Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth

Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth
Click on the cover for information about the book. Available to order now.

2 October 2014

Review: The Beatles, Gaumont Theatre, 2 August 1964

Just in case anyone thought the 'build them up, knock 'em down' trajectory was anything new as far as Her Majesty's press is concerned, Stan Sowden's review of The Beatles' return to Bournemouth for a one-off bank holiday show on 2 August 1964 should make interesting reading.

Stan was a peculiar character, someone I got to know towards the end of his life. He was properly old school, a showbiz reporter through and through, always ready with a take to spin and something of a legend if truth be told - if only for being one of the few newspapermen anyone has seen carried into a restaurant for a free meal!

Anyway, in line with the rest of the media Stan had been charmed by The Beatles the previous summer and swept up in the hype and fuss of Beatlemania that followed their Winter Gardens visit in November. By the time the summer of '64 rolled around, in keeping with the rest of the British press, the man at the Evening Echo was straining to see the cracks start to form.

Here's what he made of the Gaumont show ...

Last night the screaming was still there, but it was not so loud, one could hear the show and there was a higher proportion of people who went to listen to The Beatles rather than to scream at them.
Apart from a few children who tried to rush the stage, there was little trouble during the actual performances themselves.
With fantastic tours of America and Australia behind them, as well as their first film, The Beatles themselves don't appear to have changed at all, thank goodness, and there is still that drive and vitality that makes them the most popular entertainers in the world.  
The Hearts - they dropped the Purple from their title when the phrase began to have a sinister ring - got the show off to a better-than-average start, their lead guitarist being brilliant. Adrienne Poster provided the touch of glamour, and Mike Berry and the Innocents took us up to the interval. Now that he has stepped out of Buddy Holly's Shadow, Mike gets better and better each time I see him.
The Kinks provided what could be called an atmosphere-raisinf opening for the second half.
Stan Sowden, Evening Echo, 3 August 1964

24 July 2014

John, Mimi and family and Sandbanks

I stumbled on the excellent Tumblr page CynthiaLennonLove recently and found a post dedicated to John and Mimi at Sandbanks, complete with photos of various family members.

The text recounts the story told in the book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, of John and Cynthia taking Mimi house hunting for a property by the sea after the premiere of Help! They settled on a bungalow called Harbour's Edge, at 126 Panorama Road, Sandbanks, which John bought for £65,000. Mimi moved in during October 1965 after which John and Cynthia and baby Julian became fairly regular visitors, particularly in the summer of 1966, as 
seen in these photos.
The first shot (above) shows Mimi sat outside at Harbour's Edge. Pictured right is Cynthia on a family visit with John's aunt Harriet and halfsister Jacqui Dykins (taken from Julia Baird's book John Lennon My Brother) and below that from the same book is a snap of John relaxing with his cousin.

The story goes that John called Harbour's Edge "The most beautiful place I know" and loved visiting because people would leave him alone.
Cynthia recalled one trip to the seaside at Sandbanks where they frolicked on the beach, built sandcastles, swam and enjoyed a picnic with Julian.

Much later Mimi remembered one instance when a photographer tried to snap John and the family on the beach. She was horrified but her nephew must have been in a forgiving mood, telling her not to worry and that he hoped whoever tipped off Fleet Street's finest had 
managed to make a couple of bob!

John also managed a visit with Julian in April 1967, in the run-up to the release of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on 1 June.
On that occasion he and Mimi were photographed with Julian by the Sandbanks Ferry. This image of Julian appears in Andrew Solt's book Imagine.

Mimi lived at Harbour's Edge until her death in 1991, at which point John's widow Yoko sold it. Other than a few squatters and some rave parties the house remained empty until it was demolished in 1994 to make way for two luxury homes. Sandbanks now boasts the fourth most expensive land prices in the world behind Belgravia, Upper Manhattan and Moscow, but ahead of Tokyo and Paris.

