On 4 November, 1963, at the outset of another marathon British tour, the Beatles were the main attraction at a Royal Command Performance in London.
With the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret looking on, John Lennon famously asked for the crowd’s help: “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands, and the rest of you, If you’d just rattle your jewelry.” (He’d actually threatened to say, “rattle your f**king jewelry.”)
With that, the band launched into their closing number, a blistering version of “Twist and Shout. “
The next day, British newspapers were beside themselves. The show was broadcast in Britain on November 10, bringing the Beatles to yet another enormous television audience.
In America, the news media took notice. “Thousands of Britons ‘Riot’ – Liverpool Sound Stirs up Frenzy,” headlined the Washington Post.
Time magazine described Beatlemania in vivid detail in an article headlined “The New Madness.” That same week, NBC and CBS dispatched crews to cover the Beatles performing on Saturday 16 November at the Winter Gardens Theater in Bournemouth.
NBC was the first on the air the following Monday with its report by Edwin Newman. CBS aired a story on its morning show later that week (with a script by correspondent Alexander Kendrick that was suspiciously similar to Edwin Newman’s).
It went on: Variety ran a story headlined “Beatle Bug Bites Britain.” The New York Times Magazine weighed in with “Britons Succumb to Beatlemania.” (“Their music is basically rock ‘n’ roll, but less formalized, slightly more inventive.”) Life magazine ran a photo of the Beatles meeting Prince Margaret.
And on 10 December, more than three weeks after NBC, the CBS Evening News ran its Beatles story.
It should be said that all this American news coverage, including NBC’s, took the same bemused, patronizing approach – dismissing the Beatles as a passing fad perpetuated by throngs of hyperactive teenage girls.
The focus was on haircuts, noise and frenzy, while little attention was paid to the music itself. The mainstream media (circa 1963) knew something was happening, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, but it didn’t really know what it was.
It wasn’t until later that most people were able to see this moment clearly as the beginning of a huge generational shift and a sea change in popular culture.
What the news coverage DID do was raise awareness of the Beatles, and that fed the growing appetite for their music among American record-buyers.
Up until then, their hits in Britain had tanked here. But things had changed, and the assassination of President Kennedy, just four days after NBC’s report, left Americans hungry for something to feel good about.
And so the spark of Beatlemania jumped the Atlantic and set fire to a huge American audience.
The Beatles’ next single – “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – was promised for American release in January. But demand was so great that it was pushed up to 26 December.
The song exploded onto U.S. airwaves, charting for 15 weeks, including a phenomenal seven weeks at Number One.
On 7 February, 1964, when John, Paul, George and Ringo landed at New York’s newly renamed John F. Kennedy Airport, the Beatles were at the top of the charts – just where they said they would be.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney, pictured here circa 1960, met as teenagers in July 1957. Image Credit: Keystone/Getty Images
Sixty years ago, two young musicians happened upon each other in Liverpool, England, in a meeting that would change the course of popular music forever.
It was 6 July, 1957. John Lennon, then 16, was playing with his skiffle group The Quarrymen at a church garden party in the midst of a stultifying heat wave. Paul McCartney, 15, was in the crowd, wearing a white sports jacket with a pink carnation.
In the documentary The Beatles Anthology, McCartney remembers the spectacle of Lennon strutting around in a checked shirt, “and sort of blondish kind of hair, little bit curly, [sideburns], looking pretty cool. And he was playing one of these guitars — guaranteed not to crack, not a very good one — but he was making a very good job of it.”
The Quarrymen performed “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings, and though Lennon clearly didn’t know the words, he adapted lyrics from blues songs instead. That ingenuity impressed McCartney, who met Lennon after the set.
Backstage, McCartney played Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” which in turn impressed Lennon — perhaps in part because McCartney actually knew all the lyrics.
Later, Lennon remembered being uncertain about partnering with such a strong musician, who might challenge his leadership in the group.
But that hesitation was short-lived. “I turned around right then on first meeting and said, ‘Do you want to join the group?’ And I think he said yes the next day,” Lennon said, as quoted in The Beatles Anthology.
Yes, 18 June 1964 was the date my two sisters and I caught the bus from Matraville to Rushcutters Bay, Sydney town, to see The Beatles – “see” being the operative word, because they were very hard to hear above the incessant screaming – mostly from the girls, of course.
The supporting acts – Johnny Devlin, Johnny Chester, The Phantoms, Alan Field and Sounds Incorporated (an instrumental band) warmed up the Sydney Stadium crowd to mixed reactions – but at least you could hear them.
That all changed when The Beatles were introduced!
My sisters were either side of me, one screaming for Paul, the other for George. The Beatles played 12 songs – their time on stage was around 35 minutes.
The Sydney Stadium (known as the Old Tin Shed) was built in 1908 and used predominantly as a boxing venue.
It had tiered wooden seats and was hot as hell. It was occasionally used for music concerts.
Reports stated Frank Sinatra hated performing there and Bob Dylan almost passed out in the oppressive heat.
