12 February 1963


Astoria Ballroom, King Street, Oldham, Lancashire


February 12, 1963

February 12, 1963

February 12, 1963

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February 12, 1963

February 12, 1963

"The Evening Chronicle was there to record the history-making night as 2,000 teenagers stormed the Astoria.

The newspaper recorded next day: "As hundreds of fans swamped the ballroom entrance in a bid to see their idols, the steel pedestrian guards collapsed, spilling dozens into the Star Inn road junction, and holding up traffic."

Only 800 were let in, many were turned away, and excited fans rushed the stage. One woman's dress was ripped in the melee, as the Beatles sang their hits "Love Me Do" and "Please, Please Me.""

Source: Oldham Evening Chronicle, 10 September 2009

"A FLASHBACK snap of The Beatles at the Oldham Astoria in 1963 brought back a host of memories for Gillian Gill.

The former Hathershaw Technology College pupil can be seen at the front of the crowd as her heroes belt out some of their greatest hits.

Gillian (62) has lived in Leicestershire since 1976, but was given the picture following a reunion of her old class mates earlier this month.

The grandmother-of-three said: "I can remember being in school that day, full of excitement but not being able to tell anyone why.

"As soon as school was over, I jumped on the bus and joined the queue at the Astoria.

"I sat on my bag and tried to do my homework but I kept my beret on as you got an instant detention for taking it off up town.

"My friend arrived soon after with a change of clothes for me and a sandwich and we managed to get a good spot right at the front.

"I don't remember much about the concert but I do remember dancing at the back of the room.

"People were talking about the crush for days after but I don't remember that part of it."

Gillian was handed the photo by Nigel Marland and his friend Keith who organised the class of '59 reunion. She added: "It proves that I once was young and capable of doing silly things!""

Source: Oldham Evening Chronicle, 22 October 2009

Tony Prince recalls:

"Early in 1963 the Top Rank Astoria's manager, Dick Salem, (who years later ran a club in Manchester for George Best), called me into his office.

He wanted my opinion on a group who had just tickled the charts with their first single. They were available shortly after their next single was released and Salem wondered if they would be worth £75?

'If they chart by mid-March they'll be going out for anything up to £500', he predicted.

Dick delegated such decisions to me ever since I advised him to book Susan Maughan on the strength of her 'Bobby's Girl' just before it charted when she was booking for £50. He filled the place, 1000 punters at £2 admission when she was top ten.

I'd seen the group in question on Granada TV introduced by Bill Grundy the same guy who the Sex Pistols told to 'Fuck off you old wanker' on their first TV appearance twenty years later.

I advised Dick to book The Beatles.

I looked forward to meeting Ringo again and wondered if he would remember the kid who borrowed his cowboy boots back at Butlins when he played with Rory Storm?

But I never got near to a conversation with him. It was pandemonium, chaos, as I witnessed close-hand the very night of the birth of Beatlemania.

The night they charted NUMBER ONE for the first time! The queue around the Rank was the biggest Union Street had ever seen.

By 6pm the police were outside in force.

By 7pm the drunks at the Star Inn pub across the road had vacated the bar to oggle at the spectacle of thousands of mini skirted, screaming teenagers blocking the road.

The Beatles arrived quite late, I put on an LP and visited their dressing room which was also mine.

I hung around for as long as I could enjoying their banter, the press interviews and the autograph hunters and I was in time to witness the mop tops taking on board the news in a telegram which they had received from Morris Kinn, editor of the New Musical Express.

Paul asked for quiet and read it to the ensemble.

'Congratulations, The Beatles 'Please please me' is Number One on the NME charts!'

They were ecstatic. They all hugged each other.

Dick Salem hugged me!

'Fuck me!' said John Lennon, 'Anyone got a Prelly?'

The white Preludine tablets were passed round. John took two dropping them with a scotch and coke and then offered me one.

I didn't know what they were and declined explaining that I didn't have a headache! Lennon thought it was very funny.

Back on stage there was a carnival atmosphere in the place.

Fred Lowe, a bouncer who ran a junk store in the market during the day, had just turned away 2000 fans posting the 'full-house' sign up.

