Beatles’ link to the Steel City

Brian Epstein, courtesy of the Liverpool Echo
Brian Epstein, courtesy of the Liverpool Echo

Sheffield’s place in the story of the world’s most famous band is often overlooked. 

But many argue the Beatles would never have enjoyed the global domination they did if it wasn’t for the influence of the Steel City – the mother of the band’s mercurial manager Brian Epstein came from here.

Peter Stringfellow introducing The Beatles at the Azena, Gleadless

Peter Stringfellow introducing The Beatles at the Azena, Gleadless

The city is now counting down to another first – the White Album played in its entirety by the Sheffield Beatles Project, a 30 piece orchestra made up of some of the city’s finest musicians.

The event – which takes place at the 02 Academy on Saturday, December 15th – will be a celebration of the five concerts the fab four played in Sheffield and their unique bond with the city.

18-year-old Malka, known to most as Queenie, married 29-year-old Harry Epstein at the Synagogue, Wilson Road, Sheffield 11, in 1933.

Her father, Louis Hyman, owned the Sheffield Cabinet Company. Their most famous item, the Clarendon bedroom suite, is quite a collectors’ item by all accounts.

But nothing was more famous than the couple’s son, Brian Epstein – the man their helped engineer their rise to global superstars.

The band’s early show at the Azena Ballroom in Gleadless is the one that has taken on almost mythical status.

There’s no doubt it was the show that helped put the show’s promoter Peter Stringfellow in a different league to his contemporaries.

The gig was originally booked for his Black Cat Club, St Aiden’s Hall, but as the band’s career hit a vertical trajectory in the spring of 1963, so did ticket sales.

With 2,000 tickets sold he had no option to find a bigger venue. He tried for the Mecca dance hall but failed and opted for the Azena.

The scene was total carnage at the event with hundreds turning up without tickets; windows were smashed and the fire doors mysteriously opened.

In November that year The Beatles finally headlined Sheffield City Hall in their own right – they’d already performed there numerous times over the past months as part of bigger package tours as support to the likes of Helen Shapiro and Roy Orbison.

Star journalist Francis Mullions described it as “the night when Sheffield went Beatle-barmy” and tells the story of thousands of “frenzied screamagers” yelling themselves hoarse.

There were faintings and hundreds of fans still outside the stage door at midnight not realising the band had actually left within seconds of finishing – they didn’t even bother changing out of their stage clothes, they just ran!

Joan Morris: “We’d been counting down the days to the show for weeks. We were absolutely Beatle-crazy. The screaming was bad enough before they started but when they appeared it was absolute pandemonium. I could hardly recognise a song all night – it was impossible over the noise of the hysterics. A girl near us fainted – I can remember it plain as day. Once she was okay she just started screaming again!”

The Beatles said thank you and good night to the city on Wednesday, December 8, 1965, when they performed at the Gaumont as part of the band’s final British tour.

They totally outwitted the fans. Whilst they were in hysterics laying siege to the stage door hours before the show, The Beatles simply pulled up outside the main public entrance and walked straight in!

Ringo said at the time: “It was unusual for us. Normally we had to hide in vans or go in through back entrances. They did not know what was going on.”

Tickets for the event are just £15 (plus fees), available from www.o2academysheffield.co.uk . Search Facebook for Sheffield Beatles Project