Sunday, 4 April 2010

Memories of The Beatles at The Gaumant in Bradford




w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w


A buzz of excitement goes around the Grange Girls’ Grammar School playground in Lidget Green. The Beatles are bringing their Christmas Show to Bradford!

Fab news! The emerging, surging hormones of this 14 year old Beatles fan go into overdrive.

Help! This news creates a dilemma – how do I persuade dad to cough up the money for a ticket? To miss the show would be unthinkable. How do I convince him to allow me to attend such a dangerously exciting event? No problem. I tell him that Julie’s parents will let her go if he lets me go (she does the same and the result is two very excited, if a little devious, teenage girls).

Julie is my best friend. She is also a great Beatles fan. We spend hours in her bedroom with her portable Dansette record player. We know every song on her new “With The Beatles” LP by heart. Julie’s house has a big cellar with good acoustics and echo. We sing Beatles songs down there and record them on her tape recorder. Julie pretends to be John Lennon and I am Paul McCartney. We mimic exactly the way they move and play on stage, even down to their facial expressions. Sometimes we are asked to perform in front of Julie’s relatives on family occasions.

Listen, do you want to know a secret? I’m in love with Paul McCartney. The evidence is everywhere – his name is written across my blotting paper and jotter and etched into my wooden ruler and desk lid. Don’t tell the teacher, she wouldn’t understand. My dad wonders why I get through so many fountain pen nibs!. My leather satchel carries more than just my school books – I’ve carved “I love Paul” into the shoulder strap using the point of a maths compass (far more important than drawing perfect circles in a geometry lesson!). If Paul met me, he would feel the same. He’d want to hold my hand. A love like ours could never die.

Julie is in love with George Harrison. I don’t understand why, because Paul is definitely the best of the Fab Four, but this does not spoil our friendship.

My hair is thick and dark. I’ve started combing it forward. This makes me look like a Beatle. Mum says it looks ridiculous and that an appointment with the hairdresser is long overdue. I hate the hairdresser. She’s old (over thirty, I think). Old people are “square” and don’t understand about young people. She calls the Beatles “The Beatniks” and this makes me angry. Doesn’t she know anything? I’m too embarrassed to put her right, so I refuse to have my hair cut by her ever again. Anyway, when Julie and I sing our favourite Beatles songs, I can shake my head and toss my hair about just like Paul does when he sings “Ooooo” in the middle of a song (this makes all the girls scream).

It’s a cold October day when Julie’s dad drops us off early in the morning in Quebec Street to queue for tickets for the Show. Not too many people here yet, so here’s hoping we get really good seats near the stage. Not taking any chances, though. The nearest toilets are in City Hall, so we cross our legs and grit our teeth for the long haul, rather than lose our place in the queue. Kind family members provide hot drinks and sandwiches throughout the day. A kind of Beatles soup run. The queue continues to grow and eventually disappears out of sight down the long and winding road which snakes around the back of the imposing Gaumont building and into Thornton Road.

Time drags on but it’s worth the wait. The booking office opens, the crowd surges forward and we get pushed along in the momentum. Breathless, cold and tired but feeling very satisfied, we emerge from the Gaumont Theatre, tickets in hand. Now it’s really going to happen! December can’t come quickly enough.

The night before the concert is sleepless and endless. At last dawn breaks over the city. The familiar dark mill chimneys silhouetted against the red sky wake up with a belch of black smoke.

It’s a good day – sunshine over Bradford. The Beatles are coming!

The day drags on and on ….. My elder sister is not “with it”. She loves classical music and hates the Beatles. This is not normal for a teenage girl. She taunts me. My other sister and brother are too young to understand the importance of the Beatles in my life. They tease me.

Evening comes at last. In Bradford city centre the winter wind howls along Market Street between the Victorian edifices of the Wool Exchange and City Hall. All Bradfordians know this. Protected from the cold by our matching black Beatles polo neck jumpers, Julie and I jump off the back of the No. 37 trolley bus from Clayton, link arms and scurry across Thornton Road. There it is, towering in front of us, the focus of all our hopes and dreams, the magnificent Gaumont Theatre with its red brick façade (unusual for Bradford – we mostly prefer Yorkshire stone!). Its twin towers rise high into the night sky (even more impressive than Wembley Stadium and tonight much more inviting). This old familiar building takes on a new significance in my life – tonight it will be a meeting place for me and my beloved Beatles. Is it possible that the Fab Four are already inside? Is this really happening? Nothing seems real any more.

Julie and I join the throngs of excited people pushing here, there and everywhere to get into the theatre. I think that, if all the anxious parents dropping off their kids would get out of the way, we could get inside much quicker! Why don’t they understand how important this is to us?

Inside, the auditorium is breathtaking. I have never been inside a theatre like this – a place I will remember all my life. Too many seats to count. A huge cavernous ceiling – Julie says the Beatles will feel at home here! I get the joke – yeah, yeah, yeah, very funny! Enormous curtains conceal what I think must be the stage. My mind wanders – I bet Mum would have problems getting all that material into our old Ada agitator washing machine and through the power wringer. My thoughts return to more important things.

We find our seats – on the aisle, nine rows from the front, on the left. Groovy – this is the side where Paul always stands when they perform! Every seat is filled and the atmosphere is electric!

Slowly the huge curtains part. I hold my breath, then let it out again when Rolf Harris appears. Old people are embarrassing because they say silly things that young people would never say. When he sings “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, I want to disappear under the seat! The Show moves along with The Barron Knights, Tommy Quickly, The Fourmost and Billy J Kramer.

After the interval the curtains draw back and there, crouching on the stage in a foursome, are my Beatles. Yes, it’s really them. But they look so small. I expected them to be much bigger, like giants. But it’s only a teaser. The curtains close and they are gone out of sight again. Screaming, like I have never heard before, fills the auditorium. Shouts of “We want the Beatles, we want the Beatles!” I think I’m going to faint. Some girls do and get carried out of the theatre. Lots of crying going on around me. It’s both scary and exciting at the same time. Good job dad isn’t here to see this! More Rolf Harris, followed by The Barron Knights and Cilla Black. If this carries on much longer, we’ll miss the last bus home!

Suddenly the wait is over. There they are, right in front of me, the idols of millions around the world, the centre of my universe. Screaming erupts that would bring the house down. Fans jump on their seats waving their arms in the air, trying to catch the attention of their favourite Beatle. Girls rush down the aisles towards the stage. Stop, wait a minute! What if I can’t see the band above the heads of the crowd? That would be terrible. “Get back”, I shout, “Get back”, but no-one hears or cares.

Panic over – the people are dwarfed by the huge Gaumont stage and I still have Paul in my sights. The Beatles go into their first number but I can’t hear them above all the noise. I love the Beatles, I love their music but I can’t hear them. The rest of the evening is a blur. It flies by much too quickly and then they are gone.

We leave the theatre, exhausted and elated. At school the following Monday everyone is talking about it. I learn that the canny girls among us had the sense to dash round to the stage door to catch a glimpse of the Fab Four leaving. Why didn’t I think of that?

A most memorable day in the life of this 14 year old. I think I will remember it even when I’m 64. A huge thank you, Beatles, and a big hug from me to you.

Please, please come back soon, Paul. P.S. I love you.

April 2010

1 comment:

  1. I have really enjoyed reading this wonderful account of a clearly memorable moment for you, thanks so much for sharing it. x ursula