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Published: December 13th 2013
My mother commenced her journey for another day at work. The bus was busy as usual, but this was to be no usual day. The date was Friday 12 June 1964, and it was the day that The Beatles answered a petition from the people of Adelaide, Australia (80,000 signatures obtained in three weeks) to perform a series of concerts in the city. My mother could hear the screams of delirious fans before she espied the crowds, a crush of people so immense that the streets were blocked and only buses could barely proceed. However, her bus crawled at such a slow pace that it was quicker to walk, so my mother disembarked and arrived, like everyone else, late for work.
At least 300,000 people congregated to see The Beatles’ procession and balcony appearance at Town Hall on King William Street, a truly astonishing number considering the city and environs only had a population of approximately 675,000 at the time. My mother inadvertently participated in the largest public gathering The Beatles ever attracted, and more significantly, she was in the final trimester of giving birth to her first child – me. It was my first taste of Beatlemania.
next encounter came as a baby, for the only guaranteed way to sooth me to sleep was listening to my mother’s obviously excellent rendition of the chorus from Till There Was You
. My childhood connection continued for my father’s friend boldly joined the official convoy of The Beatles from Adelaide airport to the city. His car, a white convertible Lincoln, was the largest automobile in Adelaide, so security assumed it was authorised and thus it sat only half a dozen cars behind The Beatles. My father later purchased the Lincoln, had it painted red (perhaps because it would go faster) and I distinctly remember playing on the pale leather bench seats of that enormous vehicle at the age of two.
The Beatles were a ubiquitous presence on the radio in the 1960s, so I heard them often, and can even recall when they disbanded. Thus, it was inevitable that these influences in my formative years would inspire a journey to Liverpool to where it all began.
The obvious place to launch any tour of The Beatles’ sites in Liverpool is The Beatles Story
on the beautifully restored Albert Dock area. It provides a visually stylish overview of the band and
its members from their nascent days until the present time. The most impressive part of the exhibition was the replica of The Cavern Club
, a venue where The Beatles played gave performances (292 appearances) than any other. From a personal perspective, I was pleased to see mention of the day in 1964 when The Beatles came to the town of my birth – where this journey to Liverpool commenced almost half a century ago.
After spending more time at Albert Dock and visiting the cavernous Liverpool Cathedral, I embarked on The Beatles Extravaganza Day Tour
with Pool of Life Tours
. This was an outstanding experience, and Tim was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Not only did we visit the usual sites, namely the childhood homes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, but also Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and St Peter’s Church where John and Paul first met. Tim graciously acquiesced to my request to visit the site where Ringo first played with the band, something usually not included on the tour and a location on the other side of the Mersey River. Tim’s tour comes with my highest recommendation and it should be an essential experience for any
Interior of Liverpool Cathedral - Liverpool, UK
Paul McCartney's "Liverpool Oratorio" was premiered here.
person with a remote interest in The Beatles.
One of the tour’s more memorable moments was entering the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Silently standing in the same rooms where they collaborated on many of their early songs was tremendously exciting. However, the undoubted highlight was a journey to the less frequented Casbah Coffee Club
, a music club formerly located on the ground level on Mona Best’s home. This was an incredibly important part of Beatles history, and I was privileged that Rory Best (her son) and brother of the original Beatles drummer, Pete Best, guided me around this historic venue.
Rory, with his brilliant blue eyes and equally bright smile, recalled the Casbah becoming a second home for the band members (called The Quarrymen
at the time) and he identified the rainbow coloured ceiling that Paul painted, and John’s painting effort in another room. Almost the entire interior decoration was completed by band members.
Rory’s summation of The Quarrymen’s early days was “they weren’t very good” and their reputation reflected their ability. Everything changed when Pete joined the band, but after a dispute, they ended their tenure as resident band at the Casbah in October
1959 after only playing there for less than two months. There followed a stint of prolonged performances in Hamburg, Germany which Paul McCartney described as ”800 hours of rehearsal”
. Though gruelling, it gave the band a greater cohesion, professionalism and more dynamic stage presence.
Upon returning to England, The Beatles gavve their first performance under that famous name at the Casbah. That evening, 17 December 1960, became the subject of a conversation between Rory and I.
“When did you know that The Beatles were going to successful?” I queried.
Without hesitation he responded “The night they returned from Germany. See, people thought that they were another band, because the poster said ‘The Beatles: Direct from Hamburg’. So when they saw Paul, John and George walk out people started booing and leaving.”
With the still audible dissatisfaction of the audience, John approached the microphone and uttered these prophetic words: “We’re The Beatles and we are going to play you some rock and roll.”
Rory continued, “The moment they started playing, you knew they had changed. The atmosphere was electric. This room was so packed and hot that women fainted. I had to give them
mouth to mouth!” quipped Rory with a laugh and cheeky glint in his blue eyes. “The Casbah never saw another night like it before or after.” Rory then pointed to a section of the ceiling where John had scratched words to commemorate his return: “IM BACK”.
I walked out of the Casbah into a dismal Liverpool day and reflected on the words of producer George Martin upon first seeing The Beatles in audition, “They gave me a feeling of happiness and warmth, and when they left I felt somewhat diminished.” Coincidentally, I succumbed to the same feelings upon leaving the Casbah. I generously thanked Rory for his time, and was awed at his immense privilege in witnessing the birth of Beatlemania.
There was no music for teenagers in the UK in the late 1950s – the choice were children’s songs or crooning adult music. Albums from Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley arrived by boats into Liverpool and this, along with broadcasts from Radio Luxembourg, created musical stirrings in the likes of John and Paul.
The Beatles provided the soundtrack to a generation disenfranchised with society and the establishment. For the first time, music gave
them a voice, and in return for this adulation The Beatles paved the world with a list of musical firsts, including the stadium concert, promotional music video, inclusion of written lyrics in an album, and pioneering numerous recording techniques. The world will never witness another band like The Beatles. They were the greatest musical group of not only the 20th
century, but probably of all time.
More photos below the videos
Thoughts from Bob Francis
, the man who organised the petition for The Beatles to come to Adelaide.
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