Leeds nostalgia: lighter side for Fab Four in Leeds

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It was 50 years ago this month that The Beatles rocked The Odeon Cimena in Leeds.

Fresh from their record-breaking tour of the States, the group were on the eleventh stop of their fifth UK tour, writes Danny Friar.

George Harrison was the first Beatle to come to the city. He visited Roundhay Park with his mother in the summer of 1946.

The Fabs played in Leeds twice in 1963. Their first appearance in the city was on June 5, 1963. On that occasion they were a support act on the Roy Orbison tour. They retuned on November 3, 1963 on their Autumn tour. It was the night before they gave their famous Royal Command Performance.

The Beatles’ third and last appearance in Leeds came 11 months later on October 22, 1964. It was the day before the release of their eighth UK single, I Feel Fine.

They had played in Glasglow the night before and had been driven to Leeds in their famous Austin Princess by chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

The Beatles received a warm welcome in Leeds with hundreds of fans waiting outside the Odeon Cinema on the Headrow for a chance to see their heroes.

A total of 2,500 fans packed the Odeon for the first of two houses. They paid between ten shillings and 6 pence and five shillings and 6 pence for the privilege to see The Beatles perform live.

The first house began at 6:15pm and along with The Beatles, fans also got to see Motown star Mary Wells.

The Queen Of Motown, as she was known, had just had an international hit with My Guy. The other support acts were all managed by Brian Epstein’s company NEMS.

They were Sounds Incorporated, The Remo Four, Tommy Quickly, Michael Haslam and The Rustiks. The compère for the evening was comedian Bob Bain.

When The Beatles came on the stage the crowd went wild. Screaming girls left their seats and dashed towards the stage, cramming around the front of the orchestra pit. Six girls managed to break through the security and St John Ambulance volunteers to climb over the organ and onto the stage during the first show. One of the girls was inches from Paul McCartney before being dragged away by a guard. She was removed from the cinema but simply made her way to the front of the building and persuaded a policeman to let her back in.

The Beatles played for half an hour, playing ten songs in total.They began with two rocking covers, Twist And Shout and Money (That’s What I Want).

They then played five songs; Can’t Buy Me Love, Things We Said Today, I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, I Should Have Known Better and If I Fell. All of which came from their latest LP and first movie A Hard Day’s Night.

For their next song Ringo took the mike and sang I Wanna Be Your Man before the group finished off with their latest chart-topper, A Hard Day’s Night and the Little Richard number Long Tall Sally.

During the show the fans threw objects onto the stage. Among the jelly babies and teddy bears was a lighter that hit Paul on the head. Paul kept the lighter and showed it to reporters the next day. “See this” he said. “It hit me on the head at our concert in Leeds last night. That’s how excited the audience was getting.”

The Beatles played a second show that night at 8.30pm with extra security supplied by Ambulance workers. Four adults who had refused to leave their seats after the first house in protest at being unable to hear or see anything were allowed to stand in a circle aisle for the second show. They barely heard any more second time around.

After the show The Beatles met with the press backstage to discuss their up-and-coming album With The Beatles.They enjoyed crisps and Double Diamond lager provided by the cinema. They gave autographs to fans and policemen. John Lennon signed a photo for a fan and on the back he sketched four possible designs for the new album cover.

They were paid £850 for their appearance in Leeds. They travelled to London the next day to perform at the Gaumont Cinema in Kilburn.

Paul McCartney and Wings came to Leeds on their University Tour on 16 February 1972. They played fifteen songs at Leeds University. They returned to play at the university in May 1973.

The Odeon Cimena was first opened as the Paramount Theatre in 1932. The name was changed to the Odeon in 1940. It was closed in 2001.

The building still stands today and is now a Primark clothes store.

Fifty years later the memories of the day The Beatles came to Leeds are still strong.

Council plans unveiled in 1975 included opening up a subway from the Merrion Centre to The Headrow.

Leeds nostalgia: Subway link plan for the city centre