The Beatles Audition at the BBC: “More Country and Western”

Peter Pilbeam holds aloft his original notes from 1962

The Beatles Audition at the BBC in Manchester – 8th February 1962

The Beatles first appearance on BBC Radio was in March 1962. Brian Epstein arranged an audition for them with Peter Pilbeam at the Playhouse Theatre and, though Brian had requested the opportunity for all three vocalists to be heard, Pilbeam only wanted to listen to John and Paul. He decided to assess them both to see if they would be suitable, and gave them the opportunity to perform four songs.

The Beatles audition consisted of two of their own songs, “Like Dreamers Do” and “Hello Little Girl”, plus “Memphis Tennessee” and “Till There Was You”. They had played all of these songs at Decca just a few weeks earlier, and it was surprising that they included “Till There Was You”, which had been as a disaster for McCartney at that audition.

The Beatles at the BBC
The Beatles at the BBC

Paul showed his nerves again. However, this time the boys passed the audition, making Pilbeam the first BBC producer to book The Beatles. He remembered that they stood out among the many other groups that had auditioned, recalling that there was a “load of rubbish – masses of rubbish – and then out of the blue this group turned up at the Playhouse at one of our audition sessions – called The Beatles.” As with most places The Beatles went, Pilbeam and his associates perceived perceived as slightly odd. It was a “weird name and everybody said ‘Yuk!’”, Pilbeam said, “but I was impressed with them at the time.”

However, what was interesting was the comments Pilbeam made on their audition report form:

“More Country and Western”

“I wrote that they were ‘an unusual group not as rocky as most, more country and western with a tendency to play music’. This probably sounds awfully crude, but it was praise indeed,” he said. “Many groups just relied on noise to get them through the audition.”

Excerpt from The Country of Liverpool. Get your copy now

The Country of Liverpool
The Country of Liverpool

The Country of Liverpool is available to purchase in hardback and softback at the Beatles Bookstore. Keep an eye out for the film version of the book, due for release later this year! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.