People’s reactions to the Beatles were pure madness. Yes, women had screamed before at the sight of Elvis, swooned over Frank Sinatra, and dramatically flailed their arms out at Rudy Vallee. But there was something about the British boys that pushed people way beyond the edge of their sanity.
The funny thing is, after a couple of photos of police officers trying to retain hysterical fans, the whole thing starts to look quite normal. But Beatlemania was far from normal. It was a shrieking, weeping, pleading, anxious bundle of chaos. It was a hair-ripping, clothes-tugging, lung-exhausting anarchy. But enough descriptions. Let’s get to the pictures.
Beatlemania Has Landed
Beatlemania arrived in the U.S. on February 7, 1964, after the band’s Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London landed at New York Kennedy’s Airport. It was the Beatles’ first visit to the U.S., and the boys were nervous. They were used to their star status back home in England, and America was a whole new territory.
As the plane neared the gate, the high-pitched screaming grew closer. John Lennon’s former wife, Cynthia, told Rolling Stone magazine: “We could hear this screaming. We thought it was the engines, but the screaming was that of the fans.”
Let the Screaming Begin
The Beatles weren’t prepared for this heartwarming (and equally disturbing) welcome. Around 4,000 euphoric youngsters surrounded the airport, each one of them desperately trying to catch a glimpse. At this point in time, even a thin strand of hair would have satisfied the shrieking crowd.
They stood atop buildings, clustered near the airport’s entrance, and shoved each other like mad people against policemen’s wooden barriers. The sign DO NOT CROSS clearly didn’t mean much to the exhilarated fans. One reporter recalled that “some of the girls tried to throw themselves over a retaining wall.”
Millions of Americans Tuned In
February 8, 1964. In this picture, the Beatles are surrounded by photographers on stage at CBS’ Studio 50, a day before they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. On the day of their performance, around 70 million Americans sat in front of their TV sets and witnessed them singing their iconic songs with grace.
It’s actually incredible to look at the footage from the show. The whole crowd was shrieking with excitement, and the four boys looked like marionettes just jamming away as if this was the most normal situation in the world.
Their First U.S. Concert Was Out of This World
The Beatles kicked off their U.S. tour at the Washington Coliseum in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964, a few days after their historical appearance on Sullivan’s show. The arena was packed with 8,092 die-hard fans who were on the verge of fainting.
“It was unbelievable, a great sort of validation of the whole thing.” Paul McCartney recalled, “It was like, “Yeah, look! Everywhere we’re going in America, it’s happening!” The Beatles blasted Washington with a dozen of their hits and afterward flew confidently to their next show at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Fun Under the Sun
From the dreary Liverpool sky to the warm sun rays in Florida, The Sunshine State. The Beatles are seen here enjoying their time on the beach as women chase them along the shore and giggle with them. This picture was taken in Miami Beach on February 13, 1964.
The boys were probably in a state of total euphoria after performing at two huge stadiums in Washington and New York. While many British bands returned to England with their tails between their legs, this wasn’t the case with the Beatles.
When the Beatles Met Muhammad Ali
On February 18, 1964, the Fab Four met a 22-year old boxer named Cassius Clay. The unknown fighter would later become the greatest of them all – Muhammad Ali. But at the time of their meetup, he was just a regular boxer about to fight his opponent, Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston.
The Beatles actually intended on taking a photo with Liston, but the champ refused. So the boys turned to Ali instead. Photographer Harry Benson took the historical photo of these five legends.
England Couldn’t Wait to Have Their Boys Back
Back at home, fans eagerly waited for their idols to land after their successful trip overseas. On February 22, 1964, the band was greeted by more than 5,000 fans outside the London airport. Police had to hold them back from physically harassing the boys.
Hopefully, the officers had a good laugh from the whole scene. Or else we’re not sure how they survived the hysteria. The Beatles concluded that their trip to the U.S. was marvelous. “Everything. Every bit of it was a knockout,” Harrison proudly stated.
It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night
This photo was taken in London in 1964 and shows George Harrison on the set of their movie, A Hard Day’s Night. He is trying to maintain his cool as overwhelmed fans press their faces against the glass. The boys began shooting the musical right after they returned from their first U.S. tour.
