by Eric Krasker (Paris)

© Eric Krasker 2002



This is an excerpt from Eric's forthcoming book dealing - among other matters - with The Beatles in Hamburg, Tony Sheridan, and the Polydor recordings.

At the end of my last article dealing with the Polydor affair I explained that my book – due to be published in Spring 2003 – would include a complete chapter on the Star Club tapes. As a foretaste, the following is a résumé of this chapter.

As we know, the Star Club recordings have been subjected to two independent studies, each attempting to reconstruct the Beatles’ sessions recorded at Hamburg's Star Club in December 1962. The first, carried out by German authors Martha Rednow and Ben Gesh, was published in several parts in the Dutch magazine Beatles Unlimited between March 1997 and November 1998, under the titles "The Star Club tape story" and "All about the Star Club tapes". The second study was made by Swedish author Hans Olof Gottfridsson in August 1997, in his book From Cavern to Star Club.

Both studies were based on examination of identical sources. These were as follows:

1) The vinyl records released officially in 1977 plus all the reissues and CDs that have been put on the market since the mid-1980s (a total of 30 Beatles songs).

2) The "sampler" tape copied by Allan Williams in 1978, which contains 7 Star Club songs in their unadulterated original form (I Saw Her Standing There [rec. 30/12/62], Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey, Shimmy Like Kate, Falling In Love Again, Roll Over Beethoven [rec. 25/12/62], Your Feet’s Too Big and Sweet Little Sixteen.

3) The song Red Hot (or rather a 31-second extract) which surfaced on a bootleg for the first time in 1978.

4) The bootleg Mach Shau! (Savage SC 12620), or its American version The Beatles vs. the Third Reich (VE Records DX 62) which contain alternate versions of songs such as I’m Talking About You and Roll Over Beethoven and unadulterated versions of Till There Was You, A Taste Of Honey and Where Have You Been All My Life.

5) A tape which today belongs to a private collector in Germany, containing 15 songs of which only seven feature the Beatles: Road Runner, Hippy Hippy Shake, A Taste Of Honey [rec. 30/12/62], Money, Reminiscing, Ask Me Why [rec. 30/12/62] and I Saw Her Standing There [rec. 30/12/62]. (The other eight titles are almost certainly performed by Ted "Kingsize" Taylor and the Dominoes.)

6) Mike Evans’ article published in the Melody Maker on August 4, 1973, entitled: Beatles backtracks – the strange story of the Hamburg tapes. Although this article does not provide an exhaustive list of the sets recorded by Adrian Barber, it does give interesting leads regarding the content of the tapes and indicates that a total of 36 songs featuring the Beatles were recorded.

However, despite basing their research on these identical sources, the conclusions drawn by Hans Olof Gottfridsson and by Martha Rednow and Ben Gesh differ on a number of points. According to the Swedish author, Adrian Barber recorded 44 Beatles songs, during four different sets performed between December 25 and 30 or 31, 1962, whereas Rednow and Gesh state that Barber recorded only 40 songs by the group and that they came from three different sets (in fact two and a half, as the last set features only seven Beatles songs), recorded between December 25 and 30. The discrepancy between the two studies lies partly in the fact that Gottfridsson considers that two different sets were recorded on Christmas Day, whereas the German authors refer to only one set. After careful examination of the available documents, it would appear that the Swedish author's reasoning is based more on fanciful interpretation than on any concrete evidence.

How many sets were actually recorded on December 25, 1962?

Hans Olof Gottfridsson maintains in his book that Adrian Barber recorded two Beatles sets on Christmas Day, comprising a total of 25 songs and lasting some 60-65 minutes, including interludes between songs and chat (see From Cavern to Star Club, pp.180-181). The author explains that he drew this conclusion partly from information gleaned in Mike Evans’ Melody Maker article. This article does indeed supply precious information, including for instance the probable running order of the first five songs of the "first" set, namely Be-Bop-A-Lula, I Saw Her Standing There (version 1), Hallelujah I Love Her So, Red Hot and Sheila.

To further support his "two sets" argument, Gottfridsson relies on information about three tapes put up for sale at Sotheby’s auction house in August 1992. (He also studied the "sampler" tape of seven songs copied by Allan Williams, but does not clearly state this.) While it is true that the Melody Maker article and the seven-song "sampler" tape largely enable us to reconstruct the first set, the Swedish author makes an major error of analysis regarding the content of the three Sotheby’s tapes. This error is due to the fact that he was misled by the imprecise memory of Ted "Kingsize" Taylor.

In the course of research for his book, Gottfridsson had a telephone conversation with Ted Taylor in 1996. During the conversation, Taylor told him that his own tape contained four sets with the Beatles, two of them recorded on Christmas Day and two recorded around New Year’s Eve (see From Cavern to Star Club, p.187). Trusting Taylor's memory somewhat blindly, Gottfridsson then set out to reconstruct the sessions on the assumption that there were indeed four sets, two of them recorded on Christmas Day. From this point on, instead of making an objective analysis of the sources, he sought out arguments to support his theory. With no possibility of hearing any tapes featuring this "first" set and only the slim information in the Melody Maker article to go on, he decided that the key to the mystery would lie in the three tapes put up for sale at Sotheby’s. The auction house's catalogue specified that the tapes came with a hand-written list listing 25 songs. The catalogue also stated the following: "The tapes offered here afford the opportunity to hear songs in the correct order and with the full between-song interludes, with on-stage chat and club ambience […]. Of most interest are the first versions of I Saw Her Standing There and A Taste Of Honey, which have not been released, and Red Hot […]". (See Sotheby’s Catalogue, August 27, 1992, p.69).

