The Beatles' Decca Record Audition in 1962
Just before their first real demo audition for Decca Records on January 1, 1962 at 11 a.m., the Beatles did have a recording contract with Polydor, a German label, as a backup band for Tony Sheridan. This was a complete surprise to Brian Epstein, the band's new manager. The contract was for three years. Quickly, before the Decca audition, contacted his friend at Polydor that they needed to get out of the contract. So, when Polydor was confronted with the issue, it almost a non-issue. Polydor really just wanted Tony, an Elvis-like singer whom they thought had far better potential. As for the Beatles, they just said, "Blow the group". So, the band was released from the contract.
Getting the Decca audition proved more difficult. Epstein had one demo record with the Beatles doing, "Some Other Guy" in the Cavern. The recording was not professionally done and the quality lacked. The band's manager went to Tony Barrow who worked for Decca writing short bits about artists for record covers. He was not in A & R who looked for new artists. After Tony listened to the demo, in a very polite manner he told Brian it was simply awful and appalling (the recording is bad in quality but does show their sound was unique). The best Tony could tell Brian was he would contact others in Decca to see if they would be willing to give them an audition out of courtesy to Brian, who owned NEMS record store. It was just good PR for Decca.
At Decca's A & R was Dick Rowe. Decca was auditioning other groups that day like Brian Poole and the Tremoloes. The Beatles did 15 songs, in one hour, mostly covers. They did do three songs they wrote, John's " Hello Little Girl" and Paul's "Loved of the Love" and "Like Dreamers Do". It seemed that the studio sterile experience intimidated the band. There were no fans to play to. They could not just be crazy with rock songs. This was a studio and others were evaluating them. Accordingly, as artists, everything was restricted in their playing and vocals. To put it mildly, the band "choked". John's song was simply a horrible song in all ways to show off his talent. There was nothing good about it except to show off his vocals. The lead guitar was quite pathetic. Paul was no better. His vocals showed he was nervous and the song he chose showed he could sound like an Elvis wannabe. Like John's, a poor song to demonstrate talent.
All of the songs they played were just "adequate" according to Dick Rowe. There was nothing startling about them. This is what Decca thought. When the Beatles were compared to the Tremoloes, Decca picked them over the Beatles. For whatever reason, Decca felt their sound was nothing to rave about, their talent was okay even though Decca knew they were packing the Cavern in Liverpool. They thought, whatever was happening there, was just local because they were from there.
The Beatles knew their performance and choice of songs were bad. They knew they all had blown their first real record audition. For them, the ride home was depressing and somber. Rejection or not, they returned to their refuge- The Cavern.
The audition tape sold at an auction in 2012 for between $40-50,000. It was later discovered that the audition was actually not quite that- Brian Epstein had paid for the audition! So, Decca was perhaps already not interested.