It had a revolving stage, where it would move around about halfway before rotating back, giving most fans a reasonable look at the artist.
The photo below is from the 18 June concert. Part of the meagre PA system is visible next to John – a far cry from the huge PAs pumping out megawatts these days by artists.
. . . but we came away from the concert saying how fab The Beatles were, but deep down we knew we had barely heard them.
At least we can say “we were there”!
The official program is now a collector’s item and can fetch some decent money in mint condition.
Yes, I still have mine, but I wish I had also kept the tickets.
The Beatles’ music, to me, is still just as fresh today as it was back then – is still played frequently on the radio – and still recorded by many artists around the world.
I challenge anybody to name an artist of today whose music they think will still be popular and played regularly 50 years from now. Come on, name one – there is no solo artist or group to touch the talent or popularity of The Beatles – there never has been and, probably, there never will be.
One thing’s for sure – I know I won’t be around in 50 years time to hear any of today’s artists’ or groups’ music which may be played on the radio – or whatever the listening apparatus will be then!
Only 517 Rolls-Royce Phantom Vs were manufactured.
It was an ultra-exclusive car, weighing 2.5 tonnes with a 3.6-metre wheelbase and the same 6.2L V8 engine as the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II.
The British Crown owned two of them, ridden by Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother.
However, even they are outshone by the car’s most famous owner: John Lennon of the Beatles.
John Lennon bought a 1964 Mulliner Park Ward Phantom V, finished in Valentines black.
Everything was black except for the radiator, even the wheels. Lennon asked for the radiator to be black as well but Rolls Royce refused.
Originally the car was customized from Park Ward with black leather upholstery, cocktail cabinet with fine wood trim, writing table, reading lamps, a seven-piece his-and-hers black-hide luggage set, and a Perdio portable television.
A refrigeration system was put in the trunk and it was one of the first cars in England to have tinted windows.
He probably paid 11,000 pounds (nearly $240,000 in today’s value).
Lennon didn’t know how to drive and didn’t get his driver licence until 1965 at age 24.
He sometimes used a six-foot-four Welsh guardsman named Les Anthony.
In December 1965, Lennon made a seven-page list of changes that cost more than 1900 pounds.
The backseat could change into a double bed. A Philips Auto-Mignon AG2101 “floating” record player that prevented the needle from jumping as well as a Radio Telephone and a cassette tape deck.
Speakers were mounted in the front wheel wells so that occupants could talk outside via microphone.
It was 1964 and I was in my 4th Year at Plympton High School. I was an overweight lad who was called “Humphrey darling” (after a cartoon character) by two blond sheilas every time they saw me in the schoolyard. I would always run away.
I had already split my pants trying to vault the “wooden horse” out on the school oval and a young, fit, soon to be famous Greg Chappell (Austalian Cricket Captain) had told me to “fuck-off” in the short time that he was there!
My best friend was John Ward, who talked like a girl and walked everywhere on tippy toes.
But magic was on the horizon “The Beatles” were coming to Adelaide minus Ringo Starr.
Big “Blob” Francis (5AD Radio) had convinced Brian Epstein in 1963 to bring them here.
Paul McCartney said he would like to see Adelaide and the Plympton girls squealed with delight.
So, as the Big Day approached when they would whizz past the back of Plympton High down Anzac Highway the excitement grew and grew!
And then, the Headmaster of Plympton High School, a Mister Goldsworthy, nicknamed “Chrome Dome”, who was the spitting image of Adolph Eichmann, said “NO!”
“The Beatles are rubbish and you shouldn’t be wasting valuable study time going over to Anzac Highway!”
The student mass gasped in astonishment when the announcement was made in the middle of a dusty quadrangle.
Quickly the rebellious sheilas and the blondies organised a Strike Committee and had quickly told our balding headmaster. “Let us see the The Beatles”.
Goldsworthy relented and we saw John, George, Paul and Jimmy Nicol (Ringo’s replacement) go roaring down Anzac Highway.
One girl knocked herself out on a stobie pole in her mad chase after the Fab Three’s car.
Meanwhile, half a million people had gathered in Adelaide city to welcome the boys from Liverpool.
February, 1967 saw the release of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, John Lennon’s ode to his childhood haven Liverpool’s Strawberry Field children’s home and its grounds held special memories for John Lennon.
It inspired one of his greatest achievements, an effects-laden paean to his childhood haven drenched in hallucinogenic overdubs and owing much to the genius of George Martin.
Originally cited for inclusion on Sgt Pepper but instead released as a double A-side single along with Paul McCartney’s equally brilliant and nostalgic “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” was pop music presented as art, a quantum leap in the group’s development, and a record that set the standard and style for the year to come.
Jean-Marie Périer was at the heart of the pop explosion of the 1960s, capturing homegrown stars such as Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday – along with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis – for the French magazine Salut les Copains.
The Beatles, Paris, 1964
Périer left the magazine Salut les Copains in 1974, and largely gave up photography to pursue a career in filmmaking.