1963 Beatles concert recording emerges

The Beatles on stage at the theatre in Stowe school, April 4, 1963.

Samira Ahmed, a reporter from the BBC Radio 4 program series Front Row went to a public school in Stowe to reminisc on a Beatles concert which took place there sixty years ago tomorrow, April 4. While there, a former pupil she interviewed, revealed to her that he had recorded the concert on reel to reel tape, and he still had the recording.

This is the earliest full, or nearly full, concert by the Beatles in Great Britain recorded, that we know of. It is not the usual half hour or twenty minutes performance by the band which was typical for their package tours, this is one hour long.

David Magnus, an assistant to the photographer Dezo Hoffman, took a number of photos of the event.

The hour-long quarter-inch tape recording was made by 15-year-old John Bloomfield at Stowe boarding school in Buckinghamshire on 4 April 1963 when the band played a concert at the school’s theatre.

They had been booked by fellow pupil David Moores, who had written to manager Brian Epstein.

“Probably the most unusual concert appearance of all.” Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle

Bloomfield, a self-confessed tech geek, had designed the stage lighting system, and took the opportunity to add a microphone of his own to the stage setup that night, plugged into his reel to reel tape recorder.

The band starts with «I Saw Her Standing There», going straight into Chuck Berry’s «Too Much Monkey Business». Promoting songs from their recently released «Please Please Me» debut album, the band honour requests from the audience and play cover versions.
Earlier that same day, before travelling to Stowe, The Beatles had performed «Too Much Monkey Business» at BBC Radio’s «Paris» studio in London for an episode of the «Side by Side» program series. The recording took place between 11am and 2pm. Aside from the Chuck Berry song, the group performed «Love Me Do», «Boys», «I’ll Be On My Way» and «From Me To You» for the radio show.

Photographer Dezo Hoffmann and his assistant, David Magnus took photos of The Beatles outside the Paris studios that day, photos which were later to be used on the cover of the 1994 album, “The Beatles Live at the BBC”. «I’ll Be On My Way» from that day’s recording was also released on that album.

Part of the recording from Stowe was teased in brief snippets in tonight’s Front Row special on BBC Radio 4, which is currently available for listening to at BBC Sounds. No word of what is going to happen with the recording, but it seems to be outside of copyright, at least in Europe.

A few of the other songs performed in Stowe: «I Just Dont Understand», «A Taste of Honey», «A Shot of Rhythm and Blues», «Memphis Tennessee», probably «From Me To You» and many songs from the «Please Please Me» album. The recording is described as “nearly complete” and that The Beatles performed “more than 22 songs”.

In the program, Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has this to say about the significance of the recording: “The opportunity that this tape presents, which is completely out of the blue, is fantastic because we hear them just on the cusp of the breakthrough into complete world fame. And at that point, all audience recordings become blanketed in screams”.

“So here is an opportunity to hear them in the UK, in an environment where they could be heard and where the tape actually does capture them properly, at a time when they can have banter with the audience as well”.

“I think it’s an incredibly important recording, and I hope something good and constructive and creative eventually happens to it”.

In 2020, when the school put up a blue plaque to celebrate the Beatles’ visit, Sir Paul McCartney recalled how shocked they’d been. “Good old working class boys like us had never visited an establishment like Stowe and we were shocked to see the stark living conditions,” he said.

More photos from that day here.
Samira Ahmed writes about her discovery at BBC News.

13 Responses

  1. Tony Littman says:

    60 years later and an hour long Beatles concerttape is unearthed… I mean Wowwwww!!! This is truly amazing. I can’t believe he sat on that tape for so long (not literally). I seriously doubt anything will be done with it, but it’s nice to imagine.

    • Stephen robshaw says:

      Nothing will be done with it?WHAAAAT .. are you completely out of your mind..its worth millions..you really shouldn’t comment..

  2. Sam G says:

    This was just one day before their EMI appearance for the press, of which a tape emerged of that only last year, of course! Hmmm…that and the Stowe recording would make a nice double vinyl LP, methinks.

  3. Ronald says:

    I recently got the book “The Beatles -1963 – A Year In The Life” by Dafydd Rees. The entry for 4 April includes both the (third) Side By Side programme recorded that day and the Stowe concert, and a lengthy interview with John Bloomfield, but no mention that he had actually recorded the concert. The book mentions Dave Moores was the nephew of John Moores, who was then chairman of Everton FC, the winners of the Football League championship that season! The book reveals that the group performed two half hour sets of 14 songs. Does that mean a total of 28 songs? Bloomfield says in the book they went through all the songs from their just released LP. Their next single From Me To You/Thank You Girl wasn’t released until 11 April, but they had recorded both for BBC radio programmes, one of which was broadcast on 7 April. Those 16 songs were the only songs they would release until the 23 August (a single) and 22 November (an LP). That is why they performed so many songs from their Hamburg and Cavern sessions on the Pop Goes The Beatles series of course. Two unreleased songs, Some Other Guy and A Shot of Rhythm And Blues, were both performed live before audiences on Easy Beat on BBC radio during the summer. It would be nice to know what songs are on the tape, never mind listen to them.

  4. raphvandenberghegmailcom says:

    on n’entend pas le concert, que du bla bla sans aucun intérêt ! Bravo BBC !

    • Tony Littman says:

      It states quite clearly in the post that the programme just has “snippets” of the concert, nobody said the whole concert would be heard. Il est dit assez clairement dans le message que le programme ne contient que des “extraits” du concert, personne n’a dit que tout le concert serait entendu

  5. Rickenbacker325 says:

    It’s a real shame that they went the “official” route as this all but seals the fate of this tape and we’ll never hear it in it’s entirely

    • Glenn says:

      My understanding is that the tape was converted to digital “as is” and is available for listening at the British Library.

  6. Rickenbacker325 says:

    Here is the set list:

    Stowe concert set list: 4 April 1963
    I Saw Her Standing There
    Too Much Monkey Business
    Love Me Do
    Some Other Guy
    I Just Don’t Understand
    A Shot of Rhythm and Blues
    From Me To You
    Thank You Girl
    Memphis Tennessee
    A Taste of Honey
    Twist and Shout
    Please Please Me
    Hippy Hippy Shake
    I’m Talking About You
    Ask Me Why
    Till There Was You
    I Saw Her Standing There (reprise)

    plus possibly
    Sweet Little Sixteen
    Long Tall Sally

    I’d LOVE to hear this tape! What a great set and I bet John was still singing Matchbox at this point

  7. James Peet says:

    We’d “all” like to listen to the tape in its entirety. Unfortunately, the tape would need to be cleaned up somewhat, which would be an expensive process, with no guarantee of success, and I’m sure that there are better concert recordings in existence. Having said that, I do think this is quite a unique occasion, not least for the juxtaposition of the lads’ northern, working class roots, and the schoolboys of Stowe. As an example of the English class system, it’s very interesting.

    David Moores became chairman of Liverpool Football Club (an excellent choice) – JFT97 – YNWA.

  1. June 20, 2023

    […] Row”, presenter Samira takes us to the British Library, where the tape recording of the Beatles concert at Stowe School was transferred digitally to the library’s sound archive. The recording is saved as is, […]

  2. June 26, 2023

    […] just eleven songs, so it’s not a full scale Beatles concert, like the one at Stowe School on 4 April. So this leads us to believe other acts are also playing at this concert. It could be the […]

  3. August 22, 2023

    […] school concert from Stowe which was discovered earlier this year, was handed over to the British Library where you can listen to the recording from a computer. But […]

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