Beatles on a Plate
In the summer of 1963, four likely lads from Liverpool were embarking on a meteoric rise to fame that would position them as the greatest band in history – they were called ‘The Beatles’. One balmy August evening they performed their only concert in Guernsey, a memento of which still stands proudly on the wall of Candie Gardens in the form of a commemorative plate - one of several charting the islands’ history. However, their concert was the second of two instances that year that saw them forge an enduring link with the Bailiwick. A few months earlier, a local photographer shot to fame with the most incredible image of this band on the up.
In the early 1960s, Guernsey girl Fiona Adams had left the Bailiwick to cut her teeth as a photographer in London and was working for the weekly ‘Boyfriend’ magazine, dedicated to emerging popstars. Her iconic image has served as a lasting connection between the Bailiwick and the Beatles.
“This emerged from one of my first assignments for Boyfriend Magazine. I had met the Beatles the previous week, Sunday April 14th 1963, when they were appearing on the popular ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ Show, hosted that day by Jimmy Saville, at the TV Studios in Teddington. These were very early days and the Beatles readily agreed when I asked them to come in for a shoot.
“Come in they did, to our cramped little studio at No.21, Kingly Street, W.1. The day was April 18th, 1963. I had been keen at that time to break away from the conventional Hollywood-style of stage and studio shot. To this end, I would ride around on the top deck of London buses to search out possible locations. An abandoned area had caught my eye at the crossroads of Euston and Gower Street. This was still London blitzed in parts and awaiting rebuilding.
“As far as I remember, we all managed to pile into one taxi, the four Beatles, myself and Maureen O’Grady of Boyfriend – plus the camera gear! I climbed down the rubble into a bombed-out cellar, open to the sky, and had a wonderful session with the Beatles lined up on the wall above who couldn’t have been more co-operative.”
“Taken on this single roll of film was the Jumping Shot, the shot which John Lennon and Tony Barrow chose for the cover of the Beatles EP album Twist and Shout’.”
Fifty years after the landmark concert, local tour guide Gill Girard was invited to unveil the prominent black plaque that stands as a lasting legacy of the Channel Islands’ links to Beatlemania. She was also lucky back then to enjoy front-row seats at the iconic performance with a group of school friends. Her father, Baron Pontin, was making a name for himself as a local hotelier and music presenter and Gill recalls the summer that brought The Beatles and many other hit makers of the 60s over to the Bailiwick.
Pontin was famed for hosting his own music events at Candie Gardens, branded as ‘The Top “Pop” Show’. He had a knack for bringing some of the hottest acts of the time over the Channel to perform, from Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer, to Shane Fenton and The Hollies. “The concerts were so popular,” Gill recalls. “It was a great summer of music and Candie Gardens was the place to be.”
By August 1963, The Beatles had recently returned from their first tour of the United States and their popularity was sky-high. “I was hugely into the band back then, and an avid member of the fan club too’, says Gill. Thanks to a collaboration between Pontin and another promoter, Les de la Mare, Gill’s dreams of meeting the ‘Fab Four’ became a reality. The Beatles were booked in for a series of five concerts, the first two taking place on 6th and 7th August in Jersey, before a further two more back at the Springfield Stadium on 9th and 10th August. On August 8th, they were booked to perform at Candie Gardens. They allegedly took a flight over from Jersey in good faith that their kit would follow them on by boat – thankfully it did.
“I just remember the atmosphere being absolutely electric, everyone in the auditorium just screamed and screamed,” says Gill. “Obviously, back then, there was no security and we were, literally, touching distance from The Beatles, it was incredible!”
The band opened the concert with ‘Do you want to know a secret’, belting out hit after hit, including ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me’, before concluding with a show-stopping performance of ‘Twist and Shout’, sung by John Lennon.
Following the performance at Candie Gardens, John Lennon is rumoured to have spent the night with a friend, the Liverpudlian Beat poet Royston Ellis, and his girlfriend Stephanie. Apparently, their antics that night are said to have inspired the track ‘Polythene Pam’ from the 1969 album Abbey Road.
“After the show, we knew that they had to come out of one of four entrances around the auditorium so we kept darting between them to see if we could catch them,” recalls Gill. “Sadly, they were too quick for us and I remember them speeding off to the bottom of Candie Gardens where they made an escape through an exit and back to their hotel.”
The Beatles never performed in Guernsey again however, fifty years after the landmark concert, a further link was forged between the ‘Fab Four’ and the Bailiwick when producer Sir George Martin, often referred to as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, bought a home on Braye Road, Alderney, in the mid-80s, after the island was recommended to him by neighbours.
Sir George visited Alderney for around 30 years, apparently appreciating the peace and quiet. Today, a famous blue plate stands at his former home as a mecca to music fans from across the world.