A Psychedelic Sweetshop and some Silver Beetles
One of the pieces in my new book concerns the history of the early days of The Beatles. Not that I knew them or anything – although I did once meet an Elgin man who claimed that Paul played at his brother-in-law’s wedding - but I have been privileged to both listen to the songs and I have of course visited a few of those local venues which – in those heady 1960’s – played host to the Fab Four. Now there’s a mouthful of words!
There are of course many historical venues associated with the band and one of my favourites is Fraserburgh’s Dalrymple Hall. Billed nowadays as the Beatles ‘Lost Tour’ the 1960 tour included performances at Elgin, Bridge of Allan and Dingwall before climaxing at Fraserburgh.
The stage at Dalrymple is on an upper floor of the building and leans towards the audience at some crazy angle or other. In the big scheme of things its surprising that performers, including bands and theatre groups, can remain completely calm whilst treading those illustrious boards.
Of course, the venue sports a few pieces of memorabilia from the days and, on our visit at least, the hall-keeper took time to guide us through the history of the place. Photo’s of past triumphs litter the walls and pride of place is reserved for a hand-bill from May 1960 when the Beatles played the venue. Not that they were well known in those days – in fact they were billed as simply a backing group for Johnny Gentle and when allowed to do their own thing mainly played cover versions of Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochrane numbers. In short, there wasn’t a Lennon and McCartney piece within hearing range. The same set was to be repeated slavishly throughout the 1960 tour. What’s more, George was billed as ‘Carl Harrison’; John as ‘Johnny Lennon’ and Paul went by the pseudonym of ‘Paul Ramone’. In the publicity material ‘The Silver Beetles’ name was largely unused, with the band being billed as ‘Johnny Gentle and His Group’.
I penned a piece about the tour in the March 2014 edition of Leopard Magazine and a re-write of the entire episode appears in the A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire on page 23 or thereabouts.
It’s a good read and includes a reference to a car crash on the Banff to Fraserburgh road which nearly wiped the young hopefuls from the face of the earth. A Sotheby’s sale catalogue dated September 2004 holds a clue to the complete story and reads: ‘“A very rare, early set of autographs, 23 May, 1960, on five pages from an autograph book signed and inscribed during the Beatles' first ever tour of Scotland, one page signed in blue ballpoint pen by Paul McCartney and George Harrison with their then stage names Paul Ramon and Carl Harrison and by John Lennon as Johnny Lennon, the page additionally inscribed in McCartney's hand The Beatles, another page signed and inscribed in blue ballpoint pen love Stuart xx [Sutcliffe], additional pages signed and inscribed Thomas Moore, Drums; love Johnny Gentle; and With best wishes, Margie xx”.
The item fetched £5,019 at auction. You can probably unearth the original 2014 article from Aberdeenshire Library Services by applying a search such as: ‘The band that nearly never was’ and of course the full story is in the book @: The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire