'It was an amazing scene': revisiting the hysteria of the Beatles one and only NZ tour

Music 22/06/2022

On June 22, 1964, the Beatles planted their feet on New Zealand soil for the very first time. Over the next week, they would take hold of the country's youth and make them crazy with Beatlemania. 

The band first touched down in Wellington, where they were greeted by around 7,000 adoring, somewhat wild, young fans. All of which were contained by airport fencing and just 30 police officers. 

Bill Brien, one of those officers, said that the cops were not prepared for the massive crowd. 

"We underestimated the whole thing badly," he told NZ History.

The crowd was so big we had to ... keep all the people behind a wire fence. At one stage it looked like the fence would collapse, which would have been a disaster.

After the airport, the band travelled to the St. George hotel, on the corner of Willis Street and Manner Street. They again were met by a massive group of fans, all clamouring for a good view of the British boy band. 

RNZ received messages from people that were around during the tour and they have strong memories of Beatles mania and how it took over the entire town.

“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," said a Wellington TV show's cameraman assigned to follow the band, talking to RNZ

Despite skyrocketing to superstardom for revolutionising music, the songs were not heard by many of those who were lucky enough to see the 'Fab Four' live when they visited our shores. 

A common theme among many people reliving their memories of the shows was the deafening screams that drowned out the band's music. 

Jimmy, who saw the band's first show in Wellington, and therefore the country, said he barely heard the band the whole night. 

I only heard two lines in the show,

"The rest of the 25-minute-long set was completely obliterated by the screams of those around us."

A fan who went to one of the Auckland shows said the same thing:

I 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!

John Lennon himself was reportedly very frustrated with the sound dynamics. After the first Wellington show he apparently 'stormed backstage' and shouted, "What the f*cking hell is going on!?"

Almost 60 years on it seems that most of what remains from the Beatles' tour of NZ is just the pure hysteria that followed the band wherever they went. Not much different from recounts around the world. 

NZ History said:

The Beatles' visit can be seen as the moment that young New Zealand plugged into an international youth culture.

The band were exemplifying the attitude of a new generation, and TV and air travel had made the world a whole lot smaller, giving "New Zealanders a new rapport with the world outside, a world in which they were no different from millions of other teenagers."