This was one of the most bizarre Beatles concerts. On 14th December 1963 the Beatles came to the Wimbledon Palais in Merton for an event billed as the ‘Southern Area Fan Club Convention’ of the Beatles Fan club. The Beatles Fan club now had over 80,000 paid up members and Beatles PR man Tony Barrow was worried that the Club wasn’t offering value for money. He therefore decided it would be good to turn this already booked one off gig into something special.
St Helier Hospital informed other local hospitals of the Beatles’ visit and warned that they wouldn’t be able to recruit extra staff. The Palais itself was making its own security arrangements and taking on extra people. St John’s ambulance brigade were also on standby.
For the first part of the day the Beatles sat behind the bar of the Palais as all the 3000 fans present filed past to shake their hand and get autographs. Most of the fans were well behaved, but some started screaming when meeting their heroes became too much.
After everyone had filed passed, the Beatles were to play a concert, but were amazed and angry when they saw they had to play in a huge steel cage – similar to those used to protect audiences from wild animals! Apparently the management were worried that the crowd might storm the stage and harm the Beatles – the very same fans that had been only inches from the group an hour earlier. They were also worried about the possible damage to their famous sprung dance floor.
At one point the fans were jammed up so hard against the steel cage that John Lennon quipped ‘If they push any harder they’ll come through as chips!’
In fact, the cage did begin to buckle under the strain. Police managed to push the crowd back as one brave man with a spanner and bodyguards did his best to tighten up the structure.
The Beatles themselves were outraged at the thought of playing in a cage – especially in front of their most loyal fans, some who had travelled over 100 miles for the event. In the end though the Beatles agreed to go on after apologising to the audience and the show finished without incident.
Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For more info on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Raw footage of the Beatles at Wimbledon Palais https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmdHaMl9Irs