50 years ago today The Beatles played Romford gig just before hitting big time
12:21 20 March 2013
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Forget pop star of the moment Justin and his hysterical Beliebers; five decades earlier it was all about one band: The Beatles.
The Fab Four were the original swoon-inducing boyband with flapping followers and delirious devotees trailing their every move.
But just days before the group’s popularity skyrocketed, the Liverpudlian foursome performed in a little-known concert in the now-defunct ABC Cinema, in South Street, Romford.
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of that gig which saw them playing second fiddle to Tommy Roe and Chris Montez.
The concert drew little publicity; only brief adverts: one in the Recorder and another in the Romford Times.
Just a couple of minutes walk round the corner, in George Street, lived drummer Ringo Starr’s step-grandparents, James and Louisa Graves, who, according to rumours, the band visited after their gig.
The Beatles performed a six-song setlist on that Wednesday night: Love Me Do, Misery, A Taste Of Honey, Do You Want To Know A Secret, and I Saw Her Standing There.
They also played the catchy Please, Please Me, released three months earlier, and which had crept up the charts before finally reaching number one at the beginning of March.
The hype was just beginning to build and the group’s management, realising they had struck gold, rushed out the Beatles’ debut album, also called Please, Please Me, two days after the Romford gig, The rest is history.
When The Beatles returned to Romford three months later, this time playing the Odeon Cinema, in South Street, on June 16 - Paul McCartney’s birthday - it was a different story.
Beatlemania had swept the town (although not the Recorder offices it seems, with the paper wrongly naming McCartney “Paul McKenzie”).
Thousands queued for advance tickets and some even camped out overnight before the show.
Former Recorder photographer, John Hercock, was just 15 at the time and was taking pictures in the crowd for photo agency. Central Press.
“It wasn’t just the girls who were screaming,” he said, “it was the boys too! “The atmosphere was mad; it was a full house, people had been queued around the block to get in.
“I don’t think anyone could quite believe the Beatles were in Romford; you only saw bands like that on Top of the Pops.”
Again the Beatles dropped in on James and Louisa after their gig.
This time a “mob-proof van” was used to transport the young pop stars through the town - the windows of which, the Recorder reported, were “smeared in lipstick” from adoring girls.
A year later James made his only-ever public comment about the Beatles, telling a newspaper: “I think they are a wonderful bunch of boys, not at all big-headed about their success.”
To mark the this week’s anniversary, Tracks, experts in Beatles memorabilia, is inviting residents get in touch for a free valuation of any items they may have.
Signatures could be worth thousands of pounds.
Contact the company on 01257 269726 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Were you there and do you have any pictures from either of the gigs?
Contact the news desk on 020 8477 3878 or email email@example.com