By Chris M. Junior
The best part about working for Christie’s South Kensington, Neil Roberts says, is when unexpected items come through the door and turn out to have great historical significance.
Roberts, who is the head of the auction house’s popular culture department, is quick to mention that the rock and pop memorabilia sale scheduled for June 24 in London has a few such items up for bid.
One is a cassette recording of the earliest known Oasis concert. The tape, featuring Noel Gallagher’s handwriting on the insert card, features the band’s performance from Jan. 14, 1992, at a club in Manchester, England.
“It’s not just a bootleg that someone recorded discreetly,” Roberts explains. “It’s off the mixing board, so it’s really good quality.”
Gallagher gave the tape to consigner Dean Hanley, whom Roberts describes as “a small player in the music business in Manchester,” with the hope that he would make copies of it and send them to record labels in search of a deal.
“Nothing came of it,” Roberts says of the tape, “but it’s significant for what it is.”
Another out-of-the-blue item that will be for sale June 24 is the original hand-painted backdrop that U2 used while on tour in support of its first album, 1980’s “Boy.” Roberts says the backdrop made its way to Christie’s by way of a woman who acquired it from a friend at Island Records, U2’s longtime label.
“It’s this hand-painted piece of canvas, which U2 must have just packed up in their backpack and taken around during the first-ever U.K. tour and hung wherever they were playing,” Roberts says. “This shows how far a band can progress. You think about U2 now and their stage sets, and [at the time of this backdrop], this was just a humble group of friends out on the road trying to become the biggest band in the world, and they did.”
The June 24 auction will feature roughly 300 lots. About 60 of the items are Who-related pieces from the extensive collection of Brad Rodgers, a well-known Who memorabilia collector based in California.
“I gave them a pretty good cross range of items,” Rodgers says. “There are a couple of really good guitars and basses in there.”
Rodgers’ Who items include a cherry-red Gibson SG guitar that Pete Townshend played on tour in 1971, a Zildjian cymbal owned by Keith Moon, a white 1962 Fender Precision bass owned by John Entwistle and a Shure SM85 microphone that Roger Daltrey used during a show on Aug. 24, 1994.
“Whatever the budget is,” Rodgers says, “somebody will find something that they could possibly buy.”
Of the various Who items, Roberts expects the posters from the band’s gigs to generate a lot of bidding interest.
“They’re affordable to collectors, and therefore you get more people bidding for them, and that ultimately does push up the price,” he explains.
Other items that will be available June 24 include an acoustic guitar once owned and played by George Harrison, artwork by John Lennon from his 1969 Bed-In for Peace with Yoko Ono and a sketchbook page with drawings by a teenage Paul McCartney.
For more information about this Christie’s South Kensington auction, visit www.christies.com/calendar, search for June 24 and click on Popular Culture: Rock and Pop Memorabilia.
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