I found this story about the Beatles Glasgow concert in October 1964 and the riot that happened in the Scottish Review.
My night with the Beatles
By Michael Elcock
Renfield Street is packed solid with people. I fight through
the crowd to the stage door and bang on it with my fist. Jimmy Murray is
already inside. Jimmy is training in Aberdeen along with me. We're both
still in our teens.
'They can only get three thousand people in here,' Jimmy explains
when I'm safely inside the theatre. 'All these punters outside want in,
but they haven't got tickets.' 'They seem to be getting quite wound up
about it,' I tell him. The crowd stretches for blocks, filling the
surrounding streets, stopping the traffic.
The theatre manager explains what he wants us to do. A security man
stands at his side. About 30 of us trainee managers have been drafted
in from all over Scotland and the north of England to help run the
evening's event, a gala live show with the Beatles – as it turns out,
one of the last live shows they'll ever do indoors in Britain.
'You've got tae keep the wimmen off them,' explains the security
man when the manager has finished. 'Stop them frae stormin' the stage.'
Both Jimmy and I are over six feet tall, and so we're directed to stand
right in front of the stage, facing the audience, with our backs to the
'We've got time to nip across the road for a pint before the show,'
says Jimmy, checking his watch. 'There's a good hour yet.' We check
with the bruiser at the stage door so that he'll recognise us when we
return, then let ourselves out into the crowd, and force our way across
the street. The crowd is thicker than ever, but the bar opposite is
surprisingly empty. We sit up at the counter and order beer. A young
woman slides into a seat next to us at the bar, a dark-eyed,
brown-skinned girl. She glances at us.
'You with the show?' she asks, eyeing the tuxedos that all Rank's
management people have to wear. Her voice is cool, her accent
unmistakeably American. She's barely in her 20s. 'Yes.' We introduce
ourselves. She tells us her name is Mary Wells, and we realise that
she's one of the stars in the show – she'll be singing on stage just
before the Beatles. She's just had a big hit in Britain and the United
States called 'My Guy', and she is quite lovely, with a level of
assurance and sophistication we're not used to finding in a woman who's
virtually the same age as we are.
We don't know what to say to her at first; don't know how to speak
with someone like this from another world, sitting with us in a Glasgow
bar. Our beer arrives and Mary says, 'I'll get them. I'd like to buy the
drinks. Everyone's been very kind to me since I came here'.
Neither of us realise then just how big a star Mary is in the
United States. She was one of the first singers to bring an evocative
mix of folk and gospel and blues to popular attention, and many consider
her the true founder of the famous Motown sound. She's a close
collaborator of the legendary Smokey Robinson, and the Beatles have
specifically invited her to tour with them. But Mary doesn't say
anything about these things; she doesn't speak about herself at all. Her
gentle humility and interest in her surroundings opens us up and we
pass half an hour with her, talking about the United States, about
Detroit where she's from, about ourselves.
She's unusually unassuming for someone in the theatre business, but
when Jimmy and I compare notes later, we both find that we're left with
a small, almost imperceptible impression of sadness about her, an air
of loneliness. We put it down to homesickness.
When it's time to go back to the theatre we push our way to the
stage door, shielding Mary from the crowd. There's a smell of burning in
the air, and the crowd is crammed across the street, from one side to
the other. We hear the sound of breaking glass from somewhere nearby. A
parked car has been rolled on its side and set on fire. Police and fire
bells fill the air, and the Glasgow polis move in on horseback to patrol
the street and push the people back.
It's just as wild inside the theatre. The stalls and the dress
circle are overflowing with young girls. There's hardly a man in the
place. Jim and I move out and take up our stations in front of the
stage, to the right of centre, at the foot of one of the main aisles.
Sounds Incorporated are the lead-off group. They come on stage, and
they're good. Not every group plays well live; some of them are simply
products of the recording studio. Sounds Inc are better than most, but
not quite as good as their records. Mary comes on when they're finished,
and sings with a voice full of character and soul. She is lovely and
talented, but somehow out of place in this setting, with an audience of
crazy girls who only want to hear the Beatles.
