Royal Command Performance • Monday, November 4, 1963

ConcertBy The Beatles
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Country:
United Kingdom
City:
London
Location:
Prince of Wales Theatre

About

From Anthology 1 liner notes:

Unabashed stone-the-crows merriment followed the Beatles’ televisual triumph on Sunday Night At The London Palladium and the enthusiastic reception on the viewing terrace at London Airport that greeted their return from Sweden. In what was fast becoming a new order passion, these two events were followed by the Beatles’ appearance in the 1963 Royal Command Performance (also known as the Royal Variety Show) on 4 November 1963. Not on this scale, not by anyone or anything, neither before nor since, has Britain allowed herself to be so happily consumed as she was in those jolly winter months of 1963/64 when the Beatles were rampant. The Four had become speedily and most emphatically Fab, with a capital F.

To prove the point, were this necessary, ratings indicate that almost 40 per cent of the population tuned in to watch ITV’s Sunday 10 November recording of the Royal show, while those without television sets – and there were three million, still – could listen to highlights on “the wireless”, broadcast the same evening by the BBC. Certainly, whether they were viewing or listening, it was the Beatles whom everyone was eager to catch because, in the six days between performance and broadcasts, the newspapers had been full of little else.

For the Press at least, it was all good, clean fun. Outside the Prince of Wales Theatre, by Leicester Square, happy, screaming teenagers were being held valiantly in check by rows of arm-linked bobbies, helmets slipping down over determined teeth. Inside, the Beatles were living up to their role as good-time cheeky chappies, with a roguish word here, a sprinkling of impudent wit there, and, of course, already in danger of being overlooked, the music…

The Beatles performed four songs in the Royal Command Performance, three of which are presented here. She Loves You was unquestionably at the heart of Britain’s blooming love affair with the group. Released as a single at the end of August, it raced to number one on the BBC’s Top 20 within a fortnight and was at the top for five weeks, right through September, not leaving the top three until January 1964, four months after release.

As Paul announced, Till There Was You originated in The Music Man – a stage musical since 1957, with Peggy Lee’s 1961 recording proving influential. The Beatles’ stage performances of this song often were prefaced with a joke: this time Paul told the audience that it had also been recorded by their “favourite American group, Sophie Tucker”.

It was these jokes as much as the music that caused the Beatles’ appearance in R&B stomper Twist And Shout, recorded in 1962 by the Isley Brothers whose version inspired the Beatles’ cover. By way of a best-selling EP, its inclusion on the Please Please Me album (30 weeks at number one) and TV, radio and stage shows, Twist And Shout had become established as the Beatles’ ultimate crowd-pleaser – but before launching into this performance John Lennon hushed the regal gathering and made a request. It was usual for the Beatles to ask audiences to “join in and clap your hands”. Now, as he surveyed the glitterati, there was a chance. “For our last number I’d like to ask your help,” John challenged. “Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.”

Paul McCartney in "Conversations With McCartney", by Paul Du Noyer:

The ‘rattle your jewellery’, which was fabulous. I remember being in the car on the way there and we just made up these things. We never planned that much. We did the singing, we knew what songs we’d rehearsed. And I knew John would say something here and I’d say something there. And he just come up with that.

[‘For our last number I’d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery]

He used to do this ‘clap your hands’ sort of spastic, a bit un-PC now. But he come up with that rattle your jewellery and it was like, ‘Oh yes! Classic line.’ I mean, none of us had heard it before, he’d never used it. Fucking great. So we almost heard it for the first time there and then.

It was a really good gig and looking back on those tapes, we were really pro, live. I like watching George’s solos, the way he does them nonchalant. Professionalism. So that was a great one for the public.

From Performances :: 1963, London Prince of Wales | Royal Variety Charity:

1963 was the year that Beatlemania hit the Royal Variety Performance.

By the time of the ”royal show’ at the Prince of Wales Theatre (near London’s Leicester Square) on 4th November 1963, the Fab Four  from Liverpool were already big stars. Their first single Love Me Do  had made it to Number 17 in the British charts in September of the previous year. In January ’63, their second single, Please Please Me, topped the NME’s Independent charts and in April,  From Me To You  topped the UK’s official charts; followed by She Loves You in August. So by November, Beatlemania had swept the country like a ferocious gust of wind.