Read the full post here. Former milkman Tony O'Hara shared more memories of Mimi at Harbour's Edge and an account of what Sandbanks was like in the 1960s and 1970s, in this article from Dorset Life

24 June 2014

Kinks' drummer Mick Avory on Beatles 'row'

Mick Avory in action with the Kast Off Kinks

Thanks to a lengthy and somewhat bitter account in Ray Davies' otherwise excellent autobiography X-Ray there has always been an air of mystery surrounding The Kinks' appearance with The Beatles at Bournemouth Gaumont on bank holiday Sunday 2 August 1964.
Scheduled to open the second half of the show, playing immediately before The Beatles, according to Ray as the band tuned up behind the curtain he and John Lennon exchanged unpleasantries as the fans screamed for The Beatles. Just as the curtain raised Ray Davies changed the set list and The Kinks opened with their new single, You Really Got Me, ahead of its release on Tuesday.
The fans' screams turned to 'We want The Kinks' and apparently to avoid a repeat performance in the second house, the irked Fab Four insisted The Kinks be moved to a close the first half of the show.
There were no other eye witness accounts to support or contest Ray Davies' account. Fans that were present recall The Kinks making an impression on the crowd, but not to the extent that they 'converted' Beatles fans to scream for them over their mop topped idols.
Indeed, Kinks drummer Mick Avory has no recollection at all of anything untoward before their set.
In a recent email he told me: "I remember us going on before The Beatles and had a great reception from the crowd, with Paul McCartney coming up to us when we came off saying: 'You didn't have to warm them up that much!'."
:: Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth is available from Natula Publications.

26 May 2014

Beatles out and about in Bournemouth

Of all the photos taken of The Beatles in Bournemouth and published in Beatles Monthly, this is among the most intriguing.
It's not easy to pinpoint the location, but the chain link fence and wooden posts suggest it is somewhere on the cliffs overlooking the sea to the east or west of the town centre. The Palace Court Hotel, where The Beatles were billeted for their six-day summer season next door at the Gaumont on Westover Road in August 1963 is just a short walk from East Overcliff Drive, past the Russell-Cotes Museum, behind the Royal Bath Hotel.
But would The Beatles have been able to walk out of the Palace Court and up the hill to the East Cliff without being pursued by fans? Probably not, although there are photos of Paul signing autographs in the street that week, so maybe they did manage to stretch their legs.
More likely is they took a short drive along the cliff top road, stopped near the deck chair stand and posed for the photo.
The accompanying feature in Beatles Monthly doesn't offer any explanation, nor does it explain where Ringo is or who's leaning on Paul's deckchair. It's a bit of a stab in the dark, but could it be Paul's brother Mike? Their dad Jim is thought to have been with The Beatles in Bournemouth. It could also be Michael Cox, possibly a relative of Maureen, Ringo's girlfriend, and introduced to Swedish radio interviewer Klas Burling that week.
Perhaps you know...? If so, please don't hesitate to shine a light.
Photo © Beatles Book Photo Library 2011

6 April 2014

George writing Don't Bother Me in Bournemouth

This tape recording of George Harrison composing his first song for The Beatles was one of the most popular entries on this blog when first posted a couple of years ago.
The earlier clip has long since been withdrawn but now it's back!
Confined to his room at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth during their week-long summer season at the Odeon next door from 19 to 24 August 1963, George coughs and splutters his way through the makings of what would become Don't Bother Me, his first Beatles song and featured on the With the Beatles album, the cover of which was photographed downstairs in the Palace Court restaurant that same week.
The tape was made by Beatles' driver Alf Bicknell on the reel-to-reel recorder given to him by John Lennon and surfaces from time to time as a bootleg.
Bill Harry, founder-editor of the Merseybeat newspaper, who was with The Beatles in Bournemouth that week, says he had been on at George for ages to get him to write a song for the group. George, who later dismissed the song as 'not very good' in his autobiography, finally gave in and used it to pass the time after Brian Epstein had sent him to his room for the day to keep his fresh for the shows that night.
(In fact, George had previously co-written In Spite Of All The Danger with Paul McCartney in 1958 when they were in The Quarrymen and recorded it as a demo with Buddy Holly's That'll Be The Day.)
The 2009 stereo remastering  of Don't Bother Me can be seen and heard below.


