It remains almost impossible to imagine The Beatles playing a concert that wasn’t a magical celebration of iconic songs. However, somewhat remarkably, during their early days as a band, it was relatively common for the Fab Four’s crowds not to be so fabulous.
Before Beatlemania kicked in across the world in 1963, The Beatles were just an ordinary band with an extraordinary talent yet to be recognised. They had struggled to get shows outside of Liverpool apart from their trips to Hamburg, and although they’d honed their skills as a unit, they were still an unknown quantity.
On the rare occasions when the group stepped out of Merseyside and performed in other areas of Britain, it was usually in cities such as Manchester or London rather than small towns. However, they weren’t yet in the business of turning their nose up at gigs and were happy to play anywhere they were wanted.
Their open-minded attitude took the band to places that they didn’t even know existed, such as The Sub Glub in the sleepy town of Stroud in Gloucestershire on March 31st, 1962. For this event, The Beatles were paid £32 for the performance, and according to Paul McCartney, only three people were in attendance. He later told the BBC that it was their worst ever concert.
Macca said: “Stroud was pretty bad….. We’d never heard of it, but we went there and I think about three people showed up. Some of them were Teds and started throwing money at us – throwing pennies at us – but we just picked it up and thought ‘that’ll do it'”.
The troublemaking Teds were supposed to be banned from attending the show at the request of local authorities with a flyer for the event strictly stating: “At the request of the Council – No Teddy Boys and Ladies please do not wear stiletto heels.” However, they needed as many people through the door they could get, and Teddy’s were allowed to wreak havoc.
Interestingly, in 2016, author Richard Houghton appealed for people to come forward who were there on that infamous night, and remarkably, Roger Brown stepped forward. He recalled: “They were billed as Liverpool’s number one group which did not mean as much to us in Gloucestershire. John Lennon said he was going to play this new record”.
Adding: “Knowing the quality of the normal Saturday night groups I waited for them to spoil the song. Wow – was I surprised. John Lennon on the harmonica was really great and their version was better than the original. I was a fan from that day.”
Although it was the worst concert in the history of The Beatles, they still returned to the scene of the crime six months later and performed again in Stroud.
Unfortunately, no footage exists from the concert, so you’ll have to leave it to your imagination to picture The Beatles playing to a scattering of Teddy Boys armed with pennies they were launching on-stage. However, this experience was undoubtedly a beneficial one for the Fab Four that helped them grow a thick skin and the ability to win over even the most hostile of crowds.