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Exclusive: Place where Beatles 'discovered' to be torn down

Most important music deal in history struck 50 years ago in NEMS building

Written by . Published on December 19th 2011.

Exclusive: Place where Beatles 'discovered' to be torn down

John and Paul in Epstein's office facing onto Whitechapel. Pic and below by Michael Ward

THE building in Liverpool where the Beatles signed what has been described as the most important music contract of all time is to be demolished.

John, Paul, George and their then drummer Pete Best signed up on January 24, 1962 with Epstein at the headquarters in Liverpool’s Whitechapel of family-owned NEMS.

Beatles 63 Epsteins Office NemsHere and main pic:
Beatles in Epstein's
office in Whitechapel, 1963.
Click to enlarge
It propelled the four lads from Liverpool into the four that “shook the world” and put the Mersey Sound and the city onto the global stage.

In 2008, when the piece of paper was auctioned in London for £240,000, it was described as the ‘most important music contract of all time’.

But the Whitechapel building was key to the fortunes of the Beatles in more ways than one, and, it could be argued, to the fundamental direction of pop music since. For it was in NEMS that the unknowns first came to Epstein's attention.

As popular legend has it, in 1961, Raymond Jones, a young fan from Liverpool, made a request to shop manager Epstein for a copy of the "My Bonnie" single which the Beatles had recorded in Hamburg, backing a singer called Tony Sheridan. Other requests followed.

FormernemsOne of pop's most historic
moments took place here
It piqued the young and restless Epstein's interest enough for him to make that fateful lunchtime recce to the Cavern to see what all the fuss was about. All setting in motion the events that would lead him to become their manager.

The office where the deal was struck is now the HQ of another legendary Liverpool character: lawyer Rex Makin, a close friend of the Epstein family who at one time represented the Beatles. Makin was a guest at the opening of the shop, which sold records, in the late 1950s.

His law firm moved in more than 30 years ago.

The block which housed NEMS is to be demolished to make way for a new development, providing a home for US-owned fashion chain Forever 21.

NEMS stood for North End Music Stores, an offshoot from the family owned furnishing business started in bustling Walton Road, North Liverpool. The first city centre music store was in Great Charlotte Street, and as business expanded a second store in Whitechapel was opened, with Epstein in charge.

Beatle fans will see it as a repeat of the demolition, in the 1970s, of the original Cavern Club.

But there are no signs in the building or around Whitechapel to link it with the part it played in pop history.

The last remaining occupants of the block – including Rex Makin’s law firm - at the corner of Church Street, are preparing to vacate the site within days to allow for demolition work to start early in the new year.

Epstein’s first meeting with the Beatles took place in the office on December 3, 1961 when he proposed the idea of managing them.

Lennon, Harrison and Pete Best arrived late for the meeting. They had been drinking at the Grapes pub in Mathew Street. Paul did not attend.

63-01-24 NemsA PA at the shop in January 1963There were further meetings at NEMS office leading to the historic signing in January, 1962. Being at that time McCartney, Harrison and Best were all under the age of 21, they had to have the legal consent of their parents to enter into a contract.

Lennon had just turned 21, which was as well as his guardian, his Aunt Mimi, had refused to sign a contract, fearing Epstein would drop the Beatles after a few months.

That five-year contract with Epstein gave their manager 25 per cent of their income. Best was to be replaced soon after by Ringo Starr.

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72 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angie Sammons shared this on Facebook on December 19th 2011.
AnonymousDecember 19th 2011.

Typical of Liverpool isn't it. Yea,yea, yea. Why don't we go the whole hog and make it illegal for any Scouser to even whisper the word Beatle. Cavern, Strawberry Field (original) gates, 9 madryn Street, what a long and winding demolition road.

AnonymousDecember 19th 2011.

Nooo that's a shame!
And why does Liverpool need Forever 21 anyway? It's cheap tat that will probably pull out of the UK in 2 yrs!

