1 Jul 2014

Stories from NZ Beatles Fans of '64

From The Beatles New Zealand Tour 1964, 11:02 am on 1 July 2014

Stories from Beatles Fans #BeatlesNZ64

Fans at the Beatles concert Wellington Town Hall June Photograph taken by Morrie Hill of Wellington NLNZ id
Fans at the Beatles concert, Wellington Town Hall, June 1964. Photograph: Morrie Hill. Alexander Turnbull Library

WELLINGTON

In 1964 I was working as a film assistant at the local television station WNTV-1 which had its studios on the corner of Waring-Taylor  and Featherston St. On the Saturday the Beetles arrived I was assigned to help one of the film cameramen, John Wright film the Fab 4 when they arrived at the St George Hotel.

We had a camera position on the veranda of the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel opposite the St George and filmed the crowds and the Beatles as they arrived and then appeared on the balcony of the St George.

It was an amazing scene and people were perched on all manner of vantage points in the area. There were a lot on the veranda at the Duke and also from the many rooms in the hotel.

I took some pictures myself of the crowd and the Beatles which bring back great memories of that day.

 - Cheers, Peter B.

The Beatles on the balcony of the Hotel St George Wellington by Morrie Hill courtesy ATL
Image: The Beatles on the balcony of the Hotel St George Wellington by Morrie Hill courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.

I was there at the Beatles Wellington concert 50 years ago - a screaming, sort of hysterical 15 year old. Actually, I don't recall too much about the concert apart from screaming myself hoarse, along with all the others.

But I do remember being a part of the crowd that blocked off the intersection of Willis & Manners Streets when the Beatles came out onto the balcony of the St George Hotel. I remember me & my friend racing through Suzies Coffee Bar and out onto the veranda, walking along that (it extended right to the corner of Boulcott St back then), just so that we could be that much closer to our heroes. There were quite a few of us that did that.

Afterwards, my Dad, who had driven me & my friend into the city to see the Beatles, said that he was really worried that the verandah would collapse under the weight of the people who were up there.

Of course I never gave that a thought. All I could think of was that I was that little bit closer to the Fab Four - especially Paul who was the one I loved best.

 - Jenny B.

I was lucky enough to see the Beatles in Wellington – The first 6 o’clock shows it must have been. My sister and I had been suffering whooping cough and were not allowed to go to school for six weeks.  We just about drove each other, and our parents mad.  At the end of the six week isolation we were given the all clear to return to school , and for enduring each other’s company for so long, our parents bought us tickets to see the fab four.  I was 12, little sister was almost 10.   

I don’t remember too much of the opening acts, only that there was some confusion when Sounds Incorporated took to the stage.  Many young girls in the audience thought they were the main act and ran forward to get as close to the action as possible. 

I remember thinking to myself, there is no way we’ll see anything if we remain in our seats.

When the Beatles finally did make an appearance, the noise was deafening.  It was Ringo’s first performance after suffering tonsillitis in Australia, and he did sing “Boys.”  In fact, I only heard two lines in the show; Ringo singing “I been told when a boy kiss a girl.”  And Paul McCartney with the opening line to All My Loving.  “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you” - the rest of the 25 minute long set was completely obliterated by the screams of those around us.

OK I screamed too, and as I did I remember this older girl, she must have been 18 or 19, looking daggers at me.  She told me to stop screaming so she could hear the show, and I told her “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  

I think that screaming was definitely part of the enjoyment of being there.  It wasn’t a concert, it was more an expression of teenage rebellion.

We couldn’t hear the Beatles, but we could see them alright and they all looked to be enjoying themselves, except for John Lennon who looked more and more pissed off as the set went on.

Did I enjoy the show?  I was the only one in my class at school who went, so what do you think?  Bragging rights were far more important than actually hearing anything.

 - Jimmy, Beatles fan, Wellington.

There was official concern that damage would occur to young people's hearing if the sound level was too high at the Beatles' concerts.

The government Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) therefore sent their acoustic specialist Rod Satory to the Wellington concert to measure the sound level and provide a report. My memory of the levels was that it was about 106 dBA, a little less than the threshold of pain at 110.  Probably the screaming contributed significantly to the level.

