Beatles meet fans at Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield City Hall had already struggled to adapt to the arrival of rock’n’roll in the 1950s. But nothing could prepare it for Beatlemania and everything that came with the 1960s.
This was a civic structure conceived as a building of remembrance at the height of World War One. It was set up for speakers and classical concerts. It liked ballroom dancing and ballgowns. It opted for decorum and tradition everytime. It didn’t like guitars and it definitely didn’t like screaming…
But like it had done so many times before (and after), the hall grit its teeth and succumbed to yet another massive cultural shift.
The two artists most celebrated for their Sheffield City Hall ‘60s performances are probably The Beatles and Bob Dylan but the venue also helped shape the burgeoning careers of some of the city's own legends: Joe Cocker (first performing as Vance Arnold & The Avengers), Dave Berry and Karen Young were amongst the local stars that started to appear.
The final Sheffield City Hall Beatles show on November 2, 1963, saw them at the peak of their pulling power.
Only a handful of people actually know where the Beatles went after their show that night, one of them being the female given the task a million and one girls would have given their right arm for...
Kath Stanton (nee Cutforth) said: "I worked at Wilson Peck in their sheet music department in the basement. By night I'd regularly sell programmes at Sheffield City Hall in the mid-1960s. We were a very close knit group at Wilson Peck.
"It was the night the Beatles headlined. It was at the height of Beatlemania. You couldn't hear a thing they were playing. I remember being stood right at the top in the balcony area and looking outside at the crowd on the street all trying to catch a glimpse of the band. They all started screaming when I looked out, they couldn't tell if I was male or female and must have thought I might have been in the band!
"My friend at Wilson Peck said he was going to ask the Beatles back for a party. I thought there'd be absolutely no chance. He said, 'my mum and dad won't mind!'
"Next minute he said, 'they're coming!'
"It was my job to help get the band out of a side door and into a taxi without anyone seeing them - they'd have been totally mobbed otherwise. We did it! And there I was, just me in a taxi with John, Paul, Ringo and George.
"I was that nervous I didn't utter one word all the way to Fulwood where the party was.
"It was a very sedate affair. I remember Paul spent the night putting records on whilst I sat on the stairs chatting to John. He was a really nice chap. He said they were getting a bit fed up with all the screaming as people couldn't hear what they were playing.
"They ended up inviting us down to the Cavern to see them again. We went in an old car. It was great, everyone down there was so friendly. Girls came up to you in the queue asking if you wanted a jam butty. It was a fab atmosphere and you could hear the band a lot better. The venue did smell of urine a bit though!”
"I had some great nights at Sheffield City Hall and met some great people. It was regularly my job to check the girls toilets to ensure there was no one hiding in them. Girls often hid in them after the show and when the coast was clear would try to get backstage.
"I remember an Ella Fitzgerald show - people went absolutely wild for her.
"I was working on Freddie and the Dreamers one night and I had to go and calm Freddie down. He was behaving like such an idiot, he was running about on the balcony with a peashooter firing peas."
Sheffield City Hall on the silver screen
Bob Dylan's City Hall performance on April, 30, 1965, ended up being watched right around the globe as part of D. A. Pennebaker's seminal Don't Look Back film.
Sheffield was the first date on the legendary tour.
The show became a turning point for celebrated local author and poet Michael Glover.
He said:"Listening to Dylan that night made you want to be like him, a roaming, footloose guitarist, a hobo, happily adrift without a dollar to his name, out on the wild and windy streets of Sheffield. I was inspired both lyrically and musically."
Bob Dylan on stage at Sheffield City Hall
Dylan's visit also became infamous for the altercation that took place at the Grand Hotel next door where the artist and his entourage were staying. The spat, which also appeared on the film, saw the musician and colleagues nearly given their marching orders.
When the Grand Hotel manager gave them five minutes to turn the noise down in Dylan's room the star's manager, Albert Grossman, said: "You're one of the dumbest assholes and most stupid persons I've ever spoken to in my life. If we were someplace else I'd punch you in the goddam nose."
Syd Wilkes was stewarding that night. He, and the majority of his colleagues, had never heard of the American performer.
"'Who is it tonite then?'", I remember saying to another steward. "'It's somebody called Dylan'", came the reply. 'Has anybody heard of him?', I said. Everyone replied 'no'. They were mostly retired men doing the stewarding at that point - lots of former cab drivers and bus drivers. A lot of them did the gates at Bramall Lane as well.
"'Is it a sell-out?' 'No, I shouldn't think so', a few said. Then one said: 'No it's a sell-out'.
"When they opened the doors there was only a trickle of people coming in and it was mostly university students turning up. It got to about ten to seven with the concert due to start at seven and then they started flooding in. It got to seven, the show was about to start and I bet it was still only half full in the Oval Hall.
"Suddenly the lights went off and it was pitch dark and they were still coming in. They were showing us tickets and we couldn't even read them. Suddenly this spot light came on and there he was with his guitar."
* Taken from the 10th anniversary edition of the 'Dirty Stop Out's Guide to 1960s Sheffield'.