Mike DDecember 19th 2011.

Hi Larry,

Don't want to p*ss on your chips on what is a very interesting read but permit me four fab points /questions...

1) Exclusive? The demolition was announced a few months ago.

2) There's nothing to commemorate the Beatles contract on this building so why did you not ask Rex Makin, who was Epstein's solicitor, why he has not thought to do so over the last 30 years?

3) Beatle fans will see it as a repeat of the demolition, in the 1970s, of the original Cavern Club. Given point no 2 - Really?

4) Are L'pool Confidential against £25m investment in the city centre at the height of biggest depression since the 1930s?

Your readers deserve answers.

Angie Sammons - Liverpool Confidential EditorDecember 19th 2011.

"Mr D,"

We would not like to "piss on your chips" either, to use your charming vernacular, but while this demolition was announced a while back, its significance as a Beatles site of historic importance was left out of the PR blurb for some reason. Indeed, more than one little dickie bird has suggested that the Beatles/Epstein link remained off the radar in case somebody tried to slap a heritage order on it. Completely unsubstantiated, but you see how these things can get twisted?

Do you assume that any of us at Confidential are against any redevelopment merely because we have reported a side of the story hitherto *untold* (also known as an exclusive)?

This is not a particularly lovely block and I am sure it will not be mourned. But it is nevertheless an important piece of Liverpool history.

Would you have preferred we ignored that and played the game, as much of the media in Liverpool has done (that's a bit unfair, perhaps they just didn't know, d'uh), or continued to document the facts as we see them?

AnonymousDecember 19th 2011.

Well said Mrs Editor. These spin doctor types throw one if they don't get their own way. I just heard Billy Butler talking about the Confidential story and he said (live on air) this was the first time he had heard about the end of this building.

So when the development was announced I wonder why its part in pop history was totally ignored. You'd think the developers were not too keen on that little nugget getting out, but that would be mere speculation.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Were you christened Anonymous? Otherwise your view is pointless.

PennyDecember 19th 2011.

Don't worry, they'll build a replica over the road in a few years

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

They pulled down the Odeon cinema last year. Another 'fab' landmark demolished unnoticed. The Beatles played there in '63 in '64 and it hosted the Northern Premiere of A Hard Days Night and '84 the Northern Premiere of Give My Regards to Broad Street.
Regarding NEMS, can Forever 21 at least not put a plaque up, or maybe call it Epstein House? The Beatles used to use it as their central base from 1961 - 64. They actually played an acoustic set in there in January 1963

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

they pulled down the Balfour Institute on Smithdown Road where The Quarrymen played.

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Hi Angie,
I acknowledge the story is interesting - and in the spirit of the season I'll partially retract point 1 as the meaning of exclusive is not definitive and some here genuinely seem to not know its history.
That said for Larry to draw a direct comparsion with the filling in of the Cavern is laughable and pure ediorialising - no quotes from Beatles societies for instance.
Also, the tone does read as anti-new build. You only have to look at the first 2 responses to see that.
I am genuinely surprised why Mr Makin was not asked why he has never thought to honour this landmark. He was Brian's solicitor and has been there for the past 30 years. Hey ho.
At least with the new build owners being Amercian there's a fair chance they'll honour our Beatles history better than those who actually knew them!
Here's hoping.
Happy Christmas

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Mick CarrollDecember 20th 2011.

where you christened Mike d ??? otherwise your view is point less

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Fair point. But I ain't anonymous.

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2015.

Just semiliterate.

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2015.

And 3 years behind the pace!

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Sorry. American. Amercian - slipped into Thomas Hardy land there.

Penny LaneDecember 20th 2011.

The pictures by Michael Ward are amazing, especially the one of George if you click and enlarge it. He's a baby.

The other picture of the Beatles on the stairs was from the gig they played there on the way to a performance in Mold in January 1963.

