Important Beatles Collection Coming Up at Heritage Auctions
NEW YORK—The first recording contract ever signed by The Beatles, which put the Fab Four on a path that would change music history, is expected to sell for $150,000 as Heritage Auctions presents The Uwe Blaschke Beatles Collection Sept. 19 in New York. The resulting single from the recording session—a rock & roll version of “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”—led directly to the Beatles being discovered by manager Brian Epstein, through whose efforts the group then secured their unprecedented worldwide success.
Blaschke’s collection tells the Beatles’ story through original photographs, documents, autographs and memorabilia. A noted Beatle expert and historian, Blaschke amassed one of the finest collections of Beatles material in Europe, if not the world, much of which was displayed at a dedicated Beatles museum in Hamburg, Germany. The 300+ lot collection covers the entire career of the group, but is especially notable for the inclusion of many items related to the time the Beatles spent in Hamburg from 1960-62, performing in the city’s vibrant nightclubs and honing their distinctive sound which would soon win the world over.
“This is perhaps the most historically important Beatles document to ever appear at auction,” said Dean Harmeyer, Consignment Director at Heritage Auctions. “Without this contract, which directly led to their involvement with Brian Epstein, the Beatles may have never been able achieve their later success as a recording group. And at the time it was a momentous career milestone - they’d finally secured an actual recording deal, something they had only dreamed of before ‘My Bonnie’”.
During the Beatle’s second visit to Hamburg in 1961, the German record producer Bert Kaempfert saw them performing at the Top Ten Club on the city’s famed Reeperbahn. Liking what he heard, Kaempfert enlisted the Beatles and another Top Ten Club performer, Tony Sheridan, to spend a day recording rock & roll versions of traditional songs for the German market. “My Bonnie” was a song taught to children in German schools, and the producer thought that a modern, uptempo version could be a hit. For their efforts, the Beatles—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and original drummer Pete Best—were paid what amounted to about $20 each.
The sessions with Kaempfert led to the release of the single “My Bonnie” on the German Polydor label in October 1961, which was credited to “Tony Sheridan & The Beat Brothers.” A stipulation in the contract allowed Polydor to use a different group name, it was felt that the name “Beatles” would not be readily accepted in the German market. As the contract was written entirely in German, the Beatles had very little understanding of the details. What did matter to them was that they were making a professional recording, for a major record label - their first.
The single achieved very modest success in Germany, but back home in Liverpool, local Beatles fans who knew of the recording began asking for it in local record shops, including the store owned and managed by Brian Epstein. When he learned that the requests were for a Liverpool group, Epstein paid a visit to the Cavern club to see the Beatles - then back from Germany - perform, and the rest is history. Epstein became their manager, and within a few months he had secured a music test with EMI producer George Martin, resulting in the recording of “Love Me Do,” the group’s first hit.
“The Blaschke collection represents one of the finest Beatles collections to ever come to auction, and is the most extensive Beatles collection ever offered at Heritage,” Harmeyer said. “It is truly an international collection, with items from around the world. And with its roots in Germany, the Blaschke collection shines a particular light on the importance of the time the early Beatles spent in Hamburg. For die-hard Beatle fans, Hamburg is an incredibly important chapter in their early, formative period. Had the Beatles not gone to Hamburg, the later story may have been very different - or perhaps not known at all.”
“This collection opens a window to a part of Beatles history that’s not well known internationally,” said author and Beatles expert Ulf Krüger, who worked with Blaschke to launch the Hamburg museum “Beatlemania Hamburg,” before Blaschke’s unexpected death in 2012. “John Lennon himself famously said he was born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg and this collection documents that transition. There’s really nothing comparable to it in the entire world.”
Among the collection’s highlights is a vintage snapshot of 17-year-old George Harrison modeling his first leather jacket, taken in 1960 in Hamburg shortly before his deportation from Germany for being underage (est. $3,000+); a postcard sent by Ringo Starr to his grandmother from Hamburg, signed “Lots of Love, Richy xxxxx” (est. $4,000+); an autographed copy of the group’s first EMI single, “Love Me Do,” (est. $10,000) from 1962, and a 1961 letter from Epstein to the Top Ten Club in Hamburg concerning a Beatles booking (est. $1,500+).
A graphic designer by trade, Blaschke’s visual sensibility helped bring Beatlemania to life at the Beatlemania Hamburg museum, which displayed much of his collection. In addition to historic and rare items, Blaschke also loved to collect the many items of Beatles merchandise produced in the Swinging 60s, including a cotton print Beatles dress from Holland (est. $1,500+); a set of Paul and Ringo bubble-bath bottles by Colgate (est. $1,000+); and a metal talcum powder bottle from the United Kingdom (est. $500+).
Additional highlights include, but are not limited to:
· A set of four psychedelic posters by Richard Avedon, commissioned by the German magazine “Stern” in 1968: est. $1,500+.
· Original artwork signed by Klaus Voormann, updating his famous Revolver cover with Sgt. Pepper characters, 1966: est. $5,000+.
· A rare, psychedelic fold-out invitation to the Beatles’ private release party in London for Magical Mystery Tour: 1967: est. $1,500+.
Select highlights from The Uwe Blaschke Beatles Collection will be on display at Heritage Auctions Aug. 19-20 at 1518 Slocum Street, Dallas; Sept. 9-10 at 9478 West Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; and Sept. 17-19 at 2 East 79th Street, New York.
Heritage Auctions is the largest auction house founded in the United States and the world’s third largest, with annual sales of approximately $900 million, and 900,000+ online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and receive access to a complete record of prices realized, with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.