Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Beatles for Sale story

Much thanks goes out to Lewis for all of the information he sent to me concerning this story.   He really has been a big help and without his willingness to scan and send me these documents, we wouldn't have any idea at all about  this story.

The question we have to answer is this:  Did a Beatles fan name the album, "Beatles for Sale?"   As we will see, the answer to this question is "sort of" as far as I can tell.     Let us look at what we know.

In October of 1963, Disc Weekly, which was a newspaper style magazine that was published once a week, held several contests for fans to win tickets to an upcoming Beatles concert in their area.    Along with the tickets to the concert, the winners got to meet the Beatles backstage before the show.  It appears that three to four  winners were chosen for many of the Beatles Autumn 1963 U.K. tour.  

To enter this contest, you had to basically make up what you thought would consist of a Beatles EP if it was to be released in the United States.     I have been looking for a copy of the exact contest entry form to see how the contest was worded.  However, I have not found anyone with a Disc Weekly magazine from September or October 1963 that can look this up for me.  So if anyone out there has one, please let me know.

It seems that the contestants had to list six Beatles songs and name the E.P.    Of course this is a fictitious E.P.    In 1963, the Beatles were not planning on releasing an E.P in America.   And I suspect that the editors at Disc Weekly chose the winners.    I am not sure if the winners were chosen at random or if they were chosen for what songs they picked and what name they gave the album.  But nonetheless, I would bet that the Beatles themselves had nothing at all to do with choosing these winners, as they were busy on the tour and this was Disc's contest.

So one of the winners was 16 year old Margaret Svenson.   Today Margaret cannot recall the six songs she chose for the imaginary EP, but she is sure that name title of the album she made up was "Beatles for Sale."   She remembers that her friends and family thought the title wasn't very good, but she entered with the name anyhow.

Margaret received the good news from Disc and also The Beatles (in what looks like a fake letter) that she had been chosen to meet the Beatles backstage!   These letters do not mention that her album title was amazing or anything about that.    She went and met the Beatles backstage at Carlisle on November 21, 1963.     She got all four of their autographs as well as a set of autographs for her friend.  

Here is where some speculation comes into play.    Most likely the Beatles chatted a bit with the contest winners.   And one of the questions you would think one of them could have asked was, "how did you win the contest."   And the winners would have told them the title of the fake albums they came up with.    So if Margaret said "Beatles For Sale," one of the Fab 4 might have just tucked that title away in his brain for a later date.    The Beatles did that a lot.   They would recall a phrase or a story and use it later in a lyric, so it isn't too far fetched to think that they heard Margret's title and liked it and would remember it. 

Sadly, Margaret couldn't use her free Beatles concert tickets and had to leave before the show.   She was able to see them in concert at a later stop during the tour.  

Skip ahead one year and the Beatles are putting together the album that would become "Beatles for Sale."   There is no way that they said, "Oh we have to use one of the titles those contest winners came up with for the name of this new album."   A whole long year had passed.    But when the Beatles were talking about names, somehow the name "Beatles For Sale" had been brought up.   They liked it and it was the title.    It is interesting that in all of the books, the other Beatles album titles have stories about how they were given the names, but Beatles for Sale never has a story that goes with it (until now!).

Did Margaret Svenson name the album?   Not directly.   No one in the Beatles camp would give her credit.   But if I was her, I would sure tell everyone that it was me that gave the Beatles the name.  While it isn't a strange title or anything, I still find it too much of a coincidence that Margaret won a contest with the title and then a year later it was used.    The Beatles either saw the title or heard it from the contest and it stuck with one of them until the following year.    That is my conclusion.     Mark Lewisohn is free to use this in the next volume of his book.   (Haha!  I wish).

Newspaper article about Margaret and snip from Disc that lists her as one of the winners
Autographs obtained by Margaret

Unused ticket from the show

Letter to say that she had won from Disc.  (belongs to Lewis do not copy)

Letter from the Beatles (Belongs to Lewis.  Do not copy)

Letter written by Margaret in 2013 about her story (belongs to Lewis.  Do not copy)

Photo of the Beatles with the winners is Carlisle.  Margaret is on the left.


  1. You little genius, this is a masterpiece! This is your Sgt. Pepper!!! Fascinating! You got to the bottom of it and I'm with you all the way on every single thing you speculated on! That's got to be the way it went down! I certainly believe Margaret's story. Who would make something like that up?

    Every day is like Christmas here!

    Not a comma out of place!

    And thank you, Lewis!!!! You get this week's Mal Evans Award for best, most indispensable contribution to MTBFR! Thank you for your efforts, generosity, for being such a friend to us all!! The scans are great! If I could, I'd put you in a time machine and send you right back to an all-night Beatle show at the Top Ten Club! (you don't mind if I tag along, do ya?)

    (and thanks Margaret, too, wherever she may be! What a great story!)

  2. haha...glad to see you posted. Very nicely done. Glad everyone likes the letters etc.
    A bit more info, the fake letter from the Beatles seems to be a standard competition letter as I have another the same from someone else who was lucky enough to win a comp to meet them.
    I saw one of the Beatles this week, though not via time machine, Paul was signined at HMV, sadly he left before he signed for me :( Im very tired now. lol

  3. An interesting story. There is an LP signed to a Christine that went up for auction in 2013. Is this perhaps the set of autographs signed for Margaret's friend? The description however says that it was signed in a Carlisle hotel.