Fifty years since The Beatles came to Morecambe

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Fifty years ago, The Beatles released their first single Love Me Do. Pop music and the charts would never be the same again.

That year they also had a gig in Morecambe, playing the Floral Hall ballroom. The hall is long gone and sadly, memories are fading of the four most famous pairs of feet ever to set foot in the town, as ELLIS BUTCHER discovers.

IN 1962 Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, over 9,000 crammed in to Christie Park for Morecambe’s FA Cup 3rd round tie against Weymouth and The Beatles played their first of two gigs in Morecambe.

Well-known local musician Steve ‘Golly’ Goulding, now 65, was a regular at The Floral Hall with his band The Fontaines. Asked for his recollections, he doesn’t even flinch.

“I don’t remember them coming in 1962,” he says. “They didn’t mean anything to us.”

Even when the Beatles returned to Morecambe a few months later in January 1963 with the world at their feet, it only cost four shillings in advance or five shillings on the door. That’s 20p and 25p in today’s money.

Golly and his fellow band members all missed it.

“We were probably playing somewhere else,” says Golly.

“Even if we weren’t, we wouldn’t have gone to see them. I grew to love them later but they weren’t particularly good musicians,” he says. He then realises how dismissive this sounds. “What I mean is, they were a pop group,” he explains.

“We were into Chuck Berry, rhythm and blues, Screaming Lord Sutch and Shane Fenton (later Alvin Stardust) and the Fentones.”

Golly, who still plays a 1963 Epiphone Casino electric guitar, remembers Alan Birdsall, the manager of The Floral, telling him The Beatles were paid £60 for the gig.

“We used to get a fiver between five of us,” he says.

Back then, The Floral Hall had live bands on seven mornings and seven nights a week in summer, and four in winter. The hall is long gone.

But last Friday at The Platform – the nearest public place neighbouring the old ballroom – Golly joined other locals for an afternoon to commemorate 50 years since Love Me Do came out on October 5 1962.

Masterminding the day is BBC Radio Lancashire presenter John Gillmore.

“I grew up with The Beatles,” says John.

“I’m originally from Prescot in Merseyside which is about eight miles from Liverpool and everybody loved The Beatles.”

John’s guests included Tony Barrow, who has lived in Torrisholme for over 30 years.

Now 76, John was part of The Beatles’ inner circle. He acted as the band’s press officer from 1962 to 1968, a sleeve note writer at Decca records who was hired by Beatles impresario Brian Epstein.

Tony saw the golden age of The Beatles and wrote a book John, Paul, George, Ringo And Me. It’s just been updated.

Of John Lennon, Tony recalls: “He was verbally abusive to me, as he was to everyone back then, and I only realised this acidic, cruel humour was a barrage of bravado to conceal his own insecurities. He wasn’t secure with himself at all and shouted a lot to conceal himself behind his rudeness.

“It was only later after a long chat that we started to get on. It was a chat away from music and about things like mortgages, and of course, his mortgage was a lot more than mine!

“His attitude towards me, and my attitude towards him, then seemed to change. He became the one I was closest to.

“The one I worked with most easily was Paul McCartney, simply because he was the PR man of the group. He knew what the media wanted and he was, and ever more shall be, a showman from his bone marrow to his fingertips, as I say.”

Another famous fan is Morecambe’s own antiques dealer-turned-TV star Paul Hayes, 42.

Paul’s group – The Paul Hayes Collection (with Golly Goulding on guitar), plays pure rock ‘n’roll; the type of which inspired the young Lennon and McCartney.

“It’s amazing to think the Beatles played in Morecambe, but it doesn’t surprise me,” he says. “You have to play all the venues like the village halls to get your name out there.”

Peter Wade, a local historian doesn’t regard himself as a massive Beatles fan. But he remembers the euphoria of seeing A Hard Day’s Night and buying Beatles bubble gum containing photographs and the band’s signatures.

Peter searched to find accounts of The Beatles’ first appearance in Morecambe, but with the exception of a low-key advert for the gig, there is barely a trace of them.

“Records of the first gig here on August 29 1962 seems to have disappeared,” he says. “Unless people come forward.”

Thankfully, some of them have. In next week’s Visitor, we’ll share some memories of local people who can say ‘I was there’ when The Beatles played Morecambe.