Time magazine called A Hard Day’s Night “One of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever made for purposes of exploitation.” Fun fact, the name of the film came to them after they wrapped up filming. Apparently, after who knows how many hours of work, Ringo Starr said, “It’s been a hard day.” But then he looked around and saw it was dark. So, he jokingly came up with the phrase “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Shrieking Fans In Copenhagen
When the Beatles arrived at the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark, they were greeted by 4,000 eager fans who surrounded the building. Police tried to hold fans back from rushing the hotel. But nothing could stop the swooning admirers from coming near the British boys.
This photo was taken at their concert in Copenhagen in 1964. It was the start of their world tour, and, unfortunately, Ringo Starr wasn’t with them. He was at the hospital with tonsillitis, so his temporary replacement, Jimmie Nicol, had to adjust to the overwhelming hysteria rapidly.
Chaos Outside of Sydney Airport
This picture was taken on June 14, 1964, right outside Sydney Airport. The band had just landed and was greeted by thousands of fans who climbed on top of each other to get a better view. Security tried to stop them from breaking through the fences, but it looks like no one was really listening.
Around 3,000 fans greeted them that day when they landed. But it’s worth noting that not everyone was pleased with their arrival. Although some bitter folks tried to kill the mood with signs like “Go Home Bugs,” they were the minority, and all the excited shrieks drowned out their displeased voices.
Hysterical Crowds at Town Hall, Melbourne
This picture was taken two days later, on June 16, 1964, right outside the Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia. The huge crowd gathered to greet the Beatles as they made their way to their hotel. Police officers and soldiers did their best to try and contain the screaming fans and make room for the band’s car to drive by.
Eventually, the Beatles had to enter the hotel through a back entrance. Their arrival in Melbourne was part of their world tour, which the British magazine, The Spectator, described as completely “hysterical.”
Cries Outside the Sheraton Hotel
June 1964. The Beatles were staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Syndey, Australia, where, clearly, fans couldn’t keep it together. They stubborn admirers stood outside the building and cried for hours. All they wanted was one little peak of the fab four.
It was wintertime in Australia, but the cold didn’t matter one bit. In the rain, the heat, the snow, or under the scorching sun, weather was irrelevant when it came to the love these fans felt for The Beatles. The wild, overpowering screams and cries of admiration followed the boys all the way to Sydney’s stadium.
A Scary Scene at the Premiere of a Hard Day’s Night
Liverpool, England, July 10, 1964. Eager fans stampeded and knocked each other down at A Hard Day’s Night’s premiere to try and get closer to the boys. Medical assistance was needed to treat the people who were carelessly stepped on.
We can only imagine how excited the boys felt coming back to their hometown and seeing the crowd’s reaction to their arrival. They obviously weren’t too happy about all the chaos and the injured fans. But putting that aside, we believe that the premier was an emotional moment for them.
When the Body Can’t Keep It Together
Some were stepped on, and some just blacked out. Here’s another picture from the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night in Liverpool. An officer (thankfully) managed to catch a girl who fainted after catching a glimpse of the band.
The quick drop in fans’ blood pressure and their slowing heart rate resulted in this terrifying ordeal. Imagine being so excited to see someone you literally pass out…
Thank Your Lucky Stars
On July 11, 1964, the Beatles arrived at Teddington Studio Centre in Middlesex, England, to shoot a live appearance on the summer spin of BBC’s Thank Your Lucky Stars. In this picture, McCartney is escorted by the TV crew, who finds it hard to brush off enthusiastic fans.
One woman managed to grab hold of his shirt. The network’s employees seem a bit impatient, but it looks like McCartney is finding the situation flattering and entertaining.
Holding on for Dear Life
Another picture from July 11, 1964. It was common for fans to grab hold of the boys whenever possible. It didn’t really matter if they were on their way to the studio to grab a coffee or take out the trash. Personal space was clearly non-existent.
Paul McCartney was on his way to the TV studio when an excited fan tried to hold on to his arm but was pushed back by the networks’ workers. He seems pretty flattered, as he should be. He once mentioned in an interview that he never gets used to the fans’ admiration no matter how many years go by. In his mind, he’s still the anonymous little boy from Liverpool.
