Thursday 16th May 1963
Friday 16th August 1963
I was by now completely hooked on the Beatles and had bought everything that had been released, which were three singles and one album. I was fascinated by their image and their instruments. I had never seen a Hofner Violin Bass, or a Rickenbacker guitar before. George played a Gretsch Country Gentleman and although I'd seen Duane Eddy and Eddie Cochran with Gretsch guitars I had never seen a Country Gent. I wanted to see the Beatles live and had heard that they would be playing at the California Ballroom in Dunstable. This was a huge venue with two stages, and although almost every top act from that time, including the Rolling Stones, performed there, despite the rumours the Beatles never did.
I had read that the Beatles would be at Luton Odeon on Friday 6th September, so I had sent a postal order and a stamped address envelope to the box office and requested three tickets. The tickets landed on my doormat this morning.
Friday 6th September 1963
“She Loves You” had been released two weeks ago and was already top of the charts, and today I as going to see the Beatles play live for the first time but first I had to endure a days work at the Westminster Bank. I almost had a nervous breakdown wondering if I would get out in time to see the show. We finished work when the day's business was done, and the books were balanced and Friday was always the busiest day. I was especially worried as there had been some rather late nights recently and a couple of times we hadn't left until 9.00pm. I rushed around all day probably driving the rest of the staff mad trying to make sure they weren't slacking. I was just too conscientious in those days; I should have called in sick.
I eventually got away at 8.00pm, my two mates were waiting outside and we drove straight to Luton for the 8.45pm performance. I remember queuing outside and behind us were the Zombies, a local group that I knew as Colin Blunstone the lead singer lived around the corner from me. The Zombies were still a year away from having their first hit with "She's Not There" which was helped when George Harrison gave it a favourable review as a member of the panel on a programme called Juke Box Jury.
We had pretty good seats about fifteen rows from the front and had to endure four other acts before the Beatles. No matter how good they were there was only one act the audience had come to see.
A group called Rockin' Henry and the Hayseeds had just finished their act and there was one more name in the programme before the Beatles, and that was Patrick Dane's Quiet Five. I hadn't read the small print under their name which said that they were only on selected dates and not Luton. Suddenly the compere, Ted King, announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, THE BEATLES!", and there they were. There were no curtains at the Odeon, the group just ran on stage wearing their famous grey collarless suits, plugged in, and went straight into "Roll Over Beethoven" followed by "Thank You Girl", "A Taste of Honey", "She Loves You", "Baby It's You", "From Me To You", "Boys", "I Saw Her Standing There", and finally "Twist and Shout", and they were gone. The PA system was two small speakers, one each side of the stage and you could just about make out which songs they were singing above the continual screams, but it was fantastic. We drove home from Luton planning when we would see them again.
Today the Odeon Luton is a church called “The COGIC Centre.”
Saturday 7th September 1963
The Westminster Bank opened on a Saturday morning and today I had to work. My body was in the bank but my mind was still at Luton Odeon.
Sunday 13th October 1963
Beatlemania was officially born on Sunday 13th October 1963 when the Beatles appeared on the top variety show of the time, Sunday aNight t The London Palladium which went out live and was introduced by Bruce Forsyth. The show normally opened with a dance group called the Tiller Girls, but on this night, the curtains opened and there were the Beatles singing just the opening verse of "Please Please Me". The audience went wild with girls screaming at the tops of their voices. The curtains closed and for the next forty odd minutes Bruce Forsyth had a tough job trying to keep the audience from screaming during the other acts which consisted of a singer called Brook Benton and Des O'Connor.
Finally Bruce appeared on stage dressed in a "Beatles" collarless suit and a wig and said "I thought I'd be a dead ringer for Ringo,--- are you ready---are you steady--- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the Beatles". Cue for pandemonium as they sang "From Me to You", "I'll Get You", "She Loves You" and finally "Twist and Shout". The papers the following day reported the scenes of screaming fans inside and outside The Palladium and one of the papers, I think it was the Daily Mirror, coined the phrase, "Beatlemania". I still have my original reel to reel tape of the show, recorded with a microphone in front of the TV. It was just a year since the release of their first record "Love Me Do" (5/10/1962) and yet with only eighteen songs commercially available the Beatles were already the biggest pop act this country had ever seen, and nobody, and I'm sure, not even the Beatles themselves realised that the best was yet to come.
One thing the Beatles suffered from this evening was something that would often occur when they performed live on television, and that was bad sound balancing. Whoever was balancing the sound would often assume that there had to be a lead singer which wasn't always the case. The Beatles would use only two microphones on stage and when they sang songs like “From Me to You”, and “She Loves You”, John and Paul used separate mikes but would both be singing the lead line and occasionally breaking off into a harmony, sometimes with George joining them. At the beginning of their first number “From Me to You”, Paul's microphone was hardly on so the sound was a bit odd. What should have happened was the two mikes should have been left at the same volume leaving the Beatles to balance themselves vocally, which is what they had been used to doing after playing up to six hours a night in German clubs.
