The first tour

When The Beatles undertook their first national tour back in that bleak midwinter of 1963 they were already the kings of Merseyside… but Helen Shapiro was the star turn.

Within just a few days Please Please Me started its great rise up the charts and their lives were to change forever. By the end of the year Britain was besotted and within a short time the heart of America had been captured too.

Beatlemania! The Real Story Of The Beatles UK Tours examines this exciting period of 1963 when the group took on four national tours, despite a heavy schedule of writing and recording a whole host of great songs, plus a busy schedule of TV and radio appearances and an exhausting stream of other public appearances.

The national press only started attaching reporters and photographers to Beatles tours in the wake of She Loves You and the astonishing scenes outside the London Palladium in October 1963, but by then the group had completed three national tours causing scenes of growing excitment up and down the country.

There has been limited pictures and stories about these early tours down the years for the very good reason that few papers were on hand to report them. My motive in starting this project was to find out as much as possible from the people who were there… the fans, the police, the venue staff and hoteliers, the reporters and photographers and the pop stars who had the pleasure of touring with the Fab Four – but the dubious please of enduring screams for them during their own sets.

Among those sharing their memories of the first incredible tour are singers Helen Shapiro and Kenny Lynch, plus Vilma and Anita Liddell, of The Honeys, who have never spoken before of their travels with John, Paul, George and Ringo. Then there is the great songwriter Roger Greenaway, then (and now) a member of The Kestrels – plus his Kestrel colleague Geoff Williams.

Alongside them is Gordon Sampson who covered The Beatles’ very first tour gig at Bradford for the NME, plus photographer Stan Richardson who took their photo that night.

They are joined by other newsmen, fans and hoteliers and cinema managers in putting some meat on the bones on that first tour that we know so little about.

I warmly thank everyone who gave so generously from their memory banks after all these years to recall events that I believe are a significant, but little-known part of the history of The Beatles. It was an exciting period in their progress as they hit the road on their first national tour and celebrated the joy of their first big hit – Please Please Me – that set them on the road to greatness.

I had no agenda other than to discover what happened during those incredible few weeks and it was heartening to discover how people enjoyed being around The Beatles – of the fun that was to be had until their fame grew to the level that it simply became impossible for them to enjoy the freedom they once cherished to let their mop-topped hair down.

The first two tours were a brief window of opportunity for fans to hear The Beatles going full pelt on stage before the screaming got to the level where nobody heard anything.