With McCartney being in town today it's a great piece of history. Thanks. But how come we are only hearing about this now?

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

Looks like once again the people have been hoodwinked

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

You need to stop reading All The President's Men.

Alex PlodeDecember 20th 2011.

Naming the new building after Epstein would at least be more appropriate than rebranding the Neptune as 'The Epstein Theatre' - a nice tribute, but it has no Beatles or Epstein connection whatsoever.

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Alex, sorry but Epstein worked at the Neptune when it was Cranes Music Store / Hall. It was his first workplace.

Alex PlodeDecember 20th 2011.

Mike, Epsteins first Liverpool job was at the then newly opened branch of NEMS on Great Charlotte Street in charge of the record department. The building became Yate's Wine Lodge and is now The Blob.
He may have visited the Neptune/Cranes but I'm pretty sure he didn't work there.
Maybe they should name The Blob after him?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
WagDecember 20th 2011.

Ha ha! I'm with you on this one Alex

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

No. Cranes Music Hall. Then Nems.

Lilian ChapmanDecember 20th 2011.

fer fecks sake there was 'MERDER' over 'Ringo's (dont call me Ringo) slum of a house he was born in, thankgoodness that was ignored, but Liverpool seems to be turning into Chester where they knock down interesting and or listed buildings willy nilly, then use the ''Historic value of their buildings'' to entice visitors to the city! lunatics i tell yer!

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

That Mike D person just won't let go. Of course the old Nems place can't be compared to what happened to the Cavern on Mathew Street. Surely the point is Liverpool is still raking in millions of pounds a year on Beatles tourism and if our city rulers had half a brain they would make sure anything linked to the Mersey beat era is in some way respected if not preserved. Change does have to happen, but if we only knew it we'd realise the Beatles remain a money spinner. there's even talk of a Beatles theme park, but guess what the proposers of that are not even thinking of creating it in Liverpool, but closer to London where it will be a gold mine. I tell yer, we're missing the boat, if not the yellow submarine.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

Lilian you have a very good point. And Alex. This is a very relevant building. The frigging office that the Beatles signed their first contract in is still in use for f*cks sake. Now it is needlessly being bulldozed.

When all these tourists come to Liverpool what do we tell them? "Oh, the Beatles played in the Cavern there but we bulldozed it. We were a bit stupid then and didn't realise that they were the biggest asset the city has ever had."

Then swiftly moving along to Whitechapel we can say "The most important contract in music history was signed in there. But we bulldozed it last week to make way for another tat shop. But you know, we were a bit stupid then and didn't realise that they were the biggest asset the city has ever had."

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Mike DDecember 20th 2011.


Liverpool WagDecember 20th 2011.

Mike, judging by the way you are at this like a pit bull, it is you who should get a life

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Just passionate rather than pit bull.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

Interesting they kept that bit of info out the media when talking about moving a new American version of Primarni in.

While it is a shame that it's got a bit of history, it seriously is an ugly building though and needs to go.

We cant hold onto every little tiny thing the Beatles did forever. "oh no, don't rip that toilet out, Paul McCartney took a dump on it in 1968". Whilst we get a lot of tourists and the city's economy obviously benefits greatly from the Beatles, you've got to draw a line somewhere. And like a few people have mentioned, if Rex Makin give two hoots or the heritage thought it was worth it, there would've been a plaque or something done a long time ago. Ergo, nobody is arsed. There's enough for the tourists as is.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 13th 2015.

By modern standards it is not ugly!

Alex PlodeDecember 20th 2011.

Agreed Anon, but this is a VERY significant site in music history sadly neglected and forgotten and about to go. Forever.
I applaud Forever 21's investment but in a perfect world wouldn't this building have made a fantastic museum of Liverpool music. A permanent home for the excellent exhibition that was on at the museum a couple of years back. And what a draw to the city that would have been. Ah well, imagine

Mike DDecember 20th 2011.

