One of the most difficult items to identify in photographs of the Beatles with records are vinyl test pressings or acetates. These are cut at the studio and often contain demos or finished versions of songs or albums for them to listen to privately to gauge the quality of the pressing or the mix.
At EMI in the 1960s these were pressed onto 45rpm singles or 331/3 LP’s using labels which looked like this: The labels were left blank for the producer or engineer to hand-write or type information about the track including the title, which take it was, duration, name of the artist, etc.
That brings us to this great picture of George Harrison, taken in the studio at about the time of the recording of the The Beatles (or The White Album) in 1968:First thing to say is that is a really cool watch he has on…..
Second point of interest is that acetate or test pressing of a single he has at his left elbow. It’s in a plain white paper sleeve with writing on it, and it’s on the Emidisc label – just like the example in the picture shown above. If we rotate the picture and adjust the contrast a bit we get this:
This makes the writing on the sleeve a little easier to make out. If we rotate it just a little bit more we can see a bit more clearly:It is fairly clear that the hand-writing on the sleeve says: “with love from Paul McCartney“. His signature is very distinctive – it features on his official website even now – and here we can see that familiar looped “l” in the word “Paul”, and the trailed off “y” at the end of “McCartney”. Here’s another random example:
The tougher task is to identify what is hand-written onto the Emidisc label. We reckon it is this: under the word Emidisc there’s something like a number (maybe the duration of the track), then comes the song title. We think two words and, given this picture was taken during recordings for The White Album, our guess it’s the McCartney song “Honey Pie”. The writing looks a bit like that, too. Under that, just above the spindle hole, are some more letters or code numbers. On the left of the spindle hole it says “45 RPM”. On the right it looks like the duration of the track in minutes and seconds (which is difficult to make out). Then at the very bottom the writing clearly says “The Beatles”.
Was this a test cut for George to take home and have a listen to “Honey Pie”? Any further insights, thoughts or suggestions are very welcome.
There is one fly in the ointment with theory though……It is this photograph from the web of Ringo Starr, clearly taken at around the same time, also holding an acetate/test pressing:
The person who posted this says it is Ringo holding an acetate recording of “Get Back” -which would place it in early 1969, not 1968. We’d prefer to go with this website that clearly places it as a photo session from September, 1968. It is pretty likely therefore that this is the exact same disc as the one seen with George. The plain paper sleeve has the same greeting written in the same position: “With love from Paul McCartney“. It is difficult to make out the writing on the label, but it has a very similar set-out to the previous one….again, thoughts and theories are welcome!