‘Guitar Groups Are On Their Way Out’: The Beatles’ Rejection Was The Worst In Rock History

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This week back in 1962, The Beatles were waiting to hear back on their first major record audition. Just a few days before, they played an audition to the label on New Year’s Day, an opportunity set up by their newly hired manager, Brian Epstein. Despite tearing through 15 songs in just under an hour, including three originals, their audition for Decca Records would be rejected. Epstein, a man known for his persistence, kept pushing back trying to sway the label’s decision. Instead, the label responded to Epstein’s follow-up request by telling him that “guitar groups are on their way out.”

“Like Dreamers Do”

As far back as early 1960, The Beatles were a popular blue-collar bar band that played fast and loose rock and roll in towns across England, Scotland and Germany. The band featured a mostly familiar lineup, with dueling frontmen John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and George Harrison on lead guitar, but this being the pre-Ringo days meant that Pete Best was behind the drum kit.

After cutting their teeth on rock and roll standards from the likes of Chuck Berry and Phil Spector, they’d been signed to Polydor Records as the backing band for crooner Tony Sheridan. They’d even enjoyed some minor success when Sheridan’s version of “My Bonnie” hit number 32 on the Musikmart chart — the British equivalent of the Billboard charts.

After months of non-stop performing, they were gaining some popularity as part of the Mersey Sound movement, a loosely affiliated group of bands that played around towns on the Mersey River, most notably Liverpool, and was heavily chronicled by the Mersey Beat magazine. It was also around this time that their enthusiasm was put to the test, playing gigs night and day, popping the stimulant Preludin to keep their energy up — though things would start to change in November 1961, when the band first crossed paths with Brian Epstein.

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