Surely the point is if Forever 21 grasp its significance then we'll get the best of both worlds.

History is what you make of it and sadly Nems has been grossly overlooked. Lets see what the yanks make of it.

Starts to come down on Jan 9 if you want hold a vigil, light a candle and man the barricades....

No? Thought not.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

Brian Epstein says in a brilliant radio interview in 1963 that prior to going into the family business (Epstein's) he worked for six months with a furniture company. He doesn't say that was Crane's. I don't recall that as a 'furniture store'.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2011.

I have got a business card of Brian Epstein's with Cavern on front and mentioning beatles. I met them back stage in cavern as I was asking them what they would charge to appear at our firms club. They had only just released their 1st record and price was well out of our league.

Carlos GuerreiroDecember 21st 2011.

Why Liverpool is always ungrateful to the Beatles?,like me many more only know Liverpool well for The Beatles i made a trip to there in 2004 for the Beatles and why why the Beatles are not from America? it will be better for them they really love the Beatles there and even the most little thing it will be preserved. Sorry for my english i´m from Venezuela

AnonymousDecember 21st 2011.

Carlos, we live in a city that places its history and heritage in a very low profile. In fact we are in grave danger of losing our place as a Unesco World Heritage Site because developers want to build skyscrapers on the world's greatest collection of historic docks. You will see from some of the points made above we have in our city people who think those who appear to stand in the way of 'progress' are morons. It is as though those of us who care about Beatles heritage are irrelevant. How dare we even raise the issue of the importance of a building (where the Beatles signed a contract that changed the whole world), how dare we suggest anything different apart from it being torn down to make way for a shop that will sell cheap clothes. The Beatles will be remembered for centuries. How dare we. You are right Carlos, if the Beatles had come from America they would have been celebrated and so would their history and their legacies. In Liverpool we are good at being bad.

AnonymousDecember 21st 2011.

The Echo and the Daily Post have finally cottoned on to your exclusive by using the story today. They have virtually nicked the opening paragraph of your Liverpool Confidential Exclusive. But maybe their reporter didn't read every line of the story, nor did any of the editors pick up a glaring error. Maybe all of their knowledgeable writers have now died or left. They state the contract was signed by Ringo, and it wasn't. It was signed by Pete Best who was the Beatles' drummer at the time. John, Paul and George also signed.

AnonymousDecember 21st 2011.

Sincerest form of flattery, innit? I see the BBC have also picked up on it.

Keep doing it, Liverpool Confidential

Cherry BDecember 21st 2011.

I am just reading this thread for the first time since yesterday and I find it quite astonishing that a Liverpool City Council press officer thinks it's ok to tell one of your readers to GET. A. LIFE

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Mike DDecember 21st 2011.

Cherry B. I'm not a press officer for Liverpool City Council. And my views are my own.

Cherry BDecember 21st 2011.

Whatever x

Mike DDecember 22nd 2011.

Yeah - you keep on writing those random comments. x

EdsullivanDecember 21st 2011.

Gotta love those cute "justin bieber" haircuts!

AnonymousDecember 21st 2011.

If the beatles cared about the site they would pay for it with all their money.

Paul TunnciliffeDecember 22nd 2011.

This is crazy!!!!I`m a scouser and you think we would of learnt a lesson or two since the destruction of the original cavern.Yes,it was before my time and its frustrating and sad that such landmarks depicting The Beatles History are becoming less and less.Can we not get a petition going ? submit other ideas? Mine would be to relocate The Beatles Story from the Albert Dock to The Nems building!!!What do you think ?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 28th 2011.

I love this idea!!! Right on, Paul!!

Carl JennerDecember 22nd 2011.

That's a great idea Paul! Let's get Yoko on the case.

Alex PlodeDecember 22nd 2011.

Great idea Paul!

Jeff BrightDecember 23rd 2011.

It's being dropped in January. What date? Maybe we should organize a picket. I'm in LA but I will help!

