The Beatles in Bournemouth
PUBLISHED: 21:55 24 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:55 24 April 2013
Nick Churchill, author of Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first gig in Bournemouth
The Beatles dazzled like the decade they dominated and left their mark on everything and everyone they touched – Prime Ministers courted them, Royalty indulged them, girls adored them and boys wanted to be them. Even now, more than half a century since their first release, their story fascinates us.
The places that ‘had their moments’ according to John Lennon’s lyric for In My Life – Liverpool, London, Hamburg, New York – are well known, but it’s high time to add Bournemouth to that list for it contributed far more to Beatles lore than many fans realise.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first of their 18 shows in Bournemouth – 16 of them at the Gaumont (now the Odeon) in Westover Road, more than at any other UK theatre outside London. They were already chart-topping stars when they arrived on 19 August 1963 to open a six-night summer season at the Gaumont and fans mobbed their Ford Zephyr as it parked in the alleyway between the cinema and the Palace Court Hotel (now a Premier Inn) next door.
Playing two shows a night, the bill also included Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, whose Lennon/McCartney-penned hit Bad To Me was at number one that Monday – the perfect birthday present for Kramer who celebrated with The Beatles in their dressing room between shows and later at a reception hosted by Brian Epstein, who managed both groups, at the Palace Court.
“We arrived in Bournemouth and it was my 20th birthday and I have very distinct memories of drinks in the dressing room, the party at the hotel, cutting the cake and the rest of it,” says Kramer. “When we got there they were getting the gear on stage and everyone was having a big jam – Paul McCartney was playing drums.”
As fans camped outside the Palace Court, by day the boys were busy with interviews and photo shoots, including a session in the dining room with Robert Freeman for the iconic half-shadow cover photo of their second album, With The Beatles.
On the Saturday, confined to his room with a heavy cold, George Harrison wrote his first Beatles song, Don’t Bother Me, also finding time to answer a fan letter on Palace Court headed paper, remarking: “We don’t mind girls screaming in the noisy numbers, but I think we would prefer them to be a little quieter in the slow songs.”
The group returned to Bournemouth to appear at the Winter Gardens on 16 November and twice the following year – on 2 August and 30 October – at the Gaumont.
In 1965 John Lennon bought his aunt Mimi, in whose care he had been left at the age of five, a bungalow at 126 Panorama Road, Sandbanks for £25,000. He called it ‘one of the loveliest places in the world’ and was a frequent visitor until he left Britain for good in 1971. He phoned her every week until his murder in 1980 and in their last conversation talked about bringing his son Sean to meet her in the New Year.
Following Mimi’s death in December 1991, Lennon’s two wives Cynthia and Yoko and their sons Julian and Sean attended the funeral at Poole Crematorium while the other Beatles sent wreaths. Harbour’s Edge was sold and demolished in 1994.