British Library acquires Beatles 1963 concert recording

The Beatles

The British Library has acquired the earliest known recording of a live performance by The Beatles in the UK.

Published date:

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a recording of an early Beatles concert at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire from 4 April 1963, recorded by former Stowe student John Bloomfield.

His recording captured 22 tracks, including the future classic 'I Saw Her Standing There', and cover versions of US hits 'Twist and Shout' and 'Too Much Monkey Business' at a special performance played by a band on the cusp of global fame. The recording was stored at John’s home for over half a century before BBC journalist Samira Ahmed contacted Stowe School for a news story marking 60 years since the concert.

Listeners will hear songs performed for an audience of schoolboys at the start of The Beatles' reign, including 'From Me to You', which reached No 1 in the UK charts. Also heard in the recording are the cheers of the crowd and their requests for songs, alongside quips to the audience made by the band.

John donated the tape to the British Library, and now readers will be able to access the recording from the Library's Reading Rooms at St Pancras and Boston Spa.

The recording sits alongside a rich array of Beatles ephemera in the British Library's collections, including:

  • a rare copy of their first single, 'Love Me Do'
  • handwritten manuscripts by John Lennon of the lyrics to hit songs such as 'Strawberry Fields Forever' donated to the Library in 2013
  • a collection of commercial Beatles releases and audio interviews with the band, and
  • The Beatles' official biographer Hunter Davies' archive, acquired in October last year, which offers a personal glimpse into the band's lives and legacy.

Visitors can also see a selection of items from the Davies' archive displayed in the British Library's Treasures Gallery, including handwritten song lyrics and sketches by Paul McCartney of John Lennon and George Harrison.

John Bloomfield said: ‘There was a chap at Stowe who came from Liverpool and said a band called the Beatles ought to come and play at the Easter concert: frankly it was asking a bit much as I didn't know who they were and what's more they wanted the huge sum of £100 for a two hour show. Much persuasion of the teachers was necessary but eventually they had to agree as ‘Love Me Do’ had gone into the charts and everybody was clamouring to see the band. I made the recording and as time went by forgot about it. I am thrilled it is now available for all Beatles fans to hear and get an idea of how exciting a live Beatles show was, especially that unique evening.’

Karoline Engelhardt, Curator Popular Music Recordings at the British Library, said: ‘The British Library is home to one of the largest collections of recorded sound in the world, and John's recording represents a really special addition to it. In the Sound Archive, you can listen to the voice of Florence Nightingale, the sounds of endangered animals and now this unique tape of the earliest known recording of a live performance by the Beatles in the UK. Our skilled sound preservation specialists used the most effective methods to digitally capture the tape's audio, and it will now delight listeners for a long time to come.’

Image credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo.


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