Norman KennyDecember 23rd 2011.

Don't worry the site will always be remembered no matter what....

Kathy GodfreyDecember 24th 2011.

BIG , HUGE mistake!!!!!!!!!! Terrible and heartbreaking!

Kathy GodfreyDecember 24th 2011.

I wonder what Sir Paul and Ringo think about this.

AnonymousDecember 28th 2011.

Didn't they learn anything from the terrible mistake of tearing down the original Cavern Club? The Beatles have done more for the economy of Liverpool than Forever 21 will ever do. This is ridiculous. My heart hurts.

AnonymousDecember 28th 2011.

The Venezuelan bloke earlier had it right

AnonymousDecember 28th 2011.

We do need a picket. January 9. Be outside????

David FisherDecember 31st 2011.

There must be a brain drain in Liverpool. Closing the Cavern was an obvious loss of millions in tourist revenue....wasn't that enough of a lesson. Anything the Beatles sat at or in is worth the price of admission....David NYC

Tricky WooDecember 31st 2011.

This is all getting rather embarrassing now, isn't it? Shall we inform the world about what we've done with the Pier Head and how we plan to lose World Heritage Status because of some imagined skyscrapers that will probably never happen.

After all, there are plenty of PR people in Liverpool who should be well qualified to do just that.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2012.

2012 and yet another Beatle venue is biting the dust. The Queen's Hall in Widnes played their five times in the 1960s. Their first visit, billed as their farewell concert, was on February 18, 1963 and they performed two sell-out shows. It was also the day Yoko Ono celebrated her 30th birthday. Demolition work has just started and soon the Queens Hall, once a massive methodist church, will be no more.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2012.

Appalling and sad

Carol DoyleFebruary 25th 2012.

ive got a bedroom furniture set that my aunt bought from the epstien family shop, she bought it on the weekly,and its still in good condition! nice to own a bit of history!

Pierre HeadFebruary 25th 2012.

It's not that ugly a building - it's on a human scale and more handsome than all that overblown macho rubbish they've thrown up around the Pier Head.

Geoff CannonMarch 18th 2012.

I was a young spark who wired the record booths in Whitechapel ,Hoylake and Chester NEMS,oh how I wish I had kept a few momentos !

AnonymousOctober 6th 2012.

Mike D gives insight to the pompous ass he is by stating that anyone who signs in as anonymous has views that are pointless? What a jerkoff

Alexei JerkoffOctober 6th 2012.

What do you mean by that?

David FosterMarch 20th 2014.

Having watched the recent Freda Kelly documentary on tv it seems that the old NEMS building had a far greater role in the Beatles story than simply being the place where the original contract was signed. As Epstein's office and the fan club's office it was essentially the Beatles' HQ until they moved down to London. The boys spent a lot of time there. If you wanted to get in touch with a Beatle you wrote care of NEMS, 12-14 Whitechapel. (It's the address Lennon gives out in his published letters.) That said, the building was a typical piece of British High Street architecture that was designed to fall down of its own accord after about fifty years. It wasn't the Tower of London. The building's demise was unavoidable but I do share the disappointment of many here that no plaque ever adorned it while it stood to point out to those not in the know what an interesting history this rather drab and unassuming place actually had.

AnonymousJanuary 13th 2015.

The best thing about being from Liverpool is being just down the road from the home of the greatest band this country ever produced...perhaps when this building is knocked down we can erect something of actual musical significance directions to Salford Lads Club perhaps?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
KnowledgeableJanuary 14th 2015.

It has been knocked down.

AnonymousJanuary 14th 2015.

It was a very minority taste thing anyway, for fashion victims and bedwetters going through an introspective phase. Tell yer what, I'll put some knocked-about gladiolis on Mathew Street, the place where FOUR LADS CHANGED THE WORLD!! Cheers

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2015.

I bet you're that absolute monument that runs the Beatles shop

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