Jude Southerland Kessler’s latest book in the John Lennon Series, “She Loves You”, was published late in 2013. Ms. Kessler has offered the John Lennon Examiner an exclusive right to publish for our readers a chapter from that book, “Sunday, 13 October 1963.” This chapter takes the reader on a roller coaster ride back to that performance at the London Palladium as they prepare to perform to a wild and screaming audience. Beatlemania had begun.
(For our interview with Ms. Kessler on the style of narrative history and why she chose this genre to chronicle John Lennon’s life, please see article listed below in “suggested reading” called “Interview: Author of John Lennon Series defends style.”
The following is copyrighted material provided exclusively for reprint to the John Lennon Examiner from “She Loves You” by Jude Southerland Kessler. (pages 304-314) Reproduction is prohibited without express permission from the author. Please note that in-text citations are smaller in the actual book, and that the actual footnotes relating to those citations are not included here. However the author’s list of sources for the chapter are included.
Sunday, 13 October 1963, London Palladium, 8 Argyll Street, London
The Palladium was a stereotypical, old music hall replete with marble, generously-gilded ornamentation, and a revolving, raised platform, centre-stage.[i] It was the kind of sentimental venue ready-made for crooners – for buxom chorus girls, jiggling glittered letters that featured the name of the star band.[ii] It was grandiose, with an expansive wooden stage best-equipped for jugglers, ballet dancers, trampolinists, or tight rope walkers. A vestige of vaudeville, The Palladium smacked of fantastic.
Dezo Hoffman, who’d been hired to photograph the afternoon for posterity, noticed only eight to ten girls at the theatre entrance when he arrived. But he captured them at best advantage, just in case no other fans appeared and it needed to look as if the meager few were an overwhelming crowd.[iii]
But the populating of Argyll Street and attached Great Marlborough took care of itself, and while the boys were downing a backstage lunch of hot roast lamb with mint jelly and jackets, one enterprising set of young ladies edged their way into the dressing room and had to be ejected.[iv]
“Pity,” Paul sniffed, sugaring his tea. “They seemed rather friendly for a Sunday afternoon.”
“Bairds don’t pick us. We pick them.” George recited the rules. “Or Neil and Mal pick them for us. You never know what you’ll get if you let bairds choose you.”
“They could be gold diggers, boys!” John assumed Brian’s hissy, reproving tone. “Crass charlatans!”
“Well, pity anyway,” Paul sat back down. “Because personally, I thought they were all right.”
“Hello all!” An overly-cheery Bruce Forsyth, one of the Palladium’s famed emcees, swung into the room. “No, no, no please…sit, sit! Continue to eat and enjoy yourselves. I’m only here to do a quick run-through…give you an overview of what’s to come.”
John plunged a fork into his buttered jacket and eyed Forsyth with something between suspicion and scorn.
“All right,” Forsyth perched brightly on the dressing table corner, “top of the show! I’m going to do something I’ve never done before! Breaking radically with tradition and wearing a Beatle wig,[v] I’m going to step up and invite you all to step onstage for just a moment…as a tease, you understand…up the ratings, lads! I’ll say something like, ‘If you want to see them again, they’ll be back in 42 minutes!’[vi] Something quick and clever like that.”
“And suppose they don’t want to see us again? Then what?” John flashed a faux-sheepish grin, ducking his head coyly between his shoulders.
“Well, um…it-it’s just a ploy, you see. Rhetorical, as it were. I’ll…” Forsyth let the answer linger.
“Don’t mind him, Brice.” Paul stepped up, misnaming the man intentionally. “The rest of us’re listening. Go on.”
“Oh…um…well, the other entertainers, of course, will go on the programme before you…Des O’Connor and Brook Benton, and then, we’ll have the ever-popular ‘Beat the Clock,’ audience participation segment, as I’m sure you recall. Then, I’ll introduce you and when I do, I’ll invite the audience to join me in a vigorous countdown. 5…4….3…”[vii]
The afternoon slipped away too quickly.
By rehearsal’s end, the Palladium stage door in Great Marlborough Street was blocked by a horde of fans, waiting for the boys to emerge.[viii] Lovingly tagged and bowed presents tumbled together in the narrow alleyway. And hundreds and hundreds of telegrams had been taped across the metal door. There was no avenue of escape from such adoration, and Neil was genuinely frantic, arms waving as he plotted with Mal and Tony.
“If you’ll pardon my interruption, Neil,” Dezo Hoffman meekly observed, “the front entrance is almost vacant. I have checked. No one suspects yem to walk out the front door.”
