60 years since the Beatles’ first tour abroad

In light of this country’s obsession with their national flag colours, it was no surprise that The Beatles were welcomed with yellow and blue flowers.

This week it’s sixty years since the first time The Beatles dipped their toes into the waters of international touring. They had done their stints in Hamburg, but that was no tour. They did a tour of Scotland backing Johnny Gentle in the spring of 1960, but that was an unexperienced pre-Hamburg band with Tommy Moore as their drummer. This time they had experience from Hamburg, from touring Great Britain and they were in their final incarnation, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

So where did they go? To Sweden.

Map of Europe. The flight from London to Stockholm takes 2,5 hours by plane these days.

Sweden is a social democracy in the north of Europe, part of Scandinavia – which comprise Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The geography of the region is varied, from the Norwegian fjords in the west and Scandinavian mountains covering parts of Norway and Sweden, to the low and flat areas of Denmark in the south, as well as archipelagos and lakes in the east. Most of the population in the region live in the more temperate southern regions, with the northern parts having long, cold, winters.

Paul McCartney had been writing about Scandinavia in his school exercise book, now he was to experience Sweden first hand.

McCartney’s exercise book

So, why Sweden? It has been said that Brian Epstein attended a show business convention in Copenhagen in Denmark, trying to drum up some exitement for booking The Beatles, but no Danes were interested. An attending Swede was, so that’s why Epstein went with that country. Another factor may be that popular Swedish radio DJ Klas Burling had been to England and interviewed The Beatles. He also invited them to come, and recommended them to Swedish promoters.

Stockholm Wednesday 23 October

A welcoming committee of around ten girls met them at Arlanda airport. Delighted, the Beatles strolled over to the girls and chatted with them and signed autographs. Little did the Beatles know that Anna-Karin Axborn and her friends were employed by record business executives in Sweden to skip school that day and meet the Beatles. They didn’t really know who The Beatles were, but they were paid to be there and wave as the Beatles came off the plane. Later, the girls were also given free tickets to attend a TV performance with The Beatles, in an episode of a series called “Drop In”.

Looks like there were a couple of boys at the airport as well.

The Beatles were accommodated at the Hotel Continental and held a press conference. In the evening they visited the nightclub Nalen. It was the club’s 75th anniversary, so a lot of the most popular Swedish artists were there, either clubbing or entertaining.

Gunilla Day got to meet them after winning a quiz in the TV show Drop In and here’s a picture of the Beatles and her from a press conference at Hotel Continental.

Stockholm Thursday 24 October

The next day they were at Sveriges Radio’s studio at Karlaplan, where they held what is considered their best radio concert, in a program that had the long title “Pop group from Liverpool on a visit to Stockholm” and was broadcast on Monday 11 November, after that the Beatles had returned home. The recording was also archived under that title, which meant that when searching for “Beatles” in the archives, it could not be found. Not until Staffan Olander had the opportunity to look in the archives many years later and discovered the program. Then it was 1981 and the program could finally be broadcast again. Staffan let George Martin listen to the recording, and he was so impressed that he included most of the songs on the “Anthology Vol. 1” album in 1995.

John and Paul sharing a microphone at the radio studio.

Reputedly, the concert sounds this good because the Beatles’ Vox amplifiers had yet to arrive, so they used the Fender amps of the other group in the program. They performed “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me To You”, “Money”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “You Really Got A Hold On Me”, “She Loves You” and “Twist And Shout”.

This concert was taped with a live audience.

Stockholm – Karlstad Friday 25 October

Friday 25 October was also spent in Stockholm, when they were around the city and were photographed at e.g. The town hall and on Hötorget. The picture that was to adorn the cover of the British “Long Tall Sally” EP was taken on this day. After this, all four were put in the same car, and it was off to Karlstad. It started snowing on their journey, much to Ringo’s excitement.

Out and about in Stockholm.

Both performances in 1963 (at 7 and 9 p.m.) were sold out, only three-quarters of the tickets had been sold. During the performance of the encore “Twist and Shout” at the first concert, the microphone failed, so the whole song was not performed.

From Ringo’s point of view in Karlstad.

Two Karlstad girls had been au pairs in England and knew how the fans should behave, so they stood up and shouted “We want The Beatles”, “We want The Beatles”!

Poster for the Karlstad gig.

The concert in Karlstad was filmed, and was sent to Stockholm to appear in one of their news shows on TV, but the film was never shown and was probably binned by the TV company.

Close-up filming in Karlstad.

“It was a hell of a noise!” Cinematographer Åke Hermansson in Karlstad remembers the Beatles in Karlstad. He was sent by the news program Aktuellt to film the first concert. But the footage was never broadcast.

