The Beatles live: Gaumont Cinema, Bradford

On this day The Beatles embarked on the first date of their debut UK tour, at the Gaumont Cinema in Bradford, Yorkshire.

The Beatles were effectively at the bottom of a six-act bill, headlined by 16-year-old singer Helen Shapiro. The tour coincided with the release of her single Queen For Today, which she hoped would revive her already flagging career.

Programme from The Beatles' concert in Bradford, 2 February 1963

I’d had a meeting with Arthur [promoter Arthur Howes] and he’d said that for this new tour I’d be accompanied by Danny Williams and Kenny Lynch and that The Red Price Combo would be my backing band. Dave Allen would be the compere and there would also be this new group called The Beatles.

He asked if I’d heard of them and of course, I had. I loved their song Love Me Do and I was looking forward to the tour. Dave Allen didn’t have a halfpenny to his name in those days, but he was a lovely guy and very funny. I was always touring with Danny and Kenny, and so I knew them well.

Helen Shapiro
Beatlemania!, Martin Creasy

Most of the touring musicians set off from the bus depot at Allsop Place in London, and made the long journey to Yorkshire. The top temperature in the county that day was -1°C, and snow and ice made it a hazardous trip.

The Beatles, meanwhile, had performed the previous night in Tamworth and Sutton Coldfield, and travelled to Bradford in Neil Aspinall’s Commer van.

During the tour there were two shows each night, at 6.15pm and 8.30pm. The Gaumont Cinema held 3,318 people, and a number of the seats for the first house were empty.

The shows opened with The Red Price Band, then The Honeys. Compere Dave Allen then introduced The Beatles, and Danny Williams closed the first half. After an interval The Red Price Band performed once more, followed by The Kestrels, Kenny Lynch and Helen Shapiro. The compere was Dave Allen.

The Beatles performed six songs on this first night of the tour: ‘Love Me Do’, Beautiful Dreamer, ‘Chains’, ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Baby’, ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and ‘Please Please Me’.

As the tour progressed and they occasionally also played ‘Long Tall Sally’.

Helen had the star dressing room downstairs, but you had to go up the steps to the small room The Beatles were in that night. You couldn’t swing the proverbial cat in it. As I recall, we were all stood up. They were sort of propped up by the small mirror – two at one end and two at the other, with Brian in the background. We were the only people in the room.

We would just have talked about the usual things – their recording plans, what it was like to be on a national tour in the spotlight, that kind of thing. They were very friendly and a bit of a laugh, but there was no mickey-taking or anything like that. They were very polite.

Gordon Sampson, New Musical Express
Beatlemania!, Martin Creasy

Stan Richardson, a freelance photographer, was covering the first show with a reporter for the Melody Maker. Brian Epstein asked him to take a picture of The Beatles, but he initially refused as bands often failed to pay for photographs. They eventually persuaded him to take their picture, and between shows he went home and developed a 20″x16″ print which he brought back for the group to sign.

The picture was taken in the foyer. We were trying to get a picture and interview with Helen, but she refused. Then these Liverpool lads piped up: ‘We’ll have our pictures taken.’ His Lordship [Epstein] was there in his white suit and pink carnation and he said, ‘Come on, come on, take a picture of my boys.’

I went home and processed it and returned for the end of the second house. I remember Epstein putting his arm around me and saying, ‘Oh darling, I want you to take a whole set of pictures of my boys.’ I refused. It sounds crazy now, but I’d taken pictures of pop stars before and you hardly ever got paid. The only time I ever got paid was when I took pictures of Lulu. Her people paid up straight away.

Stan Richardson
Beatlemania!, Martin Creasy

Also on this day the ‘Please Please Me’ single entered the Music Week chart at number 16.

Brian Epstein put us in suits and all that, and we made it very, very big. We sold out. The music was dead before we even went on the theatre tour of Britain. We were feeling s**t already because we had to reduce an hour or two hours’ play – and which we were glad in one way – to twenty minutes, and go on and repeat the same twenty minutes every night. The Beatles’ music died then, as musicians. That’s why we never improved as musicians. We killed ourselves then to make it – and that was the end of it. George and I are more inclined to say that. We always missed the club dates ’cause that’s when we were playing music.
Last updated: 25 January 2024
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