The Beatles in Great Yarmouth

The Beatles tours in England in 1963 have spurred several British local newspapers to bring 50th anniversary reports about when the Fabs visited their town. As an example, here’s a report from EDP24:

It was 50 years ago this weekend that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr stepped onto the stage at the ABC Cinema in Great Yarmouth.

The Beatles were riding high in the charts at the time, their third single From Me To You/Thank You Girl, had only just dropped off the number one spot after spending seven weeks there. Their album Please Please Me had been at the top of the album charts for seven weeks. It would remain there for another 23 weeks.

The Fab Four had already toured the UK a total of three times in 1963 with a fourth tour to take place at the end of the year. Their third tour was supposed to end in Blackburn on June 9 but there was no stopping Britain’s best loved rock group and their manager Brian Epstein kept the boys busy.

Without taking a break, the Beatles began playing a series of one-off concerts across the country, in Liverpool, London, Newcastle and Leeds among others.

June 29 was a big day for Beatle fans, that day the group appeared on the BBC Light Programme’s Saturday Club and ABC TV’s Summer Spin Mersey Beat Special, while John Lennon appeared on BBC TV’s Juke Box Jury.

The next day, June 30 1963, their roadie Mal Evans packed their equipment into the van and they drove 136 miles from London to Great Yarmouth to begin a ten-week series of seaside concerts. During that summer the Beatles would play at a handful of seaside towns and their first was at the ABC Cinema on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth.

The Beatles shared the bill with four other acts: The Brook Brothers, The Terry Young Combo, Erkey Grant, Tommy Wallis and Beryl and the compere was Ted Rogers.

Two of the acts: The Terry Young Combo and Erkey Grant had been on the Beatles’ latest UK tour. Tickets for the show, depending were you sat, would cost between 4s/6d (around £2.89 today) and 9s/6d (£6.11). The first of the two houses began at 6pm with The Terry Young Combo taking to the stage before Terry Young had his own solo spot. Next on stage was comedian Ted Rogers who introduced the next act, The Brook Brothers who closed the first half.

After an interval The Terry Young Combo returned to kick start the second half. They were followed by the musical novelty act Tommy Wallis and Beryl. Ted Rogers took to the stage one last time to introduce The Beatles who closed the show.

Concert programme middle pages

Once the Beatles stepped onto the stage the screams began and they didn’t end until after the group had left.

None of the other performers on the show that night had the same problem, their audience sat quietly and listened to the music, applauding politely at the end of each song.

With the beatles on stage, Ted Rogers’ attempts to calm the crowd down were all in vain. The fans rushed to the front of the stage, jumped up and down – some fainted, but everyone was screaming. And it was so loud the fans in the front row couldn’t hear the group.

If they had heard, they would have been listening to the Beatles playing an 11-song set including over half of their album and both sides of their latest single. They began with a cover of Some Other Guy by Richie Barrett. The Beatles never released a version of the song but it had been part of their live repertoire since 1962. They continued the show with the flipside of their latest single ‘Thank You Girl’ before rocking through ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘Misery’, ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Love Me Do’, ‘From Me To You’, ‘Baby It’s You’ and ‘Please Please Me’ before bringing the house down with ‘Twist and Shout’.

In-between the two sets the Fab Four were interviewed in their dressing room for Italian TV station RAI. The reporter, Gianni Bisiach, asks the group if it was true they are the most popular singers in England which makes them embarrassed with John saying “Well, I don’t know really”.

They then give their names and ages before being asked how their style began, the boys joke around saying they don’t know before Paul says, “It is just one of those things that happened you know, Gianni, in the far-off distant lands” with John adding “It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll!” They were also asked about fan mail and the style of their jackets.

The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein was also interviewed but that footage has since been lost.

The interview was originally aired on Italian TV in December 1963 and was given an Italian dubbing however the original audio tape still exists and fans have since overdubbed the original footage with the original sound.

During the second house, which started at 8.15pm the team from RAI took to the balcony and filmed The Beatles performing Twist and Shout but unfortunately the film doesn’t have the original audio.

After the show The Beatles drove back to London and the next day they recorded their fourth single She Loves You/I’ll Get You at Abbey Road studios. The Beatles returned to Great Yarmouth for the second and final time a month later when again they performed at the ABC Cinema on 28 July.

Again, they played to two houses at 6pm and 8.15pm with tickets costing between 4s/6d and 9s/6d. That night they shared the bill with The Kestrels, The Trebletones, Freddie Starr and the Midnighters, Barry Barnett and Glenda Collins. The compere was comedian Alan Field.

After that night’s concert the Fab Four drove back to London and the next day saw them recording tracks for their second album at Abbey Road as well as recording two shows for BBC Light Programme’s Saturday Club and an interview for Pop Chat.

The ABC Cinema was opended on New Year’s Day 1934 as the Regal Cinema. It was renamed the ABC Cinema in 1961 after being taken over by new owners. Sadly, it was demolished in 1989 to make way for the Market Gate Shopping Precient.


The Beatles interview recorded backstage at the ABC Cinema on 30 June 1963 is available here:

The concert footage from the same day with overdubbed sound recorded at a later date can be found here:

4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey! I wrote this newspaper article. Nice to see it here. You can read more Beatle articles I've written on my blog

  2. wogew says:

    Thank you, Danny!

  3. A.H. says:

    Ironically, the last movie I ever watched at that cinema was 1988's 'Imagine: John Lennon.' Being a local of Great Yarmouth, it saddens me that there isn't some kind of plaque there to commemorate its history. I seem to recall Deep Purple's Gillan performing there in the late '70s / early '80s too. I'm sure further research would uncover more names of legend.

    The 'Market Gates' shopping centre was actually built, completed and opened in the mid '70s as I recall, but the ABC building remained there till it was demolished in the late '80s. It's now a 'Costa Coffee.' It always amazes at how such old, historic, beautiful buildings such as the ABC can be knocked down and replaced with bland, lifeless, red-bricked structures such as the one that now takes its place.

    Someone who has many fascinating things to say about The Beatles' time in Great Yarmouth (however brief it was) is local lad, Peter Jay, who was, back in the '60s, the leader of the band, Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers. They were a support act for The Beatles and The Stones (who also played the ABC).

  4. A.H. says:

    Well… Would you believe it?… Since my last comment, some body some where in Gt. Yarmouth has indeed decided to put up a blue plaque outside the former 'ABC'/'Regal' theatre/cinema to commemorate The Beatles' numerous appearances at this former venue. I have taken a photo of it, but I'm not sure if there's any way I can share that here(?). Basically, it states that it was once a venue where many artists performed – although it only makes note of The Beatles on the plaque itself (which is fair enough). However, over the years (and from the top of my head), it also played host to The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, Supertramp, Joan Armatrading, The Jam and many more.

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