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Were you there the night Dingwall snubbed The Beatles?

By Hector MacKenzie

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Richard Houghton: Can you remember when Beatles visited Dingwall?
Richard Houghton: Can you remember when Beatles visited Dingwall?

AN AUTHOR is seeking out the handful of Ross-shire fans of the Fab Four who can honestly say of an infamous Dingwall gig: “I was there!”

The Beatles played Dingwall Town Hall in January 1963 — shortly before the group stormed the hit parade with Please Please Me, sparking the worldwide phenomenon known as Beatlemania.

Notoriously, music fans in Ross-shire were at that time far more interested in local act the Melotones, who played to an audience estimated in excess of 1,000 down the road at Strathpeffer Pavilion. On the same night, John, Paul, George and Ringo were doing their best to please 19 people in Ross-shire’s county town, some of whom left long before the show ended.

Now, Manchester author Richard Houghton is trying to track down fans of The Beatles who saw the show in Dingwall.

He’s writing a “people’s history” of the group — along the lines of a successful volume on that other definitive 1960s’ act, The Rolling Stones.

He explained: “There have been lots of books about The Beatles but I’m trying to tell the story of their shows from the point of view of the audience. Britain was a very different place then to what it is now and I’m hoping to capture the memories of the people who were probably teenagers then and who are probably grandparents now so that their recollections can be captured for all time.

“This show was amongst the earliest The Beatles performed in the UK outside Merseyside.”

The author of You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones Live 1962-69, which tells the story of the Stones early concerts in the words of their fans, is looking to repeat the exercise with the Mop Tops.

Richard said: “The Beatles and the Stones between them defined what it was like to be a teenager in 1960s’ Britain. I don’t want to hear just about what John and Paul wore and the songs they played but how old people were, who they went with, what their parents thought about it and whether they had to go to school or to work the next day.

“I’m also interested to know what the audience reaction was like, as this show was long before Beatlemania took hold.”

The Beatles’ appearances in Dingwall took place after they had learnt their craft in Hamburg. Please Please Me was to reach number two in the charts. They went on to top the UK charts 17 times in the 1960s. At the time of the Ross-shire appearance, only Love Me Do had been released as a single.

Richard added: “If people were at that show I’d like to hear whether they knew they were witnessing a performance by what was to become the biggest musical act in history. I am hoping readers can help me paint a picture of what the Fab Four were like before they became really famous.”

Richard (55) can himself claim to have seen The Beatles in 1965 — not that he remembers much about it.

His mum took him to see The Beatles Christmas Show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, but he was only four years old at the time and only “remembers going to see a department store Santa immediately beforehand”.

• Memories can be shared by emailing thebeatlesinthe60s@gmail.com or by writing to him at 7 Hartley Road, Manchester, M21 9NG.

But where was this Scottish stopover?
But where was this Scottish stopover?

Hector MacKenzie followed in the footsteps of The Beatles and stayed in a Scottish beauty spot where John and Paul and co once rested their heads. Found out how he got on here.

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