THE song ‘Love me Do’ was, in 1960s terms, a minor hit for the Beatles, peaking at number 17 in the charts after its release on October 5, 1962.
However it was the prelude to a perfect musical storm which was to sweep across the world. The Liverpool band was to become huge - “bigger than Jesus” in the words of its singer John Lennon - as chart-topping hit followed chart-topping hit.
Next came ‘Please Please Me’ which reached number 2 before an almost unbroken series of number ones both in the UK and worldwide.
Interestingly, the iconic ‘She Loves You’ was penned following the band’s first North East gig in January 1963 at Newcastle’s Majestic Ballroom, now home of the O2 Academy in Westgate Road. Lennon and Paul McCartney had started writing it on the tour bus to Newcastle and finished it after the gig that night in their hotel bedroom.
In the next two and a half years they were frequent visitors to the region, appearing at a number of venues long since gone, re-named or re-vamped but whose name should bring a nostalgic smile to many. Sunderland’s Rink Ballroom, Middlesbrough’s Astoria Ballroom, the Stockton Globe and the York Rialto evoke a musical past. However, one of the venues the band frequented - four times in all - was Newcastle’s City Hall, which still exists. The Beatles last played there on December 4, 1965 when amongst the audience was a certain young Paddy MacDee, the popular BBC radio presenter.
“I’ve still got the programme and the ticket,” said Paddy proudly. “I went with a friend and it was to prove the final tour they did in this country. They never did another live one in the UK, although they did stuff in America.”
One of the main reasons for ending the live gigs was the screaming of fans which drowned out the sound. “The sound was absolutely deafening,” recalled Paddy. “You could just about decipher some of the songs under the screams.
“We knew from what we’d read that that was how it was going to be. That was why they stopped touring, they just got cheesed off with the noise. They could have been on stage miming to records and nobody would have had a clue - but of course they weren’t.”
Paddy was 15 when he bought his 15 shilling ticket (75p in today’s money) and the low price compared to what you would have to fork out to see a super group today might not be the only surprise to younger readers of the Sunday Sun.
“Even though they were massive there were a number of other acts performing that night, part of a so-called ‘package tour’,” explained Paddy. “The original Moody Blues closed the first act and they were followed by a group called the Paramounts who later became Procol Harum.
“They did two shows a night. I went with my friend to the 6.30pm show and as we were going out, people were going into the 8pm show. Another interesting thing was that even though they were at the height of their success, The Beatles were on stage for about half an hour.
“It’s funny. I went to see Paul McCartney in Dublin and it was about a three hour show and he’s in his 70s. The Beatles at the City Hall were in their 20s and they did half an hour.”
Paddy’s teenage years from 1963 to 1968 coincided with the height of Beatlemania. “I remember seeing them on the TV in 1963 on the 5 O’Clock Club playing ‘Please Please Me’. I thought these guys were good. I’ve been a huge fan ever since.”
Ironically Paddy’s first ever interview when he started working for the BBC in 1973 was with Paul McCartney, then on tour with his new band, ‘Wings’, who were playing at Newcastle City Hall.
“I rang up his publicity people and asked if he was doing any interviews. They said pop along before the show and they would see what they could do. I turned up early for the gig and they said we’ll see if he’ll talk. And they came back and said yes. I was shown into the dressing room and there was Paul and the band. I thought ‘bloody hell!’. I was very nervous but he noticed that and was very considerate and gave me a lot of good quotes. He’s the only person I’ve interviewed who I’ve asked for their autograph.”
With the 50th anniversary of the release of Love Me Do fast approaching, the BBC’s local radio stations are holding their own ‘My Beatles Story’ day. And, naturally, Paddy’s show on BBC Radio Newcastle from 10pm to 1am on October 5 will de devoted to all things Fab Four.
“I’ll bring in my record collection,” said Paddy. “I think I’ve got every single Beatles record.”
by Michael Kelly, Sunday Sun