Wimbledon’s Beatlemania


Beatles fans marking the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination today recalled when Beatlemania gripped Wimbledon.


By David Jamieson

Beatles fans marking the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination today recalled when Beatlemania gripped Wimbledon.

The Beatles played an exclusive afternoon gig at the old Wimbledon Palais for the Beatles’ Southern Area Fan Club on Saturday December 14, 1963.

Names were drawn at random for the right to buy tickets and Judy Brickell, then 14, braved the hysterical 3,000-strong crowd alone.

“It was a bit daunting but the excitement was incredible,” she said. “It was packed, absolutely packed solid and I was standing in the crush.”

Michael Mohan, then 13, said he remembers the band could hardly be heard above the screaming fans but smash-hit “Twist and shout” was a highlight.

“But what they sang didn’t matter to us, it was just being there.” he said.

“I was lucky to be up the front, so I was very close. You couldn’t move at all, you just had to go with the crowd. Health and safety? No way!”

Expecting feverish crowds and fearing damage to their stage, the Palais’ management had taken the unusual step of erecting a steel cage surround.

This lead Lennon to famously quip: “If they press any harder they’ll come through as chips.”

After the gig the Fab Four took up seats behind the Palais’ bar while fans filed by for handshakes and autographs.

“You were just pushed through really, and just shook their hand and said ‘love you’ and moved on,” said Mrs Brickell.

“I remember I liked John and George the best but as soon as I saw Paul McCartney close up, I couldn’t let go of his hand. I had to be pulled away!”

Months later, in February 1964, the Beatles arrived in America where their status as the world’s biggest band was confirmed.

The band split in 1970 and December 8, 1980 founding-Beatle Lennon was shot five times by deranged fan Mark Chapman outside his New York apartment.

The news of Lennon’s death was reverberating around the world when Mr Mohan switched on the radio that day.

He said: “My wife was heavily pregnant with our youngest daughter, and she cried and cried.

“We’ll never forget that feeling, it was dreadful. His album Double Fantasy was just out, and some of those songs now mean so much to us.”

The Wimbledon Palais is no longer there but used to stand on the corner of Merton High Street and Mill Road.

However, remembering that day in Wimbledon, Mr Mohan said: “I don’t think I realised at the time how significant The Beatles would be to my life, and of course to others, but it was so exciting being part of it.”

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