Prior to performing two concerts in the village of Blokker in the Netherlands – their only two shows on Dutch soil – The Beatles and Jimmie Nicol toured the canals of Amsterdam in a glass-topped tourist boat.
50,000 people turned out to see them in Amsterdam, and police leave was cancelled so all 15,000 officers were on duty. Some fans dived into the canals to try to reach the group, but were quickly dealt with by police.
Thirty fans swam out to the boat as another 30,000 watched the spectacle from the canal banks. The canal trip was very enjoyable; being on the water gave us all a great sense of novelty and freedom. The boat was full of press people, including the Australian broadcaster Bob Rogers from Sydney Radio 2SM. It was good to have a trusted group of reporters along for company. Only six weeks before, I had been one of their number; now, they represented a source of contact for me with the real world outside.
Fifty Years Adrift
While on their canal tour The Beatles saw some local students wearing capes, which later inspired their look for the Help! album cover and film.
In Amsterdam, somehow, we were boating along the canals waving and being fab and we saw this bloke standing in the crowd with a groovy-looking cloak on. We sent Mal to find out where he got it from. Mal jumped off or swam off the boat and about three hours later turned up at our hotel with the cloak, which he’d bought from the guy. When we flew from there to Hong Kong, we all had copies made but they were in cheap material which melted in the rain storm at Sydney Airport.
Fifty Years Adrift, Derek Taylor
Following their Amsterdam jaunt, The Beatles performed two shows in Veilinghal Op Hoop Van Zegen, an auction hall situated on Veilingweg in Blokker, a village 40km north of Amsterdam. The first show was a matinee for 2,000 fans beginning at 2.30pm, after which they gave an evening performance to a sell-out crowd of 7,000.
It was a short set, because Ringo’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ was missing, and there were hours to go before the evening concert. We spent the interval between the performances confined in a dreary, airless dressing-room in the Blokker building. The atmosphere was soul-destroying, clouded with yawning, jaw-breaking ennui. I was familiar with that terrible lethargy; I’d experienced it so many times, in the army and as a reporter waiting around for news. What we had done then to kill time was tell jokes – and that was what I did now. Some of the jokes were very good, many of them were very dirty; but all of them were new to The Boys, who were exceedingly impressed. George says this was the turning-point in their relationship with me. So, it was not my wonderful ability as a publicist that brought me at last into the inner circle; it was simply my talent for relieving the hiatus between shows with a parade of very old and mucky material. Strange how potent cheap humour can be… Still, it was a painless and pleasant way of winning the trust of The Beatles. Did it make me court jester? Maybe it did. There are worse things to be. Laughter, the great balm. Mal and Neil enjoyed it, too, and that helped us to get to know one another.
Fifty Years Adrift
In between the two shows The Beatles had been expected to attend a civic reception held in their honour at a local restaurant, followed by a visit to a traditional Dutch village. Unaware of the plans, they slept in their dressing room and inadvertently insulted the people of Blokker.
Afterwards, while the three Beatles and Jimmie Nicol tried to get some sleep, Neil and I went out into the late afternoon sunshine for a walk. Mal stayed behind to make notes for the ‘Following The Beatles’ feature in The Beatles Monthly. Neil and I observed with powerful interest the scene around the Exhibition Hall. There was a lumbering procession of large lads, shoving and pushing, laughing, shouting, ripe for action and adventure. The hall could hold about 3,000 people and it was due to be packed tight for the evening concert. Flies on the wall, Neil and I rated little attention. ‘English?’ asked one Dutch youth. ‘Non, Français,’ I replied in an appalling accent. We bathed in sunshine and anonymity – blissfully unaware of the consternation prevailing at a local restaurant, where The Boys were awaited at a civic reception to be followed by a visit to a traditional Dutch village. The Beatles knew nothing about this ‘arrangement’. The civic leaders were understanding about the mix-up but I felt very bad about the whole affair. Aware that The Beatles were not to blame, I nevertheless expected them to show some sympathy for the fans and officials they had – however innocently – disappointed. To my suburban middle-class mind, their indifference seemed callous; yet, as I well knew by now, they could never have survived if they’d let every ‘special event’ rule their lives and worry away their very limited leisure-time.
Fifty Years Adrift
The Beatles took to the stage following eight support acts. They played for around 25 minutes, and their stage times were 4.30pm and 10.05pm. The second show was filmed with television and newsreel cameras.
The press wrote about one or two instances where we never turned up, the worst one being the Manila story, and then told everyone what a bunch of tw**s we were. It never seemed to enter their minds that every moment of every day of every week of every month we were meeting millions of people. Everywhere we went it was someone, this one, those two, police chief, Lord Mayor, Yogi Bear, his granny and his daughters, with their selected friends – God, it was awful!
A lot of those times were were told: ‘Come on, you’re supposed to be doing this or that and supposed to be there,’ and we’d say, ‘No, we’re not. We’ve got our itinerary where we’re booked to play and what we’re doing and that’s that.’
Fifty Years Adrift, Derek Taylor
Also on this day...
- 2022: Ringo Starr live: Beacon Theatre, New York
- 2018: Ringo Starr live: Olympia, Paris, France
- 2014: Ringo Starr live: Casino Rama, Orillia, Ontario, Canada
- 1989: US album release: Flowers In The Dirt by Paul McCartney
- 1968: Radio: The Kenny Everett Show
- 1968: BBC interview with John Lennon and Victor Spinetti
- 1968: Recording, mixing: Don’t Pass Me By
- 1966: Recording, mixing: And Your Bird Can Sing, For No One, I’m Only Sleeping, Tomorrow Never Knows, Eleanor Rigby
- 1962: Recording: Besame Mucho, Love Me Do, PS I Love You, Ask Me Why – The Beatles’ first Abbey Road recording session
- 1961: Live: Top Ten Club, Hamburg
- 1960: Live: Grosvenor Ballroom, Wallasey
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.
I’m not sure if the map has the correct location, although it’s the only sizeable building near the Veilingweg. If I’ve got the wrong place can someone please let me know?
It’s possible that the Veilinghal (auction hall) no longer exists, of course.