THE Beatles were bottom of the bill when their first UK package tour came to the Gaumont.

On February 2, 1963, John, Paul, George and Ringo were, as former T&A journalist Jim Greenhalf recalled in 2013, “just a rumour spreading out from Liverpool’s Cavern Club”.

Added Jim: “Though they had a bit of a hit with Love Me Do, their first single, they were nine days away from recording their first LP at Abbey Road Studios and changing the direction of popular music.

In those days pop groups were bussed round the country’s cinemas and ballrooms for twice-nightly shows. Each group had 15 to 20 minutes to do their stuff, depending where they were on the bill. There were seven acts on the bill that cold winter day in Bradford in February 1963. Teenager Helen Shapiro was top of the bill. The Beatles sang Chains, A Taste Of Honey, Keep Your Hands Off My Baby and, reportedly, Please, Please Me, which was to be the signature track of their debut LP.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: T&A picture special celebrating the Beatles in Bradford T&A picture special celebrating the Beatles in Bradford (Image: Newsquest)

When The Beatles returned to the Gaumont 11 months later, on December 21, they were on their way towards pop stardom’s stratosphere. They were previewing their own Christmas show, which was to have 17 performances at London’s Astoria cinema. Their second album was out.

Their third and final concert at the Gaumont was on October 9, 1964, John Lennon’s 24th birthday. The T&A’s showbiz correspondent Peter Holdsworth was pictured backstage with Ringo Starr and John Lennon, who nicked the reporter’s cap and larked about.

This time their repertoire of ten songs consisted of seven Lennon and McCartney numbers and three covers, including Paul McCartney’s rip-snorting performance of Long Tall Sally. That was the year The Beatles conquered America and had five of their own compositions at the top of the US chart. They were a slipstream on Bradford’s horizon.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The ticket for The BeatlesThe ticket for The Beatles

But for the thousands of youngsters who queued round the Gaumont in the cold, some of them overnight, for a ticket to those shows, those were the days.”

In December 2022 the Beatles’ Bradford gigs were celebrated in an exhibition called Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford, looking back on the former Odeon building, currently being developed into a music venue by Bradford Live. The exhibition, at Bradford’s Impressions Gallery, celebrated the vibrant history of the building’s eras as the New Victoria, the Gaumont and the Odeon.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Adrian Hartshorn with a T&A 'Gaumont special'Adrian Hartshorn with a T&A 'Gaumont special'

Among items on display was a signed shirt loaned by Allan Mirfield, who was 16 when he arrived at the Gaumont to collect 40 concert tickets for Wibsey Youth Club in February, 1963. Keen to get some autographs from acts on the bill, he handed a shirt to the manager and asked if anyone could sign it. “I didn’t think I’d see it again,” Allan told the T&A. The shirt was signed by all four of The Beatles. “I’ve never worn it since,” said Allan.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Allan Mirfield with his signed shirt at the Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford exhibition in 2022Allan Mirfield with his signed shirt at the Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford exhibition in 2022 (Image: Newsquest)

October 9, 1964 was the opening night of the Beatles’ UK tour - and fans sang Happy Birthday to John Lennon.

The group stayed at Holdsworth House Hotel in Halifax. Today the historic property is a luxury hotel. In 1964 it was a country club owned by Freddie and Rita Pearson, whose daughter, Gail, was a 14-year-old Beatles fan.

Through his many connections, Freddie persuaded Beatles manager Brian Epstein to bring the group to stay after their concert at the Gaumont. The Pearsons offered them a warm welcome and complete privacy.

In October 2020 the T&A looked back on the Fab Four’s stay at the venue. Freddie and Rita prepared for their arrival in secrecy - even Gail (now Gail Moss, who today owns Holdsworth House) and her eight-year-old sister Kim, weren’t told until the last minute.

Gail recalled: “Every teenager in West Yorkshire was excited that the Beatles were playing their opening concert in Bradford and you can imagine how I felt when my father told me they were actually coming to stay with us. It was a hard secret to keep.

“At around 11pm The Beatles arrived after what my father described as a ‘hairy drive’. He travelled from the concert with them to give directions, they skirted the crowds and passed at speed through police roadblocks. My mother had been worried the gardens would be trampled by screaming fans but thanks to a police diversion, their destination remained a secret.

“The Beatles chatted to guests in the bar when they arrived, then had dinner in a private room. We still have a signed copy of the menu and their original bills which show a rather rich selection of trout, turtle soup, cold duckling and steak tartare. The bar bill came to £2 15s.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Beatles at Holdsworth House the morning after their stay thereThe Beatles at Holdsworth House the morning after their stay there (Image: Holdsworth House)

“They drank with Brian Epstein in the Long Bar until the early hours. Despite having toothache, John was the life and soul, told endless jokes and did a brilliant imitation of a pompous Yorkshire mill owner.”

Added Gail: “They all slept in the old house: John and Ringo in what was mine and my sister’s room. They all shared one small bathroom. I was up at 6am, terrified I’d miss them. I needn’t have worried as they slept in. Eventually, my mother knocked on their door saying, ‘My daughter’s been waiting all morning to see you, she’s coming in’. I was mortified but they were all really chatty. Paul offered me a cigarette which I refused (I could probably have sold it later!) and asked me about a book in our room on Ibiza, as he’d never been to Spain. My sister Kim made friends with Ringo, who let her look at all his rings.”

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