It was a shrewd move on the part of Executive Producer, Bernard Delfont, to book the band on to the Royal Variety Performance when he did. The timing was perfect. They were still the cheeky mop-top ‘boy’s next door’ from Liverpool who only a year previously were largely unknown to the British public. Their wit and charm in ‘courting’  the press in the weeks leading up to the show, contrasted spectacularly with being booked to perform on the most prestigious stage of them all; with all the pomp and circumstance of ‘London ceremony.’  One journalist even asked if they would ‘tone down their broad scouse accents for the show‘ to which McCartney replied ‘we don’t all speak like the BBC you know!’

The timing was pretty good for The Beatles too! ITV had been chosen to broadcast the show and recorded their most viewed show of all time when it was broadcast a week later, on 10th November 1963 to 21.2 Million people! The group achieved their fourth British Number One Single of 1963 with I Wanna Hold Your Hand, days after broadcast.

Despite technical problems in rehearsals, it was decidedly brilliant on the night, with all of the audience, including the Queen Mother, enjoying their performance immensely. One news commentator said, “Never in all my years of observing Royal Variety audiences, have I known this usually starch, ‘on their best behaviour’ audience, unbend so quickly and completely.”

But there was much more than just The Beatles to enjoy. The bill included Marlene Dietrich and Burt BacarachJoe Loss and his orchestraCharlie Drake, the Clark BrothersDickie Henderson and Steptoe & Son – alias Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett.

Many considered the 1963 show the best yet.

The Beatles attracted ecstatic fans outside the Prince of Wales  theatre and through the Sunday rehearsals the noise of the throng could be heard by the artistes on stage. It was even necessary to construct a screened passageway between the theatre and the hotel next door, where The Beatles were staying, in order to get them in and out of the theatre without being seen.

The effect of the crowds obviously affected the other artistes on the bill and Marlene Dietrich made a point of always being in evidence when the photographers were around!

During rehearsals Paul McCartney managed to get his guitar caught in the curtains, but on the night itself the Beatles took the show by storm, performing 4 songs: ‘From Me To You’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Till There Was You’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ – the video recording of their performance can be viewed in our archive below.

On introducing ‘Twist and Shout’, John Lennon passed into Royal Variety history when he made his celebrated suggestion that “those in the cheap seats should clap their hands; whilst the rest could just rattle their jewellery!”

As part of his act Charlie Drake performed a dance with half a dozen girls, in the course of which he turned to the Royal Box and said, “I was so pleased to see your horse won at Kempton yesterday, Your Majesty”, which was rather a surprising thing to say in the middle of a Royal Variety Performance.

In an attempt not to be outshone by the Beatles, or anyone else, Marlene Dietrich dazzled the audience with a sequin-covered evening dress and enchanted them with a range of songs that included ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ and her all-time favourite ‘Lilli Marlene‘.

Max Bygraves spoke for many on the bill that night, celebrities in their own right but still capable of being star-struck, when he said, ‘I used to see Marlene on the old silver screen and idolize her’.

1963 however, will always be remembered for The Beatles and for creating one of those rare TV moments where the world seems to stop. Everyone up-and-down Britain were glued to little black and white television sets to see the band perform. A unique TV moment that is rarely ever experienced by any artist; let alone repeated. Unless you are the Beatles of course! For in February ’64, in the United States, it was like deja vu for the band, as an almost identical TV phenomenon happened when Bernard Delfont’s brother, Lew Grade, booked them to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

In Britain though, for the British public and for the band’s home country, The Beatles big television ‘hysteria moment’ was on the Royal Variety Performance of 1963.

November 4, 1963: The Queen Mother talks to the Beatles after a Royal Variety Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. George Freston / Fox Photos via Getty Images
November 4, 1963: The Queen Mother talks to the Beatles after a Royal Variety Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. George Freston / Fox Photos via Getty Images
From O’Connor, Williams & Co., Est. 2016 (tumblr.com) – Marlene Dietrich with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon, 1963.

Setlist for the concert



2.

She Loves You

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album Available on Anthology 1

Album Available on Anthology 1 (2016 remaster)

Album Available on The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 02


3.

Till There Was You

Written by Meredith Willson

Album Available on Anthology 1

Album Available on Anthology 1 (2016 remaster)

Album Available on The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 02


4.

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