PERFORMANCE: Australian Tours by Overseas Artists 1964-75


The Beatles' 1964 Australian concert tour - - their only visit here - was a landmark for the local music scene, and set many records for concerts in Australia. It was also a turning point for the many nascent local 'beat' groups who were being influened by the new Merseybeat sound. Almost overnight, many surf/instrumental groups changed their format, added a vocalist and began to play 'beat' music.

The tour was promoted by Australian agency Aztec Services, and it was a major coup for them - fortunately for Aussie audiences, promoter Kenn Brodziac had secured The Beatles' services in late 1963, for a relatively low price; had the deal been attemtped after the group's American chart breakthrough it's unlikely any Australian promoter could have afforded them. (Beatles fans will be pleased to know that Kenn Brodziac OBE donated all the Aztec Services' files and documents relating to the tour to the Performing Arts Museum at the Victorian Arts Centre in Melbourne)

Tickets for The Beatles' Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane concerts went on sale on April 13 ,1964 and immediately broke the previous Australian sales record set by Johnny Ray in 1954. Demand for tickets outstripped supply many times over - for just the four shows that The Beatles performed in Adelaide there were 50,000 requests for the 12,000 tickets put on sale.

The tour was also notable as the only time in The Beatles' touring career that the entire group did not perform, due to the fact that drummer Ringo Starr fell ill just before the tour and had to replaced for the first few dates by drummer Jimmy Nicol.

Tour Chronology

June 3 London
The day before the tour was due to begin, Ringo Starr collapsed during a photo shoot with photographer John Launois, for the US magazine Saturday Evening Post. Ringo was suffering from severe tonsillitis and pharyngitis and had to be hospitalized. With The Beatles scheduled to leave on their first world tour (including Australia) the next morning, it was too late to cancel, so Brian Epstein and George Martin quickly choose drummer Jimmy Nicol as Ringo's stand-in.
June 10  The Beatles arrived in Australia from Hong Kong. Their plane made an unscheduled fuel stop in Darwin, but 400 fans were still on hand at the remote airstrip to greet their aircraft. The Beatles flew on to Sydney, where they arrived in the middle of a heavy downpour. The Beatles were required to appear in an open-top truck in the pouring rain to greet the thousands of fans who had gathered at the airport. As was the case virtually everywhere they went, The Beatles were confined to their hotel due to massed fans in the throes of Beatlemania; nevertheless several enterprising fans managed to penetrate to the inner sanctum and meet their idols.

June 11
Ringo Starr left hospital in England and prepared to rejoin the other Beatles in Australia.

June 12
The Beatles arrived in Adelaide to play their first two in Australia, and were greeted by the largest crowd ever seen in their touring career - indeed it remains probably the largest such crowd to gather in Australian history, and is doubly remarkable, given that the population of Adelaide in 1964 was less than 1 million. Estimates have put put the crowd as high as 300,000 - which means - incredibly - that about one in three people in Adelaide turned out to see the Beatles. In spite of the massive turnout, the group were rather dissmissive at the time - apparently their recent tumtultuous welcome in America had made them rather blase - and they only later acknowledged the magnitude of the event. They played their first show that evening at Centennial Hall with Jimmy Nicol filling in for Ringo. One of The Beatles' two concerts was recorded for radio transmission on June 15, under the title The Beatles Show.

June 13
The Beatles performed two more shows at Centennial Hall. These two shows were Jimmy Nicol's last as a "temporary Beatle".

June 15
The Beatles arrived in Melbourne to perform their first two shows at Festival Hall,  Melbourne, and were greeted by a tens of thousands of fans who lined the road from the airport and packed into the Town Hall Square. The group greeted fans from the balcony of the Town Hall, but John Lennon caused consternation among city officials when he irreverently gave the frantic crowd a Nazi-style salute while miming a Hitler moustache with his finger. The band held a press conference with both Jimmy Nicol and Ringo, and then proceeded to their hotel. That night the group performed two shows at Festival Hall, Melbourne, with Ringo Starr back on drums.

June 16
The Beatles performed two shows at Festival Hall,  Melbourne

June 17
The Beatles performed two shows at Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia. The second show was filmed for an hour-long television program, The Beatles Sing for Shell, which was broadcast on July 1.

June 18-20
The Beatles returned to Sydney and perform two shows each day over three days at the Sydney Stadium, Rushcutter's Bay. The Stadium, affectionately known as "The Tin Shed" was originally contructed in the early 1950s as a boxing venue. It was the only large venue in Sydney during the 1960s and hosted all the major local and overseas tours of the period. It was demolished in the late 1960s. Staying at the Sheraton Hotel, the group met local celebrities and fans - some invited some, some who managed to elude police and security and penetrated the inner sanctum to meet their idols. One enterprising lad even managed to scale the front of the hotel and knocked on the window. He was let into The Beatles' suite by Lennon, who realised the young man was a fellow Liverpuddlian. Billy Thorpe was summoned to meet John Lennon, who was curious to meet the man who managed to take the No.1 spot during their tour. Future fashion designer Jenny Kee also managed to gain entry; dressed in an outfit of her own creation, she was immediately spotted by Lennon, invited to their party and and ended up spending the night with him!

June 29
After shows in New Zealand, The Beatles returned to Australia to perform two shows at Festival Hall, Brisbane. During one of the performances, a group of hecklers threw eggs, and the police had to intervene to save the troublemakers from angry fans.

June 30
The Beatles performed their last two Australian shows at Festival Hall, Brisbane; these were also the final performances on their world tour.

Beatles tour information courtesy Bagism website

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