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Sunday, 4 March 2012

The final UK Tour December 1965

The Beatles on tour: Glasgow premiere
When I first started this blog, I was deep into my research of three early Beatles tours, The Helen Shapiro Tour, The Roy Orbison Tour and The Montez/Roe Tour. The reason for my research was that I had committed myself to write articles on those tours for the Norwegian Beatles fanzine, "Norwegian Wood". Since then, the fanzine has covered more tours, written by others.
For the new issue of "Norwegian Wood", I was asked to write about the final UK tour, which happened in December 1965, and so I set about researching again. Last year, Martin Creasy published his wonderful book "Beatlemania! The Real Story of The Beatles UK Tours 1963-1965". Martin has done a great job in finding old newspaper articles and interviewing the people who participated in each tour, and I was going to use his book as my main source for the article I was writing. However, my copy of his book was at home, and the main parts of my article was written away from home, so instead of following my initial thought, I ended piecing together the story of the tour from whatever I found on the internet. When I finally got round to reading his chapter on the tour, I was very much enlightened about the goings on, but I still ended up just quoting a little bit from the book and relaying a few facts. For my article (available only in Norwegian, and only in writing) I mainly used driver Alf Bicknell's diary postings and a description of two young girls eagerly waiting for the Beatles to appear on stage in Newcastle from Carolyn Lee Mitchell's book "All Our Loving". The theme of the article became the tour as experienced by Alf, the tour guide. Having gathered together as many photos from the tour as I could find on the internet, I thought I would share it with you, so here it is.

The tour lasted 10 days, and saw The Beatles perform in nine venues across eight cities. Throughout they played a set comprising 11 songs: I Feel Fine, She's A Woman, If I Needed Someone, Act Naturally, Nowhere Man, Baby's In Black, Help!, We Can Work It Out, Yesterday, Day Tripper and I'm Down. Paul McCartney performed "Yesterday" solo on an electric organ, and it was also used by John on "We Can Work It Out" and "I'm Down".

3 December 1965 - Glasgow - Scotland - Odeon
4 December 1965 - Newcastle - England - Newcastle City Hall
5 December 1965 - Liverpool - Liverpool Empire Theatre
7 December 1965 - Manchester - Manchester Apollo
8 December 1965 - Sheffield - Sheffield City Hall
9 December 1965 - Birmingham - Odeon
10 December 1965 - London - Hammersmith Odeon
11 December 1965 - Finsbury Park - Astoria
12 December 1965 - Cardiff - Wales - Capitol Centre

In November, the Beatles rehearsed for the tour at the Donmar rehearsal theatre in London, and were photographed there November 20th by Robert Whitaker, who was the group's hired photographer at the time (1964-66). This was the second time they made use of this rehearsal stage in Central London, they had previously rehearsed here on October 12th 1963 for their appearance on "Sunday Night at the London Palladium".

Rehearsals at the Donmar theatre. Photo: Robert Whitaker.

Rehearsals at the Donmar theatre. Photo: Robert Whitaker
You can find more photos from the rehearsals this day over at Getty images.

On December 1st, The Beatles gathered together in the flat of Mal Evans to rehearse and put together a set list.

Mal's flat

Mal's flat
 The tour programme's front page was a drawing from the new US TV cartoon series, very exotic to UK fans.
a signed copy
The 16 pages 27cm x 18cm programme had a 4 page Beatles biography, an article by Beatles Monthly Book editor Johnny Dean, some ads and profiles of the other artists and bands who were part of this package tour. Here's a couple more samples from the programme:

A poster, four times the size of the programme was folded in four and was enclosed.

Compere for this tour was up-and-coming showbiz personality Jerry Stevens. The other acts were:

The Moody Blues (with future Wings member Denny Laine, a NEMS act)
The Paramounts (Another NEMS act who later regrouped as Procol Harum)
The Marionettes (coloured pop-soul vocal group)
The Koobas (from Liverpool, aka The Kubas)
Beryl Marsden (18 year old singer from Liverpool with a big voice, no relation)
Steve Aldo (coloured singer, also from Liverpool)

The Beatles knew the Liverpool people from the old days, Beryl used to sing with The Undertakers from when she was just fourteen, and had to stay behind in Liverpool when the group left for Hamburg, because she was under age. She was the girl who The Beatles wanted to offer their composition "Love of The Loved" to, but Brian Epstein decided to give it to his new protege, Cilla Black. Marsden, in return, refused to be managed by Eppy.

