Unique memento of Beatlemania to go under the hammer

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Fifty years ago – at the height of Beatlemania – Swindon music lover Joan Britton made her way to Heathrow airport to watch John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr board a flight to New York at the start of The Beatles’ first American tour.

With three school friends the fifteen-year-old crafted a banner out of a bed sheet and shoe polish, and with a prime spot at the front of the airport’s viewing platform she’s sure the Fab Four saw her plea for the band to Come Back Soon.

News footage of screaming Beatles fans at airports on both sides of The Pond are among the most iconic images of the decade.

And now Joan’s banner, along with her precious collection of vinyl LPs and other items of memorabilia, including magazines and books, posters, autographs and albums of newspaper cuttings, is to be sold at an antiques auction in the Cotswolds.

“We went to the airport on the bus on a wet day in February 1964,” recalls Joan. “In those days you could stand on viewing platform and watch the planes take off and land. That’s what we did. We got to the front, hung our banner over the railing, screamed, and cried.”

Screaming was a big part of being a Beatles fan. Joan – who grew up in Brixton – was lucky enough to see the band live in concert at the height of their fame, at the Hammersmith Odeon in December 1964.

“We were all screaming,” she says. “It was ear-shattering. We didn’t hear any of the songs, but that didn’t matter, we knew them so well anyway.

“A lady behind us told us to sit down and be quiet. We said something like ‘what do you expect?’. The screaming was infectious – you couldn’t help yourself.”

Another piece of Joan’s Beatles collection comes from 1964 – parts of a billposter for the movie A Hard Day’s Night, which was showing at the girls’ local cinema in Brixton.

The poster featured 20 black and white photobooth-style images of the band, which the young fans cut up and divided between them.

Meanwhile, a Saturday job at Woolworth’s – and a staff discount – meant Joan was always one of the first to own a new Beatles album on its release.

Vinyl copies of 1963’s Please Please Me and With The Beatles; Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale (1964); Help and Rubber Soul (1965); Revolver (1966); and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) form part of the auction lot.

Joan’s dose of Beatlemania lasted until 1967, although she continued to attend concerts throughout the sixties.

In 1969 she watched Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Albert Hall – “it was the first time I’d seen someone play guitar with his teeth” – and the album she bought on the strength of his performance – a mono version of his psychedelic classic Axis: Bold as Love – is the rarest and most valuable record in the collection.

Throughout the sixties, Joan collected autographs, and some of the biggest names of the decade – including Ronnie Spector, Donovan, Manfred Mann, Keith Moon and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman – all appear in her album, alongside the signature of Val Doonican.
“I wasn’t a fan, and I can’t remember where I met him,” Joan admits. “I expect I just asked him for his autograph because he was on the telly.”

Joan says she was fortunate to have lived in London during the Swinging Sixties. “We would go up West and see bands on a regular basis,” she said. “Nothing became of most of them, but some of them became the biggest bands in the world.”

Her collection of music and mementos of the period has followed her from loft to loft, and was, until recently, collecting dust in a cupboard under the stairs.

Joan hopes her pieces of memorabilia will bring pleasure to a collector, while the money she makes from the sale will be spent on Christmas presents for her three grandchildren.

The collection will be sold by Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester – whom she decided to contact after seeing auctioneer Philip Allwood on the BBC TV show Flog It! – on Friday, November 22 , with a guide price of £300 to £500.

For a full auction catalogue, log on to http://www.mooreallen.co.uk

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