takes. Tapes destroyed.

Unreleased track


4.

Ask Me Why

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Unknown number of takes. Tapes destroyed.

Unreleased track

Staff

Musicians

Paul McCartney:
Vocals, Bass
John Lennon:
Rhythm guitar, Vocals, Harmonica
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Guitar
Pete Best:
Drums

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Norman Smith:
Balance Engineer
Ron Richards:
Producer
Ken Townsend:
Tape operator
Chris Neal:
2nd engineer

Going further


The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon


The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 1: My Bonnie through Beatles For Sale (1961-1964)

Nominated for the 2018 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.

The first book of the series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 1: My Bonnie through Beatles For Sale (1961-1964)" tracks the evolution of the band from their earliest recordings and initial hits, through "Please Please Me", "With The Beatles", "A Hard Day's Night", and "Beatles For Sale". From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time.

Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.

Shop on Amazon


http://www.beatlesbible.com/1962/06/06/the-beatles-first-abbey-road-recording-session/


http://www.abbeyroad.com/News/Article/282/Abbey-Road-Meets-Ken-Townsend

Contribute!

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Jesse E. 2 years ago

The tapes actually do still exist and we know the take numbers now. Geoff Emerick stole the session tapes even though he was told to destroy them, you can find the take numbers on the box here
https://www.victorrecords.com/hismastersvoice/2020/6/14/opinion-beatle-engineers-estate-deserves-every-penny-from-universal


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