Beryl Marsden

The Paramounts

The Koobas

The Marionettes

Steve Aldo

The Moody Blues

On December 2nd, the Beatles started the drive up to Scotland, when disaster struck. Mal Evans was driving the van with the equipment, and The Beatles followed behind in their famous Austin Princess, with Alf at the wheel. They were carrying two guitars, which were strapped to the back of the car.
As they travelled up the M1 motorway, a passing lorry signalled to The Beatles' chauffeur Alf Bicknell to pull over. Here's Alf: 

"I went back to this great big articulated vehicle and the driver said to me, 'I think you've dropped a banjo back down the road.' I couldn't believe it. So I went back to my car and Neil [Aspinall] and I just stood there looking, we both couldn't believe it. We just stood there, staring at the back of my car, noticing that the straps were broken. There were two guitars there, but now there was only one. I remember thinking, 'I can get a lift home,' I thought that was it. I said to Neil, 'You'd better tell them.' He said, 'No, you tell 'em.' So I went round to the car and said, 'I think we've lost a guitar.' In the darkness, a voice comes out, 'Well if you can find it, you'll get a bonus.' This was John. I was always frightened of John more than anyone else, so I said to him, 'Well, what's the bonus then?' He replied, 'You can have your job back!' 
So anyway, we got back in the car and we got to the end of this 12-mile stretch of motorway to turn round to come back. We are coming back on the other side in the fast lane, and I'm going along as slow as I can, and if anyone came, I had to move over to let them pass, and then go back out into the fast lane. But I couldn't see a thing, nothing. It was raining and it was dark. I told them, 'I want to go home now.' We got right to the other end where we started from and we started to come back, but there was nothing. The roads were clear as anything. Then, we started finding little bits of wood, and then a guitar string. We ended up with a little piece of the guitar each. Anyway, there was no more said about it, and I was quite pleased. But I was very sorry it happened, believe me."

The guitar in question was George Harrison's Gretsch "Country Genleman".
Alf in his heyday
About Alf Bicknell:
Alf was the Beatles' chauffeur from 1964 to 1966, when the group was at the height of its success. Dressed in a blue suit, crisp white shirt and tie, he first drove the group in an Austin Princess (registration SST 626) - at that time, he later said, it was one of only two cars in London to have blacked-out windows (the other belonged to Peter Sellers).

Later Bicknell drove the band in John Lennon's Royce-Royce Phantom V, which was kitted out with a television set. On occasions when any of the Beatles wished to be more discreet, the chauffeur would use a less conspicuous vehicle. When he started the job, Bicknell wore a peaked cap; but after only a few days Lennon snatched off the cap and threw it out of the window with the words, "You don't need that, Alf, you're one of us now." Bicknell grew his hair below the collar and began sporting dark glasses. "They didn't treat me as an employee," he recalled, "but as one of their mates."
Bicknell was in attendance when the Beatles met Bob Dylan, and when they encountered Elvis Presley in 1965 the chauffeur was pleasantly impressed when Elvis addressed him as "sir".

