The Beatles’ Earliest Known UK Concert Recording Unearthed

60 years after it was taped in the theater of an all-boys boarding school

The Beatles earliest recording UK concert april 1963
The Beatles in 1964, photo by Mirrorpix via Getty Images

    BBC Radio’s Front Row podcast has revealed what’s said to be the earliest known full recording of a live concert in the UK by The Beatles, who were just shy of their complete break into ultimate fandom at the time.

    The burgeoning boy band, who just released their debut album Please Please Me only two weeks before, performed at the all-boys Stowe boarding school on April 4th, 1963. While the blaring and relentless screams of adoring female fans had yet to fully constitute Beatlemania, they still garnered an outpouring of excitement from the adolescent boys who watched them.

    The recording was made by then 15-year-old Stowe student John Bloomfield, a growing and self-professed tech nerd experimenting with reel-to-reel tape recording. “I would say I grew up at that very instant,” Bloomfield told Front Row, with whom he first shared the tape. “It sounds a bit of an exaggeration, but I realized this was something from a different planet.”


    According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the recording is one of the few to not be completely obliterated by the howls of audience reactions, though some screams can still be heard. Even though The Beatles were used to an entirely different performance structure, they managed to play their debut album in its entirety along with “Too Much Monkey Business” by Chuck Berry.

    A handful of girls who managed to get into the school’s theater not only made their presence known, but also served as an indicator of the utter fandom yet to come. “It wasn’t until they started playing that we heard the screaming, and we realized we were in the middle of Beatlemania,” Bloomfield said. “It was just something we’d never even vaguely experienced.”

    The Beatles were booked to play Stowe for £100 — which would equate to $124.39 US dollars in the present — by a fellow student named David Moores, who reached out to the band’s manager Brian Epstein. Moores’ request was likely successful due to the high stature of his family’s business in the area.


    Listen to Front Row’s feature on the recording here.

    The recording is one of the latest in archival Beatles footage. Last year, Paul McCartney’s daughter Mary McCartney released the documentary If These Walls Could Sing, about the historic Abbey Road recording studio from which their eponymous album was recorded. More behind the scenes footage can also be found in McCartney’s photo exhibition at National Portrait Gallery in London, an accompaniment to the photobook 1964: Eyes of the Storm.