Almost certainly hearing damage would have occurred, degrading the later life of the concert-goers and a cost to the community through ACC assistance with hearing aids.

 - George J, Wainuiomata, Wellington.

Fans during Beatles concert at Wellington Town Hall The Dominion Post Collection Alexander Turnbull Library
Fans during Beatles concert at Wellington Town Hall. The Dominion Post Collection Alexander Turnbull Library.

Getting there...

Tickets for the Beatles concerts in Wellington were too expensive for us.

On the day of the concert, my friend Ian and I went for our regular session at Wgtn Technical College, where we donned our greasy blue boiler suits and went about learning the fine art of cutting threads in steel on the big lathes in the College's engineering workshop. At the end of the session, we rode back down Taranaki Street on our motorbikes, keeping our boiler suits on as it was a cold night; on the hop, we thought it would be good fun to stop and check out the action at the Town Hall. 

There was a huge crowd hanging around, hoping for a last minute ticket, or for a glimpse of the Beatles at the end of the concert. We innocently approached one of the main doors to the auditorium, which was closed, well secured and guarded.

One of the doormen took a look at us and asked if we were technicians ... well, there was no question about that, we were technicians. He opened the door, and in we went just as the Beatles came on stage.

We were the oddest dressed pair in the auditorium, but boy, did we enjoy ourselves!

(Hearing about the technical difficulties with the sound system for the first Beatles concert, this story sounds a little more plausible. The doorman may have thought we were two of the techno guys responsible for the emergency upgrade of the system.)

 - Chris C

My then girlfriend and I went to the early concert on the second night they played in Wellington, i.e. the third of four. During the concert I had to go to the loo and saw gaps in the security you could drive a tank through.

Went home, had a couple of drinks, rang my teenage girl cousins and said that if they could get their parents permission, I was pretty sure I could get them into the sold out last concert. They managed to get this permission, I picked them up and headed back to town.

Before entering the Town Hall I told them to absolutely ignore anybody calling after them and to head right on into the actual hall. The warm up act, Johnny Devlin was in full flight.  The security guards, all looking as if they'd been conscripted from the RSA, and all thinking their job was finished for the evening, were far away from the double lot of double doors leading into the hall proper.

We all marched up the steps, across the foyer, with me at the rear. By the time the security got to me all three girls were inside. The guard ask where my ticket was, I said "my girlfriend has the tickets, do you want to see them"? He said "yes" so I said "I'll get them", and promptly disappeared inside.

The fact that it was a sold out performance mattered not and we ended up standing on seats 4 rows from the front. 

There was one really funny moment during Johnny Devlin's performance.  His electric guitar cord fed back through the curtain which was his backdrop. One time as he gyrated to one side, the cord got caught up with the curtain. This pulled the curtain aside, exposing Ringo's drums, resplendent with  "The Beatles"  painted on. The crowd erupted and I could just imagine Johnny thinking "I don't know what I just did but I'd better add it to my repertoire.

 - Rufus C

I lived in Foxton and was only able to attend the Beatles concert in Wellington because a friend's parents let her buy 2 tickets and were prepared to drive us down to make the 6p.m. concert.

We were not exactly wealthy so I had to pay for my own ticket, from memory 30 shillings, which was a lot of money to a 13 year old.

We left straight after school and what a great experience. Seats were second row from front and we were in "heaven". Have vivid memories of the screaming and do remember wishing the fans could be a bit quieter so I could actually hear the music! Still a fan and have always had a soft spot for Paul.

- Christine B

Beatles Paul McCartney John Lennon and George Harrison singing during their Wellington Concert The Dominion Post Collection Alexander Turnbull Library
Beatles Paul McCartney John Lennon and George Harrison singing during a Wellington Concert. From The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.

I attended the Wellington concert as a Nelson 18 year old. Somebody, I have no idea who, organised a charter flight from Nelson. I think the aircraft was a Friendship - and it was full. Can't remember the price of the trip and concert ticket but on a £7.15 a week wage a fair bit of saving must have been done. It was to be a same day return after the concert.. Concert experience, of course, was great (and my memory says Paul asked for quiet for one song - and got it) . However, the weather that night in Wellington was so bad that the return flight was abandoned. Result was a plane-load of Beatles fans bunked down for the night in the old Wellington Airport terminal. The high after the concert was such that I doubt anyone minded a bit. Late to work the next day - well worth it.

