Lennon and Blackpool

(cont.)
   

Virginia Harry and John Lennon at the ABCWhen Freddie returned he took John back to Blackpool and discussed immigrating to New Zealand.

On Saturday 22 June 1946 Julia, together with Bobby Dykins, turned up at the Halls’ house, saying they’d tracked Freddie down via the post office.

Julia said she wanted John back and turned down Freddie’s suggestion that they try to patch up the marriage. 

John was asked who he’d like to stay with and he took his father’s hand and said he wanted to stay with him, but when Julia began to walk down the street, John ran after her, so Freddie collected John’s things and they were handed to Dykins.

Once the Beatles began their rise to fame in Britain, they made several appearances in Blackpool, making their debut at the ABC Theatre in Church Street on Sunday 7 July 1963 and next appeared there on 14 July The following month they appeared at the venue on Sunday 11 August and Sunday 25 August. Their final appearance in 1963 took place on Sunday, 8 September when the Sons of the Piltdown Men, Terry Young, Jack Douglas, Lee Leslie, the Countrymen and Chas McDevitt and Shirley Douglas were also on the bill.

Their Sunday 19 July 1964 appearance at the venue was for a live broadcast of ABC TV’s ‘Blackpool Night Out’ and Virginia and I covered the event for Mersey Beat. 

“Brian Epstein had invited us along and we brought a mutual friend of John and I from our Art College days – Rod Murray, together with our photographer. 

“When we arrived at theatre the Beatles were in the middle of rehearsals on stage and Paul was belting out Long Tall Sally – in fine form.

“Seated around the vast, luxurious theatre were members of the cast - Mike and Bernie Winters, Jimmy Edwards, Lionel Blair and also Brian Epstein, Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans and Johnny Hackett.

“For almost an hour the boys were on stage performing.

“I wish we could have mimed during rehearsals,” John told me later – and soon after the others joined us they were called back on stage.

“’We’ve been rehearsing for hours,” John said, when he rejoined us, and in another half hour he was on stage again.

“During the whole time, on stage or off, the boys were clowning around and having quite a laugh.

“When one of the production team called for silence and gave instructions to the cast he was greeted with applause from John, George, Paul and Ringo, and when there was a delay during dress rehearsals George was shouting “Come ‘ead” and John, “I’m going home!”

“The rehearsals for the TV show ‘Blackpool Night Out’ were proving to be even more hilarious than the programme that was screened, as Jimmy Edwards and Frank Berry kept coming out with jokes that weren’t in the script.

“’They’ll use different jokes on the actual programme because they want to keep the musicians in the pit laughing,” John explained.

“Apart from singing several numbers including ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’, the Beatles appeared in several sketches.

“Ringo really looked picturesque as a patient in a brightly coloured smock and patterned pyjamas during the first sketch and all; four were certainly dressed for the part when they took the stage as dustmen.

During that visit George came over to sit with me and he said he wanted to thank me. I asked him what for. He said that whenever he’d been in Liverpool and would visit clubs such as the Blue Angel or the Cabin, I would be there asking him why wasn’t he writing songs as he was the first Beatles to be credited with writing an original number in print – on the cover of Mersey Beat Issue 2. He said one night he was going out and realized he would bump into me and I’d start bothering him again about songwriting, so he began to work on a song called ‘Don’t Bother Me.’ He told me he’d already received over £7,000 in royalties.

I also joined John in one of the rooms upstairs overlooking a pub and John was staring at the people entering the pub. He told me he envied them, that he wished he could just go down into the pub and have a drink – but those days were over. In some ways, being so famous made him a prisoner and the ordinary things he used to do were now impossible.

Virginia Harry, John Lennon and Bill Harry in BlackpoolThe Beatles next appeared at the venue on 19 July 1964 for an appearance on ‘Blackpool Night Out’ and the four were back at the ABC for another ‘Blackpool Night Out’ show hosted by Mike and Bernie on Sunday 1 August 1965. Also on the bill were Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr, Johnny Hart and the Lionel Blair Dancers. The songs performed by the Beatles were I Feel Fine, I’m Down, Act Naturally, Ticket to Ride, Yesterday and Help! 

The Beatles also appeared at other Blackpool venues, including the Queen’s Theatre in Bank Hey Street on 21 July and 4 August 1963 and the Opera House, Church Street on 26 July and 16 August 1964. A supporting group on that last date were the High Numbers, who were to evolve into the Who.

More memories of John and the Blackpool area will be forthcoming when Stan Parkes completes a book on the history of the Stanley/Lennon family.

He tells me, “John, Liela and I had quite an exciting childhood and what I have told you about Fleetwood and Blackpool is just a snippet – I could write a book on those memories alone!”

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