The Beatles at the Azena Sheffield
During research for the Helen Shapiro Tour, I obtained some information about a gig performed during the tour’s break. Amazingly, I was also sent a scan of the actual set list from this concert, in Lennon’s handwriting. The original set list was written on the back of a Beatles promo post card from Parlophone Records, and the scan is off a photo copy of that card. Here’s a Sheffield newspaper item about the concert:
In 1963 Beatlemania came to Sheffield
Peter Stringfellow, founder and owner of The Mojo Club, booked the Beatles – a band creating a stir on the music scene in Liverpool – originally to play his first music club and forerunner to The Mojo, The Black Cat Club (St. Aiden’s Church Hall). In between Stringfellow booking the band and the night of the concert, The Beatles had their first number one with ‘Please Please Me’, and screaming, shouting, hair-pulling Beatlemania swept the country. The police suggested Stringfellow move the gig to accommodate the demand for tickets, so he booked the Azena Ballroom on the outskirts of Sheffield. Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, also upped the price from the first agreed price of £65 to £90, as, he said, they had a record in the charts now. (Stringfellow later managed to haggle him down to £85).
On February the 11th, the day before the Azena Ballroom gig, The Beatles recorded the remaining 10 tracks that would make up their debut album – all in one day. On the 12th they were in Sheffield for the gig. Stringfellow had sold 2000 tickets for the show – the Azena’s capacity was 500, and a further estimated 1000 people turned up on the night to try their luck. It was bedlam. Amazingly, The Beatles also played another gig in Oldham that same day.
The Beatles also autographed the wall backstage at The Azena Ballroom. When the ballroom was converted into a supermarket years later (first Kwik Save, later on a Somerfield), it was rumoured that The Beatles’ signatures still remained on a wall in the back of the supermarket.
Clearly and unmistakably the concert poster shows The Beatles famous dropped T logo – but The Beatles didn’t start using this logo officially until May 1963 – a good few months after this posters design. At the time of the gig The Beatles were using their ‘Bug’ logo. Stories of the origin of the “dropped T” logo date it to Ivor Arbitor who allegedly designed the logo for Ringo Starr’s new Ludwig drum kit – but this was in April 1963! Other rumours says that “a man in Hamburg” designed the famous logo. Well, this poster still seems to be the first appearance of that logo. The poster was made by Colin Duffield, who hand printed the poster on a bench screen using pro-film stencils. The original measures 80cm x 54.5cm and was sold by auction company Cooper Owens at a Rock’n’Roll Memorabilia auction, accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Duffield.
UPDATE JAN. 19-2009: This poster was eventually revealed as a fake in one of our later blogs, and the date for the concert has also been corrected.
- I Saw Her Standing There
- Sweet Little Sixteen
- Beautiful Dreamer
- Hey Good Looking
- Love Me Do
- Baby It’s You
- Three Cool Cats
- Please Please Me
- Some Other Guy
- Ask Me Why
- Roll Over Beethoven
- A Taste of Honey
- Keep Your Hands Off My Baby
- Do You Want To Know A Secret
- From Me To You
- Please Please Me (possible encore)
- Long Tall Sally
Many thanks to Peter Gray and John Hodge for providing the set list!
The actual card was picked up by the drummer with the local support group The Aidens (sometimes referred to as Mike or Mark Jones and The Aidens). He remembered being sat backstage with John Lennon as he just discarded a Beatles Parlophone postcard on which he had written down the evenings setlist. Luckily, the drummer picked up the card and kept it. The set list shows that the cold-suffering Lennon avoided going through the throat-shredding “Twist and Shout”, which he had recorded as a closer for their debut album the day before.
Britain wouldn’t be Britain unless someone saw a business opportunity here, so here’s a T-shirt (!) featuring the design from the Sheffield Azena poster.
Peter Stringfellow announces The Beatles at the Azena Ballroom
Here are some more recollections of the Azena gig in Sheffield, as posted on a discussion board:
David Bowler: I was at the Azena for the beatles concert and I remember paying 6s 6d for a ticket on the black market outside, the original price was 5s 6d and someone opened the firedoor and hundreds poured in till the police restored order, I recall standing on a chair on a table. The Azena was called after the owners Arnold & Zena Fidler, Zena died this year (2003).
