Slide presentation on this frame begins in a few seconds
In line with many large cinemas of that time, it was decided to pursue live stage shows once or twice a week. A major problem at this cinema was that there was no grid in the stage roof to enable the huge screen frame to be lifted (flown). Therefore, towards the end of 1963 local builders James Parker & Son Ltd began work to remove the original timber beams in the stage roof, replacing them with steel girders that would enable the complicated counter balance gear to be installed so that the vast screen frame could be lifted a distance of 17 foot from the stage, also several lines/barrels could be hung to attach borders, legs, spot bars and lighting battens.
The footlights (floats) were removed. New auto colour change focused lighting spots lamps were installed in a specially built box attached to the front circle, these were wired in three circuits of three lamps to each circuit, the colour change of four modes were selected in the projection room. Upstage, a full width 3 circuit lighting batten provided overhead illumination while the front stage overhead lighting was provided by 9 large Strand pageant lamps attached to a bar that could be winched to various set levels. Side lighting was provided by two dip towers wired in three combined circuits on the left and right of the stage (prompt & off prompt).
As no safety curtain was used, all stage fabric dressings were flame retardant treated and subjected to frequent and robust checks by the local Fire Authority. Prior to the first pop concert, the original follow spot lights were replaced with new Strand carbon arc follow spots. The projectionists were quickly trained in staging techniques at the ABC Ardwick, Manchester. In 1964, just four moderately sized dressing rooms were available, with several more added later in the redundant organ chamber rooms.
Extra seating was installed bringing the capacity to 2012. All the lighting and PA sound equipment had to be held on site, the groups brought in the amplifiers for their instruments. The first stage show was The Rolling Stones on Monday 14th September 1964.
The ABC Chester’s technical team for the night were-
Local Stage Manager ~ HUGH PRICE JONES.
Sound ~~~~~~~~~~~~ CHARLES JONES.
Lighting ~~~~~~~~~~~ DERRICK MOORE & GEOFF WILLIAMS.
Follow spots (limes)~~ RON EVANS & PETER DAVIES.
After sleeping on the pavement all night, the queues of fans, four to five deep, had to endure a rain storm before the booking office opened at 11am for the first stage show in September 1964~ ROLLING STONES. No phone bookings and all four thousand tickets sold-out by 1pm!
Ticket prices were 7/6, 10/6, 12/6, with two performances at 6.15 & 8.30.
The First ABC Stage Show
Before the stage shows started the screen had to disappear, and that could only happen by flying it, Parkers the builders from Shipgate Street did that work. First they drilled holes in the flat roof over the stage, then they put together large loops of steel rope, they would go through the hole in the roof and a scaffolding pole would slot through the wire, and with the steel rope hanging over the stage they then built a swinging scaffold complete with walkways of planks. I did go up on the scaffold on one occasion and decided there and then not to do it again, it was terrifying, everything swung from side to side.
They would work all night after the last showing, but on one occasion all the lights in the cinema went out so Parkers workers had to find there way down in pitch black, it could best be described as a buttock tightening experience, after that one of us would be there all night just in case it happened again, but it only took a few more night to finish the job thankfully.
The first stage show was the Rolling Stones in 1964. I was on the so called Lead Spot light, my colleague, Peter Davies, was on the second spotlight. We were all called into one of the dressing rooms behind the stage by the Tour Manager and were given our instructions about the upcoming show. He would say things like “during this number I want this colour spot on this person, that coloured spot on that person”, and he went through the whole show like that and I kept thinking I’m never going to remember all that. The others felt the same, and it would be fair to say it didn’t run smoothly.
The noise from the Stones was obviously loud, 2000 screaming fans a level of noise we had never heard before. The motors feeding the carbon spotlights were also loud, also the intercom from the stage kept ringing, probably the Tour Manager telling us we were not doing it right, but it was too noisy for us to hear him.
I don’t think anyone in the audience would have noticed anything wrong, all they went there for was to have a good scream, but I think all of us in the projection room were relieved when it was over!
I have seen recently a colourful account by Keith Richards of how the Rolling Stones left the building on the 14th September 1964, he said that on that occasion the cinema was surrounded by screaming kids and they couldn’t get out, and that thankfully the Chief Constable of Cheshire in full regalia complete with swagger stick said that he knew the way out across the rooftops, and that they went over the rooftops through a skylight and out through a laundry chute,……….this did not happen……..the only way in those day that you could get onto the roof was through the projection room, and once on the roof the only way to get of it is back into the projection room, and we didn’t have a laundry chute, it wasn’t a hotel!
The way the Stones left the cinema was a lot more simpler. The cinema was surrounded that is true, but the cinema did have a very long entrance hall, several doors in Foregate Street and a lot more in Love street, so they switched all the lights out in the entrance hall and a crowd of us ran down to the Foregate Street end and all the kids at the Love Street end followed us, the doors were opened at the Love Street end and the Stones left the building. I was a Rolling Stone for about five seconds!
