The Beatles Invade New Zealand, 1964

Story sourced from Audioculture.co.nz

As The Beatles stepped down from the propeller-driven TEAL Electra plane which had brought them from Sydney, someone thrust a giant fluffy kiwi into the hands of Paul McCartney, then all four Beatles were given large green tikis made out of balsa wood. Next came a Māori pōwhiri, for which women from the local Te Pataka Māori Group had been recruited. Ringo’s initial reaction to the Māori welcome was overheard by a nearby policeman: “Fook!” he said. “We come in peace!”



Each Beatle was given a hongi by the women. “I think it was Ringo Starr I picked out,” one of the youngest of the six women from the pōwhiri said. “Oh, it was quite an experience. The tikis were great big ones, and they were given to us by the Tourist and Publicity Department, I think.” McCartney received his hongi from “Aunty” Millie Clark.



Still clutching their poi, and standing on the back of a slow-moving Holden ute, The Beatles were driven around the perimeter of the airport to greet the 7000 fans pressing against the chain-wire fence. Then they were driven into central Wellington – followed by a motorcade of fans in cars – to check into the St George Hotel on the corner of Willis and Boulcott Streets.

Crowds were already blocking the intersection, but the manager of the St George, Frank Drewitt, had been planning their arrival for months with Kerridge-Odeon, the Traffic Department and the Police. The crowd would eventually number 4000 as more fans arrived from the airport.

The matron for the group while here in NZ says, “All Ringo wanted was eggs, boiled for two minutes. ‘And I want it roonny,’ he would insist.” “The other boys used to have a good breakfast, cooked, and the rest of the day seemed to me to be spent putting toll calls back to their girlfriends in England.”

Fans at the Beatles concert, Wellington Town Hall. Hill, Morris James, 1929-2002 :Negatives of Wellington, and national events and personalities. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. National Library of New Zealand 

Everyone mentions the noise: the screams drowned out the music at the concerts. “It was hysteria,” said Greg Cobb, who was 14 and later worked in the music industry. “You could only hear the opening of every song.” Another Wellingtonian, Barney Richards, said, “As soon as they came on stage it was one continual scream. I was fairly close to the stage and above this continual scream I could catch occasional snatches of songs.”

In Auckland city, 2000 fans were waiting outside the Royal International Hotel on Victoria Street. Trapped by the fans, The Beatles’ limo inched through the crowd. It was 20 minutes before the area could be cleared of fans and the group could get out of the car. Lennon said later, “It was a bit rough. I thought definitely a big clump of my hair had gone. I don’t mean just a bit. Benny Levin, the booking agent said, “It was hysteria with the young girls at that show, and they were fainting all over the place. The St John Ambulance men were dragging them out like you wouldn’t believe.”

The police were unprepared for the hysteria among the 2000 people outside of Dunedin City Hotel, who crowded the entrance and climbed onto the veranda above. The police took 10 minutes to form a gap in the crowd, and were jostled as they escorted the band. John Lennon was the last out of the car and by this time the police and security men had had enough. Dunedin broadcaster Neil Collins remembers the police picking up Lennon and throwing him through the front door. “I mean that. He was airborne when he reached that lift, and he was wearing leather pants and he cut his knee open on the iron of the lift.”

The Beatles stayed at the Clarendon in central Christchurch, a grand old hotel where the Queen used to stay. Once again, female fans used the usual tactics to get inside to meet them, such as hiding in laundry baskets, but the mania was such that as The Beatles’ car got near the hotel, a 13-year-old girl lunged at the vehicle and was knocked down. She was taken inside the hotel and, for her trouble, got to meet The Beatles.

For more on The Beatles invading New Zealand in 1964, see the full story here on audioculture.co.nz