FREDERICK JAMES digs out some background facts inspired by the news-making stories from The Beatles' December 1965 tour.
Nobody could doubt that THE BEATLES' December concert tour of the U.K. was one of the most action-packed of their career. Eight thousand pounds had to be returned by the management of the Cardiff Capitol after all seats for their two shows had been allocated. Scores of policemen linked arms right across the front of the stalls at Hammersmith where nearly 7,000 Beatle People packed the vast Odeon during the evening. The crowds, the screams, the enthusiasm of the fans and the details of the actual performances have passed into pop history via news reports.
YOU MUST HAVE READ ABOUT THE SMASHING OF GEORGE'S GUITAR. IT WAS FASTENED TO THE BOOT OF THE GROUP'S AUSTIN PRINCESS AND IT FELL OFF DURING THE DRIVE TO SCOTLAND. ACCORDING TO A DISAPPOINTED GEORGE, AT LEAST FOURTEEN LORRIES MUST HAVE RUN OVER THE GUITAR BEFORE THE BOYS LOCATED ALL THE BATTERED BITS AT THE SIDE OF THE MOTORWAY.
Luckily this wasn't one of the instruments George needed on stage. He'd been using it to rehearse. Before setting out for Scotland all the boys got together in the West End basement flat occupied by Neil and Mal. Here they put in nearly eight hours of act-polishing practice on the new numbers for the tour.
Instruments used during this session were strapped together on the back of the Princess. Mal had already left London by van with the rest of the equipment. His load included seven guitars--two each for John and Paul plus three for George.
The last time a Beatle lost a guitar was two years ago when the boys put on their first Christmas Show at Finsbury Park. John and George had purchased a pair of Gibson Jumbos towards the end of 1962. They were very proud of these having saved up their money for the H.P. deposits with much determination. The Jumbos were the first two spares bought by the boys. Otherwise they were using stuff bought in Germany for £40 or £60.
By the time of the Finsbury Park show the total collection of Beatle guitars had grown, but John and George were using their Gibson Jumbos in the dressing room and they were there as stand-by replacements if strings snapped during a performance.
Recalls John: "George and I often took a Jumbo home with us so nobody noticed until the end of the season that one was missing. A week or two afterwards I asked Mal where he'd put my Jumbo. It was only then that we realised the guitar had been pinched at Finsbury Park. No, I never got it back."
LOSING HIS £300 GRETSCH COUNTRYMAN WASN'T THE END OF GEORGE'S PROBLEMS IN SCOTLAND. DURING THE OPENING PERFORMANCE IN GLASGOW HIS AMPLIFIER CEASED TO FUNCTION. SAYS GEORGE: "I CHECKED THE JACK PLUGS, TWIDDLED THE VOLUME CONTROL, FIDDLED WITH EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. IT TURNED OUT THAT THE AMPLIFIER ITSELF WAS O.K. BUT THE LEAD HAD BROKEN SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY."
Way back in the Cavern days the boys were used to this type of trouble. Amps and lights blew up quite regularly and the cause was usually the excessive amount of condensation on the walls and ceiling above the stage. So much damp dripped down that electrical problems became an accepted occupational hazard of Cavern sessions!
According to Neil, equipment break-downs happened less frequently once The Beatles started to play the major theatre and cinema circuits. The last major disasterhe can remember happened in Brighton one Sunday during the summer of '63. "Mal hadn't joined us then," says Neil. "I was responsible for setting up the equipment on stage. Everything was ready--switched on, tested and working. The boys used to open with a very fast Little Richard number at that time. I think it was 'Oh My Soul'. Anyway, George had a big guitar intro on the number. After a few seconds EVERYTHING went dead. It was pointless to think of continuing so I got the stage people to close the curtains right away. I dashed on stage and we re-checked everything."
A minute later all seemed to be well, the curtains were opened for a second time and George went into his hefty intro.
"Then, for a second time, everything just went dead," recalls Neil. "It was ridiculous. We thought we were all going potty. This time John ran into the wings muttering something about the whole lot blowing up at any moment!"
The cause was traced to the drummer with one of the show's other groups. Not to The Beatles' amps or leads or speakers! This drummer was shifting his kit around behind the scenes and he'd dumped a heavy bass drum on the mains supply point. The fact that he broke circuit just after The Beatles started to play was pure coincidence.
THE TWO CONCERTS AT THE LIVERPOOL EMPIRE MUST HAVE BROUGHT BACK MANY MEMORIES FOR JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE AND RINGO.
It was at this theatre, on Sunday, 28 October 1962, that The Beatles made their first major concert appearance. They came on after The Breakaways as Item 3 in the first half of the programme. After doing just four numbers--including "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You"--they stayed on stage to accompany Craig Douglas. The rest of the bill included Sounds Incorporated, Kenny Lynch and Jet Harris with Little Richard closing the show.
At the Empire on Sunday, 5 December 1965, they played to two capacity houses just as they had done over three years earlier. Again the audience included friends and relatives from various parts of Merseyside. The audience also included two little girls who managed to meet The Beatles backstage to discuss their Save-The-Cavern campaign.
A thousand shows--a thousand stories. But to the boys the most important performance is always the one they're just about to do. And this Autumn Tour was no exception to the rule.