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I was there amid the terrifying screams of full-on Beatle bedlam

By Ivan Little

Published 04/06/2015

Paul McCartney gets a kiss from a fan
Paul McCartney gets a kiss from a fan
Fan: A teenage Ivan Little

Frozen in time, Nick Newbery's black-and-white photographs of The Beatles gig in Belfast in 1964 crystallise a lost age of innocence for a misty-eyed generation about to be engulfed in the Troubles.

Newbery's pictures of the Fab Four released by the Public Record Office are the first I've seen from that magical mystery tour-de-force half-a-century ago. It was a night in November when 16,000 of us sardined ourselves into the King's Hall to see but barely hear the greatest band in the world playing two sell-out gigs, their second visit in almost 12 months.

Nowadays, photographs of gigs appear on social media before the stars have even played their last song, but in 1964 cameras at gigs were a flash in the pan. The only images that I had from the 8.45pm show were the ones which were burnt into the memory card in my mind, even though they've been fading with every passing decade.

Nick's pictures have brought back into focus the sharp-suited Beatles whose mop-tops look well-groomed now, but used to make my father's hair stand on end. Not that I could see much back then. I'd paid 15 shillings - 75p - for my ticket at the back of the auditorium and The Beatles were more like ants on the stage in distance.

Such was the Beatle bedlam that the only way to get any view was to clamber precariously on to the back of seats. Hearing John, Paul, George and Ringo was even more difficult.

The screams were terrifying for someone like me who was scarcely into his teens, and The Beatles could have been playing Vera Lynn's greatest hits for all I knew. Even as my brothers and I pushed our way to the front, it still wasn't clear what The Beatles were singing.

It was only after we reached the crush-barrier at the front of the stage that I could be sure of anything coming from The Beatles' mouths, and that was a farewell from Paul McCartney, who thanked us all for coming before dashing off stage.

Fifty years later The Beatles are still a multi-million industry, with coverage of the discovery of never-before-published photographs of them in Belfast proving they can still write their own headlines.

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