Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Beatles - Sheffield - 1963



Legend – The Beatles made their live Sheffield debut on February 12, 1963 at the Azena ballroom, Gleadless...or so Peter Stringfellow would have you believe...

During an interview with Beatles biographer, Mark Lewisohn, nearly 20 years ago, the notorious entrepreneur (who organised the gig with his brother, Geoffrey) told Lewisohn that the Beatles played the Azena on the February date, claiming it was the first time the band had appeared on a Sheffield stage.

In fact, recent research shows it was last Saturday (April 2) that marks the 48th anniversary of the Beatles’ legendary show at the Azena, nearly two months before the reported date.

Suspicion arose among Fab Four fans when it was realised that the band played in Oldham on the same night they were supposed to be in Sheffield, the day after recording their debut album ‘Please Please Me’ in a single session at Studio Two in London.

Evidence, in the form of a set list picked up by a support band member on the night, has since confirmed that Lewisohn was fed false information. The handwriting from the document has been confirmed by Lewisohn as Paul McCartney’s and features ‘From Me To You’ - which hadn’t been written by February.

Furthermore, a poster supposedly advertising the February 12 Azena line-up has long been discarded as fake. The poster contains the famed ‘drop T’ logo, in which the stem of the T, central in the name, drops beneath the other characters. This wasn’t designed until the April of 1963 and wasn’t officially unveiled until May of the same year when it was used on Ringo’s bass drum. 

The fake poster, designed by Duffield that later sold for £10, 000


The poster, made by Colin Duffield, later sold at a rock n’ roll memorabilia auction for £10,000 and was accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Duffield himself.

I recently uncovered the real advert for the event at Sheffield City Library archives. Taken from the Sheffield Star of April 2, 1963, it disproves Stringfellow’s claim that the Beatles’ first ever Sheffield gig took place at the Azena, and the authenticity of Duffield’s poster.

The night itself was originally meant to be played at Stringfellow’s new club, the Black Cat (formerly St Aiden’s Church on City Road.) But when tickets started selling quickly (for four shillings, the equivalent of 20p today) prices were raised to five shillings (25p,) the location was changed  to the Azena and over 1,000 more tickets than the venue's capacity of 500 were sold.

Another 1,000 people turned up without a ticket and when someone opened a fire door to let people in, chaos ensued before police officers restored order.

Notably, one of the band’s top hits, ‘Twist And Shout’, wasn’t included in their set. It is thought that John Lennon had a cold and didn’t want to risk his voice with the iconic throat shredding vocals.

Before playing the Azena, the Beatles appeared twice at the City Hall, on March 2 and 16 of that same year, before appearing in Sheffield another two times at the venue before the year end.

Sheffield Star - April 2, 1963

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