5 March 2014

Table tennis serves up Beatles encounter

A lucky fan meets The Beatles backstage at the Gaumont 
Barely a day passes without a Beatles golden anniversary of some kind - 50 years ago today for instance they were on a train headed for Newton Abbot filming sequences for A Hard Day's Night.
They were exciting times to be young and in love with music. With the screams of the previous year's Beatles' shows still ringing in the rafters, Bournemouth's Winter Gardens played host to concerts by The Rolling Stones on 22 February 1964 and the Gaumont had Cliff and the Shadows to look forward to on 29 March.
Not to mention the return of The Beatles of course on 2 August and 30 October.
In a story that has come to light since the publication of Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, Geoff Purkiss from Parkstone remembers seeing The Beatles' final show in Bournemouth, at the Gaumont on Friday 30 October 1964. They shared the bill with R&B star Mary Wells - the first Motown artist to tour the UK - as well as The Remo Four, The Rustiks, Sounds Incorporated, Michael Haslam, Lorne Gibson (replacing Tommy Quickly) and compere Bob Bain. 
Geoff recalls: "It was the Mary Wells concert, and it was just by good luck that I was there. I
was playing table tennis with a rather pretty new member at St Peter's Church youth club in Parkstone and a friend asked for a quick word. He had bought two tickets for the Beatles with the intention of persuading a girl he rather liked to go with him. Unfortunately she declined his offer, so he just wanted to get rid of the tickets!
"I said: 'Hang on a minute,' and asked my table tennis partner if she fancied going to see The Beatles with me at the weekend. Of course she agreed! And we were together for the next five years or so... until she fell for someone in a uniform!"
The Beatles' set: Twist and ShoutMoneyCan't Buy Me Love, Things We said Today, I'm Happy Just To Dance With You, I Should Have Known Better, If I Fell, I Wanne Be Your Man, A Hard Day's Night, Long Tall Sally.
:: Visit to order copies of Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth at a special price.

16 February 2014

The Beatles' first time on American television, live from Bournemouth Winter Gardens

George, Paul and John interviewed by American television backstage at the Winter Gardens

It took Bournemouth a few days to recover from The Beatles' two shows at the Winter Gardens on Saturday 16 November 1963. The town was somewhat shellshocked by the fervour which greeted the group who just a few weeks before had played a six-night summer season at the Gaumont in Westover Road to enthusiastic crowds.
But since then their fourth single She Loves You - released the Friday of their Gaumont run - had stormed to the top of the charts and just two weeks before the Winter Gardens date the Daily Mirror had coined the phrase 'Beatlemania' to describe the public reaction. 
Bournemouth felt the full force of Beatlemania and American television crews were on hand to record it. Those reports, first on CBS then NBC, gave US TV audiences a blueprint for how to react to The Beatles so that by the time they arrived in the States on 7 February 1964 to play the Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago today (16 February) American teenagers were powerless to resist.
The sense that something big was in the offing runs right through the Bournemouth Times review of the Winter Gardens show. Published on 22 November 1963, reporter Tony Crawley had been in close company with the group during their Gaumont run in August, but bore witness to the new heights they were obviously scaling.
Here's what he had to say...

There was a bomb scare at the Winter Gardens minutes before the second Beatles show on Saturday night. A telephone call warned that a bomb had placed under the stage. Police searched and found nothing.
As it was, the place was full of bombs - the audience. The Beatles themselves were merely the time fuses. Very short fuses at that. As a game try was made to introduce the 'fab-tastic' wonders one by one, the audience literally exploded into a frenetic cascade of noise. One vast, seething, frightening mass of screams, shouts, sighs and sobs.
I've seen the incomparable Sammy Davis Jnr in cabaret and at the Palladium. I've seen the most emotional star of all, Judy Garland in a jam-packed palladiuym. I've seen Shirley Bassey rock the Winter Gardens thrice. And I've seen The Beatles on stage at least five times before.
But honestly, sincerely, I have never seen anything so frantic, frenzied or fantastic.
They had been immensely popular during their summer week's stay at the Gaumont. But their receptions were 50 times as great - 100 times as big as anything I've seen accorded to Cliff, Billy, Adam and the rest of the Beatle-squashed ilk. Never before has a pop audience in this "staid" town gone quite so mad, quite so wild.
Seats, for which they had queued over three nights, were forgotten. They stood and swayed and shouted and stamped and waved pictures, handkerchiefs, or just arms. They tore hair, wiped their eyes, fainted, were revived and continued.
The Beatles looked as shyly nonplussed as usual - just played and sang on. As usual they never did anything to incite anyone. No wiggles, no pelvis gyrations. They just played their music. Dahsing about in and out of the emotional throng of fans, three American TV film units captured the unbelievable scenes for America - and the world.
The Americans were racing against time and each other to be the first to feature Beatlemania in the States - by Monday or Tuesday! Then their news film will be sold to other countries, I was told.
The NBC feature was for the company's Panorama-like Huntley-Brinkley Report compered from two cities by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
William Sheehan of ABC interviewed the lads and then filmed them in action - with their fans' reaction - and Josh Darsa of CBS did likewise for a news programme.
"It's the sort of story we could hold on to for a week or more," he said. "But now the other networks are here, we'll have to rush it home pronto."
Also covering the event, and accompanying The Beatles to the Branksome Towers Hotel, and on the next day to Coventry, was a photoreporting team from Life magazine.
"I thought they'd only scream at the end of each song," added Margaret Gardiner from Life naively.
I'll let the three young screamers who sat behind me and pierced my ears good and hard, answer that one: "We didn't pay to hear The Beatles. We can hear them at home any time on discs. We paid to see them - to scream for them. We practised screaming last night without records."
So now you know.
Tony Crawley

