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50 years since Fab Four’s ‘worst night’

By Steve Carpenter Wednesday 14 November 2012 Updated: 19/11 12:14

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The Beatles performed to around 100 people at the old Matrix Hall venue in 1962, just weeks after releasing Love Me Do. (s)

THEY labelled it one of the “worst first-nights ever” but it did not stop their rise to becoming the most well known band of all time.

And this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first ever visit to Coventry. Steve Carpenter looks back...

John, Paul, George and Ringo enjoyed a world-wide dominance during the 1960s.

But not many people will recall their humbling beginnings.

The Beatles struggled to make a name for themselves in their early years, touring up and down the country in-between jetting off to play regular low-key music venues in the red light district of Hamburg, Germany.

And 50 years ago to the day on Saturday November 17, 1962, just two days after returning from a two-week stint in Germany and weeks after releasing their debut single Love Me Do, the they took to the stage in Tile Hill.

The venue was a works canteen in the old Matrix Hall building on Fletchamstead Highway, a site which is now occupied by a tool hire firm.

It was a popular music venue spanning over three decades and played host to several other high profile names including The Searchers and The Rolling Stones as its profile increased.

After returning from Hamburg on Thursday, November 15 this was to be The Beatles’ first gig back on British soil and although it may be hard to believe, the band suffered from nerves, none more so than recent addition, drummer Ringo Starr.

Indeed perhaps nerves were to blame for their performance that night because despite playing what would become a host of timeless hits including I saw Her Standing There and Twist and Shout to the 100-strong crowd, Paul later revealed his displeasure of the gig in the film Let It Be.

During a conversation with John in which he mistakenly spoke of the venue as being De Montfort Hall in Leicester, he said: “When we came back from Hamburg and did Leicester De Montfort Hall or whatever it was, Coventry!

“We played the ballroom and had the worst first night thing, we were all nervous, it was terrible.”

But despite their displeasure and immediate rise to fame the following year, The Beatles found time to return to Coventry just three months later when they played at the Coventry Theatre on February 24, 1963 and returned a third and final time, exactly one year after their first show in the city.

Nobody in the crowd could have predicted just how big this four-piece band were to be that night in November half a century ago, but Coventry, like most of the nation, was soon to be gripped Beatlemania and will always remain a part of Fab Four’s amazing rise to fame.

More information about The Beatles’ link to the city can be found in a book written by Pete Chambers, The Beatles Sent to Coventry, which can be purchased from the Herbert Art Gallery.

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Buy photos» A photo of The Beatles preparing backstage for their 1963 gig in Coventry. (s)

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