11 months ago


50 EVERGREEN Autumn When

50 EVERGREEN Autumn When The Beatles came to Swindon When The Beatles were “remastered” a few years ago, many — like me — took the opportunity to buy the famous albums again. Fans delighted in the freshness of their favourite songs. Critics wrote of increased clarity and newly revealed sounds. One thing that hadn’t changed, though, was the surprise you still get when you listen to the recordings back-to-back, and realise how The Beatles with Pete Best on drums. He left the group shortly after the Swindon gig.

2017 EVERGREEN 51 many different bands they actually became. It took just four years to reach the lush, pastoral tones of “Strawberry Fields” from the nasal hum of “Love Me Do”. Four years, and yet it was practically a whole dimension away. There was a world out there to be conquered, and conquer it they would, but back in January 1962 they had only played in the south of England once — on 9th December 1961 when they took part in one of Sam Leach’s Big Beat Sessions at the Palais Ballroom, Aldershot. Billed as a “battle of the bands” between the boys and Ivor Jay and the Jaywalkers, a major publicity blunder resulted in only 18 people turning up. Undeterred, manager Brian Epstein started to extend the band’s reach by booking venues further out of Liverpool, in places like Northwich and Rhyl. He also began dealing with the London-based Cana Variety Agency. Jack Fallon, who owned Cana (and who ended up playing fiddle on “Don’t Pass Me By” in 1968), also ran Jaybee Clubs, which promoted dances predominantly in the west of England. With contracts signed and hands shaken, The Beatles’ first gig for Jaybee was at the Subscription Rooms, Stroud, on 31st March 1962. The second, on 17th July, was at McIlroy’s Ballroom, Swindon. This came near the end of a run of 61 live engagements and a look During the day a department store, in the evening McIlroy’s became a popular entertainment venue. at the shows before and after gives a good idea of just how busy the boys were. On the 16th they played a lunchtime session at the Cavern, followed by an evening concert at the Plaza, St. Helens. They then came all the way down to Swindon, only to go virtually straight back to Liverpool for another lunchtime booking at the Cavern the next day — where they also played that night. Now that was hard work — for the band and their van! McIlroy’s, or “Mac’s” as it was known, was within a plush department store. What was a restaurant by day was converted for evening use by moving the tables to the carpet around the central

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