Saturday, October 3, 2009

One After Nine O Nine O Nine - Memories From the Beatles Christmas Show

By Steve Taite

As a clever marketing gimmick the newly remastered and packaged Beatles catalog was released on 09-09-09. This should come as no surprise to anyone as from the early days the group was heavily marketed, often to the fab fours great displeasure. One needs only to look at the original EP boxed set of the Magical Mystery Tour, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack or the Let it Be box to see what I mean.

It was with similar thoughts in mind that Brian Epstein organized the infamous Beatles Christmas Shows. I was at one of these concerts in 1964 that I had the rare opportunity of seeing the Beatles live in concert. I put the emphasis on seeing as hearing their music wasn't actually part of the deal, but more about that later.

My first encounter with the Beatles was a year earlier in the summer of '63. I was a smallish eleven year old being shipped off the summer school in Hastings. Because of a freak accident caused by the fact that the driver of the double decker bus we were on misjudged the height of the bridge he tried to drive under, we made an unscheduled stop along the way. The roofless bus was forced to park outside a neighbourhood pub and us kids had no choice but to invade the adjacent record store.

"Have you heard the new Beatles single?" asked the cute blond eleven year old in pigtails standing beside me. "Of course I have, I think it's terrific" was the only answer I could come up with and proceeded to the cashiers to make my historic purchase of "She Loves You".

In December 1964 my mother surprised me with the news that she was crazy enough to agree to take me and my cousin Barbara to see JPGR at the Hammersmith Odeon. Now a word of explanation. For those of you envisioning a 2 1/2 hour rock concert with huge speakers, strobe lighting and hippies, let me put you straight. Rock music hadn't been invented yet, neither had the venues to house it and the Beatles cute haircuts were the trend. The Hammersmith Odeon was a cinema and what the audience got was a variety show of the kind popular at the time including pantomime, quaint scenery and stupid sketches. The show was compered by Top of the Pop's Jimmy Savile.

Jimmy began by introducing, one by one all the acts due to perform. Freddy and the Dreamers walked on, the crowd screamed "we want the Beatles", then the Yardbirds with the young Eric Clapton, more screams from the audience with shouting matches between hysterical Paul and John fans. When I say fans you must understand that the majority of the audience was made up of 13 year old girls, and of course all of these screamers were accompanied by their screaming mothers.

When Jummy Savile had finished introducing the rest of the acts it was time. "And last but not least John, Paul, George and Ringo - the Beatles. Nothing happened. Again he announced them, again nothing. Now we are talking about hysterical twelve and thirteen year olds ready to die for a glimpse of their heroes. The situation could easily turn into a bloodbath. Then from above the stage a Beatles filled cage slowly descended and all hell broke loose. My hearing has never been the same.

And so the evening continued. After the Yardbirds played their set the Beatles returned, dressed as Antarctic explorers, in a sketch about searching for the Abominable Snowman. The only one on stage who had any acting ability was of course Ringo, so it was him that the snowman chased after accompanied by yet more hysterical screams fom the audience.

After a few more acts and a lot of corny jokes, the Beatles finally returned to the stage and actually got to do what they were good at, playing music. Their entire set comprised of a mere eleven songs - thirty minutes tops. The opened with Twist and Shout, then I'm a Loser, Baby's in Black, Everybody's Trying to be my Baby, Can't Buy me Love, Honey Don't, I Feel Fine, She's a Woman, A Hard Day's Night, Rock and Roll Music and finally Long Tall Sally. Not the best selection and unfortunately no She Loves You.

I was one of the only boys in the audience, and as such was under the illusion that I had actually come to hear some music, unfortunately the deafening screams surrounding me wouldn't Let it Be.

Steve Taite - The Taite Gallery Blog:

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