The story of Sheffield and the Beatles – and the Nov 2019 post-script…
Sheffield’s place in the story of the world’s most famous band is often overlooked. But many argue the Beatles would never have enjoyed the global domination they did if it wasn’t for the influence of the Steel City – the mother of the band’s mercurial manager Brian Epstein came from here.
The city is now counting down to another first – the re-staging of arguably their most famous gig in Sheffield.
It was the night the Beatles brought the roads of Gleadless to a near standstill as hundreds of fans turned up without tickets hoping to catch their Azena Ballroom gig.
It was also the night that put Peter Stringfellow – the promoter of the gig – on the road to fame and fortune.
The re-staging of the show takes place on Friday, November 8th, 2019, and celebrates the launch of a new book that celebrates the King Mojo – the venue opened by Peter and Geoff Stringfellow – but also chronicles the story of the Beatles in Sheffield.
We thought we’d give you a sneak peak at the Beatles chapter to whet your appetite for the launch!
18-year-old Malka, known to most as Queenie, married 29-year-old Harry Epstein at the Synagogue, Wilson Road, Sheffield 11, in 1933.
Her father, Louis Hyman, owned the Sheffield Cabinet Company. Their most famous item, the Clarendon bedroom suite, is quite a collectors’ item by all accounts.
But nothing was more famous than the couple’s son, Brian Epstein – the man their helped engineer their rise to global superstars.
The band’s early show at the Azena Ballroom in Gleadless is the one that has taken on almost mythical status.
There’s no doubt it was the show that helped put the show’s promoter Peter Stringfellow in a different league to his contemporaries.
The gig was originally booked for his Black Cat Club, St Aiden’s Hall, but as the band’s career hit a vertical trajectory in the spring of 1963, so did ticket sales.
With 2,000 tickets sold he had no option to find a bigger venue. He tried for the Mecca dance hall but failed and opted for the Azena.
The scene was total carnage at the event with hundreds turning up without tickets; windows were smashed and the fire doors mysteriously opened (these days the Azena is a supermarket – we’re reliably informed the Beatles performed very near where the bacon counter is today…)
In November that year The Beatles finally headlined Sheffield City Hall in their own right – they’d already performed there numerous times over the past months as part of bigger package tours as support to the likes of Helen Shapiro and Roy Orbison.
Star journalist Francis Mullions described it as “the night when Sheffield went Beatle-barmy” and tells the story of thousands of “frenzied screamagers” yelling themselves hoarse.
There were faintings and hundreds of fans still outside the stage door at midnight not realising the band had actually left within seconds of finishing – they didn’t even bother changing out of their stage clothes, they just ran!
Joan Morris: “We’d been counting down the days to the show for weeks. We were absolutely Beatle-crazy. The screaming was bad enough before they started but when they appeared it was absolute pandemonium. I could hardly recognise a song all night – it was impossible over the noise of the hysterics. A girl near us fainted – I can remember it plain as day. Once she was okay she just started screaming again!”
The Beatles said thank you and good night to the city on Wednesday, December 8, 1965, when they performed at the Gaumont as part of the band’s final British tour.
They totally outwitted the fans. Whilst they were in hysterics laying siege to the stage door hours before the show, The Beatles simply pulled up outside the main public entrance and walked straight in!
Ringo said at the time: “It was unusual for us. Normally we had to hide in vans or go in through back entrances. They did not know what was going on.”
- You can buy tickets for the re-staging of the Azena show here.
- And there’s more details about the ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Sheffield – King Mojo Edition’ here.