Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth

Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth
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25 November 2012

The Beatles, Bournemouth: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

August 1963: The Beatles on the balcony at the Palace Court Hotel, Bournemouth. 
Photo by Harry Taylor ©  Dave Robinson

Incredible as it may seem for a small resort town on the south coast, The Beatles played 18 gigs – two shows a night – in Bournemouth in just 14 months.
Kicking off with a six-day summer season run at the Gaumont cinema in August 1963 as She Loves You went to number one; they returned on 16 November 1963 at the much bigger Winter Gardens; and twice more at the Gaumont in 1964 – on 2 August and 30 October.
What’s more, at least one photographer was there to record them at every step.
Harry Taylor was among the first paparazzi.
A larger than life figure, Flash Harry as he was affectionately known to the Bournemouth social scene by the early 1960s, had moved from his native London to the south coast of England during World War Two and built landing craft in a factory on Poole Harbour. After the War he started to promote his photographic abilities towards the local press, finding a ready home at the weekly Bournemouth Times.
During their first stay in Bournemouth, on 23 August 1963, The Beatles’ third single She Loves You was released. Written earlier that year in Newcastle while on tour with Roy Orbison, the song remains the biggest selling Beatles single in Britain today. Having gone into the charts at number one, it stayed there for 31 consecutive weeks – and charted again the following April – returning to number one the week The Beatles arrived back in Bournemouth to play the Winter Gardens in November. 
But during the landmark week in Bournemouth in August 1963, not only did The Beatles land their biggest hit to date, they also sowed the seeds from which would spring the phenomenon of Beatlemania.
While staying at the Palace Court Hotel, the first of the band’s most iconic photo shoots took place. Easily ranking along Peter Blake’s Sgt Pepper sessions and Iain Macmillan’s cover shot for Abbey Road, the half-shadow photos by the band’s then official photographer Robert Freeman number among the most instantly recognisable symbols of the Swinging Sixties.
Freeman was paid £75 – three times the normal rate.
Also at the Palace Court during that week George Harrison wrote Don’t Bother Me, his first song for The Beatles, holed up in his hotel room suffering a heavy cold.
Having left Bournemouth, happily swapping their rock ‘n’ roll credentials for the trappings of international stardom The Beatles embarked upon the path that was to bring them far more then they could ever have dreamed of.
By the time they came back to Bournemouth, to play the Winter Gardens in November, the die was well and truly cast.
The screaming audiences that night were beset by the demands of American television as reporter Alexander Kendrick directed camera crews that lead to the three major networks – CBS, NBC and ABC – showing footage of The Beatles live at the Winter Gardens. It was the first time America had seen The Beatles.
Having subsequently toured the States and watched the spark of Beatlemania turn into a raging fireball, nine months later The Beatles were major international stars and back in Bournemouth for a one-off show at the Gaumont in preparation for a European tour.
The two shows of 2 August 1964 were fairly typical of Beatles shows of that time. A couple of breaking acts were named as support and the compere would wind up the audience of expectant Beatlemaniacs so that by the time the boys hit the stage expectation was at fever pitch.
It was into this hotbed of old fashioned variety show tactics that one of the young support bands that night was thrown. The Kinks had a couple of failed singles behind them, but their third release – You Really Got Me – had started to make an impression on the charts. Billed to open the second half of the show, directly before The Beatles came on, Kinks singer Ray Davies has recounted how John and Paul, but particularly John, appeared backstage behind the Gaumont curtain to irritate the nervous upstarts, resplendent in their new stage gear of bright red riding jackets.
The Beatles’ final Bournemouth shows, in October 1964, were part of a UK tour that saw them fly the flag for the music of black America that had influenced the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney from the earliest days.
Principal support act Mary Wells became the first Motown act to perform in the UK and the first female singer to open for The Beatles. Red hot from her biggest hit, My Guy, Mary Wells was named as The Beatles’ favourite American singer. Ironically though she was in major dispute with Motown, affording her time to tour with The Beatles, but effectively ending her Motown career.
And that was the last Bournemouth was see of The Beatles as a performing band for although there was to be one more UK tour, in December 1965, before they quit playing live altogether the following year, they stuck to major cities only.
But the south coast continued to play its part in Beatles history.
In mid-1965 John’s aunt Mimi sold Mendips, her house in Menlove Avenue, Liverpool – just up the road from Penny Lane – and John spent £25,000 on 126 Panorama Road, a waterside bungalow at Sandbanks, between Bournemouth and Poole. John, his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian visited Mimi frequently at the house.
Lennon remained close to Mimi, phoning her every week and visiting as often as he could – being spotted by locals in either a Mini Cooper or, later, in his famous psychedelic Rolls Royce. He even visited during the hectic run up to the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 when he was photographed with Mimi and Julian close to the nearby Sandbanks chain ferry.
It was on one such visit, on 14 March 1969, just after Paul McCartney had married Linda Eastman, that John and Yoko announced they were to get married. John asked his chauffeur, Les Anthony, to drive to Southampton and ask if he and Yoko could marry at sea. Having been told that would not be possible they chartered a private jet to take them to Paris, but were unable arrange a wedding at short notice so opted for Gibraltar near Spain, as related in The Beatles’ final number one single, The Ballad Of John and Yoko.
And it was to Aunt Mimi in Poole, as well as to Cynthia in Liverpool and Yoko in New York, that the world reached out its hand in sympathy when John Lennon was murdered. Then, in 1992, Lennon’s two wives were seen together with their sons Julian and Sean at Poole Crematorium for Mimi’s funeral service – Paul, George and Ringo all sent wreaths.
:: The full versions of these and many other stories are included in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, along with more than 200 rare and previously unpublished photographs. Copies can be ordered at

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