“The front door!” Neil had crowed, as if he’d thought of it himself. “The front door, gentlemen!”[ix]
And so, a few minutes after 5 o’clock, the Beatles’ black Austin Princess motored up to the Argyll entrance and waited compliantly for the cover of falling night, waited for its valuable cargo from Liverpool.[x]
Dezo Hoffman bravely volunteered to lead the way – his trench coat and bulky camera bag a less than perfect disguise. Just behind him, stepping on his shadow, was Paul, Neil, John, Ringo, and somewhere in the shuffle, a cautious George.
But a police chief who had deemed the boys’ car less conspicuous parked 40 yards from the front door had demanded the automobile be repositioned, and the confused troupe lost precious moments of escape before locating it.[xi] By the time The Beatles righted their left, the crowd all but pounced on them. The doors of the car eked closed, just before the screeching masses could really take hold.[xii]
Rattled, John resorted to a stiff Scotch and Coke, but a half-hour later, his shaking hands still struggled to button the pearl grey Pierre Cardin jacket and slip into his well-buffed Chelsea boots.
“News says there’s over two hundred girls outside The Palladium now,” Paul informed him, securing his cuffs. “It says they’re chantin’ so loudly, they can be heard well inside the theatre.[xiii] ‘Pandemonium on the sidewalk!’ That’s what they’re labelin’ it.”[xiv]
“Well,” John wrangled with his collar, “they’ve bought and paid for us. Let’em have at it!”
“But look, John, they’re callin’ for police reinforcements![xv] Paul was in a welter. “They’re sayin’ the crowd might be two thousand strong in Great Marlborough by show’s end! They’re even predictin’ the crowds might turn manic!”
“Come on out of that!” Ringo didn’t believe it. “It can’t possibly be as bad as all that!”
But when their car crept to the side stage entrance and a slew of guards sacrificed all to vouchsafe the boys inside, it was every bit as bad as that. And more.
Stampedes! Girls everywhere! Girls with handkerchiefs crammed in their mouths, girls jumping and weeping, girls in fetal positions on the floor, girls screaming and ripping their clothes, girls tearing at their faces, girls launching themselves heedlessly at police, girls digging fingernails into their arms, girls fainting – collapsing into the aisles.[xvi]
The cameras devoured the images.
For the briefest moment before “From Me to You” leapt from his throat, John could imagine what Cynthia – back in Hoylake – was seeing on the telly. It was off-putting, even for him.
Screaming and sobbing were the norm. Hysteria was expected. Howling and flailing were accepted. It was a world of sex and desire, a place of fantasy and lust. One thing was clear: all reason had been lost.
Ringo, who’d vomited into a bucket before the curtain parted, sat behind his kit, white as a blizzard.[xvii] And George who’d muttered, “That’s the good thing about bein’ four together. We’re able to share the experience[xviii]…’n the terror!” stood as close to John as he dared. Only Paul seemed to be genuinely having a good time.
“Thank you very much!” McCartney waved and winked at the moving throng. “Thank you! Thank you…thank you very much.”[xix] More screams. “Good evening!” Screaming. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” Screams. “We’d just like to say it’s lovely to be here at The Palladium, and we…”[xx]
John interrupted, singing loudly – urging Paul’s patter along.[xxi] The crowd erupted into cheers at the wry Lennon interjection, but Paul barely paused before attempting his intro once again.
“Yeah. Yeah, we’d like to carry on with a song…” Intense screams. “…a song that’s the B-side of our latest record. It’s called ‘I’ll Get You’!”[xxii]
And with this, a wash of screams swelled over anything that would have followed on. Paul relented and stepped back from the mic while John waded into the opening, “Oh-yeah’s” without hesitation.
Riding the wave of shouts, John’s rhythm line was strong and defiant. Without being able to hear one another, the harmony came off tight, right on point. It was, Brian thought from the wings, a solid performance. It was as if each boy knew instinctively what the others were doing and why and when. Clockwork.
At song’s end, John, Paul, and George furtively glanced at one another and then began in choirboy unison,[xxiii] “Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. We’d like to carry on with…”[xxiv] but a violent buffeting of screams collapsed their cleverly-rehearsed bit.
John shook his head in exasperation and fell away from the plan; Paul, as well. Only George struggled on alone.[xxv]
“Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. We’d like to carry on with a song….”[xxvi] Screams! “This,” George shouted nasally at the zealots, “is called, ‘She Loves You!’” [xxvii]
And in frustrated desire to be heard, The Beatles plowed into their biggest hit of the season, forcing the song upon the audience with determined fury.