The first time he drove the band Bicknell had to collect them from a photo shoot at Emperor's Gate: "All of a sudden, Whoof! They all dive into the car and we're off," he recalled. "Every time I stopped at a traffic light I felt conscious of all the eyes peering in. Between sets of traffic lights, I'm getting faster and faster, and I pull up a bit quick outside this block of flats at one point and Bang! George, who's sitting on the occasional seat, hits his head on the partition. Let's just say he was upset. A few choice words were said. I thought, well, that's it - the shortest job that's ever happened to Alf." 
But there were no repercussions. Despite the fact that the group's car was constantly mobbed by fans, there was only one mishap - at the Finsbury Park Empire, when Bicknell inadvertently ran over a policeman's foot. His association with the group came to an end in 1966, when the Beatles decided that they no longer wanted to tour. Thereafter, when in London, they drove themselves - Ringo, according to Bicknell, was "a superb driver", but "I had to close my eyes with John".
After leaving the Beatles, Bicknell continued to work as a driver for the rich and famous, until he hurt his hand in a chainsaw accident in his garden, and had to retire. To fund his retirement, Alf began to sell off his memorabilia from the Beatles' days, and then he wrote his autobiography, "Baby You Can Drive My Car" in 1989, followed by a book and video package called "Alf Bicknell's Beatles Diary" in 1996. The accompanying DVD was the first Beatles-related DVD to appear, I believe. Alf was also a popular speaker at Beatles conventions until he collapsed and died in his own kitchen in 2004. Still, Alf lives on as a multimedia pioneer of sorts, an app from his diary appeared for the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch in 2011.

GLASGOW: December 3d, the "Rubber Soul" album was released in the UK, along with the group's new single, "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out". Two songs from the album and both sides of the single made their live debut tonight in Glasgow, but before the show there was a press conference and a photo session. Ringo was sporting his "Rubber Soul" jacket, as you can also see in the first picture of this blog entry. I've posted some of the photos from the Glasgow photo session in previous blog entries, but here they are again, with a few others.

John showed no respect for Paul's colourful tie at the press conference

In their dressing room at Odeon The Beatles also took the time to record a message for Radio Scotland, a new pirate station. This was the fourth time The Beatles played at the Odeon; the first had been during the Roy Orbison tour on 7 June 1963. They also performed at the city's Concert Hall later in the year. Due to bad weather Brian Epstein decided that The Beatles should stay in a hotel in the city centre, rather than the smaller one further out they had been booked to stay in. The was some concern that the location of the new hotel could have proved a security risk, but the group came to no harm.

Alf: "Well a change of direction this morning. Instead of going up to a quiet little hotel, just outside Glasgow, the bad weather made Brian change our hotel to one in Glasgow. Security was high, but that's to be expected I suppose. The boys gave a very good show and the fans went away with their ears ringing and very happy. John had a surprise visitor, it was his cousin Stanley, only noone knew him and we gave him a hard time trying to get in. People just don't realise how many borthers, sisters, and other long lost relative the boys have. They're always one at every show. There was a visit from one of those pirate radio boys tonight, which really pleased everybody. He made a tape recording with them all to open the new radio when it goes on the air. John, especially, was all for it, being free and all. The new single and long player went on sale today, as the fans are already aware I'm sure. Well it's snowing outside and we are off to Newcastle tomorrow, so I'd better get to bed and get some rest." 

The Beatles had a tough drive through snow to get to their two concerts at the City Hall in Newcastle. It was the fourth and final occasion they visited the venue. Over to Alf:
"Another good show again tonight. The boys are going out of their way to make sure that this tour is a good one. Everyone is having a grand time despite all the hard work. We had an early start this morning because of the snow, it was falling fast as we woke and continued for the journey down to Newcastle. Tomorrow is very important for the boys because it is back to Liverpool and Brian wants it all to go very well. There are going to be lots of special people there to watch the boys back in their own home town." Also, we have an eye witness report from a fan, courtesy of Carolyn Lee Mitchell's book, "All Our Loving": Towards the end of the year the Beatles were back in Britian, continuing their exhausting schedule of concerts. On 04 December they appeared at the Newcastle City Hall where prior to the performance 7,000 fans had virtually fought to get tickets. In the bedlam and mayhem one girl nearly lost all her clothes and ended up wrapped in a blanket. One hundren and twenty fans had to be given first aid treatment and seven were hospitalized.

Barbara was at that concert with her friend Linda. The two of them were another of the small but growing group of fans who really wanted to enjoy the music without all of the screaming. But that was eaiser said than done: 
When Linda and I got into the City Hall we could literally feel the incredible electricity that was in the air. It was as though we were in the middle of a of a silent thunderstorm. We found our seats in the second row from teh back and tried to settle ourselves down. We were so nervous excited and happy. We felt like we'd had a drink too many. The compere, Jerry Stevens, introduced the supporting acts which included the Moody Blues. They and the other acts were good, but the last band before the Beatles, called the Marionettes Act 1, seemed to go on and on. We thought they'd never end, but that's because we knew The Beatles were on next and everyone was getting impatient. 
Comperes can be very aggravating and Jerry Stevens was no exception as he happily teased the audience. Behind him they were setting up the equipment, and Mal Evans was putting up the drum kit. As he turned the bass drum it displayed the words "The Beatles" and Jerry Stevens just couldn't make himself heard any more because of the noise that went up. I didn't scream because I'd already decided that I wouldn't scream at all but I gave a pretty big sigh anyway. I mean, it really was like a dream for me as I'd never seen the Beatles live before and I was sure I'd wake up.
Then I saw Mal Evans carry on Paul's Hofner. I said to Linda"It's Paul's guitar," like Mal had just brought on Paul himself. Then I knew I wasn't dreaming. You've got to realize I was just 14 at the time and seeing Paul's guitar in itself was just fantastic! 
So, like I said, Linda and I had decided we wouldn't scream because we figured only kids scream. Then we saw John's guitar brought on and some of George's equipment and we sat there pinching each other like mad and giggling But when the four of them actually came on it was just the greatest feeling I'd ever had. I know it sounds daft now but at that time The Beatles were so much a part of my life - it was like seeing, I don't know, four long-lost brothers, I suppose. They seemed so distant with all those spotlights and all those hundreds of screaming girls. It made The Beatles even more untouchable and unreachable but oh, were they lovable! 
Linda was saying to me, "I dare you to scream. Go on, I dare you."
"Never," I said, and then suddenly I was screaming along with all the others. It was like I had to get rid of all the anxiety that was inside me, building up all the time. I didn't know how else to express myself. So I screamed.

Tuning up at the Empire, Liverpool

The Beatles' final two live concerts in Liverpool took place on this evening at the city's Empire Theatre. The 2,550-seat venue could have sold out many times over; more than 40,000 applications were made for tickets, leaving many fans disappointed. However, none could have known that it would be The Beatles' last appearance in the city. It was the sixth occasion that the group had visited the venue. The group invited many friends and relatives to see their performance. During the second show Paul McCartney joined The Koobas, one of the support acts, onstage to play drums during their version of Dizzy Miss Lizzy.

Alf: "A night to remember! Here's me joking how many relatives the boys seem to have, and when they get to Liverpool they really do seem to have those many. George's mum and dad were there, as was Pattie, lovely people. There were lots of old friends of the boys, as well, as John had been busy giving tickets away all over the place. I've got a bit of a rest tomorrow, because everyone is staying here so that the boys can go home for a visit. Mind you I do need a rest after that journey down from Newcastle. That was bad!"

Pattie with George's parents
"Save the Cavern Club!" fans
Two fans were handing out leaflets all about a "Save the Cavern Club" campaign outside the Empire. Paul had them brought in to explain. It appeared that the club had fallen on hard times. The Merseybeat era was over, and the discoteques had started to flourish. Live music entertainment did not bring in audiences as much as earlier. The city council had also demanded that the club owner Ray McFall should have new plumbing and toilets fitted, and he didn't have the money to do it. The Beatles lent their support to the club in a press conference before their concert, but offered no money. The club eventually closed, but reopened again under new management, and McCartney paid the club a revisit in 1968.

The next day was a day off in Liverpool, visiting friends and family, a slow day for Alf: "Quite, quiet today, just a bit of running around, dropping the boys off at various places and picking them up. Met some nice people. We're off to Manchester in the morning, shouldn't be any bother, everything's going very well."

