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The next step was to obtain orders from the record and musical instrument stores so I went to Cramer & Lee, Rushworth’s, Cranes, Hessy’s – and Nems. I entered the Whitechapel branch of Nems and asked to see the manager. I waited by the front counter while he was contacted and a smartly dressed man came down the stairs from his office - it was Brian Epstein.
I showed him a copy and asked if he’d stock it. He flicked through it and said he’d take a dozen. Within the next few days he phoned me at the office requesting further copies, surprised that they had sold out so swiftly.

He then ordered 12 dozen copies of the second issue which featured The Beatles on the cover with the caption ‘Beatles Sign Recording Contract!’, illustrated by Astrid Kircher’s photograph of The Beatles at the 'Der Dom' fairground in Hamburg. This was to be Astrid’s first published photo and Paul had brought it back from Germany for me.

The entire cover of Issue Two reported their recording of ‘My Bonnie’ in Hamburg. Anyone who reads the cover story, as Brian Epstein did at the time, will have no doubt about the fabrication that he never knew about The Beatles until a boy came into his store in October of that year to ask about The Beatles' record, the same record that is so blatantly publicised on this very cover. Several 'Mersey Beat' readers went to local record stores to enquire if it would be available over here. The boy who came into Brian’s store to ask for the Beatles record was only one of several youngsters to do so. However, because Brian Epstein opened his book ‘A Cellarful of Noise’ naming him as Raymond Jones, an entire myth has developed that Brian had never heard of The Beatles until that time. Although I was aware that Brian didn’t like to apportion credit to anyone I was surprised at the introduction to his book.

He’d taken me to lunch at the Basnett Bar on a couple of occasions to discuss the local music scene, and individual groups in particular, and he has admitted in print that it was me he phoned to arrange for him to visit the 'Cavern' where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Although Brian wrote that he hadn’t heard of The Beatles until Raymond Jones came into his store on October 28th 1961, not only had he been discussing them with me for months, after reading about them in almost every issue of 'Mersey Beat', but The Beatles had been going into Nems after their lunchtime sessions at the 'Cavern' since March. They used to go into the record booths and listen to the ‘B’ sides of American records. According to Pete Best, Brian Epstein noticed them then and had asked who they were.

Also, prior to the Raymond Jones request, Brian had been selling tickets to the 'Operation Big Beat' event at the Tower Ballroom, in which The Beatles were the headliners, and he had a poster to that effect displayed in the store.
As Paul McCartney wrote in his autobiography. . . . .
Brian Epstein

Click for full size image The story of how Brian Epstein visited the 'Cavern' and was so entranced by the leather-clad boys cavorting on stage that he asked if he could manage them is well-known. As Brian’s autobiography ‘A Cellarful of Noise’ was ghosted for him by Derek Taylor at the height of 'Beatlemania' and he hardly had time to read it, let alone correct any errors, it cannot be trusted on matters of detail. The account in the book about Brian being intrigued when three people in two days came into his record shop and asked for ‘My Bonnie’ by The Beatles, causing him to set out to find this elusive record by an unknown German group, is a good story – but it is simply not true.
Brian knew perfectly well who The Beatles were – they were on the front page of the second issue of 'Mersey Beat', the local music paper. Brian sold twelve dozen copies of that issue - so many that he invited the editor, Bill Harry, into his office for a drink to discuss why it was selling so well and to ask if he could write a record review column for it. He is unlikely to have missed the ‘Beatles Sign Recording Contract’ banner headline reporting their session with Tony Sheridan for Bert Kaempfert nor, with his penchant for rough boys, is it likely that he passed over the photograph of the leather-clad Beatles without giving them a second glance".

Despite Virginia and I having virtually no funds at all, we still felt that we should contribute to charity and did so by placing free charity ads at the side of the cover title. I don’t know of any other newspapers which have done that. In some ways I shouldn’t have been surprised that the entire print run of 5,000 copies of issue number one completely sold out as there had been no previous publication quite like it. It was the first 'alternative' music newspaper, completely different from the standard music weeklies such as the 'New Musical Express' and 'Melody Maker', which restricted their editorial to current chart acts.

Bill Harry with The Beatles In addition, it became the voice of the young people, as no other paper specifically appealed to the youth on Merseyside like 'Mersey Beat', and it also surprised everyone because no one had realised just how extensive the music scene on Merseyside really was and the paper was to become the catalyst for a Merseyside 'musical explosion' which was to have far-reaching effects with the emergence of The Beatles.

Obviously, since the members of The Beatles had been my friends since 1957 from the art college/Liverpool Institute days, and since they were now regulars at 'The Jac', they were the ones I was going to plug most in the paper, particularly because of my close relationship with John and Stu, although I was to see little of Stu again as he’d settled in Hamburg. John was actually thrilled that I’d published his piece about The Beatles without changing a single word. He was also surprised, because when he’d given me the piece he’d seemed embarrassed, as if I’d regard it as a piece of rubbish and not publish it.

He was so delighted that he came into the office with a huge bundle of material, most everything he’d ever written or drawn, and said that I could have it - it was mine to do with as I wished. I loved the stuff - it appealed to my own sense of humour. I picked out some of the smaller items and decided to print them as a regular column. As there was a humorous column in the 'Daily Express' newspaper by 'Beachcomber' I decided to give John’s works a pseudonym: ‘Beatcomber.’ This pleased him even further and he wrote some pieces especially for me, one of which was a satire on my ‘Entertainment Page.’ He also dug into his own pocket to pay for classified adverts (at 4d a word) in which he also utilised his ‘fractured English’ wordplay.


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