It was more than 50 years ago but the gigs The Beatles played in Gloucestershire are committed to many memories of gig-goers at the time – but where did the term Beatlemania come from?
It’s been claimed that the word used to describe the hysteria which followed the Fab Four everywhere they went was invented in Gloucestershire, after a gig in Cheltenham.
Former Citizen journalist Hugh Worsnip, who saw the Liverpudlian four piece play in Gloucester, said that according to the book Beatlemania by Martin Creasy the first mention of the word was in the Daily Mirror on November 3, 1963, following the opening night of the Beatles fourth tour at the Odeon in Cheltenham.
“The headline read: ‘Beatlemania – it’s happening everywhere, even in sedate Cheltenham’ but Vincent Mulchrone wrote a piece in the Daily Express on October 21 of that year which was headlined ‘This Beatlemania’,” said Hugh.
“And there was also a claim by a Scottish journalist that he coined the word a couple of weeks earlier.”
Journalist Martin Creasy, who published a book about the early 1960s tours wrote: “The history books record that Beatlemania began in the autumn of 1963. But the evidence suggests that the mania – teens gathering in hordes and screaming for all their worth at the group – was building up much earlier. It’s just that the national press was surprisingly slow to pick up on it.”
Just who first used the term seems to be in some dispute. A former music promoter, Andi Lothian, claims to have coined it while speaking to a reporter at a Beatles concert in Scotland in October 1963.
Former Echo sports writer, the late Derek Goddard, also has a claim to the term. As a young reporter he was sent to cover the show at the Gaumont Palace in Cheltenham.
In early November the Beatles were just about to go from popular band to global phenomenon – their first US tour was just a few months away and She Loves You was about to go to Number 1.
Fans queued all night for tickets, the music was unheard for the screams of the girls and the stage was littered by jelly babies thrown by adoring fans at guitarist George Harrison, who had said in an interview he liked the sweets.
Before they became stars the Beatles played the Subscription Rooms in Stroud, described by Paul McCartney as one of his worst ever gigs.
He said of the March 1962 show: “Hardly anyone showed up for a start, which was not wonderful. A group of Teddy Boys started throwing coins and we ended up picking them up.”
Hugh interviewed the Fab Four at The New County Hotel after their 1963 Gloucester gig, and they signed their names in his notepad – which was thrown out six months later.
Hugh, who retired in 2003 after almost 42 years working on The Citizen was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when John, Paul, George and Ringo played at the Regal.
His chance meeting with them began under usual circumstances. Lovestruck young fan Sally Burge, from Leighterton, Tetbury, toppled into the orchestra pit as she tried to hurl chocolates on stage for the headline act Chris Montez. She was carted off by St John Ambulance.
As Beatlemania! The Real Story of The Beatles UK Tours 1963-65 documents, after the show Hugh called at the New County Hotel in Southgate Street to see if Montez had a get well message for Miss Burge.
He said: “I was talking to Chris Montez when John and Paul came over to the table,” remembered Hugh, who was a member of Gloucestershire band The Beatniks at the time.
“They said they were an up-and-coming group, or words to that effect. That’s when I asked them to write their names down so I knew I would spell them correctly.“They weren’t household names then, but of course three months later everybody knew about them.”
His favourable reaction to their performance was sub-edited out of the final copy.
He can, however, remember the set list from the night, when the Fab Four had been promoted from the bottom of the bill to closing the first half.
They played I Saw Her Standing There, Love Me Do, Misery, Taste of Honey, Do You Want to Know a Secret? and Please Please Me.