Adelaide, All My Loving, Australia, band, Beatle wigs, Beatlemania, Beatles, Beatles tour, Day Tripper, Eleanor Rigby, George Harrison, hairstyles, hit parade, I Want to Hold Your Hand, John Lennon, Johnny and the Moondogs, Liverpool, Long John and the Beatles, Love Me Do, Melbourne, number ones, Paul McCartney, Please Please Me, pop music, popular music, Recording Industry Association of America, Ringo Starr, Silver Beatles, Silver Beats, Silver Beetles, songs, top 40, United Kingdom, United States, Yesterday
I wrote and posted this article to Bubblews writing site, now gone, a couple of years ago …
It’s 50 years [now 52] since the Beatles toured Australia. They had taken the UK by storm and then the US. In June 1964, it was Australia’s turn. We’d never seen anything like it. Crowds were huge. I was 11 and rode my bike 10 miles to downturn Melbourne but couldn’t get within three blocks of their hotel where they stood on the balcony. In Adelaide, 300,000 people lined the streets between the airport and downtown, half the city’s population.
At school, we walked around the schoolyard singing Beatles’ songs. We combed our hair in the Beatles’ style, straight down over the forehead, with a wave at the end. We avoided the ghastly black plastic Beatle wigs though, on sale at local department stores for two shillings and sixpence or 25 cents. Everyone had their favourite Beatle. Ringo probably led the way, followed by Paul, John and George. They had wide appeal. Even my grandmother liked them.
If a new Beatles song was due to be released, radio stations would announce that it would be first heard at eight o’clock Thursday night, or whenever. You made sure you were turned in to hear it, because you knew it would have a different sound and rhythm to anything you’d heard before. Every song had a fresh, new sound: I Want to Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, All My Loving, Day Tripper, Eleanor Rigby, to name just a few.
The world had never seen anything like it – four mop-top lads from previously unheralded Liverpool took the world by storm with a string of hits. In the US, they filled the top five positions on the hit parade, all at once! I recall a Melbourne radio station’s top 40 had the Beatles filling the first six spots.
The Beatles were a 1960s music and cultural phenomenon that shook the establishment to its core. Old-fashioned teachers, businessmen and politicians, who still supported putting babies born out of wedlock into orphanages, warned us of the dangers. “Beatles” gets 46 million Google hits [now 98 million] and the band hasn’t been around for well over four decades. It’s a legacy that speaks for itself.
The band can be traced back to 1957 when schoolboy John Lennon formed a skiffle band called the Quarrymen. Paul McCartney joined it later that year and George Harrison in 1958. Ringo Starr didn’t come on board until 1962. The band had various names before they became the Beatles: Johnny and the Moondogs, Long John and the Beatles, the Silver Beetles, the Beatles, Silver Beats, Silver Beatles, and finally simplicity won the day and they were called the Beatles again.
Simplicity was the hallmark of their songs too. There never seemed to be a superfluous note or word in any of them. It was good tight pop music. Their first recording contract was worth a penny per single sold, or a farthing for each band member. Two hit singles came in late 1962: Love Me Do and Please Please Me. The hits kept coming in 1963 and by 1964 they had conquered America, and Australia. By the late 1960s, they weren’t running out of good songs.
Early on, the term Beatlemania was coined and the level of hysteria at airports, hotels and concerts was something that had never been seen before. Incessant screaming at concerts by thousands of teenage girls could completely drown out the music. Their concerts only lasted half an hour (plus a support act) but that was the norm back then.
The Beatles were the most successful, acclaimed, innovative and influential band in popular music. Their music is timeless and is still popular after 50 years, including among the younger generations. Most polls of the best music act of all time put the Beatles at the top of the pile. They had more than 40 number one records in the United Kingdom and, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the Beatles have sold more music units in the United States than anyone else with 177 million.