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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Helen Shapiro Tour 3

The Night The Beatles were thrown out of a Carlisle Hotel

Would Bill Berry have acted differently if he’d known who the four young men in leather jackets were, and what they would become?

Mr Berry took great pride in his position as chairman of Carlisle Golf Club. And when he saw four rather scruffy young chaps stroll into the club’s annual dinner-dance and start tucking into the buffet, he decided that their behaviour simply wasn’t acceptable.

This was the ballroom of the Crown and Mitre Hotel, for heaven’s sake!

Berry approached them, had a quiet word, and the four leather jackets slipped away into obscurity.

Well, not quite. John, Paul, George and Ringo managed to bounce back from the snub they suffered in Cumberland in 1963. More than one billion records sold and a legacy as the greatest act in popular music are testament to that.

The night the Beatles were asked to leave the Crown and Mitre ballroom has long been a part of Fab Four and Carlisle legend. And the story has now been told for the first time by one of the stars who was there.

Not one of the Beatles, but the singer who topped the bill on their first nationwide tour.

Helen Shapiro was only 16 when she arrived in Carlisle with the Beatles on Friday February 8, 1963. Shapiro had already had two number one singles while Beatlemania was on the verge of exploding.

Recalling this tour years later, Ringo Starr said: “Helen was the star. She had the telly in her dressing room and we didn’t have one. We had to ask her if we could watch hers.”

The soon-to-be-Fab Four’s second single, Please Please Me, was riding high when they played the ABC Cinema – later to become the Lonsdale – on Warwick Road.

The Beatles played two sets of four songs that night. Three of the songs – Chains, A Taste Of Honey and Please Please Me – were favourites from their Cavern set list and would soon appear on their debut album. The fourth was Keep Your Hands Off My Baby, a song they only ever recorded for the radio.

After the show the Beatles, Helen Shapiro and entertainer Kenny Lynch travelled a few hundred yards through Carlisle city centre to the Crown and Mitre.

In a new book – Legends On Tour: The Pop Package Tours Of The 1960s – Shapiro describes what happened next.

“We were in the lobby area. Kenny and the Beatles were having a drink and I was having a cup of tea. This fellow was going into the banqueting suite when he saw us. He was really chuffed and asked us to go in.

“We weren’t interested. They were all dressed up and it wasn’t our kind of thing. We were just having a quiet drink, but he was really insistent. They had a buffet in there and that probably swung it. We never seemed to get much to eat on tour.

“We went to the buffet table and had something to eat. Ringo was particularly enjoying the food. Then we went on the dance floor – we may have still been eating.

“I think I was twisting with Ringo. There were these ladies with their long gowns who made a beeline for the Beatles in their leather gear.

“Then suddenly this guy came over, a much older man, and he was huffing and puffing, getting red in the face. He ordered us to leave. ‘Who invited you?’ he asked.

“It was a shame really because nobody seemed to have a problem with us, apart from the one bloke.”

Helen was mortified when a national newspaper picked up the story. “The Daily Express headline was something like ‘Helen Shapiro Asked To Leave Golf Club Dance’. It referred to Helen Shapiro and ‘The instrumental group the Four Beatles’ being asked to leave.

“I was mortified. I thought that would be the end of me. I was only 16 and that sort of thing was not something to be proud of then. I never found out for certain who tipped off the press.”

Dr George Jolly, who was a GP in Carlisle for many years and a long-time member of Carlisle Golf Club, was at the Crown and Mitre that night.

Dr Jolly died in 2006 at the age of 91. Speaking to the News & Star several years ago, his memory of the evening was still clear.

“The annual dance was a dinner-jacket affair in those days. I was the golf club’s vice-captain that year. The captain was a bluff Yorkshireman called Bill Berry.

“I was having a meal with Bill and his wife and my wife. Somebody had introduced four rather scruffy young men into the dance. They were leather-jacketed and all the rest.

“We saw them across the room and Bill said to me ‘I think we should ask them to leave. What do you think?’

“I said ‘Yes, I think maybe we should.’ I didn’t recognise them and neither did Bill. They were just coming into their fame.

“Bill went across to have a word with them. They left without any ill-feeling. I suppose it is something to say you were involved in asking The Beatles to leave.”

Music promoter Andy Park saw the Beatles at the ABC that night, although he heard very little because of the fans’ screaming. He did hear about the Crown and Mitre incident though, soon after it happened.

“I was in the 101 Club on Botchergate a couple of hours afterwards and people were talking about it.

“At the time I had no idea that The Beatles were going to be so big or last so long. Nobody knew. We thought pop music was only going to last six months. You had to be there at shows like this or you’d miss it.”

Two days after leaving the Crown and Mitre the Beatles were at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London where they recorded the bulk of their first album, Please Please Me, in just 10 hours.

This album propelled them to the stardom which has never waned, 45 years on.

It seems the Beatles did not hold a grudge over their treatment in Carlisle. Nine months later they played the ABC again – and stayed at the Crown and Mitre again.

The band’s second and final Cumbrian date was Thursday November 21, 1963.

The Fab Four were topping the bill on this winter tour. She Loves You had swept all before it and I Want To Hold Your Hand was about to be released.

The Beatles were smuggled in to the ABC by the back door and between shows police dogs and handlers were on patrol to keep the crowds moving.

Thirty security guards were inside to stop the audience climbing on stage and invading the dressing rooms.

The band performed 10 songs, including From Me To You, All My Loving, She Loves You and their rousing show-closer, Twist And Shout. Little could be heard above their hysterical fans.

The Beatles left Carlisle for good the following morning, en route to the Globe at Stockton-on-Tees. It was a big day for them, and for the rest of the world.

Their second album, With the Beatles, was released. And President Kennedy was assassinated.

But the Beatles had already lived through an encounter with Carlisle Golf Club – and nothing would stop them now.

Legends On Tour: The Pop Package Tours Of The 1960s by Martin Creasy relives the days when four or five chart acts would follow each other on to the stage of humble cinemas and small concert venues around Britain.

The book details all the Beatles’ UK tours. Other tours include a 1967 package that put together the Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, Engelbert Humperdinck and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

“The fans remember just how innocent it all was,” says Creasy. “If you got there early enough you might even get to chat with your favourite star before the show. And the outlay for all this – just a few shillings.”

Legends On Tour is published by The History Press.

The Beatles never played in Cumbria again. But Paul McCartney retained an affection for the area. In 2001 he proposed to Heather Mills at Ullswater’s Sharrow Bay Hotel. And the following year McCartney revealed that he likes to shop in Carlisle – because he is rarely recognised in the city

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