As a music fan, I cannot help but be curious about Buxton’s musical history, especially as so many noteworthy performers continue to visit our town to perform at Buxton Opera House. With the help of the museum archive (and a few other online searches), I can honestly say that I am shocked and (happily) surprised about the number of famous faces who have visited our town!
The Beatles are amongst the most well-known of these artists, a band that truly needs no introduction, even to my younger age group. Their music is a staple in any discussion about the British music scene, with Richard Curtis’s 2019 film Yesterday bringing their music once again to the fore. Their song “Yesterday” was released two years after the band’s first visit to Buxton – we were lucky enough to host them twice in 1963. The Fab Four’s visits to the town were organised by their manager, Brian Epstein, to stoke the growing fire of ‘Beatlemania’.
The Beatles’ first performance here took place at the The Octagon on the 6th April 1963 following the release of their first studio album, Please Please Me, which had been released a few weeks prior on 22nd March. The album’s two singles “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do” had boosted the band’s popularity with “Love Me Do” reaching No.17 of the UK Singles Chart. Their gig at The Octagon was completely sold out with over 2000 people squeezing into the venue to hear the 30-minute set, which mainly consisted of songs from their new album. For reference, 2000 people is more than double the capacity of Buxton Opera House (which holds 920 people) and some girls who attended the performance had to be lifted from the crowd by policemen as they had either fainted or were at risk of being crushed. The Beatles returned again on 19th October and this was one of their last small-scale domestic gigs as Beatlemania continued to grip the UK; within a year, the band would ‘break’ America. A few weeks after the Fab Four’s final visit to the town, their newest single, “From Me To You”, would become UK No.1 and they continued to have a steady stream of hits until the band broke up in 1970, with each member going on to have successful solo careers.
Another artist (although quite a different genre to The Beatles), who performed at Buxton’s Octagon were Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in 1990. Other artists who have played in various venues and at different events around Buxton include Gerry and the Pacemakers (of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” fame), Fleetwood Mac at Buxton’s Progressive Blues Festival in September 1969, Chuck Berry, Mott the Hoople, Lindisfarne and Rod Stewart! Really, if I was to sit here and list them all, we would both be here all day. Some artists who were billed to perform but never made it onstage include Slade and Curved Air, who were both scheduled to perform at Buxton Pop Festival in September 1972.
Luckily for us, Buxton continues to attract great artists to perform here including Jools Holland and Gilbert O’Sullivan. I have really enjoyed my little dig into Buxton’s more musical history and have definitely discovered a few more songs to add to my Spotify along the way!
Main Image: The Octagon, Buxton. © Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. Acc. No. DERSB : 2004.45.153