The Beatles come to Brisbane

Original ticket and photograph for one of The Beatles' concerts at Brisbane Festival Hall, State Library of Queensland

“The shrieks, the screams, the sobs bounced off the ceiling. The girls – and boys – threw their arms above their heads. They bounced up and down on chairs; they sank to their knees in the aisles. It was bedlam and judging by the upturned open-mouthed faces it was pure bliss. It was the Beatles” – Telegraph (Brisbane), 30 June 1964, p.6

The Beatles 1964 World Tour kicked off on 4 June. On the Australian/New Zealand leg of the tour the Fab Four visited Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch and ended with Brisbane on 29-30 June.  It was estimated that over 200,000 fans across the 8 cities attended their shows.

The Beatles arrived at Brisbane airport just after midnight on 29 June where they were greeted by thousands of screaming fans. Over 200 uniformed police lined the tarmac with 20 detectives mingling in the crowd. Due to the swell of the crowd one of the restraining fences shielding the VIP area was reported to have started bending. Six girls were treated by ambulance workers; 2 for hysteria and 4 who fainted in the crush.

Paul McCartney was first to step off the plane and onto the gangway, followed by John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. They stepped on to an awaiting table-top truck and began a tour of the fence line to acknowledge the crowd.  The excitment was marred by an unfortunate incident when a handful of attendees at the back of the crowd threw a barrage of eggs, tomatoes, orange peel, newspapers and a cushion at the Beatles. Paul McCartney later remarked “We were disappointed at the egg throwing…it was all so pointless.”  Due to this incident the Beatles did not make any further public appearances outside of their concert performances. It was reported that John Lennon said,  “No more unscheduled public appearances we’ve had enough eggs. As long as we’re in Brisbane it’s just here [Lennon's Hotel] and the [Festival] hall for us.”

“…the Festival Hall was lucky to escape with its roof intact.” – Courier Mail, 30 June 1964, p.2

There were four concerts played by the Beatles at Festival Hall over two nights (29 & 30 June 1964). There were several support bands including The Phantoms, Johnny Devlin and Sounds Incorportated. The Beatles were the last act, performing for 30 minutes of the 90 minute show. Approximately 5,000 fans attended each of the four concerts. A reporter from the Brisbane Telegraph newspaper stated “mostly you could hear the drum beats from Ringo, the guitars sometimes and all the time the non-stop screams. You couldn’t hear the Beatles sing…. Every time they opened their mouths, so did the crowds..”.  The Governor of Queensland, Sir Henry Abel Smith and his wife Lady May attended one concert and stated “We thoughly enjoyed last night…we were nearly deafened but everyone had such a good time”.

Beatles Concert at Festival Hall in Brisbane, 1964. State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 46645

“Did someone blunder on Beatles Bookings? Fans claim they got ‘dirty deal’  – Sunday Truth, 9 April 1964, p.3

A few months earlier when tickets first went on sale the Sunday Truth exposed a scandal regarding tickets and the allocation of seats.
The newspaper accused Festival Hall management of giving large blocks of choice seats to Parliamentarians and airline and oil companies before tickets officially went on sale. Apparently one Queensland State MP had block booked 35 seats two weeks in advance. Meanwhile fans queued for up to 41 hours at Palings only to find the best seats had already been taken.

Festival Hall in Brisbane as it looked in 1959. State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 79168

 ”Lennons Hotel management had to keep a “pretence of secrecy” about where the Beatles would stay…” – Telegraph (Brisbane), 29 June 1964, p.3

During their short time in Brisbane the Beatles stayed at Lennons Hotel on George Street. Prior to their arrival management at Lennons Hotel strenuously denied that the band would be staying there, but secretly had the group booked under a code name. The Beatles occupied a 4th floor suite which was protected 24 hours a day by security guards. There were several attempts by teenagers to gain access to the Beatles’ suite, including one enterprising 16 year old who dressed himself in his uncle’s clerical grab and tried to enter the hotel at 1am.  He was wearing horn-rimmed glasses and carrying a small black book. He told puzzled security he had “come to give the Beatles guidance” . He was tumbled however as he was wearing “Beatles Boots” and the “black bible” he was carrying was in fact a history book.

“As the four waved finally from the aircraft steps, there were cries of “Don’t go, don’t go,” and many girls cried.” – Telegraph (Brisbane), 1 July 1964, p.1

The Beatles departed on 1 July from the Eagle Farm Airport with 500 screaming fans (and 100 police) to see them off. Fans started arriving at the airport at 4:30am. Some parents brought their children – still dressed in their pyjamas. The group arrived late, the plane finally departing at 7:45am, much to the anguish of screaming fans. As the plane took off a policeman was overheard to remark, “Well thank goodness that’s over”.

Of the Brisbane tour Paul McCartney said, “”We thought Brisbane might be a let down after the rest of the tour, a sort of anti-climax. But really, the audiences here were tremenedous, as good as or better than any we ever faced”

The State Library of Queensland holds an original concert ticket plus The Beatles Australian tour 1964 : official souvenir booklet. The State Library also holds the Courier-Mail, Telegraph and Sunday Truth newspapers, from which the above quotes were taken, on microfilm.

You can find out what else was reported about the Beatles visit to Brisbane in the newspapers by listening to this ABC Local Radio Queensland podcast.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland