Beatles live onstage in Stockton, Nov 22, 1963: George Harrison at the microphone on the night Kennedy was shot
❚ WHERE? LIVE, ONSTAGE IN STOCKTON-ON-TEES. Count the simple Vox amps behind the band and note how one is perched on a chair! This picture was taken on Friday Nov 22 1963 at the 2,400-seat Globe theatre when the Beatles played the art-deco venue on their first nationwide tour. The band’s half-hour set during twice-nightly performances at 6.15 and 8.30 was supported by seven other acts with tickets priced from 6 shillings to 10s 6d, when a workman’s weekly wage might be £7.
During the first house in Stockton, England, the assassin’s bullets killed John Kennedy in Dallas, USA. At 43 he was the youngest man elected to the US Presidency and during the cold war era as the Soviet Union threatened world peace the hopes of the West rested on his shoulders. In Britain TV programmes were interrupted to break the dramatic news just after 7pm.
In those days we’d seen nothing as electrifying as the Beatles and while their audience at the 18th date on their first serious tour were discovering the power of The Scream, these fans remained respectfully seated throughout the show. Even so, personal accounts say the second house in Stockton was distinctly more subdued. Shocked by the news about JFK, Lynda Richardson, a fan travelling back to Redcar by coach, said: “No one spoke a word all the way home.”
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The Globe, Stockton, Nov 22, 1963: Beatles fans learning to scream. (Picture, Evening Gazette)
The Globe, Stockton, Nov 22, 1963: Beatles fans firmly seated. (Picture, Evening Gazette)
Pre-Beatles hysteria: massive queues along Stockton High Street when Tommy Steele played the Globe in 1957
The Globe, Stockton, today: awaiting its £8m restoration
Also on this day the Fab Four’s second album With The Beatles was released on Parlophone eight months after their chart-topping debut LP and it immediately broke sales records. Lennon’s raw vocals barked fresh life and sexual danger into the Motown covers Please Mr Postman, Money and You Really Got a Hold on Me. With its eight original compositions, this was the album that moved William Mann, classical music critic of The Times, to write that Lennon and McCartney were “the outstanding English composers of 1963”.
Earlier in the year three Beatles singles had gone to No 2 and to No 1 twice in the UK chart and now another with advance sales of a million copies – I Want To Hold Your Hand – was racing up the chart to become the Christmas No 1.
This November, too, the Daily Mirror coined the word Beatlemania to describe the tour’s first gig, a phenomenon really triggered with the release of the single She Loves You in August. During the tour, The Beatles had also stopped the Royal Variety Performance – playing four numbers and watched by half the nation in a TV show of recorded highlights – when John Lennon famously quipped: “Will those in the cheaper seats clap your hands. The rest of you can just rattle your jewellery.” The group guest-starred on BBC TV’s flagship Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, while their own Beatles’ Christmas Show was to run at London’s Astoria Finsbury Park for 30 performances (100,000 seats) featuring the Fab Four in comic “skits” with six pop acts in support including Cilla. By this stage the Fabs could go nowhere without a personal police escort. [See, How does a Beatle live? – at Shapersofthe80s]
The Globe, Stockton, 2009: a glorious interior in art deco style
Today the Globe in Stockton, a small market town in County Durham, is a disused shell which is Grade II-listed. Built in 1935, its facade is enlivened with fluted plaster and the interior retains riotously colourful art deco features typical of the period. As a “super-theatre” the Globe hosted opera, ballet and an annual pantomime, together with touring variety, musicals, and pop concerts by Tommy Steele, the Rolling Stones, Searchers, Seekers, Billy J Kramer, Herman’s Hermits, Animals and Swinging Blue Jeans. It closed as a theatre in 1975, eked out the role of bingo hall until 1996 and then closed its doors.
The Theatres Trust describes the Globe as “an excellent example of its kind” and it is one of 68 buildings on its At-risk register. In 2009, Stockton-based Jomast Developments Ltd announced plans to restore the Globe and recruited theatre expert David Wilmore to the task. He called the Globe “a real Sleeping Beauty”. Finally last month Jomast reported that the Heritage Lottery Fund has earmarked £4m towards an £8m project to transform the Globe into a live entertainment venue for music, comedy and other events, with a capacity of 2,500 and the potential to create 64 jobs. The new venue is likely to open in 2016.
THE DAY AMERICA’S CAMELOT FELL
❏ View The Beatles on CBS Morning News with Mike Wallace on November 22, 1963 (despite the erroneous date on the video), the day JFK was shot … In old-school TV style Alexander Kendrick reports grudgingly on Britain’s energetic threat to The American Way under the title, The Beatles, New Phenomena In Britain. Asked about the band’s future Paul McCartney says: “We could have quite a run.”
ANOTHER LEGEND IN THE MAKING
➢ At the Northern Echo in 1963 its young editor was Harold Evans, who went on to build the international reputation of The Sunday Times. On Nov 22, after putting the Echo to bed, he was being driven to Stockton for the annual press ball when news of JFK’s assassination came over the car radio. He immediately returned to his Darlington office and produced an entirely new paper. Evans decided The Beatles were worth a few downpage column inches squeezed into the Teesside edition only.
➢ Ringo Starr’s lost Beatles photo album, Nov 2013 – “All anyone could talk about when we came to America was our hair. The boots were famous. The jackets were famous. The pop songs were famous, but they came in about third. The hair was first.”
➢ Fab finds: Never-before-seen Beatles photos, Nov 2013
➢ Five wild JFK conspiracy theories still troubling Oliver Stone