When the Beatles Played a Concert at Your School, You Didn't Forget It

Slate's Culture Blog
April 2 2013 12:47 PM

The Beatles Rock a Boarding School

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Promotional bill for the Beatles' concert at Stowe School

Brow Beat is following the Beatles in “real time,” 50 years later, from their first chart-topper to their final rooftop concert. 50 years ago this week, the Beatles played one of their strangest shows yet, a stop at a boarding school, booked by one of its students.

By April 1963, the Beatles were veterans of the live stage. After hundreds of shows in Hamburg and at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, they were touring England in support of their first album. Everywhere they went, they had teenage girls squealing over their first No. 1 single, “Please Please Me.” All of which made it a little odd when, on April 4, 1963, the Beatles’ made their next tour stop at a small all-boys boarding school.

More unusual still is who booked the show at the Stowe School, a private school of just a few hundred boys: one of its students, David Moores. Moores, who had grown up around Liverpool, wanted to see his hometown band. So, in January 1963, he wrote to Brian Epstein. This set in motion a series of fairly formal letters of negotiation between Epstein and Moores, ending in their mutual agreement, in a signed contract, that the Beatles would play the school for their more or less standard fee of £100.

There was only one problem. Epstein wrote back to the teenaged Moores to explain:

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Still from YouTube

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The contract properly executed, the Beatles drove to Stowe on the afternoon of April 4, after a taping at London’s BBC studio earlier that day. On the way, they found the time to shoot a quick home movie:

When they took the stage at the school’s Roxburgh Hall, they were greeted with polite applause from an audience of schoolboys, seated tidily in rows and dressed as if for church. They were performing under a Latin inscription, and they were even set to share a bite with the headmaster.

The boys would never forget what came next. One student, John Bloomfield, recalled that day almost five decades later. “When the curtains went back, and they started to play, none of us had any idea at all about the speed, the volume, the enthusiasm,” he said. “And I don’t think they realized quite what it was that they’d allowed to come down here … It was like something from a different planet had arrived.”

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. Email him at Forrest.Wickman@slate.com.