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The Case for Authenticity: ‘Love Me Tender’ by Stuart Sutcliffe

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by Liscio

What Stuart Sutcliffe fan hasn’t wished to learn as much as possible about the fascinating young artist and Beatle?  His time with us was short yet incredibly creative; every surfacing artwork, picture, letter or anecdote is pored over with relish by admirers. But some things Sutcliffe-lovers were sadly certain they would never get to know: for instance—his voice.

That’s why the digital release of “Love Me Tender“, sung by Stuart himself, is an astonishing event generating stunned excitement and questions about the song’s origin and authenticity.

“Love Me Tender” was Stuart’s signature song; a ballad he performed so well in Hamburg it received the best applause during the Beatles’ sets at the Kaiserkeller and Star Club. Sutcliffe also performed Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” and Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart”.  But “Love Me Tender” is the song most associated with his name.

His newly-released song, now available to the public for the first time in 50 years,  is compelling listening: Stu’s voice strains just slightly ending the first refrain, and he gives us a very sexy exhale at the end of another. In between, the notes are confident, strong, on pitch and melodic. Sutcliffe has made this version of Presley’s tune unabashedly his own.

In fact the track is so good, some listeners maintain they don’t even care if it is Stuart (though they hope it is) and skeptics are accusing the Sutcliffe family of overdubbing the voice of a professional singer. (One might point out that as a paid member of a hard-working rock band, Stuart was a professional singer).

Another quick discrediting attempt claimed the song originated from a 1979 American movie—that version has none of the soft nasality indicative of Liverpool accents, clearly evident in Stuart’s singing.  Noting this, listeners say Stuart sounds like John or George.  David Bedford, author of “Liddypool: Birthplace of the Beatles”—and a life-long Liverpudlian—confirms, “Yes, nasal talking is a scouse thing for sure.  As Stuart’s parents were Scottish, his accent was different to John’s and would sound different too – it differs on where in Liverpool you are from.”

So—where has such a sensational piece of musical history been hiding for the past 50 years?

Stuart’s sister Pauline says, “I never expected to receive this recording of Stuart singing ‘Love Me Tender’ because I was told the only recording which existed was locked away forever by a private collector.”

But quite unexpectedly in 2009, Stuart’s Estate became aware that a copy was available through another source. Once they’d obtained it, a substantial effort of time and money was spent trying to trace its provenance. “As far as we know for certain, Stuart’s ‘Love Me Tender’ track was recorded in Hamburg, probably 1961—after Stuart officially left the Beatles to pursue his art, ” says Pauline. “On one occasion we were told that it was a one-sided German Polydor acetate. Another source tells us that we have a copy from a reel-to-reel recording. We’ve also been advised that new instrumentation has been overdubbed.”

Though gaps in the history remain, one thing is unequivocally certain: it is Stuart. Says Pauline, “The family do know Stuart’s voice when they hear it – and this is Stuart’s voice.”

Those who are surprised that Sutcliffe could sing suffer from the same myopic misconception that had them believing he couldn’t play bass guitar. David Bedford  reminds us that as a young lad in Liverpool, Stuart was head chorister for St. Gabriel’s church in Huyton, leading the singing for Sunday services and weddings. The former choirboy still sounds youthful and earnest—some say his voice on “Love Me Tender” is “angelic”—some say “haunting”—while others are reminded of Phil and Don Everly’s sweet harmonies.

In a recent phone conversation, Pauline revealed that once the Estate possessed the recording, they were just “trying to get comfortable with it”.  One can only wonder what it was like for a sister to hold in her hands an object containing a special voice from so very long ago . A missing piece had at last come home.