 - Chris R.

AUCKLAND

In 1964 I was at Rutherford High  School which was built on the banks of the Henderson Creek in Te Atatu North. When the Beatles came to town they were flown in to Whenuapai. They then drove down the North Western Motorway to the city. Most of the school turned out on the field above the creek to watch the cavalcade. A  4th form girl who shall remain nameless, and who I lusted after from afar, suddenly launched herself at the fence and then plunged into the mangroves. The Beatles cavalcade at this point was another 2 kilometres down the road.

 - Chris H

I worked as a receptionist at the Royal International Hotel in Victoria Street Auckland. Of course there was so much excitement about them staying at our Hotel.   

On the morning after their first night at the Hotel, another receptionist and I went to the laundry and sneaked a try-on of pajamas belonging to one of the Beatles.

Later in the day, when it was time for them to go to the concert at the Town Hall, quite a few of the staff including me had to go down to the basement cart dock which faced on to Elliot Street as they had put a limo in there earlier in the day.  The plan was that we would push the limo and as it got near the top - the motor was started - the roller door went up and out they went.

Next day it was planned for them to go out on the corner balcony to greet the massive crowds - the other receptionist and I went into a guest room just along from the corner and of course in the excitement went out on the balcony as well. Alas was short lived as the security guards came and made us get off. Oh well.

Do recall how the switchboard was frantic and also a couple of people trying to climb up the side of the Hotel - a wonderful experience. I do have their autographs but who is to know if they weren't done my their manager !!

 - Thanks BJ

I was given tickets to the Auckland Beatles show. I sat 1 metre from Ringo; I was in the choir stalls at the front.
My Dad who worked for Mayor Robbie, got a ticket because the whole front row was for guys who would go and stop the girls from invading the stage....I said that I could do that, so I got the ticket!!
 - Cheers Chris

Beatles ticket folder outside from the collection of Garry Bell Auckland photo RNZ Sam Wicks
The Beatles exterior of ticket folder, from the collection of Garry Bell, Auckland. Photo RNZ/Sam Wicks.

As a twenty year old I was very fortunate to go to TWO Beatle concerts at the Auckland Town Hall!

On the 6.00 pm session of the first night I drove three girls from work, at Papakura, in my treasured A35 and with my cousin sat in great seats in the stalls. The noise was deafening yet wonderful!  At some stage I remember (much to my female cousin's disgust) finding myself on the floor. I soon got up tho'.

The next night I, and a female friend, attended the 8.30 pm session and that again was a wild night. 

I distinctly remember my friend, who was a devout George Harrison fan, just sitting there with her mouth wide open but no sound was coming out. I was getting a bit concerned but realised that she was just so enraptured seeing George it was all she could do!!!

After the performance I recall going to the Royal International on Victoria Street West and standing in the street chanting "the Beatles". However I don't think they did appear. 

Well there are my memories - I still have the Ticket Stubs, the Program and my still immaculate Beatle Boots to prove the "point"!

 - Garry F B, Auckland CBD

Beatles inside ticket folder and stub from the collection of Garry Bell Auckland photo RNZ Sam Wicks
The Beatles inside ticket folder and stub, from the collection of Garry Bell, Auckland. Photo RNZ/Sam Wicks.

 As a then 20 year old, I went to see them at the Auckland Town Hall with two flatmates. 

One flatmate was madly in love with Paul McCartney, so much so that her boyfriend bore an uncanny resemblance to said Paul. 

They had front row circle tickets and didn't hear any music through the screaming, to which she contributed mightily. 

The other flatmate and I had our tickets in the choir stalls behind the stage, consequently, could hear the music quite well, and I remember that Ringo kept turning around and waving to us.  I also remember leaving the Town Hall with my ears ringing from all the screaming, which was probably the start of the tinnitus from which I now suffer!  Wonderful memories as I have always loved their music.

 -  Jenny H.