Saturday 10th November 1963
The Beatles had appeared on the Royal Variety Performance last Monday 4th November and today it was shown on television. The sound was much better than their recent Palladium show; there was no screaming from the audience, who wore posh frocks and dinner jackets, just polite but enthusiastic applause at the end of each number. They sang “From Me To You”, “She Loves You”, “Til There Was You” and after John Lennon's now famous “rattle your jewellery” comment they ended with Twist and Shout.
Watching the recording again I was amused to see that immediately after John had said “would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and the rest of you just rattle your jewellery” the TV people cut to a quick shot of the Queen Mother standing waving. This was obviously taken from the end of the show when she was about to leave, but I guess the producer thought it a good idea to have the Queen Mum appear to acknowledge John's now legendary comment.
Another amusing incident was when they'd finished their spot. In perfect unison they pulled their microphones back, unplugged their guitars, Ringo hopped off his drum stool, they all walked to the front, bowed to The Royal Box and then to the audience. While this was going on the orchestra was playing the most appalling, “lift music,” version of “Twist and Shout”.
Friday 22nd November 1963
Today I heard the new Beatles single “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and even on first hearing it sounded awesome.
In the evening while watching television there was a news flash and at that moment it seemed the whole world went into shock. The American President John F Kennedy had been brutally assassinated in Texas.
Saturday 28th December 1963
I didn't have to wait very long to see the Beatles perform live again, as they were to perform a Christmas Show at the Finsbury Park Astoria (later to become the Rainbow) from Christmas Eve 1963 up to January 11th 1964. A friend and I managed to get two tickets (7/6d or 37p each) for the show on Saturday 28th December 1963. This show featured, Billy J. Kramer, the Fourmost, Tommy Quickly and Cilla Black who were all Brian Epstein's artists. The Barron Knights were also on the show and the whole thing was compered by Rolf Harris.
At the beginning of the show a large cardboard helicopter was lowered to the stage and one by one each act pretended to climb out and then be introduced by Rolf Harris. Everybody was off except the Beatles and the audience was teased by the helicopter taking off and hovering. Eventually it landed again and out came the Beatles to the loudest screams imaginable. They took part in several sketches during the evening until it was time for their closing spot which included tracks from their second album "With The Beatles", released a few weeks before on November 22nd. Once again they opened with "Roll over Beethoven" followed by "All My Loving", "This Boy", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "She Loves You", "Til There Was You", "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "Money", and finally "Twist and Shout". Once again it was a great show.
Saturday 4th January 1964
A few months ago I had ordered a Gibson 335 semi acoustic guitar from my local music shop Universal Music in Hatfield. Claude Childs the owner had told me it would take twelve weeks, but it had been nearer sixteen weeks since the order went in and there was still no sign.
The shop used to be a meeting place for musicians and we often popped in to see if Claude had anything new of interest. One of the musicians who I would often meet there was Donovan. Donovan (Leitch) lived in Hatfield and if you walked around South Hatfield on a summer's evening you would probably hear the strains of an acoustic guitar. That would be Donovan sitting on a wall somewhere. He was a year away from three consecutive weeks appearing on the top music show of the day Ready Steady Go, followed by a string of hits.
Today I went into the shop and from Claude I heard the usual story that there was no sign of my guitar, but he said he had just taken delivery of a brand new Gretsch Tennessean guitar that I might like to try. My thinking was George Harrison played a Gretsch so they must be OK. I tried it out for about thirty minutes, loved it and bought it. When I got it home I kept taking it out of the case every fifteen minutes just to look at it.
To make my day complete, a friend came round and said that he had got a couple of spare tickets for the Beatles Christmas Show next Friday, and did I want them?
Friday 10th January 1964
Tonight it was back to the Finsbury Park Astoria to see the Beatles Christmas show again. This time the seats weren't very good as we were right up high at the back, in the Gods, and because of the screaming I could hardly hear a thing.
Sunday 12th January 1964
The Beatles appeared for the second time on Sunday Night at the London Palladium and for the first time ever George Harrison was playing a Gretsch Tennessean Guitar like the one I had bought a week ago. I was rather chuffed.
Once again the opening of the show was different. Instead of the Tiller girls the curtains opened and in the dimmed lighting could be seen the outline of four people, three who seemed to be holding guitars. The audience thought is was the Beatles and went ballistic, the screams were deafening. The lights came up and there was Bruce Forsyth and three guys dressed as stage hands with brooms in their hands sweeping the stage.
(Click on Photo to enlarge plus more photos)
Luton Odeon 6/9/1963
Beatles Fan Club Membership Card
Beatles Christmas Show 1963/64