Over the Fence but Under the Officer’s Arm
This fan managed to break through the fence but was quickly held back by police officers. Both the woman and the officer look like they’re struggling to make sense of the situation. This photo was taken in England, July 19, 1964.
The Beatles traveled the country that month from BBC’s Paris Studio in London to Blackpool’s ABC Theater. Die-hard fans monitored their every move and attempted to get close to the boys whenever they had the chance.
A Desperate Cry at the Airport
This picture was taken at the Los Angeles International Airport on August 18, 1964. Airport security did their best to keep fans away from the band during their brief stop in L.A. on their way to San Francisco. By the look on these girls’ faces, you can imagine security had to call for backup at one point.
Just one glimpse of the Beatles sent these girls into complete hysteria. Tears of both sorrow and joy ran down their cheeks. Joy because they had just seen their idols in person, and sorrow because they knew it would probably be the closest they would ever get.
A Collective Hypnotism
Vancouver, Canada, August 22, 1964. Police officers struggle to carry an emotional fan who collapsed during a concert at Empire Stadium. Amazingly, this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Concert promoter Andi Lothian once described his experience at one of the band’s shows: “The whole hall went into some kind of state, almost like collective hypnotism. I’d never seen anything like it.”
The energy of the crowd was contagious. Almost everyone was screaming and/or weeping, and the ones who couldn’t handle all the hysteria ended up fainting. They didn’t call it Beatlemania for nothing.
You Could Barely Hear the Music
This funny photo was taken at one of their performances in Manchester. Thousands of fans crowded into the music venue and barely kept together as the band serenaded to them. The screaming coming from the crowd was so loud that you could barely hear the music.
If you appreciated their music and wanted to hear them in person, you had to accept that it might come at the expense of your hearing. As you can see, this policeman clearly didn’t enjoy the Beatles’ “backup singers.” Their voices were too high-pitched for his liking.
A Closer Look
On August 28, 1964, thousands of fans gathered outside the Delmonico Hotel in New York and eagerly awaited the band’s arrival. They were scheduled to perform at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens that night and had to fly to the stadium by helicopter.
With the number of people in the crowd near the hotel, you either had to climb on someone’s back or bring your binoculars to get a good look at the boys. This devoted fan arrived equipped and ready to take on the challenge.
The Luckiest Little Girl in the World
This picture was taken backstage at the Bradford Gaumont on October 9, 1964. The lucky fan strutting her stuff on the table is Karen Spence. What’s the story behind this incredible moment, and how did she manage to get backstage?
Karen’s dad was a journalist who knew the boys well, so he was able to bring his little girl in to say hello. It was Lennon’s birthday, so the people in the room encouraged her to sing to him. But five-year-old Karen was so overwhelmed by the flashes from the cameras that she felt too shy to go through with it.
Who Doesn’t Love Ringo?
This picture was taken at the Peppermint Lounge in New York on the 11th of February, 1964. Ringo Starr, the sweet one of the bunch, was hard to ignore. As you can see, this adorable fan tried her best to approach him. But her innocent gaze doesn’t fool us. She was probably dying to scream in his face that she loves him.
The Peppermint Lounge was a hip club located at 128 West 45th Street in New York. It was open from 1958 to 1965, and The Beatles were lucky enough to visit it on their first night U.S. visit in 1964. An awesome start to an incredible tour.
Mobbed by Fans in Paris
Paris, France, June 1965. Paul McCartney struggles to get back to his hotel. Whether the boys were in Australia, England, or Paris, it really didn’t matter. Beatlemania was a pandemic that affected everyone. No matter how civilized you were, you threw your manners aside when it came to the Beatles.
The band had just arrived in Paris as part of their European tour, which lasted almost two months. The band played in France, Italy, and Spain. We bet it was hard for them to enjoy the streets of Milan or Madrid with fans coming at them from every corner.
Back to Where it All Began
On August 14, 1965, the Beatles made their way to CBS’s studio to appear once again on The Ed Sullivan Show. This photo shows Beatles fan club members Helena Rand, Linda Schooley, Danielle Anderson, Lee McGurr at the Hilton Hotel, looking forward to the boys’ arrival.