DUNEDIN

Beatles Dunedin arrival by Kingsley Sampson used with permission
Beatles arrive in Dunedin by Kingsley Sampson, used with permission.

I was a student in Dunedin in 1964 and travelled to Momona Airport to see the Beatles when they arrived. I can’t remember if I went on my Vespa motor scooter or in a friend’s car. I took these photos of the Beatles disembarking on a Box Brownie camera. Later I joined the crowd outside their hotel in Dunedin. Unfortunately I didn’t go to their concert but I have always liked their mid-1960s music.

 - Kingsley S, Christchurch.

After finding my seat in the front row of the choir stalls of the Dunedin Town Hall, I looked over the edge and realized that I was really, really close to the stage. There was only a short distance from me to where one of The Beatles would be standing!

I sat down but still did not believe that John, Paul, George and Ringo were going to walk on to this stage. I couldn't believe that they had arrived from Britain and were in Dunedin.

It was too big to comprehend!

The entrance to the stage on the left was there; I could see it but no way were they going to walk through there! This was all a dream! If they are really here and do come out from there and walk across the stage towards me, how could I be noticed? How could one girl, amidst 3000 screaming fans, stand out?

I had to be seen by them! I didn't come all this way to not make contact.

I had it! I would not scream! I would sit still and quiet and admire them. I wouldn't hear them but I had all their music at home, so that didn't matter.

The screams reached a crescendo that I'd never heard before and there they were, walking across the Dunedin Town Hall stage towards Me! Man, this was unreal!

There they were, in the flesh, their beautiful faces, their beautiful hair flowing, shining, their young, beautiful bodies dressed in the coolest gear in the world! Suits, white shirts and skinny ties were so them!

Their first number; hard to figure which one because nothing was heard except the screams; screams forming a wall of sound, in the air, trapped in the space, unrelenting but there was John, standing just below me, side on to me, so near.

I took a breath and yelled, not a scream but the loudest yell I 'd ever yelled! 'JOHN, JOHN, UP HERE!

The unbelievable happened; he turned and looked up, he reached out his most beautiful, talented hand and I reached down!! For a magic moment our hands touched, my hand touched that of John Lennon of The Beatles ...and he smiled!

That was it! That moment was burned into my brain 50 years ago and remains a 'memory gem' which I carry with me.

Thanks, Radio NZ for bringing it back to the front of my data base!

 - Patsy K

I was in Standard 4 at Fairfield Primary School, Fairfield, Dunedin, 11 years old at the time. The Beatles flew into Momana, just out of Dunedin... Fairfield School was on the main route from Momona Airport to Dunedin.

All the senior school, at least, went up to the Main Road pedestrian crossing (State Highway One). The School patrol managed to slow the vehicles down (with the Beatles inside)  for us to see "them".  There was more than one vehicle.  If I remember they were escorted by police into Dunedin.  It was exciting  and time off school!

- Wayne R

Further to the Dunedin car journey to the Beetles venue – my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were walking through the octagon on the evening of the concert – aware of the screaming fans waiting around the other side of the town hall – at the front entrance. 

Suddenly a car came flat out the wrong way to the back door of the town hall.  Exactly where we were standing the 4 Beetles popped out of the car clutching their guitars.  They said – “shhh don’t tell anyone” as they ran in through the back door. 

We were the only people there and had a great view.

 - Cheers Jenny W

I was 19 at the time and with a group of friends in the crowd outside the City Hotel in Princes Street, Dunedin. There was sporadic singing going on but I finally got the crowd singing “We Love You Beatles” and directed it from the barrier.  ‘We love you, Beatles, Oh, yes, we do, We love you, Beatles, And we'll be true’ by the Carefrees. As I recall we made enough noise to bring the boys out to the open windows to wave. That of course further inflamed the crowd.

Some of the crowd then migrated to the Town Hall and my friend Neil and I were looking for a way to climb up to the windows on the Harrop Street side but there was no way in. Not to be outdone we mingled with the crowd coming down the stairs out of the 6.30 pm show and made our way up to the toilets on the mezzanine floor where we stood on one of the toilet seats in the “mens”.  That was so our legs wouldn’t be seen under the doors. Once we heard the show had started we waltzed out of the toilets, through the door to the mezzanine and stood just inside beside a policeman.  We like to think we had the best view in the house, especially since it didn’t cost.  My wife-to-be was in the stalls with her wee sister, now 60 years old. They had to pay of course.