Much faster than the radio version, this “She Loves You” left no one seated. George’s lead guitar was strong and clear, and Ringo’s drums were more present than in the recording. Though there was sporadic screaming throughout the number, the crowd was somehow lured into listening.
“An incredible stage band!” Brian murmured to no one. “Still such impeccable sound, despite it all!” And when The Beatles’ voices faded and the screams crescendoed, Brian could hardly blame the beguiled fans. Secretly, he wanted to scream himself.
“Thank you,” Paul began again.[xxviii] Screams blinded everything in white, roaring light. “Yeah. Thank you. We were…” Screams over all. “We were wonderin’…”[xxix] Screams!
“SHUT UP!” John shrieked with all the spite in his arsenal. Several adults leapt to their feet and applauded the suggestion from the rhythm guitarist, and John – appalled to be allied with parental forces – fell back and shut up himself.[xxx]
But his instinctive outburst had worked. The crowd sputtered down to a bearable roar. Paul chuckled and tried again.
“We were…” Tentative screams, as John wandered away. “We were…” Screams rose, bolder now. “We were wonderin’ if for the last number if anyone would feel like joinin’ in? D’ya feel like joinin’ in?”[xxxi]
The audience howled and screeched. They chanted a chorus of “Yeah’s!” and taunted John with their teenage clatter.
“Whoa!” Paul held up his hands. “Okay then, it’s easy! All you have to do, as we’re singin’ the song, just sorta clap yer hands on the beat…”[xxxii]
“Clap yer hands! Clap yer hands, right!”[xxxiii] John demonstrated a spastic clap and stomp – a deformed version of the usual folk tune tap-along.[xxxiv]
“Yeah, yeah…or…or…”[xxxv] Paul began again. The audience jeered as John continued to cavort. Paul tried to overcome it. “If y’don’t want to clap yer hands,” he said, “just sorta stamp yer feet on the floor.”[xxxvi]
“Stamp yer feet!” John sing-songed, pounding three loud horse stomps on the bare stage floor. “Stamp yer feet! Stamp yer feet!”[xxxvii] Two more thuds were offered in distorted fashion.
“Yeah,” Paul shrugged. “Well uh…you get the general idea. So just have a bash and make as much noise as you like ’cause…”[xxxviii]
But the reason for this mad abandonment was lost in hullabaloo. The Palladium moved and roared. And beneath the crush of sound, Paul tried one final time: “This song is the title song from our last EP, ‘Twist and Shout!’”[xxxix]
Howls from every corner! Screams inundated the room! The policemen hired to man the stage instinctively covered their ears. The Beatles eyes ached; their heads throbbed. And for the next two imprecise minutes, the group poured themselves into “Twist and Shout” with all the Hamburg mach shau vinegar that they could salvage in the midst of insensible anarchy.
Up on the large, black cubical riser, five feet above his brothers-in-arms, Ringo drilled away beneath the silver-glittered letters proclaiming, “Beatles!”[xl] He grinned in his collarless suit, shook his head jubilantly, and provided a solid, directing beat to a completely unheard song.[xli] When he saw John and the others bow, Ringo stood and bowed as well.
Then he grinned – chuckled. They had made it! He had made it! It was over.
The Jack Parnell Orchestra jumped into the musical void,[xlii] vamping a few bars of “Twist and Shout,”[xliii] while John and Paul looked around for direction. Running onto stage, with O’Connor and Benton quickly trailing behind him, Forsyth gave The Beatles a hand-up on the Palladium’s revolving rostrum, and Ringo stepped forward to join the others, all bows and grins at the masses of overwrought females, just beyond the footlights. [xliv]
“Wave! Wave!” Forsyth encouraged them. “Wave goodnight!” And as the camera swept its final pan across the famous stage, Paul waved madly over the silver word, “SUNDAY!” Ringo lifted a hesitant hand, and George steadied himself on the shiny letters. Only John made eye contact with the crowd below. Spotting one of The Beatlettes in the third or fourth row, his head snapped in that direction. He lifted a shy hand and nodded.
“John, Johnny!” the faithful Scouse brunette screamed. And staring back into the past, John offered a weary grin.
It seemed like a thousand fans[xlv] rushing the car that waited in Argyll Street. Aspinall, Barrow, and Hoffman hovered about the group jealously shielded by 60 policemen from the West End station.[xlvi] Once out in the cold, once out in the night, the boys ran as furiously as they could manage. John saw street and gutter and leaves and fast. He saw night and hurry and shoes and swift as he’d ever done. And at last, he saw the door handle of the car.
