Please Please Me with memories of The Beatles in Luton

Do you remember when the Beatles played in Luton, not once, not twice, but three times!

Wednesday, 3rd February 2016, 11:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd February 2016, 11:40 am
The Beatles at The Odeon, September 6, 1963

No? Well prepare to have your memory jogged.

Their first, almost unheralded gig was at the Majestic Ballroom in Mill Street on April 17, 1963, about a month before their first album, Please Please Me, was released and made them household names.

By the time The Beatles played the Odeon in Dunstable Road on September 6, 1963, and the Ritz in Gordon Street on November 4, 1964, their fame preceded them and hundred of fans queued for the performances.

The Beatles at The Ritz with the Mayor & Mayoress of Luton, holding two year old Stephen Atkinson and six year old Susan Elson, Nov 4, 1964. ENGPNL00120110402111856

So why am I dredging up old news?

Their visits are about to be retold in People’s History of Pop, which is being screened in the Spring on BBC4, with regional stories also being filmed.

Paul Griggs, a former member of 70s chart group Guys ‘n’ Dolls, has had his Beatles memories recorded for the show.

He was filmed at COGIC Church in Dunstable Road last week . The church was formerly The Odeon Cinema and Paul saw The Beatles playing there live and told the whole story on camera.

Paul, 71, still gigs today. He saw the Beatles 10 times in the 60s including twice in Luton, The Ritz being the other gig.

He is pictured with Bishop Alvin Blake from COGIC who allowed the BBC to film.

Here’s an extract from Paul’s book Diary of a Musician

Friday 6th September 1963

Beatles at The Odeon , September 9, 1963

“She Loves You” had been released two weeks ago and was already top of the charts, and today I as going to see the Beatles play live for the first time but first I had to endure a day’s work at the Westminster Bank.

“I almost had a nervous breakdown wondering if I would get out in time to see the show.

“As I’ve already said, we left the bank when the days work was done, and the books were balanced and Friday was always the busiest day.

“I was especially worried as there had been some rather late nights recently and a couple of times we hadn’t left until 9pm.

The Beatles at The Ritz with the Mayor & Mayoress of Luton, holding two year old Stephen Atkinson and six year old Susan Elson, Nov 4, 1964. ENGPNL00120110402111856

“I rushed around all day probably driving the rest of the staff mad trying to make sure they weren’t slacking. I was just too conscientious in those days,days; I should have called in sick.

“I eventually got away at 8pm, and my two mates were waiting outside and we drove straight to Luton for the 8.45pm performance. I remember queuing outside to get in and behind us were the Zombies, a local group that I knew as Colin Blunstone the lead singer lived around the corner from me.

“The Zombies were still a year away from having their first hit with She’s Not There which was helped when George Harrison gave it a favourable review as a member of the panel on a programme called Juke Box Jury.

“We had pretty good seats about 15 rows from the front and had to endure four other acts before the Beatles. No matter how good they were there was only one act the audience had come to see.

“A group called Rockin’ Henry and the Hayseeds had just finished their act and there was one more name in the programme before the Beatles, and that was Patrick Dane’s Quiet Five.

“I hadn’t read the small print under their name which said that they were only on selected dates and not Luton.

“Suddenly the compere, Ted King, announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, THE BEATLES!”, and there they were.

“There were no curtains at the Odeon, the group just ran on stage wearing their famous grey collarless suits, plugged in, and went straight into Roll Over Beethoven followed by Thank You Girl, A Taste of Honey, She Loves You, Baby It’s You, From Me To You, Boys, I Saw Her Standing There, and finally Twist and Shout, and they were gone.

“The P.A. system was two small speakers, one each side of the stage and you could just about make out which songs they were singing above the continual screams, but it was fantastic. We drove home from Luton planning when we would see them again.”

Beatles at The Odeon , September 9, 1963