Alf: "Just my luck! Just when all was going well, fog! I had no problem getting out of Liverpool and we had a good trip over to Manchester, but when we got there the whole place was covered in a blanket of really bad fog. We drove through Manchester at a crawl, which is very bad for the boys because of the fans, but no-one could see us because of the fog! It must have taken us a good four hours, ridiculously slow. When we arrived at the Ardwick the boys should have already been on the stage. Still they made it, which is better late than never. It was a bit of a hurry up though. The boys had a visit from Mr. Shenson, the film producer, to talk about their next film. Don't know what kind of thing it's giong to be but they all seemed quite excited. Ritchie really seems to enjoy the filming."

Gas masks
The Beatles may have experienced fog before, but not like this. Seems they were also interviewed back stage by a female radio reporter.

Ringo is still favouring his "Rubber Soul" jacket.

A piano was standing on it's side in the wings of the stage, and Paul posed beside it. The Beatles Monthly Book cover this concert by sending their regular photographer Leslie Bryce, which is why we have so many photos from this day.

"A smashing day in Sheffield today. A really good show by the boys and I got a quick look around before the show. There are lots of tales about the North, but I really like seeing how people enjoy their daily lives. They are a nice lot up here The boys played at the Gaumont Cinema here and we finished the night with a really good dinner in the hotel after. It was a bit cramped around the table as there was so many of us, what with the Moody Blues as well. They are a good bunch that lot and they get on well with the boys. Had a few problems at one of the doors with a few fans who wouldn't take no for an answer. They wanted to see the boys of course, but some of them get a bit too frantic. A good day anyway." Some photos from that dinner with the Moodies, Alf is smoking away at the back:

Hometown of the Moody Blues. Alf: "Drove down to Birmingham in torrential rain. The heavens just opened up on us. Still we managed to get there in on piece. Birmingham is a nightmare to get around, it's so big and expanding all the time. I think it was a Sunday the last time we were here. Didn't seem much different as I didn't get a chance to get out anyway. The boys are really giving their all on this tour, both on the stage for the fans and back stage! They are hell bent on having a good time. And why not! The police were good to us again, as in fact they have been for most of the time. It usually costs a few autographs, not always by the boys I might add, but it helps to keep people happy. Brian likes to see that everyone, espeically the boys, is kept happy. I just wish he's smile a bit more himself. He takes so much on does that man. It's back down to London tomorrow, where Brian feels better and more at home and in control."


Alf: "Back home with Jean and Mark. So glad to be back! It's good to be in my own bed agan. I seem to be able to relax better at home. Anyway the boys did the Hammersmith Odeon to a fantastic crowd. I think the Londoners have really taken the boys into their hearts, as if they came from her. All the press were out again to make a big show for the papers. Good for publicity, Brian says. That is as long as John doesn't tell them what he really thinks." Also on this day, the New Musical Express announced the results of its annual Readers Poll. The Beatles were voted Best British Group and Best World Group, while John Lennon was voted British Vocal Personality.

George Harrison: "This is one of the most incredible shows we've done. Not just because of the audience, but because they're Londoners. This is the funny thing. It's always been the other way round - fantastic in the North but just that little bit cool in London. It's incredible. It seems like the Beatlemania thing is happening all over again." Alf agrees: "Good old Finsbury Park gave the boys a tremendous reception. I suppose it was because it will be their last show in London this year, until after their American tour next year. We had a good night back stage, celebrating. Again! Tomorrow is in fact the last show, but it's up in Cardiff and the boys don't have so many places to visit up there or so many faces around, so they made the best of it here tonight. Best of all was that I was able to come back home again. So it's up to Wales in the morning, better get some sleep"

Rehearsals at the Donmar theatre

2,500 fans saw each concert. Between their two sets The Beatles ate sausages and mashed potato in their dressing room backstage, and watched a Western on television. During the second show a male fan appeared on stage and attempted to grab Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He was quickly bundled away by security staff and thrown out of the venue. After the concert the group piled into their black limousine to drive back to London to attend a Christmas party at the Scotch Of St James nightclub.
Alf finished his diary entry earlier in the day: "Not a bad journey up with the boys, following Mal, who left eariler with all the equipment. I dont' know what is going to happen tonight, only Ritchie wants to come straight back after the show because he wants to go to the big Christmas party at Scotch of St. James's. Anyway this is it, the last show of the year. After this, when all the equipment and stuff is back, I should have a little time for the family over Christmas. Brian has promised us all a nice bonus. We've all nearly had a grand time, hard work, but smashing stuff. Anycase the boys are due to go on soon so I'd better sign off for now."