In time, those responsible for overseeing Stuart’s Estate were curious to know whether the tape could be cleaned up. Help came in the form of Dan Whitelock-Wainwright, Pauline’s techno-expert great-nephew, currently at University and a member of the rock band Groan. Dan’s cousin Alex Whitelock-Wainwright (at University in Liverpool) also possessed a copy of the original tape and he wrote in his blog: “The original I have has a constant hiss throughout; that’s all that has been modified with the released version and the sound levels are higher. Talking to my cousin, who first tried to clean the track up, (he) believes that the noise frequencies have been totally cleaned out which has removed some instruments and they have been overdubbed back onto the track.”

It was the 24/7 division of IODA that finished the mastering, leaving Stuart’s voice unmanipulated, only louder. [Correction (11/3/2011): “24 Hour Service Station Distribution” and not “24/7 division of IODA” handled the cleaning up of the track. Marshall Dickson contacted us and explained: “I personally coordinated the sonic recovery, and also have strong reason to believe the original recording comes from an acetate, since the source file we possess has the sound of a needle sliding across a record after the music ends.”]

There was never any doubt that the voice was Stuart’s. But the Estate has another reason to know the tape is genuine: they know Stuart.

The young bohemian led an accelerated life, traveling incredibly far in a very short time.  And his time in Hamburg was likely his most innovative.  Eduardo Paolozzi, Stuart’s art instructor at the School of Fine Arts in Germany, wrote: “He (Stuart) had so much energy and was so very inventive.”(1)  Musician and  artist Klaus Voorman said, “Every second of Stuart’s short time he was doing something.  His imagination was fantastic.”(2)  Everybody was aware of and amazed by Stu’s energy and the ease with which he was able to work in a variety of artistic areas.  It was completely in character for Stuart to have made this recording.

And the family’s got it in Stuart’s own writing that he planned to do just that.

Copyright: Stuart Sutcliffe Estate

Copyright: Stuart Sutcliffe Estate

Some of his Hamburg letters, reproduced here, reveal Sutcliffe’s interest in a new art project: his desire to make a movie with an accompanying soundtrack. The text reads:

“Yes! Tomorrow comes Paolozzi and Tuesday we go once

more to that ship-breaking yard which we visited last semester. I

will have with me a film camera I borrowed of Theo, Astrid’s

cousin. I’m very quickly trying to learn the technique as I’m

enthralled by the possibilities but it’s so expensive. He has many

films including some of Astrid from a few years ago, very sweet

as you can imagine. I’ll have to take advantage of the few days

I’ll have it; I’ll probably tire of it all the more quickly because of

the complete inaccessibility of all the equipment required.”

‘I made a film last week when I was at the ship-breaking yard

and I have really caught a feeling for filming, the desire that is.

I made another today and wish to make a long film accompanied

by a tape-recording.

“Thank you for your letter and the catalogues. I should have

written before but have been busy with various odds and ends.

We started the week very tired after working all weekend making

photos, or rather Astrid worked while I grew tired looking on. She

was working on a commission for Polydor making photos of this

singer Sheridan and made some marvelous ones in black and

white and color.”

Stuart was well acquainted with Tony Sheridan.  While performing in Hamburg between 1960 and 1963, Sheridan employed various backup bands, most of which were really “pickup bands”, or simply an amalgam of various musicians, rather than a group proper.(3)   It was Polydor’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) man, Bert Kaempfert, who arranged in 1961 for the Beatles to back Sheridan for an LP called “My Bonnie”. The standard (and decidedly incomplete) story is that Stuart was present during this session, but did not participate. But both John Lennon and Tony Sheridan swore that there were several other Beatle tracks that were recorded during the two-day session, and that either they were not preserved OR something else happened to them.(3)

Tony Sheridan (left) and Stuart Sutcliffe
Copyright Astrid Kirchherr; Pauline Sutcliffe private collection

Another group recording for Polydor was a German band called The Bats. “They (the Bats) went through the usual Star Club routine…(they) recorded mainly for Polydor. Drummer Toni Cavanaugh came from the circle of musicians connected with Tony Sheridan (and) also played drums for Sheridan’s Beat Brothers/Star combo. The band’s crew changed…once in a while ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe joined in.”(4)

Hamburg’s music scene in ’61 was open and inclusive, with musicians intermingling on stage and in the studio. Astrid was there with her camera, recording visual tracks while the bands made musical ones. Stuart was right in the midst of it. He’d been to the studio, played with the bands, knew Kaempfert, had all the right connections.  It’s not implausible to think that at some time during that year his voice was captured on “a German Polydor acetate”.

