The Beatles’ Christmas Show begins

The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, who himself had had theatrical aspirations, conceived The Beatles' Christmas Show, a variety stage production featuring the group. It ran at the Astoria Cinema in Finsbury Park, London for 16 nights, ending on 11 January 1964.

The Beatles' Christmas Show, 1963

Tickets had gone on sale on 21 October 1963, and by 16 November all 100,000 had sold out. There were 30 shows altogether, with two performances on each day, except for 24 and 31 December when only one took place. On 25 and 29 December and 5 January The Beatles were given the night off.

The Beatles' Christmas Show, 24 December 1963

The first act, with five minutes on stage, were the Barron Knights and Duke D'Mond. Next came short sets from Tommy Quickly and The Fourmost, and Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas closed the first half. Following the interval there was a return from the Barron Knights and Duke D'Mond, then Cilla Black, and Rolf Harris. The Beatles were each evening's final act, with performances lasting 25 minutes.

The group's repertoire consisted of Roll Over Beethoven, All My Loving, This Boy, I Wanna Be Your Man, She Loves You, Till There Was You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Money (That's What I Want) and Twist And Shout.

Poster for The Beatles' Christmas Show, 1963-64In between the support acts The Beatles took to the stage for a number of light-hearted skits, giving the night a pantomime feel. Although their delivery was reportedly fairly wooden and they lacked much rehearsal time, the performances were greeted with uncontrolled hysteria by The Beatles' fans. The show's director was Peter Yolland.

The Beatles were never much for rehearsing. That never really mattered as far as songs were concerned, but the fact that they were so bad at doing the sketches was an added extra for the show - it was organised chaos but it was very funny chaos.
Tony Barrow

After this evening's performance The Beatles and the northern members of the cast and crew - essentially all but Rolf Harris and the Barron Knights - flew to Liverpool to spend Christmas Day with their families, in a private Viking aircraft chartered for £400 by Brian Epstein. They returned to London on the morning of Boxing Day.

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11 responses on “The Beatles’ Christmas Show begins

  1. Ian

    Hi,

    I was at the Beatles Christmas Show in Jan. 64 (I can’t remember the exact date) and remember on sketch quite vividly.

    The four Beatles came on as doctors, in white coats and stethoscopes, and John was wearing glasses (the first time he’d worn them in public, I think). A sign came up “Three out of four doctors…” (obviously referring to a current advert for medicines or something). Then Paul, Ringo and George left the stage, leaving John alone. Another sign came up saying “Leaves one doctor”. Really unfunny! I’m sure John didn’t approve!

    However one thing is not quite right in your article. The lead singer of the Barron Knights was Duke D’Mond (as can be seen in the accompanying poster) not Duke Diamond.

    Ian

    1. Nigel

      Hi Ian, I actually have the original typed notes for that very sketch that came from the estate of the late Peter Yolland, the shows Producer. Do you recall any of the other sketches, as I have lots of typed notes for other sketches, but I don’t know which ones were used. All the best, Nigel

  2. Ron Chipperfield

    I was a St John Ambulance Brigade Cadet (C164 Stoke Newington) on duty at the concert on Christmas eve. I spent most of the evening carrying hysterical young females out of the concert hall, many had discarded their underwear and thrown it towards the stage. Quite an experience for a sixteen year old. I remember that Alan Freeman and David Jacobs were there.
    My next duty was on Boxing Day at the Royal Albert Hall for a ballet, what a contrast.

  3. Felicity

    I was lucky enough to go to the Christmas Show at Finsbury Park Astoria. My Dad got tickets for me and a friend but insisted on coming too. I only remember Cilla Black from the supporting acts but I do remember that apart from the first chords we heard nothing of what the Beatles sang because of all the screaming. When we got home all my poor dad said to mum was “Never again!”. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  4. Len

    I was at the show.I thought that Gerry & the Pacemakers were on aswell.I remember the Beatles came down in a ‘comic’ helicopter.I remember a bunch of girls threatened to hit us with their umbrellas if we got up.I had bought a 1/4 lb of jelly babies but forgot to throw them,so there was a sticky mess by the end of the show.

  5. Andrew Drummond

    I designed the sets for both this and the previous Christmas show at Finsbury Park Odeon but have no photos of these has any one got any? Andrew Drummond

    1. Nigel

      Hi Andrew, Just read your comments and would love to learn more. You might be interested to know that I recently acquired a lot of typed and hand written notes, scripts, plans & set designs, lighting instructions, drawings etc from the 1963/64 Christmas Shows and some drawings of each group on stage from the 1964/65 Christmas Shows. These belonged to the producer Peter Yolland who died just over a year ago. You can contact me at nigel@beatlesmarketplace.com
      All the best, Nigel

  6. John Muir

    I went to the show on Friday, 10th January 1964. I was 16 and my brother was 14, so we went to the first house. We got the tickets through a friend of my mother’s, Bill West, who was the stage manager. Perhaps Andrew Drummond might remember him?

    It was a fun show, but I would have liked to have heard The Beatles play more songs. A quick 25 minute set and that was it. Still, I was lucky to get the chance to see them at all.

  7. Verity Mortimer

    I went to the show with a friend, Susan, I was 14 and she 13, I think we went to the first show as we were so young, but very surprisingly we went alone. After we came out Susan was mortified to see her mother turn up to take us home. I don’t remember too much about it, as all I did was scream, bit I do recall Susan and I screaming GEORGE in unison during a slight lull in the cacophony of sound and John coming to the mike and saying we could have George in a minute! Another recollection was that Rolf Harris had the slot immediately before the Beatles, but he might as well not have bothered as no one heard anything he did because of the noise. Happy days.

  8. Judy

    On Woman’s Hour today the presenter asked “what was the first gig you ever went to?”
    I’ve still got the ticket stub for my first “gig”:

    Astoria
    Finsbury Park
    Brian Epstein presents
    The Beatles Christmas Show –
    1st performance 6-40
    Thursday January 2
    Stalls HH18.

    The price? 12/6.

    My diary entry (remember I was still a pre-teen):

    “It was wonderful. I was screaming all through it. When Rolf Harris was on, Isabel [my friend] called out Paul. He shouted back to her ‘I’ll give you Paul!’
    When the Beatles were on we were waving and Paul (we think) nodded to us. Isabel was thrilled.
    I bought the programme, photo of Paul and a calendar. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

    Shame I didn’t keep the programme and the calendar too. Or the Beatles talcum powder … or fan club Christmas records … or…

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