Thursday, November 20, 2014

Artifact: Portable tape recorder used to record the Beatles at the Star-Club

Up for bid at Heritage Auctions.


This vintage Phillips portable tape recorder is of great importance to the history of the Beatles, for it is the machine on which the album Live! At The Star-Club, Hamburg, Germany; 1962 was originally recorded. The four-track recorder was purchased in Berlin in October 1962 by Ted "Kingsize" Taylor, the leader of the Liverpool group Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. The Dominoes shared a Star-Club residency with the Beatles in December 1962, during the last of the Beatles' extended trips to Hamburg. Taylor had suspended a microphone from the ceiling of the club which ran to the Phillips recorder, and had taken to recording his group - and then others - at the venue. According to Taylor, he approached John Lennon one evening and asked if he had any objections to Taylor recording a Beatles performance. John's reply was that it was fine "so long as you get the ale in" (buy drinks for the Beatles) - which Taylor did, and he also rolled the tape.

The exact date of the recording isn't known for certain, but the Beatles residency ran from December 18th through the 31st, which was also the final date of the Dominoes residency. According to Taylor, he left the tape at his mother's home upon his return to Liverpool, and didn't address the recording again until 1965 when he presented an edited version to Brian Epstein to gauge his interest for possible release. Epstein purportedly replied that due to the substandard quality of the recording there would be no commercial interest, with a purchase offer to Taylor of 20 pounds for the tape. Eventually the Star-Club recordings were released commercially on the German Lingasong label in the 1970s through a partnership with Taylor and the Beatles' first manager, Allan Williams. The recordings have subsequently been the subject of various legal proceedings, and at present are currently unavailable. Despite any sonic limitations, Beatle fans have long cherished the Star-Club recordings for capturing the energy and excitement of the Beatles' legendary early career performances, in the city where the group perfected their craft.

Offered in this lot are two portable recorders owned by Kingsize Taylor: one, the Phillips recorder purchased in Germany and used to record the Beatles at the Star-Club, and two, a Grundig recorder subsequently purchased in Great Britain, and used by Taylor to create the edited tape presented to Brian Epstein. The Grundig recorder does include a microphone, however, it is not the mic that was used to record the Beatles at the Star-Club. A copy of the edited tape as presented to Epstein is also included. This tape is not the master used for the Lingasong release, and no copyright is conferred with its purchase. A two-record vinyl copy of the Lingasong release is included for listening enjoyment.

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