Or perhaps Stu recorded his own voice, and instruments were tracked in later. The fact is that Sutcliffe intended to make a recording. Since “Love Me Tender” was the cool bassist’s spotlight song, one he’d sung a hundred times or more and was the ballad he’d dedicated to his darling Astrid, it was the natural choice.

Those free Hamburg days were unparalleled—a pivitol time for art and music.  Timing can be so deadly crucial—why did Stuart’s Estate choose to release “Love Me Tender” now?

It wasn’t a decision made lightly. Pauline has balanced two missions for nearly 50 years: working determinedly to ensure her talented brother’s legacy, and striving to protect his image from harm.  In the documentary “The Lost Beatle” she reminisces that Stuart “used to be my elder brother. But now he’s my kid brother…I want to take care of him…to protect him.” Regarding “Love Me Tender”, she was wisely aware of those who would cry foul even if the Sutcliffes presented a recording contract with Stuart’s signature at the bottom.

But recent events: a partnership with promotional agency CMG Worldwide; the successful stage production of Backbeat, now showing in London’s West End; the launch of Stuart’s Official Fan Club (www.stuartsutcliffefanclub.com); and next year’s world tour art exhibition “Conversation With Stuart Stucliffe”, convinced the Estate there was no better time to release Stuart’s song than now.

There has been a shift in perspective regarding the Beatle who left the band because he loved art and Astrid Kirchherr. The media is now far less likely to depict Sutcliffe shoved aside in his shades to an obscure corner…the reluctant, incapable bassist. Commentaries adhering to that badly-sketched-in picture show their inaccuracy and age. With every unexpected and exciting new event, the remarkably talented Sutcliffe is now receiving the worldwide accolade he deserves.

Some things are worth waiting for—even if it takes 50 years.  “Love Me Tender” was definitely worth the wait. Thanks, Stu, for making certain we’d hear your voice.

[Editor’s Note: Those in Beatles history who knew Stuart at the time this song was believed to be recorded, (i.e., Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voormann, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr) have not yet commented on their personal knowledge of the existence of this recording. ]

© 2011 Daytrippin’ – This article including photos/images may not be reproduced without permission from the author and Daytrippin.com. A brief excerpt may be reprinted with a link to the article and proper credit.

Update: More in-depth analysis on this recording has been done by David Bedford, author of Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles. You can read his article here:
http://www.stuartsutcliffefanclub.com/lovemetenderdb.html

Update (Nov. 4, 2011): The Beatles Examiner has obtained quotes from Klaus Voormann, Tony Sheridan and Bill Harry concerning their opinions on the recording.

References:

(1) John Willett 1967 “Art In The City”

(2) The Beatles In Hamburg/Bill Hillman Tracks (hillmanweb.com)

(3) Tony Sheridan Wikipedia

(4)  Discogs/The Bats (discogs.com)


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26 thoughts on “The Case for Authenticity: ‘Love Me Tender’ by Stuart Sutcliffe

  1. RS ever sat on drums on stage behind stuart, who left the band in spring 1961. He may have known stuart , maybe even saw him sing a few times, but it would seem more likely that orignal drummer pete best , who was actually in the band with stu, would have more insight than RS. Maybe even roy young or other hamburg musicians of the time.

    Perhaps consider releasing the uncleaned version as part of the discussion ?

    If some private collector has another version, what
    how does the vocal match up, and what iis the backup for the other version’s authenticity?, and why lock it up to never be heard?

    I hope it is stuart on the recording though

  2. Ever since I heard Stu sing “Love Me Tender” I just can’t imagine Elvis Presley. Sing “Love Me Tender” Stuart Sutcliffe had made it sound ever more beautiful.

