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Stuart Sutcliffe – “Love Me Tender”, Question Me Harshly
By David Bedford 1st November 2011
When it was revealed just a few days ago that a recording of Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe singing “Love Me Tender” had been discovered, there was excitement and interest as you would expect in the Beatles world, but a lot of scepticism too.
As a Beatles author and historian, I questioned it too, like I do every piece of new Beatles information. There have been suggestions worldwide that this is a fake, a hoax or deliberate misrepresentation and that is how it will remain unless it is proved otherwise. I wanted to look at it as authentic, unless could be proved otherwise: glass half-empty or half-full?
Where Has It Come From?
When something potentially this important comes to light, everyone wants to know: ‘where has this come from?’
The song was given to the Stuart Sutcliffe Estate in 2009 by a private collector who felt it should be in their possession. The collector, who has asked to remain anonymous, has had the original in his possession for many years. Beatles historian, Hans Olof Gottfridsson, has known of its owner, and the existence of the recording, since the early 1980s, as have Pauline Sutcliffe and the Stuart Sutcliffe Estate. At one time it was thought it may have been acquired by Apple, but had remained in the private collection all this time. The original was then transferred onto CD, the format in which it was passed to the Estate in 2009. The Stuart Sutcliffe Estate has been working since then to establish its provenance to the best of their ability. It is with this background that the song has been released.
Who Recorded It With Him?
This certainly isn’t The Beatles, but there were many musicians in Hamburg with whom Stuart played, even after leaving The Beatles in early 1961. Stuart also wrote home about working on a couple of projects: one being a film and another a soundtrack. The letters are reproduced here from the Stuart Sutcliffe Estate. This shows that he was still working on creative projects after leaving The Beatles.
A more detailed look at this aspect is covered in Liscio’s article
Examining The Recording
There have been many comments about its authenticity, and suggestions that it is actually just taken from a Beatles movie, so I decided to compare and contrast the versions from the 1979 film Birth of The Beatles, or Backbeat, made in 1994. To avoid complicating things, I am referring to this new track as it being Stuart Sutcliffe singing.
I have also studied the original master recording from which the new track has been taken. For an excerpt of the original song, before it was cleaned up, listen here at
To compare them, use You Tube:
Backbeat – at around 2 minutes 30 seconds
A quick comparison between this version and Stuart’s version show that the arrangement, style and tone of the singer are very obviously different, and aren’t worthy of a more detailed comparison.
Birth of The Beatles – at around 4 minutes 25 seconds
This is the one that most observers refer to as almost identical to the new track, so let us examine it and see how similar it is, or isn’t. The clip starts part way into the track, and at first listening is very similar. However, compare this with the new Stuart Sutcliffe recording and you can notice the difference.
The pizzicato (plucking) style in Birth of The Beatles is picked on guitar: on the new Stuart Sutcliffe track, it is on a piano.
The rhythm of the song is on guitar in Birth of The Beatles, whereas it is on piano in Stuart’s recording.
The singer from Birth of The Beatles times his words differently to Stuart, as
to when he comes in with “Love me tender”, he takes four beats for the word “Love”,
whereas Stuart takes one beat: they then reverse it for the second line “Love me
true”, where Stuart sings “Love” for four
beats yet a pause and then only one beat in the film.
The biggest difference in the arrangement comes in the following line, “all my dreams fulfil” with the film following Elvis’ version, whereas Stuart’s version changes the major to a minor chord on the words “all my dreams”.
On the second verse, Stuart starts singing “Love me tender” straight away, whereas in Birth of The Beatles, there is a pause of four beats before he starts to sing.
The songs are recorded at different tempos, with Stuart’s at 62 beats per minute, compared to 70 beats per minute on Birth of The Beatles.
The quality of the singing on Birth of the Beatles is greater than on Stuart’s version, which has some rough edges, which for a film would be re-recorded to get it right.
From this comparison, although there are some similarities, the Stuart recording and the suggested versions in Backbeat and Birth of The Beatles are clearly different, ruling out any possible suggestion that it is an out-take or a version from one of these films.
The Original Recording
I wanted to examine the original recording of Stuart singing, to hear what it was like in its original state. As a musician with over 30 years experience, and home and studio recording of over 20 years experience, I can examine this with some degree of expertise.
I contacted Alex, who has a copy of the original Stuart recording on mp3, to hear what it was like, before it was “cleaned up”. On quick examination, there is a great deal of background noise, which has been easily dealt with in studios for decades. For example, the original recordings that The Beatles made with Tony Sheridan in Hamburg are of a greater quality than this, and so we must look at cheaper ways to make a record. It is of a better quality than The Quarrymen’s “In Spite of all The Danger” from 1958, so to date it at around 1961 would seem reasonable, though this is not conclusive.
The recording quality on The Beatles’ Decca auditions are of a similar quality, and would suggest that the Stuart Sutcliffe recording was made with the group in one take. If you listen to “Money” recorded on 1st January 1962 at Decca, you can use that as a measure for comparison.
This is not from Backbeat or Birth of The Beatles, or any other known sources, so we have to examine other options. This is not a professional recording made for public release, as it is not good enough. So, it must be a private recording, maybe at a studio, but used as a demo or just for the owners benefit. Listen to The Beatles recorded at Decca on 1st January 1962 and you can hear that, even for a demo test, the quality is better than that of this recording.
We must then take into account the identity of the singer. If it isn’t from a film in which Stuart Sutcliffe is being portrayed, then it brings us back to the person who is best placed to identify the singer: Pauline Sutcliffe. Stuart’s sister is convinced that it is her brother, and we can find no evidence so far to suggest that it is not.
There is a saying that “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck!”
We may never have conclusive proof, but the suggestion that it is Stuart Sutcliffe singing on a recording from around 1961 is certainly possible, and the identification of his voice by his sister makes it even more probable that this is Stuart, singing “Love Me Tender”. I wait to be convinced otherwise, and I am sure that this will not be the last word on the matter.