A pleasing night with The Beatles

Beatles cover

CLIVE GOOZEE remembers interviewing The Beatles at the Granada, Tooting, in 1963

I was an indentured reporter on the Balham and Tooting News and Mercury, part of a group of south London papers owned by Provincial Newspapers group, which later became United Newspapers. Remember them? 

It was June 1, and I was assigned to cover the Beatles gig. I arrived at the stage door, which was besieged by screaming girls, one of them tried to pinch my Press pass. I was rushed through the back door and led to the dressing rooms with a reporter from a rival paper. 

We were shown in to the Beatles’ dressing room and waited for them to finish their first set. As they walked in, George shook hands said: "I’ve got an ‘orrible 'eadache after that.” George and Paul engaged us in a friendly chat and I just happened to mention I had a back injury from playing football. I asked if they followed Liverpool, who were at the start of their glorious era. "We’re not interested in football,” came the reply. Very unusual for Scousers

I had with me a copy of the first LP, Please Please Me, a birthday present for my brother Steve, who was 16 the day before the Tooting show. George wrote: To Steve, best wishes and a happy birthday from the Beatles, Paul signed next, then Ringo and John, who rather than hand it to me, dropped it on the floor. 

A tour roadie arrived and took orders for refreshments. Paul wasn’t a veggie in those days. He ordered an egg burger.

My report of the event was “relegated” to the diary, but the Fab Four were to make a bigger splash in December ‘63 when they returned to south-west London for a Beatles Southern Fan Club convention at Wimbledon Palais. I was there with my new girlfriend Monica (we’re still together) and Peter Wilson, one of the bright stars of our newspaper group, contemporary of Paul Callan, who joined the Express newsdesk after reporting for the Mirror. 

It was a surreal scene at the Palais. The Beatles sat behind the bar, reporters and photographers were placed in two pens beside the bar, with an aisle created for the hysterical girls to walk through and shake hands with their idols.

After the last fan ran, swooned or fainted in Handshake Alley before joining the delirious, girls in the ballroom — some flat out on the floor, John, Paul, George and Ringo went backstage getting ready to entertain them. On stage they were greeted by ear-splitting screams that drowned the music. All I could hear were Ringo’s drums and Paul’s bass. 

Peter told me he couldn’t go to the Gents because it was being used by St John Ambulance volunteers tending fainting fans.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre