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29 October 2014
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The Beatles at their Aldershot gig

The Beatles at the Palais Ballroom

The Beatles in Aldershot

Everyone has "off days" and the world's most successful band was no different. In 1961 the Beatles played a gig at the Palais Ballroom that didn't go exactly as planned! Were you at the gig? Were they fab or did it all fall flat?

Mention the Beatles to almost anyone on the planet and they'll know you're talking about John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The Beatles having fun on the dancefloor

The Beatles having fun on the dancefloor

The fab four pioneered the stadium gig when they played in front of more than 55,000 screaming fans at New York's Shea Stadium in 1965. But rewind four years and it was a rather different story.

It's Saturday 9 December 1961 and The Beatles are on the verge of taking the music world by storm.  The fab four: John, Paul, George and then drummer Pete (Best), had made a nine hour journey down to Aldershot in Hampshire after playing a sell out gig at New Brighton on Merseyside.

They arrived at the Palais Ballroom on Queens Road to play what they expected to be another sell out gig - when the doors opened a handful of people turned up and at its height there were just 18 people in the crowd!

Fans at The Beatles' gig

Only 18 people turned up for the gig!

Legend has it that it was all down to a mix up between the band's management and the local newspaper, The Aldershot News, over an advert for the gig. Within weeks Brian Epstein had become the band's manager and rest is history.

Despite the small numbers, The Beatles had fun anyway and stayed around after the show.  Apparently they staged a mock funeral for Paul McCartney!

I'd like to know if you were one of the handful of people to go to the gig that night.  If so, what was it like?

Perhaps you saw the Beatles later on in their careers when they came back to play the south or maybe you were there on Salisbury Plain when they were filming "Help!".

I'd love to hear from you.

Diane Humphrey says:

Around 1963 Ringo was admitted into hospital to have his tonsils out.  I think it was St. Mary's hospital.  Each day my school friend and I went to the hospital along with hundreds of other fans. On the second day there was a distraction at the door and we found ourselves on the (think it was the 6th) floor.  Again timing was on our side and nurses were all busy and a friendly porter nodded in the direction of one particular door.  We knocked and heard a 'Come in'. 

Inside we found Ringo in his pyjamas playing cards with his then girlfriend Maureen Cox.  I explained that we represented our school magazine and could he write something for it.  He said he'd rather answer some questions instead.  Unfortunately we were badly prepared never expecting for one minute to get in to see him.  He very kindly tried to make us feel at ease and we scribbled away in our notebooks. 

We were in the 5th form of Notre Dame school at Southwark and wearing our uniform  of rust and green wishing we looked slightly more trendy.  Notes over, he gave us his autograph signed to us personally, and congratulated us since we were the only fans who had managed to get past matron and others place to keep fans at bay. I wonder if he remembers.

Chris Sellers says:

You asked for recollections of The Beatles in the South.I was riding my bike through my home village of Amesbury [nr. Stonehenge],when I was shocked by the screams of dozens of girls in the branches of a chestnut tree.They were there to catch a glimpse of the Fab Four who were staying at the Antrobus Arms Hotel whilst filming 'A Hard Days Night'on Salisbury Plain.
I fell off my bike !

Steven Easton from Poole says:

I was a trainee car salesman in 1967 working at a garage in London,s Chelsea we held the franchise for Fiat and an Italian sports car called Iso and I had the pleasure of meeting all the beatles at the showroom .I especially remember the time when I had a phone call from John Lennons chauffer asking as to whether I could find a Rolls Royce Phantom luckily we had attached to the dealership a Rolls Royce car hire dept and they wanted to sell one of there cars so I arranged to take this car to Johns house in Weybridge he looked over the car and said I want it all White inside and out this was the famous car that took him and Yoko to Amsterdam  I have many more stories I can tell regarding the Beatles and there cars.

Geoff Barker, Presenter/Producer, BBC West & Southwest says:

Hi Tom
Interesting piece about The Beatles debacle in Aldershot.I look forward to the book about it.
I saw The Beatles a couple of times, sadly not in Aldershot! But that one-off gig has always fascinated me and especially the picture of the sparse dance floor and I too, have often wondered if those people are still around?
I apologise  if you know this, but the gig was actually promoted (or not!) by Sam Leach as a ` North v South`  `Battle Of The Bands`, between The Beatles and local group  `Ivor Jay & The Jaywalkers`. (Nothing to do with very well-known 60`s band, `Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers`).
Is Ivor Jay..or any of his band still around I wonder? They were presumably from the Aldershot area and I would think they would have a story or two about that night.
Maybe the author has tracked them down?

There`s a ton of stories about The Fabs appearing in the south of course..especially in Bournemouth.
When I was working on the local radio station there in the 90`s, a listener contacted me with a story about her father having recorded The Beatles at the Odeon in 1963, when they did a week in summer-season. (He was the sound man). I was initially sceptical…until I heard it. Eventually, his tape and a couple of pics he took of the guys backstage, went to a pop auction in London and made 25 grand! I`ll never forget hearing that tape at his house on his little reel-to-reel machine.

Amazing that there are still  Beatle stories out there.
Nice one!

last updated: 21/03/2008 at 13:36
created: 19/02/2008

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