Many of the world’s most popular and acclaimed artists have taken to the Royal Albert Hall’s prestigious stage since the building opened in 1871, but few as big as the band we welcomed in 1963, who were at the start of the meteoric rise that would make them the biggest band of all time.

Despite numerous solo appearances since the split of the band, The Beatles performed together at the Hall on only two occasions, both in 1963. We’ve taken a look back at these shows and the band’s fascinating history here:

18 April 1963: Swinging Sound ’63

The Beatles at the Royal Albert Hall, 18 April 1963

The Beatles made their first appearance at the Hall at the BBC’s Swinging Sound ’63 event, programmed half way down a mixed bill of some of the day’s biggest names in music, including Del Shannon, The Springfields and Matt Monro.

Introduced by George Melly, the band took to the stage in the first half to perform their hit Please Please Me followed by new composition, Misery. They had planned to perform From Me To You coupled with Thank You Girl in the second half, but took the last minute decision to lead with the more up-beat Twist and Shout before segueing into From Me To You, taking organisers by surprise in front of an ecstatic audience. The show’s finale saw the band return to the stage to perform Mack the Knife alongside everyone on the bill.

(1).jpg(The Beatles at the Royal Albert Hall, 1963)

Most of the second half of the concert was relayed live on the BBC’s General Overseas Service (now the BBC World Service) but unfortunately the overseas link only lasted until 10pm, missing the entire Beatles performance by two minutes!

The show has since become part of Beatles legend, because it was following this performance that Paul McCartney first met future fiancée Jane Asher, who was there covering the concert for the Radio Times.  After being photographed screaming at the band, she interviewed them, joined them at a club, and a five year relationship with Paul ensued.

15 September 1963: The Great Pop Prom

The Beatles at the Royal Albert Hall, 15 September 1963

The Fab Four’s second and final Hall performances was at an afternoon show later that year, which saw the band top the bill of The Great Pop Prom, an annual show which had been staged here since 1958.

Alan Freeman compèred the show, which also included the likes of Kenny Lynch, The Viscounts and the Lorne Gibson Trio. However, the most notable other act on the bill was The Rolling Stones – this concert marked the first of only two occasions that these giants of British music would appear on the same bill.

The Beatles in the programme for The Great Pop Prom)

The bands were photographed together on the South Steps. Paul McCartney would later recall:

‘Standing up on those steps behind the Albert Hall in our new gear, the smart trousers, the rolled collar. Up there with the Rolling Stones we were thinking, ‘This is it – London! The Albert Hall! We felt like gods!’.’
Paul McCartney

The performance attracted the usual Beatlemania from their young fans, with press at the time noting the bewildering scenes at the Hall:

‘It was the siege of the Beatle-crushers … 6,000 screaming teenagers intent on crushing just four Beatles. Never has the Royal Albert Hall seen scenes quite like it. Even for Britain’s newly-elected top vocal group, the Beatles, it was bewildering… They were the target for anything the teenagers could lay their hands on. Girls swept out of their seats and tried to rush the stage. They were repelled by a solid block of forty commissionaires. After their final hit number, Twist and Shout, the four Beatles fled from the stage and out of the Hall into a waiting cab.’
The Daily Mirror

Controversy

They were scheduled to return for a New Year’s Eve Ball, but the disruption the likely wear & tear could cause worried the Hall authorities, and it was proposed in a council meeting that October that The Beatles should be banned outright.

Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and a full ban was never implemented:

‘The President said he felt that this particular group represented first-class entertainment and had in fact been chosen to appear in this year’s Royal Command Performance. Undoubtedly unfavourable comment would arise if the Council refused to allow them to appear.’
Royal Albert Hall council minutes

However, in the end the event organisers bowed to discrete but firm pressure from the Hall, and the Fab Four were quietly pulled from the programme.

18 February 1965: Final appearance

The band made their final public appearance at the Hall, albeit in a non-performing capacity, at The Golden Ball.

The likes of Harry Secombe and Sandie Shaw performed on stage (‘a bit of a rave’, according to Lennon), whilst the boys posed and waved to fans from their seats in Grand Tier Box 12.

Fifty years after 1967’s Summer of Love, explore the Royal Albert Hall’s role in this fascinating era of London’s cultural history as part of a major new season of events. Summer of Love: Revisited celebrates the counterculture movement with specially-selected talks, gigs and screenings about the music, poetry and politics of the period.