An hour-long recording of The Beatles playing at a Buckinghamshire boarding school in 1963 has just been unearthed

The Beatles in 1963
(Image credit: Hulton Archive)

A previously unheard, hour-long recording of The Beatles playing live in 1963 has been unearthed. The recording, which is the earliest known audio of the band playing in The UK, was made on April 4, 1963, at a school in Buckinghamshire.

The recording was made by then 15-year-old schoolboy John Bloomfield at the private, all-boy Stowe boarding school, where The Beatles performed after another pupil, David Moores, wrote to manager Brian Epstein and requested that the band play at the school. Epstein asked for a £100 fee, and Moores raised the money by selling tickets to his schoolmates.

Bloomfield only revealed the existence of the recording as the 60th anniversary of the show approached, and part of the tape received its first airing on the BBC Radio 4 show Front Row last night.

"The opportunity that this tape presents, which is completely out of the blue, is fantastic because we hear them just on the cusp of the breakthrough into complete world fame," Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn tells the BBC. "And at that point, all audience recordings become blanketed in screams.

"So here is an opportunity to hear them in the UK, in an environment where they could be heard and where the tape actually does capture them properly, at a time when they can have banter with the audience as well.

"I think it's an incredibly important recording, and I hope something good and constructive and creative eventually happens to it. I didn't even know this tape existed until you told me about it, and I think I had to pick myself up off the floor."

"I would say I grew up at that very instant," says Bloomfield, who recorded the show on quarter-inch tape. "It sounds a bit of an exaggeration, but I realised this was something from a different planet."

An excerpt from the Front Row broadcast can be heard below, while the full episode of is online at the BBC website. A recording of The Beatles talking backstage after the Stowe show was auctioned in Japan in 1997.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.