Then the Beatles come on, the four of them bouncing onto the stage,
with John Lennon in the lead. They pick up their instruments, and the
place erupts. Young women flood into the aisles and surge in a wave
towards the stage. The Beatles begin to play. The screaming starts and
we're right in the middle of it; a thin, black line in our monkey suits,
standing in no man's land between the stage and 3,000 frenzied women.
The Beatles launch right in to 'Twist and Shout'. And the songs
come belting out without a break. 'Can't Buy Me Love', 'If I Fell In
Love With You', 'A Hard Day's Night', and the others. The sound man
cranks up the volume to combat the noise of the screaming, and the women
charge down on the stage like a manic tide, and fling themselves,
weeping and crying and screaming, at our thin wall of defenders. The
Edinburgh Academy never prepared me for this.
The Beatles are good – very good – much better live than they are
on record. The sound they make is extraordinary. It blasts out of
massive speaker stacks that reach up to the proscenium, and I find
myself staggering under the onslaught, temporarily unbalanced
I catch one girl and try to push her back up the aisle, and four
more launch themselves at me. They climb over the seats, and throw
themselves over the top of the other patrons like a medieval horde,
while the Beatles play on, moving seamlessly from one song into another,
each one sending the audience into fresh paroxysms of ecstasy and
hysteria. Girls further back who can't reach the stage begin to throw
things; combs, lipstick, and pieces of underwear sail over our heads,
onto the stage. Lennon kicks a brassiere back into the audience, laughs,
and plays on.
We try linking arms for a few minutes, but it's hopeless. The women
burrow under us, try to climb over us, dart between our legs, threaten
to overwhelm us with a crush of massed bodies. I catch two more of them,
one on each arm, and struggle to hold station. The music powers on,
louder and louder, the volume so high that I'm starting to feel dizzy,
the heat excruciating under the lights. But I know that if I fall down
I'll be trampled.
The Beatles change to a softer instrumental piece from 'A Hard
Day's Night'. Another girl flings herself at me in an effort to reach
the stage. She is utterly distraught, weeping uncontrollably, her face
and hair wet with tears. She falls against me, too exhausted now to
scream. I hold on like death, and suddenly she relaxes. 'Oh, this is
nice,' she says.
Her eyes close and she holds my arms about her and rocks backwards
and forwards. I catch a glimpse of Jimmy beside me, his bow tie askew,
one sleeve of his jacket torn off. Two girls are beating at his chest
and face with clenched fists, trying to climb over him onto the stage.
He looks as though he's been in a Glasgow brawl. Except that there is
lipstick on his cheek, and a huge grin on his face.
It goes on like this for an hour, and then the show is over. I feel
like a piece of blotting paper, saturated and then wrung out. But we'd
all been invited at the briefing for post-show drinks upstairs in the
theatre restaurant, and now we're just about ready for it. After the
curtain comes down we wait until the theatre is empty and nothing is
left onstage except for the speaker stacks and Ringo's drum kit.
We find that the madness has shifted backstage; it's pandemonium, as
if half the fans from the front of the house have somehow found their
way to the back of the theatre.
Paul, Ringo, George and then John push their way through the crowd,
and sweep two steps at a time up the wide staircase, Lennon making
faces and tossing out quips. Girls grab at the Beatles’ clothes, trying
to tear off souvenirs. Jimmy and I muscle our way through the crush, and
climb the stairs. Everyone is packed like pilchards into a huge room.
The Beatles are at the front, guzzling cakes and hors d'oeuvres, but we
find ourselves stuck at the back behind a sea of heads. We each grab a
bottle of Carlsberg and look around for Mary Wells, but we can't see her
in the crush. So we hang around for as long as it takes us to drink the
beer, and then we head off in search of a pub.
It's the night before my 20th birthday, the night I take a drink with the Beatles; sort of. It seems like a long time ago.