Live: Royal Command Performance

8.00pm, Monday 4 November 1963 (50 years ago)

This was the night of The Beatles’ famous appearance at the Royal Command Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, in the presence of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

By this point Beatlemania was an established phenomenon, with the group drawing huge and frenzied audiences across the country and beyond. Although they were seventh on the 19-act bill on this night, they were by far the most anticipated performers to appear.

The Beatles began playing their opening song, From Me To You, before the curtains had opened. After the final chord John Lennon and Paul McCartney moved their microphone stands nearer the edge of the stage to get closer to the audience.

The group bowed in unison at the end of the second song, She Loves You, after which McCartney made a nervous joke about Sophie Tucker being their “favourite American group”. They followed this with a performance of Till There Was You.

When the applause died down John and Paul moved their microphone stands back to their original positions, and Lennon made the announcement which won over any remaining doubters and guaranteed them headlines in all the next day’s newspapers.

For our last number I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery. We’d like to sing a song called Twist And Shout.
John Lennon

At the close of the song Ringo joined the others centre stage and the curtain closed behind them. They bowed, firstly to the audience, then to the royal box, before running off the stage.

Marlene Dietrich was also on. I met her and I remember staring at her legs – which were great – as she slouched against a chair. I’m a leg-man: ‘Look at those pins!’
Ringo Starr
Anthology

The Beatles’ appearance was a triumph. However, they declined all subsequent invitations to reappear on the show, despite repeated attempts to lure them back.

We managed to refuse all sorts of things that people don’t know about. We did the Royal Variety Show, and we were asked discreetly to do it every year after that, but we always said, ‘Stuff it.’ So every year there was a story in the newspapers: ‘Why no Beatles for the Queen?’ which was pretty funny, because they didn’t know we’d refused. That show’s a bad gig, anyway. Everybody’s very nervous and uptight and nobody performs well. The time we did do it, I cracked a joke on stage. I was fantastically nervous, but I wanted to say something to rebel a bit, and that was the best i could do.
John Lennon, 1970
Anthology

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