Live: St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hall, Birkenhead

This was the first of two performances by The Beatles at a "beat session" held at St Paul's Presbyterian Church Hall on North Road in Tranmere, Birkenhead.

The Beatles headlined the show, with support from The Zeroes. Entry cost four shillings, and the event took place from 7.30-11pm.

The group returned to the venue on 10 March 1962. The church hall was later demolished, with housing built on the site.

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

4 responses on “Live: St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Hall, Birkenhead

  1. Patricio García

    There’s a footage around, you can see it in YouTube. It’s silent and it says “February 1962 St Paul’s Church”. It’s suposed to be the first Beatles footage there is. Is it from this day?

  2. Jonas Svensson, Sweden

    I had nothing better to do a while back so I decided to crack the mystery of this film clip. And this is my story (so far).

    This investigation will hopefully clear out some things about the earlist film of The Beatles.
    It is the only one with Pete Best still in the group, and the only film before they changed style from leather to suits. It is a very interesting 31 second colour film taken by somebody, stored away for years, found in 1973 and sold in 1995, possibly a longer film exists somewhere.
    I am indebted to my son Robert for his invaluable help in identifying the different guitar chords George and John uses, chord shapes that can barely be seen in the film. Also, a great help in deciding for or against various songs that could have fitted. And playing along with the film to find out if the rhytm style fits the music piece I suggested. Thanks a lot, dear son. Eventually we agreed on this.

    Who´s on stage?
    George, John, Paul -and Pete Best. Yes! He is not easily visible in the film. Actually not at all. But he can be seen, during George´s song. Look underneath George´s guitar neck and you can see a sparkly drum and a cymbal stand. And during the last second, when George backs away from the microphone, you can see the drum stick going up and down on the cymbal a couple of times.

    Where are they playing? And when?
    Promotor Sam Leach claims in the “Rare+Unseen” documentary that the film is indeed from his ‘Casanova Club’, Liverpool, on Valentine´s Day 1961, describing the interior and all. I have not seen any photos at all from inside that club so it is difficult to compare with anything. He says it was the first time they played for him. It was actually the second, but who´s counting?
    Beatles played the ‘Casanova Club’ at five times in February and twice in March, 1961, one of the dates being Febr 14th, Valentine´s Day. A Tuesday in 1961 if you want to know.

    No the “when” is 1962. Because Paul bought his Hofner violin bass in Hamburg around April 1961, and George his Gretsch Duo Jet guitar from a Liverpool cab driver in the summer of 1961, and Pete bought the mother-of-pearl covered Premier drum kit that we see behind George, just before Christmas 1961. Those are facts, so the film is certainly not from February 14, 1961. They did not perform there in 1962 as far as we know. Is it possible they did an unrecorded gig at Casanova Club? Yes, but not very likely, considering the previous occasion would have been a whole year before. No, 1961 it is not, 1962 it is.

    The ‘Beatlesource’ website has information from Pete Best himself, claiming that this could in fact have been filmed at a St. Paul´s Presbyterian Church Hall in Birkenhead gig, date 10th February 1962, a Saturday. The suggestion is backed up by pictures of two tickets advertising ’a terrific beat session’. Address North Road. More about that later.

    Now there are several Valentine´s Day hearts as decorations on the curtains behind the group, strongly suggesting February 14th as the date. But why have decorations on the stage background four days before the day? Why, perhaps to be prepared for another event? The ticket stub pictured on the website advertises a ‘Beat Session’, not a ‘Valentine´s Day Dance’ or something to that extent. And the nicely dressed youngsters in the audience doesn´t really look like they are the kind to go to a “Casanova” night club, do they?

    I think the hearts are not set up for this particular music event. 14th of February 1962 was on a Wednesday, so the stage was probably set up due to lack of time on the day of whatever what was to happen then, perhaps a dance with another beat group. Pete Best mentions on the same site (check it out, it´s great) having access to more film from the same occasion, perhaps one day we may see that as well, there could be more info for us. I have tried to make contact with him but have not had any response yet.

    And North Road? Well, according to Google Maps, there is no St. Paul´s Church on North Road. The St. Paul´s Church is on Old Chester Road, quite a bit away from North Road. Also, this is not to be confused with the St. Peter´s and St. Paul´s Church in Woolton, Liverpool, who had a (later to be famous) garden party in 1957 where a local group from the Quarry Bank school entertained and two young boys met for the first time.
    But: the advertisement does not say that the show is in or at St. Paul´s Church Hall itself, only that their Youth Club is the promotor of the event –if that is what we can call them. So what church can be found on North Road, then? Why, the Catholic St. Joseph´s Church. And the Church Hall? Possibly in the separate building with entrance from Greenbank Road, where today´s St. Joseph´s Parish Centre & Social Club resides. They are on Facebook, with a photo that may well be from the same hall although it´s obviously been redecorated since The Beatles´ days. They have a stage that is a bit higher than the 1962 stage, but the address is right.