– In Stockholm, they probably didn’t think it was interesting enough…
Nor was Åke Hermansson too impressed by the four Englishmen.
– He crawled around with the film camera on the stage floor. – I hit someone’s guitar but no one cared. They played on and were happy! Sound engineer Konrad Larsson was also on stage.
– They played so loud, I wasn’t used to belting like that and all the gauges in my equipment crashed, says Konrad Larsson.
With a little tinkering and rattling, he at least got the recording to work.
All while the colleague Hermansson crawled and walked around to film the English musicians…
After work on the concert: Off to the office to prepare the material. Then directly with the material to the railway station and the train to Stockholm. The idea was that images and sound from the concert in Karlstad would be broadcast in Aktuellt the following evening. But that did not happen. And not the next or the night after that…
There is no absolutely certain information about where Åke Hermansson and Konrad Larsson’s Beatles film went. But most indications are that the final destination was one of TV-Aktuellt’s dustbins. Undeniably a dark fate for a music history documentary.

Stockholm Saturday 26 October

The next day they were back in Stockholm, where they were to play at the Royal Tennis Hall. This time the Beatles were not the main attraction, American Joey Dee and The Starliters were at the top of the bill. He held a party at his hotel Foresta after the concert. John and Ringo went to the party, Paul and George stayed at their own hotel, the Continental. John and Ringo must have liked Hotel Foresta, because when the Beatles returned in 1964 they also chose that hotel.

Gothenburg Sunday 27 October

Newspaper ad for the Gothenburg concerts.

The Beatles played three concerts in Gothenburg, at 3, 5 and 7 p.m. This was the only venue where they did three concerts on the same date. The Beatles stayed at the Park Hotel and played concerts in the Circus in Lorensbergsparken. Amateur colour film exists of the Beatles and the other acts on the bill that day.

Borås Monday 28 October

After the success in Gothenburg, the Beatles went to Borås – a short journey. The boys spent a couple of hours signing records at a shop called Waidele Musik in the afternoon. According to the newspapers, thousands of fans had found their way to the store.
The Borås concert was the biggest during their tour in Sweden. 2,500 people saw that concert.

The concert was held in Boråshallen at 7.30pm. And the audience screamed and shouted so loudly that it was almost impossible to hear anything. A well-known and common phenomenon during The Beatles’ later concerts around the world.

Signing records in Borås. Mainly the current “She Loves You” single, but one customer is also seen with the “Please Please Me” album here.

Stopping in Mariestad on their way to Eskilstuna, John Lennon bought a postcard, which he sent to his wife, Cynthia. As he didn’t know the address, he sent it ℅ Bob Freeman.

Eskilstuna Tuesday 29 October

When the Beatles played in Eskilstuna, the Swedish Trio mé Bumba was also on the bill. They had a big hit at the time with “Spel-Olles Gånglåt”. Also performing that night was the Swedish rocker Jerry Williams, who claimed to have met the Beatles when they played in Hamburg.

Around 2,000 young people gathered in the Sports Hall to experience this pop gala. Of the other artists who performed, it was Jerry Williams himself who received the greatest response. Girls stormed the stage several times and he was chased in the street after the show, the local press wrote at the time. But it was the Beatles who ended the evening in the Sporthallen by playing eight songs, 20 minutes on stage. We have the repertoire from this evening in order: “Please Please Me”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me To You”, “Chains”, “Boys”, “She Loves You”, “A Taste of Honey” and “Twist And Shout”. This was probably the tour’s standard repertoire.

They whipped up a hysterical mood. The headlines in the local papers were all about that obscenely long hair.

A girl made it to the stage in Eskilstuna.

The boys then had lunch at the former restaurant Metropol, which today houses a bingo hall. But the meal took it’s toll, it is said that George Harrison broke a tooth, and had to go to a dentist on Kungsplan to have it fixed.

Stockholm Wednesday 30 October

The next day they were in Stockholm recording the TV program “Drop In”.

After a sleepy morning, the boys went to the TV studio. The recording of the TV program “Drop In” was to take place with the audience at the Arena Theater in Gröna Lund. They rehearsed during the day and the show was taped at 7pm. They shared a wardrobe with the Norwegian band Sunbeams, who were to take part in the recording of another episode of “Drop In”, as two episodes were recorded at a time.

As The Beatles were rehearsing for the show, Mal Evans rigged up the equipment. The “rehearsal” consisted only of testing the different camera angles, etc., so the Beatles did not have to play and only participated if necessary.