The Beatles performed in front of an audience of around 700 people and, of course, millions of others who watched at home. They performed six songs: I’m Down, Help!, I Feel Fine, Act Naturally, Ticket to Ride, and Yesterday. Lennon forgot some of the lyrics to Help! But, in truth, we doubt anyone really noticed. The boys could have sung completely different lyrics, and the crowd wouldn’t have cared any less.
Taken Out on an Ambulance
This picture was taken in Toronto, Canada, on August 17, 1965. In the middle of their performance at the Maple Leaf Garden, one overwhelmed fan couldn’t contain her excitement and had to be taken out on an ambulance.
The band’s set contained 12 songs, which they played in front of 18,000 people. They were on stage for only 30 minutes, but that was enough to create such a powerful impact that some of their fans needed to be dragged out by paramedics.
Fans Wanted to Break Into the Queen’s Palace
On October 26, 1965, the Beatles made their way into Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE medals from the Queen. This photo shows a line of desperate police officers struggling to hold back exhilarated fans from breaking into the palace.
John Lennon described his time in the palace as mesmerizing: “It was like in a dream. It was beautiful. People were playing music, I was looking at the ceiling – not bad the ceiling. It was historical. It was like being in a museum.” As John admired the ceiling, restless fans tried to climb the palace’s gates.
Collapsing On Top of Cars
Crazy-eyed fans tried to get as close as possible to their idols. Even if that meant risking their lives or having their foot crushed under the wheel. Police helplessly tried to control the mobs of unruly fans, but it felt like an impossible mission.
This photo was taken on August 15th outside the fully packed Shea Stadium. Their concerts always required extra security and drastic measures to keep fans in check. This slide shows a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Officer standing firmly on a raised platform trying to control the crowd.
Fans Charged at Them From Every Corner
San Francisco, California, August 29, 1966. The Beatles played a concert at Candlestick Park, and fans charged at them like there was no tomorrow. Police desperately attempted to control the raging fans from barging on stage and interrupting the boys’ performance.
The Beatles told The Rolling Stone magazine that their concerts in 1966 had become “sort of a freak show.” At that point in their career, “The Beatles were the show, and the music had nothing to do with it,” George Harrison recalled.
Their Iconic Mop-Tops Were Everything
Fans were crazy about the Beatles. That much is clear. But it wasn’t only for their music. Fans (usually men) were also crazy about their hair. The boys’ mop-top haircut became such a trend that men sported wigs to look the part.
This picture was taken in London in 1968. A fan reached out to grab some of McCartney’s iconic hair. Paul, understandably, doesn’t look too pleased. Film director David Lynch once told Variety that he saw one guy at a concert “leap over the police and come back with a chunk of hair from one of the Beatles.” The hair obsession was real…
Their Autographs are Worth Thousands
This photo was taken on the streets of London in 1968. A group of girls caught the boys and pleaded for their autographs. After four years of Beatlemania, it’s a miracle they agreed to it calmly (at least in the picture, they look okay with it).
In 2016, Ringo Star’s autograph was reported to be worth up to $1,943. Paul McCartney’s signature is worth anywhere between $3 to 4,000, and George Harrison’s is around $5,000. John Lennon’s signature is worth the most and stands at around $10,000. It looks like approaching the boys on the streets was a smart financial move.
Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy
When Paul McCartney tied the knot with Linda Eastman, fans broke out in tears. Young, old, men, women … everyone was heartbroken. This picture was taken on the day of their civil wedding at Marylebone Register Office in London on March 12, 1969.
The Guardian magazine reported that on the day of their wedding, “It rained, and this was appropriate.” Both fans and the sky reacted similarly when their beloved Beatle abandoned bachelorhood.
The Boys Became Public Property
This picture was taken at the Gaumont Cinema in Doncaster, England, on December 10, 1963. This was before the boys arrived in the U.S., and the international craze had reached its peak. But still, England was already smitten by the fab four.
In one of their interviews around that time, George Harrison admitted: “Everything’s completely changed. We don’t have a private life anymore. And we, umm, are public property now. Not that we mind.” Just look at the proud smirk on his face. He loves the attention!