Timbuck: Yes the beatles did play at the azena, co’s i was there, the gig was moved there after the Stringfellow Bro’s found they were selling to many tickets and their place wasn’t big enough…I think they got the Fab Four because they booked them just before they became famous, and the beatles honoured all bookings taken, and The Stringfellows got them for about £65 Quid.
My mate “John Bealy” was the singer in the support band at this gig and Paul Macartney borrowed his Bass players gear that night
later on that bass amp and speaker became mine.
From what i remember all the songs were “Chuck Berries” except for “Love me do”.
But the Azena will always be the place for “Dave berry and the Cruisers” for me.
mojoworking: The Beatles played in Sheffield a total of seven times.
The first Sheffield concert was at the Azena Ballroom, White Lane, Gleadless on 12 February 1963. Peter Stringfellow paid £85 to book them. Although Peter had originally been quoted £65, Brian Epstein put the price up to £90 “because they’ve got a record in the charts”, which was then haggled down by a fiver.
Stringfellow originally planned to book them to play at his Black Cat Club (St. Aiden’s Church Hall), but because he couldn’t fit enough people in to cover the huge booking fee of £85 (most “name” bands charged between £35 – £50 back then), he hired the Azena for the night, which cost him £29.
The Azena normally held 500 people, but Stringfellow sold 2,000 tickets and it’s estimated another 1,000 showed up on the night. Tickets were four shillings (20p) rising to five shillings (25p) when demand took off.
Just pause and think about that: 25p to see the Beatles!
God knows how they did it, but the Beatles also played another gig on the same day in Oldham, Lancs.
The exact set list for the Azena show is lost in the mists of time, but they were only playing one Chuck Berry song live around that time (Too Much Monkey Business). The rest of the set would have been songs from their first LP including: Chains, Keep Your Hands Off My Baby, Please Please Me, Love Me Do, A Taste Of Honey, Do You Want To Know A Secret, I Saw Her Standing There.
By an amazing coincidence the Beatles had just recorded the remaining 10 tracks which would make up their debut LP on 11th Feb – the day before the Azena gig! All ten tracks were recorded in the one day, the remaining 4 tracks (it was a 14 track LP) being the A & B sides of their first two singles (Love Me Do & Please Please Me), which were already released.
Interestingly, The Beatles were back in Sheffield only a few weeks later on 2 March and then again on 16 March. Both concerts took place at the City Hall during the first wave of Beatlemania.
Tofty: I had the pleasure of being at their first performance at the Azena in Gleadless and I must say it was total chaos. People that had paid for tickets just couldn’t get through the door. At the time I was working at Wilson Pecks who were the booking agents for the City Hall and I was fortunate enough to get a job as a programme seller when they appeared at the City Hall on the Roy Orbison concert the same year. I even got backstage and met them and Roy Orbison and still have the autographed progamme to this day.
crucible77: Despite the last posts on here being a few years ago I found them whilst searching for information on the first ever Beatles concert to be played in Sheffield which was at The Azena Ballroom,white Lane Gleadless on Saturday 12th February 1963.
I used to work with a man nearly 20 years ago who was the drummer in the support band at this show “Mike Stone and the Aidens”. He told me the story of how he remembered being sat backstage with John Lennon as he just discarded a Beatles Parlophone postcard on which he had written down the evenings setlist.
Luckily he picked up the card and kept it.
He told me he had played with a lot of bands in the 60s and kept the odd item.
As I collected anything Beatle related at the time I asked him to go through his box of stuff and sure enough one morning he brought it into work for me to see. Thankfully I got a photo copy of it (front and back) as well as a cutting from a newspaper for the show.
I remember him saying it was the first time it had been out for years and he was putting it back, so I guess he will have never have let it go. I don’t know if he ever thought of it being valuable really.
Anyway I am sure that someone somewhere would love to know that this exists, and the tracklisting is there clearly in Lennons own handwriting with a line between the first and second sets.