Remembering the night in 1964 that The Beatles rocked Glasgow

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A fond look back at The Beatles’ performance in Glasgow in October 1964 with first-hand recollections.

To say that you were fortunate enough to have seen The Beatles perform live at the peak of their powers must be a total thrill.

The Fab Four made several appearances in Glasgow before they ceased touring in 1966. One particular venue in the city which will always remain synonymous with the band is the Odeon Cinema at the corner of Renfield Street and West Regent Street in the very heart of the city centre.

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A number of great artists and bands performed at the venue such as Tom Jones, The Beach Boys and Johnny Cash. It was also a fully functioning cinema until its closure in 2006.

In total, The Beatles performed at the venue on five separate dates between 1963 and 1965 and made their final appearance in Glasgow on December 3 1965.

Much has been written about the legendary gigs in Glasgow, to find out more about what it was really like to witness The Beatles at the height of their powers, we spoke to one of the audience members who had seen the band perform live in Glasgow in 1964.

Writer and broadcaster Billy Kay was one of the fortunate ones who can claim that status as he fondly looked back on the night he saw John, Paul, George and Ringo.

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“I was 13 years old at that time and totally obsessed with The Beatles as only a 13 year old can be. I was a member of the fan club and tried to get tickets for the gig in Glasgow but was unsuccessful.

“There used to be television programmes on around half past five each day particularly on STV that I would watch which was stuff like William Tell and the Lone Ranger. I was sitting watching one of those programmes when my sister Mary arrived back at the house.

“Big sisters can be annoying but she came in and presented something in front of my eyes and told me to look - it was a ticket for The Beatles in Glasgow.

“Mary worked in Glacier Metal in Kilmarnock who had some kinda sweepstake and got so many tickets for the concert. She was offered one after winning it and gave it to her wee brother which I believe is one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in the history of the human race.

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“Another bonus was that the lassies from her work rented a bus, so I got the bus to Kilmarnock to get on this bus which had girls who were anywhere between 18-21 whilst I was 13.

“When we got there, there was quite a big police presence. There was a danger of people without tickets trying to grab tickets at the time. Crowds outside The Odeon were like going into Hampden. We all stuck together and eventually got into the theatre.

“There were other acts involved that night but the only one I remember was Mary Wells who was famous for the song ‘My Guy’. “

It was common for The Beatles to be on the bill with a number of different acts as years previous they performed alongside the likes of Roy Orbison and The Moody Blues in Glasgow.

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“When The Beatles came on the atmosphere was electric. Although lots of people say that whenever they saw the band they couldn’t hear them because of the screaming lassies but the sound system was terrific. We were near the front of the balcony looking down.

“I could hear the band perfectly. They were a good live band. Only true to the sound we had heard on record as they had been gigging for years in Hamburg and Liverpool.

“The harmonies were terrific and although all the females in the audience were screaming, I heard every word and every note. No distorting or anything.

“The set they did that night was terrific and included the likes of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Twist And Shout’ and ‘I Should Have Known Better’. It was the first rock/pop concert I went to. The positive jealousy, how lucky was I!

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“The Odeon felt like an old-fashioned theatre on the balcony, looking down on top of the stage. The feeling was that even though we were on the front of the balcony, we could see the expressions on their faces and the sweat dripping off Lennon and McCartney.

“After the gig, the closest I could get to it is coming out of a big football match when your team has won. People wanted to go back home and talk about the experience. We had seen history!

Apparently, the group’s last number, Twist and Shout, brought pandemonium as scores of girls rose from their seats and surged forward toward the stage. Usherettes were lost in a seething mass of waving arms and legs.  The review added: “It was as if the whole audience had been sprayed with an infectious screaming virus. Three minutes after the curtain fell, they were still yelling.”Apparently, the group’s last number, Twist and Shout, brought pandemonium as scores of girls rose from their seats and surged forward toward the stage. Usherettes were lost in a seething mass of waving arms and legs.  The review added: “It was as if the whole audience had been sprayed with an infectious screaming virus. Three minutes after the curtain fell, they were still yelling.”
Apparently, the group’s last number, Twist and Shout, brought pandemonium as scores of girls rose from their seats and surged forward toward the stage. Usherettes were lost in a seething mass of waving arms and legs. The review added: “It was as if the whole audience had been sprayed with an infectious screaming virus. Three minutes after the curtain fell, they were still yelling.”

“I’ve been to three World Cup Finals supporting Scotland. Going to see Scotland in some games, you feel as though you are in the most important place in the world which is a similar sensation to watching The Beatles. so huge and iconic. We had been to something historic. Life-enhancing.”

There’s always been a strong connection with Glasgow and the band, which Paul McCartney has made clear over the years having played in the city a number of times with Wings and as a solo artist.

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