  3. Actually, Klaus has said before and repeated recently that he does not think it is Stu singing on this recording.

  4. It’s the same singer, same song, same version, just a different take with a different arrangement, as in the film “Birth Of The Beatles”. Case closed.

    • Ed Lineberry is the original band member of “Rain” (formerly “Reign”) who sang “Love Me Tender” for the movie “Birth of the Beatles”. Here’s his very recent comment:

      “This is me singing “Ask Me Why” and then “Love Me Tender” for the movie “Birth of the Beatles” starting at 4:24…I had never heard Stu Sutcliffe sing so the producers asked me to try and project what I thought he would sound like…turns out I was pretty close to the original.”

      Ed’s on record as saying is is NOT him singing in the Sutlcliffe CD. At least we’ve got that one out of the way.

  5. Not surprised if Klaus would not know for sure if it was or wasn’t Stu. He’s an exceedingly marginal musician and mundane artist. He just doesn’t have the ear to make that kind of distinction, especially after so long.

    • Are you serious? No, you must be kiddin’..!

      • Oh-oh, did I step on a Klaus fan’s toes? When I look at the “impressive” catalog of Herr Voormann’s music & art out there I realize -I’m right!

        Come now, are you really going to argue with me on that?

        Of course I’m sure that there are those that are convinced that Klaus’ work stands on its own. For those there is, fortunately, medication and therapy.

      • A sure sign of a weak argument is when you have to resort to putting down the people who disagree with you.

      • Actually, “Bill”, a sure sign of a weak argument is not being able to support your argument with solid examples that indisputably counter the opposing argument.

        You cannot do that now, nor will you ever be able to, “Bill”.

      • Ooh, quote signs around my name. Boy, you sure put me in my place!

      • Sorry if the quotes bothered you, just figured you are using an alias.

        If you have a problem with my opinion I would much rather, as I’m sure most here would, that you would support your counterpoint with some real substance instead of harassing us with childish whining.

        I welcome the opportunity to learn, so if you can prove me wrong please do so.

        that’s to say “put up or shut up”.

      • My only points in this discussion have been this: Klaus, who heard Stu sing the song, says he doesn’t think it’s Stu on the recording. And your response to that is to denigrate Klaus as a musician. If you think that makes your argument stronger, well … I don’t.

  6. My only points in this discussion have been this: Klaus, who heard Stu sing the song many times, doesn’t think it’s Stu on the recording. And your response to this is to denigrate Klaus as a musician. If you think that makes your case stronger … I don’t. Basically, the case that’s been made for it being Stu consists solely of Pauline Sutcliffe saying it’s him. Of course, she also said John Lennon killed her brother. So, yeah, I have a problem with her credibility.

  7. Sorry for the repetition. There was a delay that made it appear the first response had not posted.

  8. I disagree, telling it like it is is not denigration. Klaus is not a great musician. Klaus is not a great artist. Klaus was merely in the right place at the right time and hung with the right people. I can’t trust Klaus’ take on this because, by extension, I feel I can justifiably claim that his ear is not good enough to make that kind of a distinction, especially after so many years.

    If you consider this in any way defaming or attacking the reputation of Klaus Voormann then I can only assume you belong to those of the mob mentality who, through their ignorance and intolerance, misuse the English language and would rather silence opposition than welcome a different and cogent point of view.

  9. BTW you do not speak honestly when you say

    “My only points in this discussion have been this: Klaus, who heard Stu sing the song many times, doesn’t think it’s Stu on the recording.”

    Your original post to me was this:

    “Are you serious? No, you must be kiddin’..!”

    Which was in response to my assertion that Klaus Voormann is quite marginal in his musical and artistic ability, thus casting doubt on his ability to distinguish the identity of the vocalist.

    Note you still make no serious attempt to back up your original post. Instead you attack me for my point of view and then make a sad attempt to claim you said something you did not.