From these fragments of information, and working on the principle that a normal set lasted 40-45 minutes (10-15 songs), the Swedish author concluded that the three tapes in question would be recordings of the "two sets" the Beatles must have performed in the Star Club on Christmas Day 1962 (see From Cavern to Star Club, p.187). However, the Sotheby’s catalogue clearly states that the three tapes contain only 25 songs, whereas Gottfridsson refers to a total of 44 songs (and Rednow and Gesh claim there are 40). The Sotheby’s tapes must therefore have been incomplete copies and could well have contained material from all the Beatles' sessions, which in turn throws doubt on the running order and editing of the recordings. The question remains unanswered, however, as the seller unfortunately withdrew his tapes before they came up for auction. We therefore have only the information provided by Sotheby’s to go on. While it is highly likely that some first-set songs (such as Red Hot) feature on the tapes, we can only surmise on what other material they may contain.

Basing his reasoning on this erroneous deduction, Gottfridsson constructed a list of the 25 songs the Beatles would have performed during their "sets 1 and 2". The only song listed twice among these 25 titles is I Saw Her Standing There. He correctly places "version 1" (as released on the Bellaphon album) in second position, which is corroborated by the Melody Maker article. The second version, presented as "unreleased", is relegated to 20th place on Gottfridsson’s list. This "version 2" is very important to him, because he relies on it to prove that a second set had indeed been recorded on Christmas Day, as the Beatles never played the same song twice during a performance. However, the Swedish author doesn’t explain the reasoning that brought him to this conclusion, merely stating that "The existence of this recording is confirmed by information given in Sotheby’s auction catalogue 1992" (see From Cavern to Star-Cub, p.181).

This assertion is false and based only on an arbitrary judgment. If we assume that the "version 2" mentioned by Gottfridsson really did exist, it would mean that Adrian Barber had recorded no fewer than three versions of I Saw Her Standing There, as another version is featured in set 3 (incorrectly referred to as "set 4" by the Swedish author). To date we can only be sure about two versions of this song, one from set 1 and the other from set 3. It could indeed have been played a second time on Christmas Day, but we have no evidence that it was recorded. The existence of any such recording is pure speculation on the part of Gottfridsson, who has interpreted the information in the auction catalogue to suit his own theory. The catalogue actually stated that it was the "first version" of the song that remained "unreleased", so there is every chance that it is the one from set 1. This first version is not unreleased, however, as it is precisely the version which appeared on the Bellaphon record in 1977. It had suffered some small alterations in the meantime, however. Someone had grafted a fake introduction onto it (made up from Manfred Weissleder’s announcement and Horst Fascher’s announcement), and the song's guitar solo had been edited out.

As already mentioned, the Sotheby’s catalogue clearly stated that the tapes contained the original dialogue between songs and that the songs appeared in the order in which they were performed. This meant that it would at last be possible to hear version 1 of I Saw Her Standing There, complete with its guitar solo and in its original context. These considerations alone were enough for the catalogue writer to consider the song – with some justification – as "unreleased". But Gottfridsson was apparently so preoccupied with fitting the sources to his theory that he seems to have overlooked these details. And if the version on the auction tape turned out to be the one from set 3, it would demolish his argument even more easily. It is simply not possible to state that a third version of I Saw Her Standing There exists merely on the basis of the information given in the Sotheby’s catalogue.

There are other examples of songs "invented" by Gottfridsson. In order to fill out his "sets 1 and 2" as much as possible, the Swedish author gathered together all the songs which in his opinion did not belong in "sets 3 and 4" (i.e. sets 2 and 3), and included them in "sets 1 and 2" in a totally random order, pointing out that the exact running order was unknown. Despite this, he only arrived at a total of 22 songs, three fewer than the 25 listed in the Sotheby’s catalogue. For his theory to hold water, the number of songs in his "sets 1 and 2" would have to correspond exactly to the content of the three tapes presented for auction at Sotheby’s. So to obtain a total of 25 songs, he simply added three "unknown titles" – a pure figment of his imagination – at the end of his list. We can conclude that four of the songs listed by Gottfridsson never existed, namely "version 2" of I Saw Her Standing There and the three "unknown titles". This brings the total number of songs down from 44 to 40 (33 different songs plus seven alternate versions), spread across three different sets and not four, as Gottfridsson wrongly claims. Congratulations to Martha Rednow and Ben Gesh!

Today, several books and many websites take Gottfridsson's conclusions at face value. Following the Polydor affair and the Swanee River myth, it is clear that readers have once again been hoodwinked.

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The Bear Family Polydor Box Set:
Is It Really The Final Word?

To order Eric Krasker's excellent book (French text only available at this time), please click: THE BEATLES: INVESTIGATION OF A MYTH (1960 - 1962)

Ottawa Beatles Site