What’s the rarest Beatles vinyl pressing?

When assessing the rarest vinyl in the world, it’s difficult to get much scarcer than a one-of-a-kind copy. A famous previous owner, a signature or a sought-after sequence or catalogue number can pump prices up significantly, often requiring the services of esteemed auction house Sotheby’s over our trusty steed, eBay. Hence, although The Beatles sold hundreds of millions of records, some of their copies are exceedingly rare.

In 2015, Ringo Starr made headlines when he put his copy of The Beatles’ self-titled 1968 album (commonly referred to as The White Album) up for auction. Since the band had shrewdly numbered the sleeves of the first pressings, it was possible to trace earlier pressings. Starr’s copy was No.0000001 and fetched a record-breaking $790,000 at Julien’s auction in the US.

This sale was undoubtedly impressive, and the record is as rare as mathematically possible, but today, we’re concerning ourselves with the rarest pressing. The most sought-after pressings are usually the very first ones: the run made from the initial batch of lacquers in the production process and cut from the original master recordings before they require replacement due to wear or otherwise.

Although a drop in quality can never be compared to the dichotomy between extra virgin and thoroughly ravaged olives, some vinyl connoisseurs consider the first press the definitive collector’s item with the highest quality sound. Alas, this isn’t always the case; remasters and withdrawn mixes frequently yearn to improve an initial press, but even this can inadvertently raise the price of early issues.

In August 1966, The Beatles released their universally acclaimed seventh studio album, Revolver. After several batches of the album’s mono iteration had been manufactured, the band’s longtime producer George Martin, ever the perfectionist, decided that the version of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ that appeared on the first run, known as “mix 11,” was to be replaced immediately with “mix 8.”

It is rumoured that since the early copies were recalled, only several hundred are in circulation. Most of us will know the experimental psychedelic masterpiece, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, by its “mix 8” today, but if your copy has the matrix code XEX 606-1 on side two, your rare, supposedly inferior, version could make a nice little profit at auction.

The withdrawn Revolver pressing is regarded as The Beatles’ rarest, but rarer still, is one of their formative records committed to vinyl under their initial name, The Quarrymen. The band, which featured all of the Beatles apart from Ringo Starr, made their first and only amateur record in 1958. It was a ten-inch single that heard a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be the Day’ on Side A and effectively the first Beatles song, ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’, on the B-side.

The Quarrymen recorded two songs at Phillips Sound Recording Services, a home studio in Liverpool owned and run by Percy F. Phillips. The recording set the band back 17 shillings and three pence and was pressed directly onto a ten-inch aluminium and acetate disc. The original cut features titles written by hand on the centre labels.

The one-off acetate pressing allegedly ended up in the hands of the band’s pianist at the time, John “Duff” Lowe. However, the ultra-rare keepsake is now under the ownership of Paul McCartney, who created 50 copies of the single for distribution among family and friends.

“When we got the record, the agreement was that we would have it for a week each. John had it a week and passed it on to me,” McCartney noted in Anthology. “I had it for a week and passed it on to George, who had it for a week. Then Colin had it for a week and passed it to Duff Lowe – who kept it for 23 years.”

“I ended up buying it back for a very inflated price,” he added. “I have since had some replicas made. I don’t want to play the shellac because it would wear out, as demos in those days would. But it’s great to have.”

Whether you set your sights on the original shellac pressing or one of the 50 copies, you might have to be on the salary of a Premier League footballer with an uncharacteristic appetite for seminal skiffle to afford one. Even then, you’d have to convince McCartney to make the sale. Good luck!

Listen to ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’ by The Quarrymen below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mick Jagger John & Yoko’s Elvis Presley & Priscilla Presley