    Oh, and this clip has also been around as ‘Floral Hall Southport 1962’, but that is a different venue. I have seen a photos from that place and it doesn´t look at all like this, it´s quite bigger. Also, they played Floral Hall on the 20th. Not very likely the decorations are up 6 days after Valentine´s Day. No, Southport it is not, at least not Floral Hall.

    Now here comes my theory, which is mine and belongs to me and is my own:

    The Beatles have only one gig listed for Febr 14th, 1962: an evening gig at The Cavern.
    Based on the idea that the decorations are for an upcoming do, I think this film indeed is from the gig on Saturday, February 10th, 1962, location very likely the St. Joseph´s Church Hall, North Road, Birkenhead, and the show was put on by the St.Paul´s lot.

    So, the big question: What are they playing?
    There are several versions of this film on the Tube where people try to bring some life to it by adding various songs from about that time, none of which fits the music they actually play.
    First part has George singing. Most of the songs he did then were rock `n` roll-ish numbers. This is not one of them. Actually, it can only be one song in my opinion, based on the chord changes and the interval between them. He is singing a pop song; ‘The Sheik of Araby’.
    This film, if from 1962, comes only six weeks after the famous Decca audition, from where we have the only recording of the group doing that song, a cover of Joe Brown´s record of it. The songs selected for the audition was basically taken from their stage repertoire.

    I checked with the chord scheme for that song. Beatles play it in the key of C, which is clearly what George does as well. I synced the film to sound so most of the chord changes matches.
    What is slightly off is his phrasing. I can´t get it to fit the film exactly. Possibly the original film is at a slightly different speed. I have tried altering the speed of this film in all directions but it is still not an exact match. But I believe the bit in the film from 0:34 to 0:50 is where he was in the song when he was filmed. Check from “You´ll rule this world with me…”
    And that is the original film bit, the rest is just the same images in various shapes and forms being used to complete a performance. Judge and make your own conclusions from that bit only please, all glorious sixteen seconds of it.
    What is odd, though, is that after he finishes singing, he backs away from the mike and starts doing a riff on the guitar. It doesn´t fit with the ending of the recorded song, with the last line repeated. My theory is that the stage arrangement included either a solo or at least the intro to separate the two sets of words. The lyrics at the Decca session recording consists of one full verse which is repeated straight after the first one stops, no music in between the verses.
    If they had a riff/solo/extra intro it was either edited out (Decca? Editing? Not very likely) or just decided against it for whatever reason. But where his fingers is about to land on the guitar in the very last frames of his segment fits where the intro riff would have been played, so I took the liberty of editing the recording to include an extra intro here. It makes sense to make the numbers longer on stage, although a melody solo as such perhaps would be overdoing it.
    My theory is that George sings ‘The Sheik of Araby’.

    And then comes a bit with Paul singing, smiling all the time and having a jolly good time.
    I can´t tell what he is playing, I don´t play bass, but the others are playing a pretty straight-forward rock ´n´roll beat, again in the key of C. In the very first frames it looks like at least John is singing too, or adding something. Closer inspection reveals that he is at least chewing gum! So, we have a rock ´n´roll-ish song in C, most likely sung by Paul with backing vocals.
    It doesn´t look like there are any breaks in the song, like in ‘Long tall Sally’ or ‘Lucille’. And it is certainly not ‘Kansas City’, as has been suggested too. There are film clips of them playing that song and the guitarists do a completely different thing. So what is it, pray tell? My theory is ‘Dream baby’.
    Roy Orbison´s ‘Dream baby’ does fit. And there is one recording of The Beatles doing ‘Dream baby’, a live radio broadcast from March 7th, a mere four weeks after the gig. So it was also part of the stage repertoire at the time. Judge from from 1.55 to 2:08, where he goes “Dream baby, got me dreaming sweet dreams…”.
    Paul sings a set of words, a brief sideways look, another set of words, another look –and it fits quite well with the recording. Not perfect of course, the phrasing is a bit different here too. George and John are both slightly off with their key changes. Watch George say something to John, who quickly changes the incorrect A for a G and then swiftly gets to the F. Wonderful.

    Also, considering the Church Youth Club connection, I suppose they would choose to play these kind of pop songs in favour of loud rock & roll or rhytm & blues numbers.
    It has been mentioned by one of them, Paul or Pete, that they had a “cabaret act”, for playing venues where r&B or r&r was unsuitable. These two songs would fit that category.

    Be as it may, I hope you enjoy the montage of this historical film from the early days of what would soon become the greatest band in the world: The Beatles!

    It has been uploaded as “Beatles Live In Liverpool 1962, Synced edit” at https://youtu.be/KYU398WovMw

  3. Jonas Svensson, Sweden

    Correction to the above: I made some late adjustments.

    See: “Beatles Earliest Footage Liverpool 1962 -synced with sound”

Leave a reply