When Bournemouth Welcomed The Beatles

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When most people think of Bournemouth on the south coast of England, it is probably as a popular holiday resort: a peaceful place of pleasure gardens, guest houses and golden sands. The town is a wonderful destination for those seeking a bit of summertime rest and refreshment, but during the 1960s,

unlikely though it may seem, "the Queen of Hampshire" as it is known was at the forefront of the pop-music boom which was sweeping the nation, and a large number of local bands, nurtured by the skiffle craze, sprang up. Most of these, including an outfit called Tony Blackburn and the Rovers led by the future Radio One disc jockey, would enjoy only limited local fame. However, Bournemouth, with its many clubs and theatres in an attractive seaside setting, was also very popular with bands and vocalists who were destined to leave a most lasting mark on the history of Sixties' music. During August 1964, for example, you could see and hear at various venues in the town: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Shirley Bassey, The Move, The Searchers, Dusty Springfield, The Dave Clark Five and The Rolling Stones.

Popular though these acts undoubtedly were, there was another group in town at the beginning of that rich musical month whose following among teenage pop fans was of a completely different order. They were, of course, The Beatles, and their performances at the Gaumont Cinema on 2nd August 1964, supported by The Kinks, were two of 16 appearances they made in Bournemouth (more than at any venue in the UK outside London) before the blazing comet of their fame carried them far away.

when bournemouth welcomed the beatles zani 5.jThis little-known association with Bournemouth began on 19th August 1963 when, in their smart Ford Zephyr, John, Paul, George and Ringo arrived in the town for The Beatles Show, a week-long residency at the Gaumont Cinema in Westover Road supported by another Liverpool-based act, also managed by Brian Epstein, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas. By the time they arrived in Bournemouth, The Beatles already had a number one single under their belts (From Me to You had topped the charts for seven weeks in May and June of that year) and the current number one was Billy J. Kramer singing Bad To Me, itself a Lennon/McCartney composition. At the same time, The Beatles were top of the album charts with their first LP, Please, Please Me.

The group stayed at the four-star Palace Court Hotel next to the Gaumont, and although the frenzy surrounding their presence was nothing compared to what was to come, their fame was already such that fans camped outside the hotel hoping for a glimpse of the four young men. Some girls hired waitress uniforms or claimed they were chambermaids to try to gain access, and ruses had to be thought up to smuggle the bemused Beatles in and out of the hotel.

The Beatles did two shows a night, their set a mixture of cover versions and Lennon/McCartney songs. Tom Mellor, the Gaumont chief technician, made a recording of one of the concerts – the earliest known tape of The Beatles' live theatre show rather than their club performances in Hamburg and Liverpool. The tape was forgotten for 30 years until, in 1994, Tom's daughter Irene sent it to Geoff Baker, a local radio presenter. Geoff described what he heard: "The quality was great, but the main thing was the relative calm of the audience. This was just two days prior to She Loves You being released and kick-starting full-blown Beatlemania, so while the audience screamed quite a bit, there were periods of real quiet where you can actually hear John, Paul and George doing the announcements and talking to the kids."

When not on stage, John, Paul, George and Ringo were kept busy in their hotel rooms replying to fan mail, signing autograph books that had been left at the hotel and the Gaumont, and giving interviews and taking part in photo shoots.

The group were under constant pressure to produce new material, so when time allowed John and Paul would sit down together to write songs. It was at the Palace Court that George Harrison, future composer of masterpieces such as Something and Here Comes The Sun, wrote his first song for The Beatles, Don't Bother Me, which found its way onto their next LP, With The Beatles, which was released on 22nd November 1963.

It was at the Palace Court that George Harrison, future composer of masterpieces such as Something and Here Comes The Sun, wrote his first song for The Beatles, Don't Bother Me,
She Loves You went to number one on 14th September 1963 and was the biggest selling single of the year. With its catchy "yeah, yeah, yeah" and memorable final chord, the song took their popularity to a new level, so when they returned to Bournemouth on 16th November 1963 to play at the Winter Gardens, having topped the bill at the Royal Variety Show a few days earlier, screaming girls were never far away and police protection now a constant feature of their lives.

On this occasion they stayed a few miles out of town at the luxurious Branksome Towers Hotel. Desperate to obtain tickets, fans besieged the box office in the run-up to the concert and The Beatles were bombarded with gifts, autograph books and hundreds of letters. Two local girls, requesting the boys' signatures, wrote a 55-page letter repeating the words "please, please, please, over and over again.

Amidst all the screaming and shouting The Beatles performed I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, All My Loving, You Really Got A Hold On Me, Roll Over Beethoven, Boys, Til There Was You, She Loves You, Money and Twist and Shout. Filming the two concerts was an American film crew; their footage would be shown on television in the United States two months before The Beatles famously appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

At the end of 1963 I Want To Hold Your Hand reached the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and gave the group its first number one in the United States. Three months later, the follow-up, Can't Buy Me Love, repeated the success, and in March 1964 the group began shooting their first film, A Hard Day's Night.

when bournemouth welcomed the beatles zani  8.The album and title track were both topping the charts when The Beatles arrived in Bournemouth on 2nd August for their bank holiday date at the Gaumont. One member of the audience that night, who saw The Beatles whenever she could, was local junior school teacher Eileen Denton. The 22-year-old was the regional secretary for the Official Beatles Fan Club.

"They used to send the fan mail on to us secretaries to reply to," she recalls, "They also used to send us all their records before they came out and special fan club records. That was quite something."

Eileen met her idols on a number of occasions at fan club meetings, but also remembers seeing them in an "off duty" moment during one of their stints in the seaside town:

"I saw them walking along the promenade by the beach late one night. We passed by quite quickly as they were obviously having a relaxing time – they didn't want to be bothered by fans at that late hour. I actually felt sorry for them. The biggest downside of being a Beatle must have been the times when it was like being in a prison".

The final appearance of The Beatles in Bournemouth took place at the Gaumont on the 30th October 1964, when the main supporting act was Tamla-Motown star Mary Wells. The group had just finished recording their next hit LP, Beatles For Sale, but drew mainly on A Hard Day's Night for their performance. Their songs were becoming increasingly complex, with sounds that were difficult to reproduce effectively on stage, while some of their softer, more lyrical numbers had no chance of being appreciated above the constant screaming.

And so the brief but intense relationship between Bournemouth and the world's most successful pop group came to an end. Apart that is, from one postscript. In September 1965 John Lennon bought his beloved Aunt Mimi a six-bedroom bungalow at Sandbanks, and over the next few years was a frequent visitor. He relished being able to escape from the spotlight and enjoyed sailing in Poole Harbour and walking unrecognised on the beach with wife Cynthia and son Julian.

Bournemouth had welcomed The Beatles and sent them off on an incredible globe-trotting journey that would reach incredible heights of success but also plumb the depths of tragedy.

"The world went mad and blamed it on us," George Harrison once said. As the storm of fame and fanaticism engulfed them, I am sure there must have been one or two moments in their lives when, for all the fame, celebrity and adulation, they looked back with longing to those younger, more innocent days, and perhaps remembered some happy times in that little town beside the sea.

© Words Jake Jakeman


Used Kind permission of "This England" magazine

www.thisengland.co.uk

Read the full story of The Beatles' association with Bournemouth in

Yeah Yeah Yeah The Beatles and Bournemouth by Nick Churchill

http://www.beatlesandbournemouth.com/

Read 3230 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:24

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