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Interview: The Beatles Star Club tapes deserve a better place in their history

The cover of the new Beatles Star-Club CD.
OxTango Music

The Beatles' Star Club sessions, revived by a recent CD release, have never gotten much respect from the Beatles or fans. They aren't the best quality, even on the new release, but even three tracks of the horrible quality tapes of the Beatles as the Quarrymen were released on “Anthology 1.” And there are some really rocking moments on the Star-Club set that are not only great, but also enlightening.

“I think there are a few reasons,” says New York Times culture writer Allan Kozinn, author of “Got That Something! How the Beatles' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' Changed Everything” told Beatles Examiner, one of several Beatles experts contacted for this article. “If you take George Harrison's testimony in the Beatles case against Sony at face value, it's because they didn't like the recordings, and felt that they didn't represent them well.”

Kozinn says the Beatles may have also felt those Quarrymen tapes were significant. “There's a difference between the Quarry Men tapes and these: The Quarry Men tapes are clearly from a formative period, and they could therefore be expected to sound like a young group finding its way. And of course, the Beatles were very selective about what sections of those tapes they included on the Anthology.”

The Beatles have stopped other people from making releases of the Star-Club tapes in the past, but other than some clips in the “Beatles Anthology” video, have not put the tapes out themselves. And that's a shame because despite George Harrison's testimony in 1998, quoted in the New York Times, that "a lot of teen-agers were getting drunk and playing rock and roll.” and “'One drunken person recording another bunch of drunks does not constitute a business deal,'' the tapes not only stand up to repeated listening, but they don't embarrass the Beatles at all.

Beatlefan editor Bill King says, “I believe it all comes down to Apple/EMI disputing the ownership of the Star-Club recordings and the right of anyone other than Apple/EMI to release them. When Lingasong first released them in the late '70s, Apple tried to get the set pulled from the market and failed.

"But later, when Sony released the material, Apple went back to court and prevailed. And that seems to pretty well establish now that they control the material. One interesting point: Although the performance was not recorded by EMI, the band was already under contract to EMI at the time the Hamburg tape was made.”

Ted “Kingsize” Taylor, who made the original recording, disputes the accepted story about the recordings that the Beatles didn't know about them. He told Beatles Examiner not only did the Beatles know about the original recording but they approved it. “The Beatles always denied knowledge, about being recorded, something that Paul contradicted in his sworn affidavit in the high Court, London, but it was never used as evidence. I have official copies of the sworn affidavits,” he said.

“They also had a copy of the tape from this date, in spite of George's denial, under Oath, that this was the first time he had heard about it. Something else that Paul contradicted. The whole case was a total sham. They knew about the recordings at the time, and certainly knew when Eppy got my offer.

"John told me that they had a meeting about it. He said, 'It was fun, but it's a crappy recording.' How wrong can you be?” Taylor also cited an interview with former Star-Club waiter Horst Fascher, now on YouTube, that wasn't allowed, although Taylor says he was in court.

Taylor has a different version to the history of the recordings. "([Adrian] Barber was primarily testing out his newly installed PA system - fairly state-of-the-art for the time - and sporadically recorded groups appearing there on a Grundig 1/4" mono tape recorder running at 3-3/4" ips.

"That he happened to catch the Beatles a couple of times is more serendipity than any special prescience on his part concerning the band's potential. At this time, Adrian Barber had no facility for recording, It was my Philips 4 track -Twin speed machine that was used, with one microphone, which was suspended from th ceiling of the Club. I still have the machine in my possession. And all © and Authors Right, are to this Day, Legally mine.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Meine of Ox Tango Music says the first CDs have been shipped to those who have ordered them. “I’m very pleased with how they came out,” he said.

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