The Beatles in Glasgow 1965
The Beatles’ fourth visit to the city in December of 1965 turned out to be their last as a group.
What would turn out to be The Beatles’ final UK tour began in December 1965 with two shows in one night at Glasgow’s Odeon Cinema. Opening in 1934 and closing in 2006, the Odeon was situated at the junction between Renfield Street and West Regent Street in the city centre’s heart. The Beatles had played the Odeon Cinema three times previously. In June 1963 with Roy Orbison, then in their own right when they packed two houses in one night in both April and October of 1964.
Paul McCartney remembered their first appearance in the city when talking with John Dingwall of the Daily Record in 2010.
“The thing with Glasgow was that we were told to watch out. That was the word. People were scared to play Glasgow, so we thought, ‘Nah, it’ll be all right.’ “But we were still a little bit apprehensive and watching out. Then some guy jumped up on the stage at the end of our first Glasgow show with The Beatles. The guy jumps up, and everyone is going, ‘Ah, s***. This is it. He’s going to hit you with a bottle. He’s going to bottle you.’ But then the guy suddenly starts dancing away, and we realised they loved us and it was going to be great.”
They had also visited in 1963 where they played the Glasgow Concert Hall, based in the Anderston area of the city. Plaster on the ceiling came down, the balcony swayed, and over 100 seats were damaged. The event prompted operators Glasgow Corporation to ban all ‘beat groups’ from playing the venue in future. The finger of blame was pointed at overenthusiastic teenagers, but really the concert hall wasn’t equipped to cope with the rapidly changing music world of the time. It was demolished in 1968.
The band chose to drive to all the December 1965 dates around the UK in a black Austin Princess. In August The Beatles had toured America, playing stadiums and arenas. Theatres and cinemas were selected for the UK concerts. The aim was to create a more intimate and intense atmosphere.
On Thursday 2nd December they stopped for the night to stay in Berwick on Tweed, setting off for Glasgow the next morning. Fourteen guitars had been strapped to the boot and not long into their journey on the A1 George Harrison’s Gretsch Country Gentleman fell off. “It was in pieces. About ten lorries must have run over it,” George told the assembled 30 reporters and photographers later. “Then one of the lorries stopped, and the driver came up with the dangling remains of it and said: ‘Oy, is this ‘ere banjo anyfink to do wiv you?’” “Will you be able to use it again?” a worried reporter asked. While George pondered the question, John jumped in with, “No, he won’t. It’s out of tune now you see.” The accident left George with two guitars for the tour.
Once in Glasgow, Brian Epstein decided that they should stay in the city centre due to the winter weather. The band checked into the Central Hotel, only a few hundred yards from the Odeon.
Among their promotional duties, The Beatles were interviewed by Cathy Spence for her Clan Club show on the pirate radio station Radio Scotland. “When The Beatles came to Glasgow I was told I was the first girl ever to be photographed with them,” Spence told the Daily Record in 2009. The picture appeared on the front page of the Evening Times.
Outside the venue, two solid lines of policemen were on both sides of the road to control the crowds, with mounted police later called in. Paul McCartney told Alan Brown of the NME, who was on the early part of the tour with the band, “We don’t like it. The police have got to do their job and keep order, but just lately it’s getting ridiculous. There are so many of them about, it ruins the whole atmosphere of enjoyment.”
The show was compered by Jerry Stevens, a comedian and impressionist from Scunthorpe. He would later have success teaming up with Lennie Bennett in The Lennie and Jerry Show which ran on BBC 2 from 1977 to 1980. Several acts were on the supporting bill. The Koobas were a Liverpudlian band who served their apprenticeship in Hamburg’s Star Club, like the Beatles. Beryl Marsden was another Star Club veteran who was considered Liverpool’s top girl vocalist until Cillia Black broke through. Also on the line-up were The Marionettes, Steve Aldo, The Paramounts, and The Moody Blues.
Alan Smith reported an electric tension as the audience sensed The Beatles’ time to take the stage. “Suddenly a short instrumental riff was heard from behind the curtains — and it was like flinging open the floodgates of the audience’s emotion.” The curtains parted, and the group launched into I Feel Fine. Lead vocal traded for the first four numbers with John’s opener being followed by Paul on lead for She’s a Woman, George singing If I Needed Someone, then Ringo’s turn on the mic with Act Naturally.
Nowhere Man was next, a song from new LP Rubber Soul which was released only that day. Baby’s In Black, Help! and We Can Work it Out, also released that day as a single, followed before Paul sat down at an electric organ to play Yesterday solo. John was on vocals for Day Tripper before the show closed with I’m Down.
While stating that ‘Crazy Beatlemania was over’ Smith wrote, that on the night, “There were two jam-packed houses, some fainting fits, and thunderous waves of screams that set the city’s Odeon theatre trembling.”
For his book, The Beatles in Scotland Ken McNab spoke with John Douglas, who with his brother Peter worked in the cinema’s projection room by day then worked on the sound at the concerts. “The Beatles got so frustrated at not being able to hear themselves playing,” John said. “They were singing their songs and no-one was really listening.”
The Glasgow Herald reported of the fans, “Sighing, sobbing, screaming or simply ‘sent’ the crowd inside the theatre yielded such a steady stream of casualties that the foyer at times resembled a battleground.”
From a venue that held 2800, there were 65 cases in the first house and 60 in the second. Six in total were sent to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. A St Andrews Ambulance Association official said 37 of those treated were fainting cases and 88 were suffering from hysteria. One ambulance worker commented: “Give me a Rangers-Celtic game any day. This is just too much.”
Cinema manager George Chantry said to the Glasgow Herald that the Beatles show was “much quieter” than their last performance. George took the opportunity to have all four Beatles sign a programme and present it to his daughter. In 2001 she put the programme and six photographs taken with The Beatles moments before they went on stage, up for auction at Christie’s. Christie’s pop and collectables specialist Sarah Hodgson said at the time: “It is not rare to find a photo or programme of the Beatles but it is rare to find a programme signed by all four band members like this one. Our auction estimate is between £2,500 to £4,500 but obviously, they may fetch much more.” The lot sold for £9,635.
It would be May 1973 before a Glasgow audience saw one of the Fab Four on stage again when Paul played Green’s Playhouse with Wings.