By the time the Beatles played Shea Stadium to 55,000 fans in 1965, the screams of the crowd were so loud that the band couldn’t hear themselves play a note.
But at one gig, four years before, they very much could hear themselves play, all too clearly. In fact, pretty much the only other sound they could hear was metaphorical tumbleweed blowing across the venue floor.
The venue in question was the Palais Ballroom, in Aldershot, Surrey, England. This was the Beatles’ first gig in the south of the UK, set up for the four by their pal, Sam Leach.
Leach’s big idea was to get as many London record company execs into the Palais as possible. It proved, however, impossible to get even a single one.
Aldershot is not a million miles from London—but it might as well have been. No one wanted to trek 37 miles out from the Smoke to see some unknown beat combo from Liverpool.
Leach ended up creating the perfect storm for himself—or rather the perfect damp squib.
He had advertised the gig in the local Aldershot press, or so he thought. His payment was never cleared, and the ads hadn’t run.
To add insult to injury, the gig was not some midweek slot, but on a Saturday night.
Granted, it was Saturday, December 29th—that vacant No Mans Land between Christmas and New Year’s.
But Leach had also attempted to generate enthusiasm by billing it as a Battle of the Bands. He booked two acts — The Beatles and The Jaywalkers. Liverpool vs London.
What was the gig like? Don’t ask. But if you really must ask, ask Terry McCann, another friend of the band and the guy who drove everybody the nine-hour-long journey from Liverpool to Aldershot in his van. (And back again). McCann summed it up like this:
“You can imagine what it was like for the Beatles with about four people dancing and six miserable faces standing around the edge looking on. They did their best, but it was no use. They packed up at about 9:30 pm. Then Sam produced the beer, and the bingo balls started getting kicked around the floor” – Terry McCann
Total audience turnout: 18. And as for The Jaywalkers? They were a no-show.