 Another, differently cropped version of the same photo reveals the fourth Beatle in Cardiff:

Although fairly well documented in accounts from the tour and photos, nothing circulates from the tour in the form of audio or video. In Creasy's book, two of the concerts are described, one of which even brings details about what The Beatles were saying to the audience between songs. By all accounts, these details must have come from written reports from the day. Unless a journalist recorded a concert in order to transcribe it later. For bootleg collectors, finding a tape of a concert from this tour is almost akin to discovering the whereabouts of the holy grail. We all want to hear how "We Can Work It Out" sounded live, these were the only concerts where it was performed. We want to hear Paul doing "Yesterday" solo, while playing organ, on later tours it was performed arranged for the band. So if you were there and recorded something, by all means, let us know!


Sergio Taraddei said...

It's possible that no recording tape has surfaced from this tour?
Maybe some private collector have it.

Beatlesblogger said...

Great post Roger. A lot of work has gone into it and it was really interesting. Thanks.

pt1982 said...

is there´s any video or audio from this shows on Youtube or anyplace over the internet?

wogew said...

There seems to have appeared an 8mm amateur film from one of the Hammersmith concerts recently. Look at a screen capture posted over at "The Beatles on DVD".

georgefromhenley said...

Hi - I have written my story of the tour for "A Ticket to Write" - a German fanzine.
I`d like to add that John played "We can work it out" and "I`m down" on organ.
I have also researched the audience capacity of the dates:

DAte Venue City 1. Show 2. Show Capacity
3. Dezember 1965 Odeon Cinema Glasgow (Schottland) 18:15 20:45 2.784
4. Dezember 1965 City Hall Newcastle-upon-Tyne 18:30 20:45 3.500
5. Dezember 1965 Empire Theatre Liverpool 17:40 20:00 2.550
7. Dezember 1965 ABC Cinema Manchester 18:30 20:45 2.693
8. Dezember 1965 Gaumont Cinema Sheffield 18:15 20:50 2.300
9. Dezember 1965 Odeon Cinema Birmingham 18:45 21:15 2.439
10. Dezember 1965 Odeon Cinema London, Hammersmith 18:45 21:00 3.487
11. Dezember 1965 Astoria Cinema London, Finsbury Park 18:40 21:10 3.040
12. Dezember 1965 Capitol Cinema Cardiff (Wales) 17:30 20:00 2.800

Thorsten Knublauch

Unknown said...

Great post, can you tell me what the hotel was called, that featured at Sheffield, please?

Unknown said...

I was at the finsbury park Astoria Christmas Show on 11th December 1965 which was to become their last london show if you dont count the rooftop one in Saville Row.

My Abiding memory of the concert is that the second half of the show which was to feature The Beatles was about to start the lights dimmed and the compere came out onto the apron of the stage in front of the closed velvet curtains and began to build up the already electric atmosphere by standing in the various positions holding an air guitar to enormous screams from the fans of each Beatle eventually he announced ladies and gentleman The Beatles and the beginings of Day Tripper the Number 1 record of the day was heard from behind the still closed curtains the screams were deafening but as the curtains opened it revealed the Moody Blues they laughed and handed the guitars to the laughing Beatles who entered the stage from the wings and then we were off great gag and a great show

Antonio G. Pereira said...

Very informative piece. Well done!

Rich said...

Great piece on a lesser known tour. My issue is the setlist opener. On John's Rickenbacker 325 he still has the setlist from this tour taped to it. The first song is missing some of the title, but there are three obvious letters: ZZY. As in Dizzy Miss Lizzy which would have been a great opener. For some reason people have it as I Feel Fine. Is there any review of any of these shows that indicates what the opener was? Based on his guitar (and the fact that Beatles shows were usually 12 songs - without Dizzy they are at 11) I am inclined to think Dizzy Miss Lizzy was the opener. Any proof besides the guitar?