 - Best regards Brian D

George Harrison w. Wayne Mowat, Blackie and others during Alistair Taylor book promo tour of NZ

George Harrison w. Wayne Mowat (over his right shoulder), Blackie and others during Alistair Taylor book tour of NZ. Photo: Wayne Mowat collection

I was a schoolboy with hairy legs and blazing acne at The 8pm Show in Dunedin after sleeping outside the D.I.C. for tickets. We  were in the 8th row from the front and when the Beatles came on - we were at the BACK … hysteria took over - it was Beatlemania.

It was "life changing" … Fab, Gear and Groovy - NZ and certainly Dunedin had never seen anything like it … even the King of Thailand's royal visit to the city paled into insignificance. Anyway … still have my Beatles programme - and was lucky enough to have lunch with George Harrison in Auckland in the 80s when he was out here promoting the book by their chief press guy Derek Taylor … that was fun.

- Cheers, Wayne Mowat (presenter of The Beatles New Zealand Tour 1964)

I was too young to go to a Beatles concert but my chief memory is of my older sister Ali who was probably about 11 at the time throwing the most enormous wobbly ever when my parents refused her permission to go with some ‘trusted’ bible class-attending teenagers from our home in Ranfurly to attend one of the Dunedin shows. I also remember the fuss about seats being torn apart in the Town Hall.

 - Duncan

CHRISTCHURCH

I was a 20 year old photographer working for the Christchurch Press when the Beatles arrived in Christchurch.  I was assigned to photograph the guys at the airport, when they appeared on the balcony of the Clarendon Hotel and at the show.  During that early part of the 1960s I had also photographed the royal tours by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and the King and Queen of Thailand and to me the crowd reaction to the Beatles visit generated just as much crowd enthusiasm, if not more, than the other tours.

By the time that they arrived in Christchurch, their last venue, excitement was at fever pitch and screaming fans, mainly girls, nearly broke down the 2m high security fence at the airport.

Beatles arriving in Christchurch Photo by Harold Mason Nelson used with permisson
Beatles arriving in Christchurch, 1964. Photo by Harold Mason, Nelson. Used with permission.

Here is my photo of the Beatles leaving the plane.  I still have the original, a 16 x 20 inch framed photograph hanging in my office and a mint condition program like Wayne's, safely tucked away.

When they came out onto the balcony of the Clarendon the whole of Worcester Street from the Square to the river was full of fans.  I climbed out onto the same level fire escape to get a photo of the Beatles in the foreground with the crowd and Cathedral in the background.  

They were there for some time waving and clowning around until some nutter started to throw eggs.  The Beatles immediately went back in through the french doors but as I climbed back through a window into the same room I was hit on the back by an egg.  

Ringo and one of the hotel staff helped wipe it off with tea towels but my jacket was pretty much ruined.

 - Regards, Harold

Wow this takes me back.
I was a junior clerk for the POSB (Post Office Savings bank) when they were staying in the Clarendon Hotel just round the corner.
I wandered around to see a huge group of people mainly young girls screeching out and cursing boys who were mainly bemused.
I remember going to see A Hard Days Night about 8 times with Gary Thain - my fellow Post office cobber - who went on to be bass player for Uriah Heep and Keef Hartley.
we would be writing the lyrics down and noting the chords being used. Ah, great times they were.
We went on to be involved in a wee covers band in Lyttelton with fine vocalist Warwick Burke (yep that one) the Beatles. and Stones were always in demand.
 - John E. Christchurch

I was 16 and my father took me to the concert as he thought the Beatles had the most superb harmony and he couldn't wait to hear them live. No such luck - he couldn't hear a thing because of all the screaming.

 - Bridget, Christchurch

In 1964 I was 11 and too young to be allowed to go to the Beatles’ concert in ChCh’s Civic Theatre. My sister was old enough to attend. When she got home I asked what they sounded like. She said she didn’t know: there was so much screaming no-one in the audience heard them!

