Andy Howells travels back to Saturday June 22 1963. when The Beatles played their only gig at Abergavenny Town Hall with support from The Fabulous Fortunes.
Manager, Brian Epstein booked The Beatles one and only Abergavenny show with promoter Eddie Tattersall in early 1963 for £250. The Fab Four released their debut album, Please Please Me in March and subsequently topped the charts with their third single From Me To You. Rumblings of Beatlemania were around the corner and as the Beatles popularity rose, so did the booking fee for their shows. Its fair to say that the Abergavenny show was done out of obligation to the promoter and would be a glimpse of what future concerts would be like for the Fab Four.
John Lennon Arrived At Abergavenny Beatles Gig Via “A Fish”
In the hours leading up to the show on June 22, 1963, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had arrived in Abergavenny for taround 5pm , but John Lennon had to remain in London to fulfill a recording engagement for BBC televisions Juke Box Jury which would be broadcast the following week.
Brian Epstein paid for a helicopter to transport himself and John from Battersea Hellipad to Abergavenny. Due to the late recording session, the helicopter didn’t leave the helipad until 9.15pm. The yellow helicopter (described by John to a South Wales Argus reporter as “a fish”) arrived at Abergavenny Thursday’s football ground at 9.45pm, some three quarters of an hour behind schedule. John said at the time:
“It was just like sitting in a flying armchair, with only a piece of glass in front of you, But it was very cold up there.”
A waiting taxi rushed John to Abergavenny Town Hall where he joined Paul, George and Ringo.
The Fabulous Fortunes Supported The Beatles At Abergavenny Show
South Wales band The Fabulous Fortunes, supported The Beatles at their Abergavenny Town Hall gig and even mingled with Paul, George and Ringo before the event as they signed autographs waiting for John’s arrival.
Fabulous Fortunes guitarist, Barrie Herbert recalled to Andy Howells in 2013:
“I’d heard on BBC Radio The Beatles doing a Little Richard number so I asked Paul McCartney ‘Which one of you is singing Long Tall Sally?’ and he said: ‘That’s me!’ I said, ‘It’s absolutely brilliant’.”
“To add to the incidentals all the autograph books were coming into the room, one of which was my sister Pam’s. She was about three or four years younger than me and she’d been along to all the gigs supporting The Fabulous Fortunes.
“McCartney signed it, then another came through belonging to one of her friends and McCartney signed that. Then he said, “Who the hell is this Barrie Herbert?” as it was on every book with us being a local band.
“I said “I’m afraid that’s me!” He went: “Oh! Sorry about that!”
The Beatles On Stage At Abergavenny Town Hall
The Beatles took to the stage at 10.30pm and played their early hits and album tracks, it is thought that over 600 fans saw them perform and had traveled from neighboring towns such as Newport on private buses.. They also received a civic reception by the mayor and mayoress of Abergavenny, Councillor and Mrs J.F. Thurston where they drank tea.
Ringo told the press at the time,
“All of us except John arrived in Abergavenny by road at about five o’clock. We haven’t seen much of the town as we went into hiding as soon as we got here.”
Indeed, such procedures would become more common as The Beatles gained a stronger following. Within a year, they would also have conquered America, the first successful British band to do so.
Beatles Locked Out Of Dressing Room After Performance
However, Abergavenny’s show would not go without incident.
After The Beatles finished their set, they returned to their dressing room to discover that it had been locked by a member of staff who had proceeded to go home with the key. As The Beatles got mobbed in the hallway by autograph hunters, hand-shakers and girls who wanted to touch their hair, a decision was made after ten minutes to break down the door. This was not the first time The Beatles had experienced such circumstances as John Lennon commented:
“The fans are very good here. In some places we would have been killed by now.”
The Beatles stayed overnight at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny before leaving the following day.
Decades later, the Beatles Abergavenny show was still fondly remembered by Fabulous Fortunes guitarist, Barrie Herbert:
“Without a shadow of a doubt, they were absolutely fantastic. It was a magical time for anybody I think.”
- Beatles were quoted by Garrod Whatley for The South Wales Argus (June 24, 1963)