“Hey,” George panted, the minute the limo door sucked shut and locked behind them, “what happens to that stack of presents back there in the dressin’ room?” “There were tins of Cadburys, y’know, ’n several bottles of wine, if I’m not overly mistaken.”[xlvii]
“We’ll bring some of it over,” Neil exhaled with great relief. “The rest’ll be donated.”
“Pfffft! donated!” John sputtered, incredulous.
Neil flared, his nerves frayed by the crowds. “Look John, you’re not exactly bein’ neglected. There’s a whole party for you four ’n family ’n friends – Room 704, post-interviews.”
There were a few fans still running, still dogging the Austin Princess. But as the car swung into Oxford Circus and smoothly accelerated, the disappointed fell away. The troupe motored confidently now towards The Grosvenor Hotel.[xlviii]
“Interviews…still more work, eh Aspinall?” With the tail of his dress shirt, John wiped sweat from his forehead. “‘No rest for the weary’ after all, is there?”
Neil mischievously cut his eyes at John, “Actually, it’s ‘no rest for the wicked,” Lennon. Isaiah 48:22. Look it up. I did.”
“Yeah,’n shalom to you as well, Father.” John over-articulated.
“So,” Paul intervened neatly, “how was the sound tonight, Nell?”
“Sound?” Neil shrugged. “Same as always in The Palladium, or so sayeth The NEMperor. Bad balance between voices and instruments. Echoey from what I could hear.”[xlix]
“But uh…we were…I mean, were we…”
“You,” Tony Barrow, seated beside George, willingly filled in the blanks. “You were utterly magnificent! You brought reporters out from Claridge’s ’n the back rooms of The Savoy who never go out on a Sunday! And you turned newsweek’s sleepiest night into an event of…tritely heroic proportions![l]”
“Is that so?” Ringo chuckled, lighting a cig and relaxing back into the leather upholstery. “And in The Palladium, too…the world’s greatest variety venue! How about that?!”[li]
Barrow clapped Ringo on the shoulder. “Tomorrow,” he beamed, “my oft-silent phone’ll be ringin’ off the hook, ’n it’ll be not only our friend Don Short chattin’ me up, but also Derek Jewel of The Sunday Times and Vincent Mulchrone of The Daily Mail and Peter Woods of the BBC’s Newsreel Radio, ’n all the others as well![lii] They’ll be beggin’ – vyin’ for interviews ’n promisin’ me the world, y’know! In only 12 minutes up on that stage, you four delivered Judith Simmons of The Daily Express and Linda Lee-Potter of The Daily Mail ’n every other name you’ve ever heard of![liii]
“I’ve never heard of any of ’em, actually.” John was unimpressed.
“All right,” Tony gave him that. “Every name I’ve ever heard of! Every one of ’em’ll come courtin’ now! ’N all because of the four of you!”
“Hear that, Nell?” John nudged Aspinall playfully. “What d’ya have to say now, son?”
“What I have to say,” Neil caught John’s eyes in the rear view mirror, “is that y’er still doin’ those interviews, John.”
And he did. They all did. For one long, repetitive hour, The Beatles answered the same dull queries over and over.
Then in the earliest hours, while the party in Room 704 capered towards daylight, John, George, and Ringo caught the last train for Liverpool[liv] and snored their way into Lime Street Station.
Finally, around mid-morning – bags-in-hand – John paid the taxi in Hoylake’s Trinity Road, waved to a lingering press, and trudged inside the quaint brick row house where the not-so-secret wife of the most famous man in England was waiting – waiting with Weetabix, hot tea, and an attentive silence to be filled with only the sound of John’s voice.
To purchase this book, and the first two in The John Lennon Series, see her website here. Jude Southerland Kessler is also the host of a weekly radio program on Beatles-a-rama called “The John Lennon Hour.”
Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 124.
Lewisohn, The Beatles: Day by Day, 27.
Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 409, 720.
The Beatles, The Anthology, 64, 102-103.
Lennon, Cynthia, John, 124-125.
Lennon, Cynthia, A Twist of Lennon, 101-102.
Miles, The Beatles’ Diary, Vol. 1, 109.
Salewicz, McCartney, 153.
Shotton, Pete, John Lennon: In My Life, 77-78.
Norman, Shout!, 179, 187-188, 190.
Norman, John Lennon: The Life, 315, 323.
Spitz, 426- 428.
Spizer, The Beatles Are Coming!, 53.
Hill, The Beatles: A Life in Pictures, 17.
Baird, Julia, Imagine This, 186.
Buskin, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Beatles, 162.
Oddly enough, there is NO mention of this important event in Tim Riley’s Lennon, in Albert Goldman’s The Lives of John Lennon, or in Ray Coleman’s The Man Who Made The Beatles.