After the Rolling Stones show we all realized that things would have to change, and the change had to be in the communication, or lack of it from the stage. The second operator came up with the answer. There was a deaf aid system in the cinema where a person with hearing problems would be directed by the usherette to one of a number of seats were that person could plug in there personal hearing aid, and one of us would go down to the stage and switch on the amplifier that powered it. Two wires were run from the amplifier to the projection room, and a microphone was connected to the amp on the stage, but prior to that four of us went to Telfords Warehouse on Canal Street, this was when Telfords was a warehouse and not a bar that sold a very nice selection of beers. At that time in the early sixties it was full of ex Army and Air force stock, we managed to buy for a pound each, four sets of head phones, I’m not sure if they were ex RAF or Army, but they worked. In front of us in the projection room was a two pin plug, and when the stage show was about to start, it was strike up the spotlight, ear phones on, plug in, and let the show start, all the way through the show a person at the side of the stage would be telling us exactly what to do, and every show after that was perfect.
I was very proud to have worked at the ABC it was an amazing cinema and despite the way we were sometimes treated and I must say, it wasn’t always like, that I did enjoy working there, but having just got married I found the pay to be a bit low. My wage was eleven pound ten shilling a week, so I left to work for Royal Mail for a massive fourteen pounds ten shilling a week. It was only going to be a temporary job, but I left Royal Mail 34 years later!
Some of the acts that appeared on stage when I worked there that I can remember were~
Rolling Stones Tom Jones Dionne Warwick Ike and Tina Turner Sony and Cher Freddy and the Dreamers The Shadows Cliff Richard The Hollies The Kinks Dave Clark Five Gladys Night and the Pips Gerry and the Pacemakers Cila Black Gene Pitney The Small Faces The Searchers Moody Blues Isley Brothers Diana Ross and the Supremes Billy Fury Chuck Berry
Friday 6th November 1964 & Wednesday 18th November 1964
Paulette Walters remembers the stream of big name international stars that performed regularly on stage at the ABC in Foregate Street throughout the swinging 60s. Although the cinema had staged concerts previously, this was something very different. The stage had undergone major alterations enabling the massive screen to be flown up into the roof space over the stage. New lighting and sound systems were installed to accommodate the demands of the 1960s pop groups.
In 1964, along with her brother, Paulette was at the first pop concert that was staged at the ABC on Monday 14th September, when Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones took the stage by storm; Paulette said “all you could hear was girls screaming!”
More treasured memories followed when Paulette was in the audience to see her idols the Walker Brothers in 1966. “I told my mum and dad that I was staying at my friends, so we could get up early at 4am to get in the queue for tickets. When we arrived outside the cinema we found that a queue had formed already in Love Street. We managed to get tickets, I was so chuffed I couldn’t wait for the big day to arrive when I would see the Walker Brothers in person. At the concert I couldn’t breathe with excitement, the noise.. We probably couldn’t hear the music either for the screaming”.
The Chester Courant photographer captured the enthusiastic audience at the show with Paulette right in the centre of things. “It was lovely, from what I heard of it! Oh God yeah, I’ll NEVER forget it. ”
The concert, which also featured The Troggs was described as “a triumph” in the local press.
from Chester Memories Facebook group~
Maxine & The Bee Gees
MAXINE BRADLEY remembers meeting the Bee Gees there in the 60’s . That’s me in the hat Also saw the Bay City Rollers there in the 70’s.
from Chester Memories Facebook group~
Thursday 18th February 1965.
Pauline Elison remembers meeting TOM JONES~
l met Tom Jones in Deeways cafe which was next door to the ABC cinema on Foregate Street, Chester. He stepped back onto my foot as l was queuing for sandwiches and had me sit down while he rubbed my foot. I didn’t know who he was and thought what a spotty face he had and looked just like a Teddy Boy. He asked the ladies serving behind the counter where Cilla Black and the rest of the crew where and she said they were upstairs in the restaurant. I was 16 at the time and they told me afterwards who he was…l didn’t believe them at first…they said he had come to replace P.J.Proby as he had split his trousers. (What a laugh l had).