She brought home some mementos, including a moulded plastic Beatles wig! For years I have regretted ditching that 10 yrs later when Mum died and I moved from the family home in 1974, my sister having left home years earlier.

That’s what happens to bits of family and world history.

 - Cheers, Steve F, Wellington

This brings back so many memories of a  wonderful period in my life.

I went to the early show of the Beatles in Christchurch with a friend from work and his brother, all dressed in our Beatle Jackets, Beatle boots and new brushed forward hairstyles.

I remember the Police all filing in and lining the stage and walls just as the precious act (Sounds Incorporated?) were getting to the end of their time on stage.

The curtain went down, the screaming reached an entirely new level, and then, up it goes and they were there.  Even louder screaming, girls rushing the stage, even from upstairs, racing to the front .

We were seated in the middle of the front row upstairs, and from our position we could actually hear them above the noise, I am guessing we would have been among very few who could.

Later that night I met my new girlfriend who had been to the later show, and I remember she couldn't stop crying, with joy at actually seeing them live.

Next day we all joined the throng outside the Clarendon Hotel screaming for them to come out and were rewarded with a quick visit by them on to the balcony.

Then out to the Airport to see them go, the plane having to do a hurried departure as the security fence, being severely rocked by the crowd, threatened to come down and the plane being mobbed.

As I said at the beginning a wonderful time of life, 18 years old, and the whole world ahead.

 - Murray Butcher

Beatles fans Elizabeth and Helen, 1964
Beatles fans Elizabeth and Helen, 1964, picture supplied.

My parents bought tickets for myself & twin sister Marion, which was very expensive for them. (My sister is not in this photo) - I am on the right, with my friend Elizabeth.
I was disappointed because I could not hear over the screaming and felt it was a waste of money.
Looking back I still feel so fortunate to have been able to go!

When I was 13 I decided I would go to UK because of the Beatles. It took me 5 years to save up to go by ship in 1970. I stayed for 3 years, met my future husband who followed me to New Zealand.

- Regards, Helen D, Christchurch.

In 1964 I was 10 years old and had been listening to them on radio and TV and I was fortunate in that my parents were fans too. My father impressed me because he could tell which Beatle was singing and he could also thump out their tunes on our old piano.

When the Beatles visited in 1964, we were living in Blenheim, and so my parents decided to drive to Christchurch to see them if possible.

The concert tickets had sold out but we were going to make the trip anyway. We set off​ early in our trusty Morris Minor for the long ride to Christchurch.

We found out the hotel they were staying and ended up amongst the hundreds, maybe thousands of fans thronging around in the street all looking up at their hotel windows. We were rewarded with a glimpse of the lads and waves to their fans. I remember there was a lot of screaming.
Then we piled back into the Morrie for the long trip home.Sue and the Bootleg Beatles

I have never seen the Beatles in concert. But I have discovered the Bootleg Beatles, the wonderful British tribute band and have been to 6 of their concerts in the past 18 months both here and in Melbourne. For someone like me it is like being a teenager again, dressing up in clothes of the era and dancing in the aisles.

Here are photos of me and the Bootleg Beatles concert in Melbourne 2 weeks ago. The Beatles shook the world and have left a lasting legacy on all music . May they and their music live forever!!!

 - Regards, Sue

AUSTRALIA

Just heard about the Beatles anniversary on my car radio. I saw the group, and adored them, in Melbourne on that 1st tour. My grandfather paid for my brother and I to go to Festival Hall in West Melbourne, because he came from Liverpool. I also saw them on the balcony of the now-demolished Southern Cross hotel in Melbourne a couple of days before.

 - Pam, Wellington.

U.K./Related

My father grew up in Bolton Manchester in the 1940's.  He and his 5 brothers all worked in the manufacturing factories of the time.

Coal mining and factories were the only employment opportunities after the war.  

There were 2 young men who visited one of these factories where my father and brothers worked- who were looking for someone who could play the drums.  My uncle tried out for the drummer position but was discouraged because playing in a band wasnt considered a viable option and he needed to support his mother and family.  He stayed working in the factory and the young men then went on to become what we know as the Beatles.

How different life would have been.  My uncle still living in Bolton.

 - Clare, Auckland