Belfast Telegraph

It cost 90p to make. But the first Lennon/McCartney disc is now worth £100,000

By Anthony Barnes

For the equivalent of just 90 pence, five hopeful teenagers gathered in a makeshift studio behind an electrical shop in a Liverpool terrace to make their first recording. Half a century later it is the UK's costliest record of all time.

For the equivalent of just 90 pence, five hopeful teenagers gathered in a makeshift studio behind an electrical shop in a Liverpool terrace to make their first recording. Half a century later it is the UK's costliest record of all time.

The fragile first pressing of The Quarry Men's version of "That'll Be the Day" is estimated to be worth around £100,000, but in reality it is priceless. Its owner, Sir Paul McCartney, is never likely to sell it.

The high value of the disc is due to the fact the quintet featured three musicians who would go on to become Beatles and on its B-side it contains the only known song written by McCartney and guitarist George Harrison, "In Spite of All the Danger".

The 1958 10-inch acetate disc tops a list of the UK's 100 most valuable records compiled by the magazine Record Collector to mark its 25th anniversary, which confirms the Fab Four - in their many guises - as the most collectable name in rock and pop.

But the list is a sobering read for those who think they are sitting on a fortune with a box of collectable vinyl in the attic. Only the rarest of rare grooves will tide collectors over when they go from hip to the age of hip replacement.

Only 80 titles are thought worthy of a four-figure price tag, mainly in limited edition print runs on coloured vinyl and many of them which were never given an official release. They include "Midsummer Night's Scene", a single which was pressed but whose release was cancelled, by John's Children, the band which once featured Marc Bolan.

The seven-inch single was pressed in 1967, but the release was mysteriously cancelled and it is now worth £3,000.

The Quarry Men recording was made straight on to the disc rather than via tape because the hard-up group - McCartney, Harrison, John Lennon, drummer Colin Hanton and pianist John Duff Lowe - wanted to do it on the cheap. The one-shot approach meant that Lennon's fluffed cues were preserved for ever.

The musicians took it in turn to wow their friends and family with the disc and it was even aired on the public address system at the Littlewoods factory in Crosby before Duff Lowe put it in a drawer for nearly two decades. He hoped to sell it at auction in 1981, but McCartney's lawyers apporached him and arranged a private sale for an undisclosed sum. The new owner set about using expensive equipment and the engineers at Abbey Road studios to make it more listenable, enhancing the sound quality that had suffered when played in the late 50s on inferior turntables. He then had the tracks pressed into around 50 singles - 45rpm and 78rpm - which he gave as gifts to family and friends. These discs take second place in the top 100, each worth around £10,000.

Record Collector's rare record price guide editor Jack Kane said: "The main factor in the price is not, as you might think, scarcity; it is actually desirability. There are all sorts of limited pressings but it doesn't mean people want to buy them.

"We base the prices on information from dealers, collectors and experts who have their ears to the ground, but eBay has confused things. You can sell exactly the same thing a few days apart and there can be a variation of price of up to 500 per cent. Some items can go for hundreds more than they probably should."

To achieve the best prices, he added, they must be in mint condition, which generally means they should never have been played.

Third place goes to another Beatles item, the band's eponymous 1968 release better known as The White Album, which was initially issued with numbered sleeves. Copies numbered below 10 are valued at £10,000, and those between 11 and 1,000 are estimated at £1,000.

Two singles which made it to the upper reaches of the charts complete the top five. "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols, the punk anthem of 1977, is worth at least £5,000 if on the A&M label - the band were dumped by the company after a backlash by shareholders and only 300 copies survived. The hit version was released by Virgin and is worth only a fraction of that.

Although Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" is one of the biggest-selling singles of all time - twice claiming the Christmas number one spot - it makes it to fifth place. A limited run of blue vinyl copies for export are worth up to £5,000 each.


Two versions of the Quarry Men's 'That'll Be The Day/In Spite of All the Danger' top the list, separated by a notional £90,000. That's the difference that separates the original disc Sir Paul McCartney acquired - and is never likely to sell - and the copies he made for friends. The White Album fetches the same £10,000 as McCartney's gift copies

The Sex Pistols come just £500 ahead of the £5,000 A&M label version of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. In sixth place is Ron Hargrave's 'Latch On', in front of 'Midsummer Night's Scene' (not illustrated) whose release by John's Children was cancelled. All at £3,000 are Two Virgins by John Lennon and Yoko Ono; 'The Crows' by Gee; Space Oddity and three Beatles' titles - Abbey Road, 'Please Please Me' and 'Love Me Do'.

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