Saturday 29th October 1966
Tuesday 28th February 1967
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE ROLLING STONES, the first pop concert at the ABC. “Live on stage” at the ABC Chester .. 14th September 1964
Click on the above frame to play ~ MARIANNE FAITHFUL, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 7th October 1964
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE SEARCHERS, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 6th November 1964
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE KINKS, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 18th November 1964
Click on the above frame to play ~ CHUCK BERRY, one of the top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 25th January 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ TOM JONES, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 18th February 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ CILLA BLACK, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 18th February 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ BILLY FURY, one of the top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 10th March 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 7th April 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 7th April 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ ROLLING STONES, one of the top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 1st October 1965
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE FORTUNES, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 6th November 1965
(filmed at the London Palladium less than two weeks before appearing at the ABC Chester)
Click on the above frame to play ~ GENE PITNEY, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 17th February 1966
Click on the above frame to play ~ ROY ORBISON, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. Tuesday 29th March 1966
Click on the above frame to play ~ WALKER BROTHERS, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. Tuesday 29th March 1966
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE SEEKERS, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 14th May 1966
Click on the above frame to play ~ DAVE DEE, DOZY, BEAKY, MICK & TICH., one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 3rd October 1966
Click on the above frame to play ~ ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK , one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 17th November 1967
Click on the above frame to play ~ MARY HOPKIN, one of the 60s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 25th March 1969
Click on the above frame to play ~ NEW SEEKERS, one of the 70s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 25th March 1973
Click on the above frame to play ~ ALVIN STARDUST, one of the 70s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 18th May 1974
Click on the above frame to play ~ MUD, one of the 70s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 27th March 1975
Click on the above frame to play ~ THE DRIFTERS, one of the top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 30th November 1975
Click on the above frame to play ~ LEO SAYER, one of the 70s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 24th April 1976
Click on the above frame to play ~ HOT CHOCOLATE, one of the 70s top artists appeared on stage at Chester .. 27th March 1977
WARTIME CONCERTS AT CHESTER CINEMAS.
BY DAVID A ELLIS
On December the 17th 1939 famous London stars took to the stage of the Regal.Proceeds were used to provide Christmas gifts and comforts for men of the National Defence Corps, serving in the area. A Lea Seidl, a celebrated singer of the White Horse Inn fame topped the bill. During WW2 cinemas and theatres up and down the UK did their bit for the war effort.
There were many charity concerts staged, with some of the big stars of the day. In Chester several Sunday concerts were held. In 1940 the famous comedian Robb Wilton appeared at the ABC Regal cinema. This was in aid of the British Red Cross Society and the St John Ambulance Brigade Joint War Organisation.
On March the 3rd 1940, the Regal played host to stars of the day Tessie O’Shea and Jack Train. Proceeds went to the Cheshire Regiment and R.A.SC Comforts Fund. There was a turn by two Chester boys a Richard Bullock and Jimmy Parry. In 1941 the Western Command Army Entertainments Officer organised what was called a super concert at the Chester Odeon. This took place on Sunday the 9th March. It was referred to as one of “The Good Neighbour” efforts organised by the Western Command, which was in Queens Park. The profits from the show were devoted to the Stage and Variety Artistes’ charitable institutions.The show was a thank you from the army for the splendid work that was done for the troops by the theatrical profession. A first class programme was arranged and on the bill were radio favourites Elsie and Doris Waters, known as Gert and Daisy.
Jack McCormick and his broadcasting band appeared at the Gaumont on January the 21St 1940. A Mr Harold Thiems played the Compton organ. The Gaumont staged a concert on Sunday the 26th January 1941 in aid of soldiers, sailors and Air Force Dependents Association of the local committee, for which Lady Gordon Finlayson was president. The principle item on the programme was Wee Georgie Wood, a comedian. He related his days as a Music Hall star. The programmes was opened by a military band.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk
Also check out Richard Lysons book, Were You There?
Popular Music At Manchester’s Free Trade Hall 1951-1996 (Empire Publications)
A MUSICAL BLAST FROM THE PAST!
Roger Shone has uncovered this local press advert for “Puss In Boots” which was staged for six days from Monday 12th January 1970 at the ABC.
I worked on that show,and remember that there was just one days rehearsal on the Sunday. Ticket sales were good as people remembered Guy Mitchell, and his records from the 50s~~”My Heart Cries for You” (1950) “The Roving Kind” (1951) “My Truly, Truly Fair” (1951) “Sparrow In The Treetop” (1951) “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” (1952) “She Wears Red Feathers” (1953) “Belle, Belle, My Liberty Belle” (1951) “Feet Up (Pat Him On The Po-po)” (1952)”Singing The Blues”(1956). He was a major recording star from the USA, selling well over 44 million records world wide.
“Puss In Boots” was a large production with a full orchestra, and for the technicians it was a welcomed change from the pop shows that were still playing at very regular intervals. Guy Mitchell was a great person both on and off stage. Unfortunately, his voice was beginning to falter, so he relied heavily on his backing singers. The audience loved it all, but it was the one and only pantomime for the ABC.
Click on the above frame to play ~ GUY MITCHELL.
Peter Davies chestercinemas.co.uk
The Searchers started their recording career back in 1963. Their first big hit was Sweets for my Sweet, followed by catchy songs such as Sugar and Spice and Needles and Pins.
