Rejected Beatles audition tape appears at auction

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Beatles audition tape

rejected by a record label executive in arguably the biggest

blunder in pop history has resurfaced and will go on sale at a

London auction next week.

Ted Owen of The Fame Bureau, an auction house specialising

in pop memorabilia, said the 10-song tape was recorded on New

Year's Day, 1962, at label Decca's studios in north London.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best -

who would later be replaced on drums by Ringo Starr - performed

up to 15 songs at the session, 10 of which appear on the tape to

be sold on Nov. 27.

The band members had been driven from Liverpool to London

the night before, and, despite getting lost on the way managed

to get to the studios in time for the infamous session paid for

by their manager Brian Epstein.

Decca's senior A&R (artists and repertoire) representative

Dick Rowe, who later became known as "the man who turned down

the Beatles", decided against signing them in favour of Brian

Poole & The Tremeloes who also auditioned that day.

"Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein," he is

widely quoted as saying.

Rowe did, however, sign the Rolling Stones, who went on to

become one of the biggest acts in British rock, and experts

dispute whether it was him or a more junior colleague who passed

the Beatles over.

There are bootleg versions of the session in existence, but

the "safety master", or back-up tape, on offer at auction is

unique, Owen said.

"The most important thing about this is the quality," he

told Reuters. "There are bootlegs out there, horrible bootlegs

-- some are at the wrong speed, others are crackily and taken

from a cassette off an acetate (disc).

"This quality we have never heard."

Despite its rarity, the tape has been estimated to fetch

18-20,000 pounds ($29-32,000), which Owen said had been set by

the owner and was a "sensible" starting point.

He added that only a handful of collectors were likely to

bid for the piece of pop history, and, given that the Beatles

own the copyright through their company, a commercial record

release based on the tape was extremely unlikely.

Marked as the "Silver Beatles", which the "Fab Four" were

briefly called, the tape comes with a hand-written track list

and black-and-white photograph of the musicians posing in

leather jackets that would be been used for the record sleeve.

Also on offer at the Popular Culture auction is a guitar

used by Jimi Hendrix to play the bulk of his breakthrough set at

the Monterey festival in California in 1967. The black Fender

Stratocaster is expected to fetch 120-180,000 pounds.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)