‘They pulled their socks up after my review’ – former Echo reporter on The Beatles’ first Sunderland gig, 50 years ago today

005923 - The Beatles in Sunderland in 1963
005923 - The Beatles in Sunderland in 1963
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IT was 50 years ago today that the Fab Four first played in Sunderland.

 The Beatles were a relatively unknown act when they made their Wearside debut on February 9, 1963, supporting Helen Shapiro.

FILE PIC taken 1 June 2005''01/06/2005   Photographer: PB   Photographer Peter Berry''Carol Roberton

FILE PIC taken 1 June 2005''01/06/2005 Photographer: PB Photographer Peter Berry''Carol Roberton

It was two days before they started recording the bulk of their debut album Please Please Me and they had only released two singles.

By the end of that year they had three number one singles and were on their way to being the biggest band in history.

Former Sunderland Echo journalist Carol Roberton, 68, was at the city’s landmark concert and wrote a review for the paper.

She said: “I was a junior reporter, and I was nervous. One of the senior reporters told me ‘you’ll be fine Carol, just be sure to mention everyone in the programme’.

“I was a jazz fan at the time so I hadn’t really heard of The Beatles, who hadn’t been heard of then, really.

“I couldn’t hear much because the screaming was so loud from lots of the girls. I think screaming became fashionable at that time.

“It’s difficult to remember The Beatles properly. They were gyrating around on the stage and I got a fit of giggles.

“I couldn’t hear any of their songs because of the screaming, so it looked like they were gyrating to nothing.”

The Beatles were the bottom of the bill that night under well-known names Danny Williams (Moon River) and Kenny Lynch (Up on the Roof).

At the time, Carol wrote that their performances were “a relief from the noisier efforts of most of the rest of the supporting programme”.

Going on to say “mention must be made of the scream-evoking group The Beatles, three of whom plucked on their electric guitar strings while the fourth played the drums.

“Identically dressed and with the same strange haircut, they pleased most of the audience with similar-sounding numbers such as Please Please Me, and Love Me Do.”

Signing off, she wrote “their instrumental qualifications did not measure up to the high standard of The Red Band”, who were the Empire’s in-house band at the time.

Carol, of High Barnes, added: “I remember thinking what on earth could I say about them?

“I met them afterwards and they were nice. Stupidly, I didn’t get their autographs though. They would have been worth a lot now.

“Their suits and hair were different then. They looked strange.

“When I dined out on the story later I used to say they pulled their socks up after they read my review.”

The Beatles went on to play the city’s Rink Ballroom on May 14 and were back at the Empire on November 30.

Carol said: “I can’t believe it was 50 years ago. I was only 18 at the time.”

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull