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Nostalgia: When Beatlemania took Exeter by storm

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 14, 2013

When Beatlemania took Exeter by storm

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NEXT month marks the 50th anniversary of one of the great dates in Exeter history – the first appearance in the city of The Beatles.

The Fab Four played at the old ABC cinema in the city centre (now where Waterstone's is) on March 28, 1963 and they were not top billing.

The main performers were Chris Montez, who crooned The More I See You, and Tommy Roe.

The Beatles were fifth in the concert line-up, behind The Terry Young Six, Debbie Lee, Tony Marsh and Tommy Roe.

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But it was a different story 11 months later, on November 14, when they returned to the ABC to head the bill.

The old cinema then had a total capacity of 2,000, and the super group were booked to play to two houses. Tickets, priced at 10s 6d, sold out within a week, and soon they were being offered for sale on the black market for £5 each.

Bernadette Bradford (née Ryan) was one of the lucky ones to attend the concert.

She was 16 at the time and her work colleague Avril Ebdon had managed to get tickets. You can see them both in our photo from the concert, right.

"I don't know how much Avril paid for the tickets. I was just thrilled to be there," said Mrs Bradford.

"Avril was the big Beatles fan. She even had a coat like the one they wore in Sgt Pepper. We used to work together at Evans Gadd, the wholesale chemists."

Mrs Bradford said they were not disappointed by the performance of Paul, John, George and Ringo.

"The concert was absolutely amazing. It was better than anything we could have imagined," she said.

"It was great that we had a concert hall in Exeter where we could see such big groups.

"The noise inside the hall was fantastic. Everyone was screaming and many of the girls kept diving for the front of the stage. It was a brilliant atmosphere.

"Afterwards we all waited outside the stage door to see if we could get autographs, but they never came out. I am so glad we went to see them, it is something I will always remember."

Carol Critcher, of Exmouth, also remembered the concert.

"The Beatles were great and it was a lovely evening," she said.

"I can remember there was a lot of screaming and lots of girls throwing themselves at the stage.

"It was certainly a night to remember."

Retired MoD worker Mike May saw the band's first concert in the city with his sweetheart, Janet.

Mr May, who was working as a carpenter at the time of the concert, said: "You could hardly hear the music with the sound of screaming girls.

"Everybody was standing up and so excited and caught up in the atmosphere.

Raymond Perkins was a 29-year-old security guard at the ABC Cinema on the corner of New North Road and High Street when the Beatles arrived.

He said: "Our job was to keep the crowds under control and, above all, off the stage.

"If we hadn't been there they would have been clamouring all over the bands."

And Raymond said the noise of the screaming teenage fans was deafening as soon as the four Liverpudlian lads went on stage.

He said: "The audience was so loud and they were all getting overexcited.

"A few of them even started to hyperventilate and fainted, and we had to carry them out into the foyer and try to bring them round."

When he wasn't busy with the crowds, Raymond's other duties included looking after the bands and smuggling them in and out of the cinema out of sight of their fans.

He said: "When the concert ended people would hang around outside looking for smart cars such as limousines. What they didn't realise was that while they were waiting for the Beatles to pull away in a limousine, they had already left.

"They would be discreetly bundled into the back of an old van which nobody would stop to look at twice."

Although some of the groups that played the ABC had bad boy reputations, Raymond said the Beatles were not like that — and were really rather quiet.

He said: "They were always very pleasant and friendly, and I remember before they went on stage they were in their dressing room playing with a model train, not spitting and kicking things over like some of the others."

As an employee of the ABC Cinema, Raymond was able to get backstage at all the concerts.

Dafydd ap Rees, a writer who lives in America, has been in touch asking for memories for his project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, with a day-by-day account of what the Beatles did in 1963 through the eyes of those who encountered them along the way.

If you have a story to tell and would like to share it, email dafyddaprees@gmail.com

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