:: Recently discovered in the NBC vaults, this broadcast audio file of Edwin Newman's film for the Huntley-Brinkley Report report filmed in Bournemouth and originally shown on Monday 18 November 1963. Sadly the footage has been lost, but the report shown on CBS Morning News with Mike Wallace on 22 November and rebroadcast on 10 December is widely available on YouTube.
:: The full story of The Beatles and their many connections to Bournemouth is told in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, available to order at a special price here.

30 January 2014

A Hard Day's Night talkin' Beatles

Word is building about this year's inaugural Purbeck Literary Festival and tickets are already selling well for the screening of A Hard Day's Night at Swanage Legion on 22 February.
I've been asked to introduce the screening with an hour or so of talk about The Beatles and their Dorset links, followed by a Q&A for anyone who wants to know more. I'll also be showing some of the 200+ images from my book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, but I'm afraid if anyone wants  the famous shot of John, Julian and Mimi coming off the Sandbanks ferry they'll have to buy the book.
The wonderfully discerning online multi-mood machine/magazine Eyeplug has recently run an interview with me all about writing the book and getting it out there. You can read it here.

19 January 2014

Beatles talk in Hardy country

What would Thomas Hardy have made of The Beatles? Or Enid Blyton for that matter? Both literary giants have a strong association with the Isle of Purbeck and both will be well represented in the programme of events that make up the inaugual Purbeck Literary Festival, from 17 February to 2 March.
Blyton's Famous Five were, of course, described as 'The Beatles of children's literature' by one breathless commentator in 1970, around the time the Fab Four split. The reasons are convoluted, the reasoning decidedly tenuous, but the association is put up for discussion at the Enid Blyton: Greatest Publishing Phenomenon blog.
All of which brings us to Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth author Nick Churchill (right) who has been invited by the Festival to introduced a screening of A Hard Day's Night at Swanage Legion on 22 February. 
Nick will present an hour-long talk with images (hopefully) on The Beatles' Dorset Story and answer questions about the book and the various links The Beatles had with the area, including John Lennon's trips up the River Frome to Wareham and, of course, the photo of him with young Julian and Aunt Mimi coming off Sandbanks Ferry in April 1967.

5 January 2014

With The Beatles: Freeman's prototype cover shot

Happy New Year one and all ... as the man said, let's hope it's a good one!
The story of how Robert Freeman came to take the iconic cover shot for The Beatles' second album, With The Beatles, in the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth has been occupying life-long Beatles fan Ken Orth, from Savannah, Georgia, USA, for some time.
Ken's excellent article on the subject graced the pages of Beatlefan magazine late last year in which he offered a some new insights into the session that produced one of the most evocative images of the 1960s.
Chief among them was the background story of Freeman's first attempt at using natural light to produce a half-shadow effect in a group portrait.
According to Ken: 'Freeman decided to reprise a pose he had used a year earlier in photographing the principals of the prominent London-based graphic design firm Fletcher Forbes Gill (later the Pentagram design studio) for Vogue magazine. During that session he arranged his subjects in an overlapping tightly staggered pose and framed them in head shots from about shoulder height upwards. He also positioned a light source on their left, leaving the right sides of their faces inshadow. Freeman later called the resulting black and white photo his "prototype composition for With The Beatles." Looking back at this photo it's easy to see and understand his thinking.'
This is the photo:

There's more on how Robert Freeman came to photograph The Beatles in Bournemouth in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, which is available to order here.