After a couple of hours there, they went to lunch. John, Paul, George, Ringo, Mal, Neil Aspinall, Klas Burling (the producer), Kersti Adams-Ray (the presenter) and some photographers left the studio. They walked across the road (Djurgårdsvägen) and over to Skansen and on to a restaurant at Solliden, where they had lunch.

Outside the restaurant at Solliden, with Mal and a pram.

Outside the restaurant at Solliden, with Mal and a pram.

The people in the restaurant looked curiously at The Beatles. Not because it was The Beatles, but because of the long hair! Rumor has it that John and Paul were playing an old piano that was in the restaurant at this time.

A Swedish photographer called Bo Trenter had the opportunity to take some really great pictures of The Beatles. A couple of these images made their way onto some of The Beatles’ EPs.

A picture of The Beatles holding up a huge cake is on a Swedish release from December 1963.

Another photo was taken at one of the cannons outside the restaurant. This image found its way onto the Swedish version of the EP “All My Loving” from January 1964.

The Swedish cover for the “All My Loving” EP.

Back to the Arena Theater for the final preparations for tonight’s big event.

During the afternoon they received a phone call from England that their hit “She Loves You”, which had started to slide down the charts, had now climbed back to No. 1 for a second time, which was very unusual.

During a break, producer Klas Burling was asked by The Beatles to listen to an acoustic version of one of the new songs John and Paul had written. It was “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Klas has said that he immediately knew it was going to be another No. 1 hit.

Mal and Neil went out to buy food. Sausage and fries were bought in. One of them dropped part of their meal on the ground on the way back, but it didn’t seem to matter to The Beatles, they had a good laugh.

Ticket to Drop In

Well before the filming was to take place, Paul said he wanted to go into town to do some shopping. Klas Burling took his Fiat and drove Paul and Ringo to NK, the biggest and “finest” store in Stockholm. Paul bought perfume for Jane Asher. Again, people looked curiously at the two boys with the strange hair.

With Swedish artist Lill-Babs, who also performed in the show.

After the show, The Beatles left the Arena Theater in a green police car with screaming Swedish girls in the back. The program was broadcast for the first time on Swedish television on 3 November and in Norway on 7 December 1963. Consequently, “She Loves You” went on to become the Beatles’ breaktrough song in Scandinavia.

When the boys arrived at the hotel they were very tired, but not too tired to continue playing. Rumor has it they continued to play at the Continental Hotel for another hour. Among the songs they were supposed to play, you should have heard “If I Had A Hammer”, according to those who were there.

The Beatles play music in one of their hotel rooms at the Continental.

Then they went to the Swedish fan club to sign autographs and to get lots of gifts and letters. After that it was time for bed.

Stockholm Thursday 31 October

The Beatles leave Sweden and say “We’ll be back”.
Time to leave Sweden after their first tour outside the UK. Klas Burling did an interview with Paul and Ringo before the group left Sweden.

The Beatles said goodbye and took off in a Caravelle. Scandinavian flags above.

The magazine “Boyfriend” published a special issue, all about the Sweden tour.

In Scandinavia, a second volume of the “Meet The Beatles” magazine was published, with lots of material from the Sweden tour.

The Beatles in Scandinavia

The Beatles were to return to Sweden the next year for a couple of one off concerts in Stockholm. In 1967, George and Paul visited the southern city of Malmö in Sweden to talk with the Maharishi not to exploit the Beatles’ name for his own projects. In 1969, George Harrison toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, visiting Denmark and Sweden.

The Beatles performed in Denmark at the start of their 1964 world tour, with Jimmie Nicol on drums. The Beatles never gave any concerts in Norway.

7 Responses

  1. Edward Russell says:

    Scotland isn’t abroad

  2. Shad Radna says:

    The Drop In appearance is one of my favourite Beatle things.

    It’s probably just a speculative third-party product, but an “officially licensed” Beatles t-shirt featuring “the ‘Apple Years’ design motif” has appeared on HMV.com in the UK. The “‘Apple Years’ design motif” is apparently an arrangement of the text from the 1962-66 and 1967-70 sleeves alongside a couple of Apple logos and the words Apple Records. It’s just interesting that it talks about ‘Apple Years’ as if it’s a thing (other than a George Harrison collection).

  3. James P says:

    No question they were on top form as a live band during that Scandinavian trip. Interesting comment about the Fender amps I have not heard before, and important information about the discovery of the tapes in 1981. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the Anthology project.

    We can hear them at a live peak during the With the Beatles sessions earlier that summer too, before Beatlemania knocked some of the edges off their performances.

  4. Blakey says:

    The Drop-In footage was a major highlight of the Anthology series.

    Oh, and the official countdown to ‘Now and Then’ has begun…..

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