    Lack of integrity is the hallmark of the philistine.

    • Read the comments again, and this time more closely. That WASN’T my comment. That was from Frank D. Badenius.

      • My mistake, but I’m glad you point it out because your original comment to me was even more banal:

        “A sure sign of a weak argument is when you have to resort to putting down the people who disagree with you.”

        I don’t think poking a little fun is “putting down”. You make the claim it is a “weak argument”. This implies you disagree that I commented on Herr Voormann’s marginality as a musician and artist. It also implies you feel you have a stronger argument to the contrary.

        So, put up or shut up.

  10. 1. From wikipedia: “Klaus Voormann (born 29 April 1938) is a German Grammy Award-winning artist, noted musician, and record producer. He designed artwork for many bands including The Beatles, The Bee Gees, Wet Wet Wet and Turbonegro. His most notable work as a producer was his work with the band Trio, including their worldwide hit “Da Da Da”. As a musician, Voormann is best known for being the bassist for Manfred Mann from 1966 to 1969, and for performing as a session musician on many recordings, including some by former members of the Beatles.”
    Saying that Klaus is a marginal musician is saying that the Beatles themselves chose a marginal musician. So they had bad taste?
    2. Still: Klaus – a close frined to Stu and Astrid – has made it clear that it isn’t Stu, that Astrid has listened, too and they both don’t think it is Stu.
    3. I will not coninue to waste my time arguing with one “babur”. You are very inpolite.

    • I love the passive-aggressive note at the end. You either have the integrity to back up your claims or you don’t. If I seem impolite because I strongly disagree that’s your problem.

      You also take the easy way out, Wikipedia is so full of holes you could use it to strain your ravioli.

      When I compare Klaus as a bassist to geniuses like McCartney, Entwistle, Jamerson, Collins, Squire, etc I have to say he’s even more marginal than I first thought.

      Manfred Mann was a not a bad band during that time, but not a great band, either.

      Throwing out Wiki’s reference to “Da Da Da” seals the deal, a silly knockoff tune if there ever was one.

      I am open minded, though. Throw out a few cuts that show the genius of Voorman’s playing and make him stand with the likes of the above mentioned musicians and I’ll concede.

      But I don’t think you can.

      To me Voormann’s word on this is inconsequential and carries very little weight.

  11. Even though you might provoke me to enter Voormanns Opening bass-roll of “You’re So Vain” into the competition, or the many comments of a lousy lot of musisicians he played with – as in the latest movie surrounding his first very own record, I won’t go for that. You have a go with words, I’m only a German, fighting with his school english. So I will just give a tiny shit for all that wordplay and concentrate on your real arguments… eh…. oops … there none. So what. I’ll stick to my ravioli and you keep on writing for Readers Digestifs. Or not.
    Meanwhile, high in the swiss alps, the word is still out that noone apart from Pauline is sure that it is Stu.
    By the way.

    • I forgot the significant contributions Zee Germans have made to Rock. Being from Tennessee I guess I really know nothing compared to a friggin’ teuton.

      But I do know this, Klaus was never and will never be a great musician. Not that he’s bad, he just ain’t nothin’ to be havin’ some kinda big Alpine Orgasm over, Jerry.

      So far you mention “Da Da Da” and “You’re So Vain”. Sigh, no wonder you guys got yer butts stomped in both wars you started. (& How about those Russians? They put yer asses in SUBMISSION. Man, talk about getting rolled up schmoked from both ends!)

      “Und wenn es erforderlich will ich zehn jahre kampfen!” hahahaha

      sie liebt dich ja ja ja. Oye, me duele escribirlo, casi como escucharlo.

  12. BTW I’m not making any argument for or against, maybe it’s Stu, maybe it isn’t. I think no one will ever know for sure.

    Least of all Klaus Voormann.

  13. Does anyone know if Paul said something about this record? I mean, he used to hear Stu’s voice every day….