The night Sheffield went Beatle barmy

Many pop historians claim Beatlemania swamped 1963 - and they are probably right. At the beginning of the year the band embarked on their first national tour, then achieved amazing success selling thousands of records, played to sell-out audiences and caused absolute pandemonium wherever they went.

The Beatles on one of their trio of visits to Doncaster. The Fab Four - John, Paul, George and Ringo - are surrounded by female staff from the Gaumont as it was known back in the 1960s.

At the end of the previous year, December 2, 1962, they played support to yodelling Frank Ifield at the Embassy Cinema in Peterborough and did not go down well. They were met with cat-calls and jeers. ‘Get off’, ‘Rubbish’, yelled the audience.

Fortunately, amongst the crowd was promoter Arthur Howes, who had been cajoled by Beatles manager Brian Epstein into going to see ‘his boys’. Despite the boos, Howes saw the Beatles’ potential and booked them on a British tour starting on February 2 and stretching to March 1963. They were supporting child star Helen Shapiro who at 16 already had five top ten hits to her name.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Also on the bill were Danny Williams, Kenny Lynch, The Red Price Band and the Kestrels. Compare was Dave Allen. In October 1962 the Beatles had released their first single, an early Lennon and McCartney original, Love Me Do, and were eager to cash in on its modest success. With a blunt working class approach to song writing, the pair rang the first chime of a revolutionary bell, that was to drown the slushy manufactured songs of Tin Pan Alley.

In one of the worst winters on record with several inches of snow on the ground and temperatures dropping to -9 at night the tour bus arrived for the first show at Bradford Gaumont on February 2. On the previous day, the Beatles had performed shows in the Assembly Rooms, Tamworth and Maney Hall, Sutton Coldfield, so were not on the bus. Although they had quite a large fan following in Liverpool they were almost unknown in most parts of the UK, yet, their dynamic stage performance demanded attention - even in a winter from hell.

Their second single Please Please Me had just been released and was included in their historic opening night Bradford set. Not all the 3,318 seats were full, the weather having taken its toll. Reporting on the entire show, Yorkshire Post jouralist Reginald Brace said enthusiastically: ‘Best of all, there were four young men from Liverpool called The Beatles, who, I predict, will go from strength to strength this year. They sing and strum their guitars with enormous, infectious zest’.

Often on rest days there was no respite, with the band continually performing elsewhere and agreeing to radio interviews. Adding to the excitement and general mayhem was the surge up the charts of Please Please Me.

The fourth Beatles national tour of 1963 started on November 1 and lasted until December 13 1963. The band now topped the bill and performed two shows a night at 34 venues. All these were undertaken against a backdrop of chaotic scenes never hitherto seen before in British pop culture. Amongst the factors behind the band’s outstanding 1963 successes were Please Please Me and She Loves You: the chart topping; their appearance on the Royal Variety Show; and the advance sales of I Want to Hold Your Hand passing the million mark before the release on November 29. All this brought them god-like admiration with thousands instead of hundreds now attending their gigs.

On Saturday night November 2 the Beatles’ arrived in Sheffield for two shows where some pictures survive of their visit.

At 4pm a police escort led their vehicle to the City Hall where already thousands had besieged the venue. John Lennon wore a pulled down hat as he entered the building and a little later inside there was an impromptu jam session on stage featuring George Harrison on tambourine, Paul McCartney on drums and Jaywalker Lloyd Baker on piano.

Interviewed by a Sheffield Star reporter, McCartney admitted that all he wanted to do ‘was sleep’. The group met TV and newspaper reporters whilst the support bands were on stage. Outside teenagers were breaking police lines and some girls were slightly injured and attended by St John’s Ambulance men. Ticket touts were doing good business selling 8s 6d tickets for £3.

Once on stage, the group was showered with love letters, sweets, brightly wrapped gifts and rolled up programmes. Girls stood up, stretched their arms in the air and twisted to the Mersey rhythm. Others buried their heads in their arms and sobbed.

Reporting on the event the Sheffield Star called it ‘the night Sheffield went Beatle barmy’ adding that 4,000 frenzied teenager yelled themselves hoarse during the two shows.