Kids had come from all over the place, we'd never witnessed anything like it in Oldham.

Not even Eden Kane, Roy Orbison, Billy Fury, Jimmy Justice, Del Shannon or Marty Wilde had ever pulled such a massive out of town crowd.

The Astoria was brimming with strangers all eyes on stage as I played the latest hits. No one danced, there wasn't room.

There was no backstage entrance from the stage where I played. Once I'd introduced them, the Beatles appeared from stage-left running heads bent through a corridor of flailing arms and forked fingernails and shrieking fans held back by Astoria's mesmerised bouncers.

Noise? You've never heard anything like it!

Within days the word 'Beatlemania' was uttered for the first time on planet earth.

I was stuck, if that is the word, on stage with them for the duration of their 30 minute set, perched at the side of Paul's amplifier, eyeballing Lennon who stuck his chin out as he belted out the rock.

'Tricky Dicky', John yelled stroking six strings for a B flat and then the group struck up and the whole fucking world was wonderful.

Sitting close to the amplifiers, where my eardrums were threatened, I was the last person to ever hear the Beatles live.

The noise, the screams, the fainting girls dragged onto stage to save them being crushed by the human avalanche, a wave of bodies surging towards the stage. The fear on George's face as a girl broke rank and threw herself around his neck and Paul's sweat dripping like a tap onto his left handed bass as he nodded approval to John whose eyeballs distended as they harmonised, 'Last night I said these words to my girl.....'

It was the ultimate musical experience. Only one event ever eclipsed it for me but that would come in 1972.

As wily girls witnessed what happened to the ones who genuinely fainted, so they too feigned fainting to be carried to the foot of their Lords on stage.

Then they recovered and sat goggle eyed, closer than fans would ever again be to the Fab Four.

It's all documented in the Oldham Chronicle and in one shot where Fred Lowe is seen reaching for a girl and accidentally stripping her of her blouse, you may, if you look closely see Tommy Whitehead, white suit, black dicky!

There's another Chron pic where I'm seen to be helping the bouncers keep the kids off stage.

And then came the end.

How the fuck does a DJ follow that? 'Bobby's Girl?' I think not!

Nothing in my collection of hits seemed appropriate. Joe Brown's 'Picture of you?' nagh! The Tornadoes 'Telstar?' tripe!

Subsequently I played 'Please Please Me' three times, the 'b' side 'Ask Me Why' twice, 'Love Me Do' and its flip side 'PS I Love You' and then Dick Salem came on stage and told me to call it a night.

Salem along with every member of staff had become security staff for the night. Everyone was utterly exhausted from the catering staff to the manager. We had all experienced something peerless in our memories.

Back stage, bodies were strewn everywhere with a couple of Red Cross chappies in their vocational element.

I made it to our shared dressing room which was bedlam.

Half undressed and still sweating, the group were on a high of highs.

John Lennon disappeared with a fan into the adjoining toilet whilst the others took on the Oldham Chronicle, Manchester Evening Post, Melody Maker, and....a chap from Shaw just outside Oldham who Paul introduced to everyone as 'an old mucker of me dad's'.

In the light of hind-sight and the historic measure of that evening something quite astounding in its normality happened.

Paul's dad's friend invited them to go to his house in Shaw for a cup of tea.

'What do you think John?' asked Paul as this future peacemaker zipped up his flies leaving the girl in the loo.

'Why not', slurred Lennon. 'Do yer 'av any cheese sarnies?'

It now seems like such a profound anti-climax, of the night the Beatles went to Number One for the first time. As their lives as normal people finally came to an end and we felt the first tremors of a youth-quake that would echo down the corridors of time, the Beatles went to Shaw, home of Blubber, to celebrate with a cuppa tea!

It doesn't get more British than that.

I came to know Paul and Linda quite well in the year's ahead and tea remained their favourite tipple."

Source: http://www.manchesterbeat.com/djs/tonyprince/tonyprince.php
A second reported concert this day at the Azena Ballroom, Sheffield actually took place on 2 April.

This fact escaped the printers of this latter-day poster:

February 12, 1963

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