BEATLES, Christmas '63

It is December 1963 and I am 16. It is the height of Beatlemania, With The Beatles, the group’s second LP, has just been released and I am about five rows back, on Paul’s side, when the curtains open. The auditorium explodes. Pandemonium. Compere Rolf Harris dashes off and they begin to play, John, Paul, George & Ringo, the princes of pop in their shiny suits and Cuban-heeled boots, squinting beneath their fringes, jiggling their guitars and trying to sing above the shrieking from 2,000 teenage girls. I look on in wonder. 
My dad is with me because Bradford is a 45-minute car journey away from where we live in Skipton, in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire. He likes his pop music and seems to like The Beatles, though not with the same passion as myself. I think he is just curious to see what all the fuss is about, and in 1963 in Britain you had to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice the fuss that surrounds The Beatles. 
    Mum had obtained tickets because she’d been to many shows at the Gaumont, including an annual pilgrimage to the Christmas pantomime when my sister and I were younger, so she was on the theatre’s advance mailing list. She mentioned it across the breakfast table when she opened a letter from the theatre a month or two before. “Oh, Chris… The Beatles are on in Bradford. Would you like me to get tickets?” 
    There aren’t many boys or men in the audience, only hysterical girls and the sense of anticipation is insane. Dad and I have sat through all the other acts, among them Cilla Black, who performed two or three songs each. These preliminaries now concluded, all around me girls are quivering with excitement, clutching their heads, breathless, sobbing. Rolf Harris comes on just before The Beatles because unlike everybody else on the bill they use their own drums and amplifiers that have to be set up behind the curtains. He is destroyed by the screams. It is his own fault. He draws sketches of the four Beatles’ faces on his charcoal pad: John has a cheeky grin, Paul has big eyes, George looks curious and Ringo has a huge nose. 
    When The Beatles come on the screaming doesn’t let up from beginning to end, not for a second, a constant drone, like the screeching of tyres on a Formula One circuit. First George sings ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, sharing Paul’s microphone a few feet away from us, his big round Gretsch guitar all but hiding his upper body, then he steps back to let Paul sing ‘All My Loving’ for which the three Beatles at the front join in on the chorus, their hair flopping about.  Paul shakes the long neck of his unusually shaped bass guitar as he sings. 
    Now it is John’s turn to lower the tempo for ‘This Boy’, a slower number with an intense, scream-inducing middle section, followed by Ringo’s spotlight, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, during which all hell breaks loose and the stewards have to hold back girls who rush out of their seats to the front. The shrieking intensifies during ‘She Loves You’, that summer’s smash single, and for Paul’s unhurried show tune ‘Till There Was You’. Over at the other side of the stage, John, legs apart and staring into the middle distance, his Rickenbacker guitar high up on his chest, leads the sprint finish, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, the new single, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ from the new LP, and ending, as usual, with ‘Twist And Shout’, its ascending chorus a rallying cry for a decade about to swing. 
    Then they dash off, without a word. The screaming turns to wailing, teenage girls crying their eyes out because The Beatles have left the stage, left the theatre, left Bradford too probably. 

This picture and the one at the top of the post were taken taken at the actual gig. I found them on the internet but I have been unable to discover who took them. If anyone knows please get in touch. 

    I barely heard a note they played or a lyric they sang but the excitement The Beatles inspired that December night is with me still. I wasn’t to know it but that night probably set me on the path to a career as a music writer, a profession that sustained me until retirement. 

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