The line-up back then was John McNally, Mike Pender, Chris Curtis and Tony Jackson. Jackson left the group in 1964 followed by drummer Chris Curtis in 1966. Frank Allen, who is still with the band, replaced Jackson. John Blunt took the drumsticks after Curtis’s departure. In 1969 it was Billy Adamson that was banging the drums. Eddie Roth took over in 1998 and was beating the drums until his departure in 2010. Mike Pender left in 1985 to set up Mike Pender’s Searchers, which is also still going today. He was replaced by Spencer James. So we have two groups knocking out all the hits. Sadly, Tony Jackson passed away in 2003, followed by Chris Curtis in 2005.
The present line-up is John McNally, Frank Allen, Spencer James and Scott Ottaway on drums. This interview with McNally, who was born in 1941 in Liverpool, was conducted before an appearance at the Gladstone theatre, Port Sunlight in Cheshire. As a youth he suffered from TB and it was while recovering that he took up the guitar. He says if he hadn’t been ill he wouldn’t have bothered to learn it. He is the only original member of the original band. Despite Frank Allen being in his late sixties and McNally in his seventies, the enthusiasm is as strong as ever and the band tour extensively.
What got you interested in joining a group?
I started playing skiffle around the street corners in the 1950s. Tony West, a friend of mine suggested we start a band. Eventually Tony went into the motor trade and I got other people in. Later Tony ran Tony West Entertainments. Some didn’t stay long but in the end it was me, Mike Pender, Tony Jackson and Chris Curtis.
What type of music influenced you as a youngster?
I had an older brother who went to sea and brought American records back. First of all he brought Hank Williams stuff home followed by many others. All this music had a great influence.
When were the Searchers formed?
It was in the late fifties, the name came from the 1956 film The Searchers. We all had day jobs and we turned professional when The Star club in Hamburg, Germany came on the scene. First of all we took a month off work to allow us to go over. They asked us back again so we asked our parents if we could pack our jobs in, which they weren’t too happy about. They said we would never make a living playing music. I was working as a semi-skilled fitter. Mike was a floor layer, Chris worked in a pram shop and Tony was an electrician.
How did you get spotted for recording?
The Beatles had made it with Love me Do and Brian Epstein had signed others up. Epstein came to the cavern club when we were appearing. We were last on and before that we were in The Grapes public house and got a little worse for wear, so Brian said I’ll pass on you. We thought then that we were going to miss the boat. We decided to go to the Iron Door club in Liverpool and make a demonstration record. We sent it around and were approached by music man Tony Hatch. He said, “I like what is on it, can you come down to London and record.” We said, no problem, we are on our way to The Star club, Hamburg anyway, we will nip into the PYE recording studios at Marble Arch. That is what we did; recorded Sweets for my Sweet, then went over to Germany.
While we were away they said they were going to release Sweets for my Sweet. So it was quite an exciting period. Then it wasn’t selling and we thought we had definitely missed the boat. John Lennon was asked what was his favourite record at the moment. He said Sweets for my Sweet. The press in London thought ‘who are they,’ they thought we were American. Once Lennon had said that, it was in all the music papers, becoming number one in two weeks.
Who was the lead singer on that?
It was Tony Jackson; all the early stuff was Tony.
Was Needles and Pins Tony?
No, Needles and Pins was Mike Pender. Tony Hatch didn’t feel Tony was right for the lead vocal on that number. It was after this that Tony wasn’t happy and said he was leaving the group. Tony was the hard edge of the band. Suddenly we were led into a country rock field with Mike’s voice, my voice and Chris’s voice. Chris had one of those amazing voices that could mimic anyone. All his harmonies are beautiful and his rock and roll stuff is superb. From the time Tony left, Chris did all the hard stuff. Tony had that solid, rough Liverpool edge on it, a bit like Lennon. He was sadly missed when he left.
Did you ever think of leaving and going solo?
No, I’m not that egotistical. It doesn’t bother me; I run and own the band with Frank Allen – it’s just something I always wanted to do.
Did your songs require a number of takes in the studio?
Not in the early days. We recorded twelve songs for the first album in one night. It wasn’t until later that we started experimenting with over dubbing.
How long did it take to record a single?
The early singles only took a couple of takes to get them in the can. We did more recordings and releases than the Beatles in a period of three years. The Beatles were allowed to experiment, we weren’t. We were worked hard because at the time they thought we would only be around for a short time.
Finally, did you sometimes have session musicians to create extra sounds in the studio?
No, not in the early days. When we did the Liberty recordings abroad, which I don’t like one bit, they brought in extra people to finish them off. A band has got individuality, its like when the Beatles brought in Billy Preston and people like that doing stuff on recordings – it doesn’t work.
David A Ellis © chestercinemas.co.uk