It was 60 years ago today, to paraphrase a later hit, that the Beatles released their first single ‘Love Me Do’ and set in motion a chain of events that would alter the history of popular music as we know it.

The Lennon & McCartney composition had been around for years but took a somewhat strange route to chart success, with three versions recorded at Abbey Road. The first featured Pete Best on drums before he was dismissed, the second had Ringo Starr on drums and was included on early single pressings but the version which made it onto the debut album had session drummer Andy White behind the kit and Starr relegated to tambourine.

‘Love Me Do’ would reach number 17 in the UK chart, with its follow-ups and parent album Please Please Me marking the start of Beatlemania and the band’s ascension to become arguably the most influential group in history. Just two years earlier though the Fab Four had been playing to sparse crowds on a financially unrewarding jaunt around the Scottish Highlands.

Performing as the Silver Beetles as a backing band for Scouse singer Johnny Gentle, the group – then comprised of Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Tommy Moore – took in seven shows in Alloa, Inverness, Fraserburgh, Keith, Forres, Nairn and Peterhead. Largely performing covers by the likes of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, it was a far cry from Shea Stadium.

HeraldScotland: The Beatles in ScotlandThe Beatles in Scotland (Image: Newsquest)

Harrison recalled in the Anthology documentary series: “That was our first professional gig: on a tour of dance halls miles up in the North of Scotland, around Inverness.

“We felt, ‘Yippee, we’ve got a gig!’ Then we realised that we were playing to nobody in little halls, until the pubs cleared out when about five Scottish Teds would come in and look at us. That was all. Nothing happened. We didn’t really know anything.

"It was sad, because we were like orphans. Our shoes were full of holes and our trousers were a mess, while Johnny Gentle had a posh suit. I remember trying to play to ‘Won’t You Wear My Ring Around Your Neck' and we were crummy.

“The band was horrible, an embarrassment. We didn’t have amplifiers or anything.”

Read More: How two indie record labels ignited a cultural revolution in Scotland

The tour was marred by under-funding, with the group repeatedly telephoning promoter Larry Parnes to ask for more money. The Royal Hotel in Forres kicked the band out when they couldn’t pay their bills, and travelling together in a van had problems of its own.

While the story of McCartney playing an Elgin wedding reception to pay for fuel is almost certainly apocryphal, drummer Moore suffered a concussion when Gentle crashed on the way to Fraserburgh and the equipment came tumbling down on his head. Having been frog-marched out of hospital he duly played the gig, bandaged head and all.

The picture was very different three years later when The Beatles, now with their recognisable classic line-up returned to Scotland for a three-date tour. They played a sold-out Glasgow Concert Hall in October 1963, with the following day’s Evening Times reporting that the screaming was so loud the band were inaudible. Scottish music promoter Andi Lothian claimed to have coined the term ‘Beatlemania’ at a subsequent show at Dundee’s Caird Hall.

HeraldScotland: Beatles fans in Renfield StreetBeatles fans in Renfield Street (Image: Newsquest)

Whether that’s true or not, the phenomenon could not have been more evident at two Glasgow ODEON shows the following year. Despite signs announcing that all seats had been sold, fans queued outside the venue from 9am in the hope of catching a glimpse of the band.

Crowds grew throughout the day, with mounted police despatched to Renfield Street to try and maintain order. What followed would be dubbed the ‘Beatles Riot’ by the local press, with shop windows smashed, cars overturned and people fainting in the streets.

HeraldScotland: Police try to maintain order as Beatlemania comes to GlasgowPolice try to maintain order as Beatlemania comes to Glasgow (Image: Newsquest)

HeraldScotland: The excitement was too much for some fansThe excitement was too much for some fans (Image: Newsquest)

The Herald reported that “hundreds of girls, apparently suffering from hysteria” had to be treated by ambulance, with West Regent Street resembling “a field hospital”. The headline dubbed it ‘A Hard Day’s Night for police’.

The Beatles would play one more ODEON show the following year, their final gig in Scotland. Following a controversial US tour in 1966 the band became studio-only, with their final show coming in San Francisco in 1966. Their final public performance would come in January 1969, on the roof of Apple Corp, to onlookers on their lunch break – which was still probably a bigger crowd than they drew in Nairn or Keith.

Did you see The Beatles live in Scotland? Get in touch with your memories at