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It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Twenty Years Ago Today –
Part II: Interview with some women who saw the Beatles live

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Twenty Years Ago Today –
Part I: Interview with Glenn A. Baker


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It may sound dubious, but my earliest memory, as a three year-old, involves wanting my older brother to play with me. He refused, insisting that he had to watch the television, a big, black and white HMV model, which was on in front of us, depicting some people singing. “What do you want to watch that for? Who are they?” I demanded. “What do you mean, ‘who are they?’” he replied. “They’re the Beatles.” He was pretty cluey for a nine year-old, but even so, had no idea to what exactly this scenario would give rise: I have pretty much been a Beatle fan ever since, and not just of the Frank Sinatra variety, who can refer to George Harrison’s ‘Something’ as “the greatest song Lennon and McCartney ever wrote”, but the scary, train-spotting variety. Some thirty years down the track from that day that I was introduced to the Beatles, I am sure that the clip on the telly was either the Beatles performing on Ed Sullivan (from that first American tour of 1964) or the scene based on it that features as the finale of their first feature film A Hard Day’s Night. Either way, I now assume that the Beatles were on the telly that day as a tenth anniversary memorial to the year Bealtemania hit the world. It would have either been the tenth anniversary of their US tour (since, if as I suspect, it was Ed Sullivan show footage, then it came from the February assault on the United States) or the tenth anniversary of their Australian tour, which took place in June 1964 (why else show vintage footage of the Beatles on Australian television?)

Move forward a decade.

For the twentieth anniversary of the Beatles’s Australian tour, I happened to be taking a day off school (or ‘sagging off’ as George Harrison would say; he wrote ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in Eric Clapton’s front garden on a day he’d decided to ‘sag off’ Apple). I was pleased to discover that the Mike Walsh Show, (like all midday shows seem to be, essentially advertorial twaddle aimed at housewives, dole bludgers, dope fiends and school-sagger-offerers), was that day dedicated to the Beatles. I imagine there would have been footage of press conferences, performances, crowds, but all I remember is Glenn Shorrock singing lead on a lot of songs. Most people know of Glenn Shorrock as a member of the Little River Band. However, during the 60s, he was in a band called the Twilights, whose claim to fame was being able to reproduce the Sgt Pepper’s album in its entirety on stage in 1967, at a time when the Beatles had ceased performing live because, among other reasons, their studio work was so complex that they couldn’t hope to come close trying to perform it live. Note that, until that time, the Beatles stood out from their musical peers as being one of the few acts who could reproduce their records on stage: the harmonies, the solos, even the ‘oooohs’, though rarely audible to a screaming audience and therefore on occasion rushed through at high speed, was as true to the record as possible. Shorrock, it turns out, has always had an infatuation with the Beatles – apparent, I would argue, even in the changes in key and time signature of LRB hits like ‘Hang On’. Of course, I have no idea who wrote LRB hits like ‘Hang On’, so that bit of evidence may not support the theory. However, when Beatles producer Sir George Martin conducted a program of Beatles songs at the Sydney Opera House a few years ago, Glenn Shorrock was one of the key people behind the event. Rather than reproducing Sgt Pepper in its entirety on this occasion, the finale involved side two of Abbey Road being presented. (The only drawback was the presence of James Reyne, singing lead on ‘You Never Never Give Me Your Money’; his particular method of destroying the English language makes understanding the words he is singing difficult at the best of times. However, at the Opera House, he came through loud and clear; he just got lyrics painfully wrong. Instead of singing “pick up your bags and get in the limousine” in ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, he sang “get in the bags and get in the limousine”. What on earth can that possibly mean? It’s nonsense. Unless, of course, he was singing about Yoko Ono, who was known to perform on stage from within great big sacks. Did Reyne think Paul McCartney wrote that song about John and Yoko?

For the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles’ Australian tour, John Barron is putting together an audio documentary for ABC NewsRadio that includes insterviews with Johnny Chester and Johnny Devlin, support acts for the Beatles on their tour of Australia and New Zealand. John has also interviewed Bob Rogers, who at the time was a DJ for Radio 2SM, and had been given the enviable task of accompanying the Beatles on the tour in order to interview them daily. Another journalist who spoke extensively with the Beatles then and with John Barron now is Dick Hughes. Dick is an interesting character: in addition to being a print journalist, Dick Hughes was also a jazz musician and is father to Christa Hughes, also known as Machine Gun Fellatio's own K. K. Juggy.

I pursued a couple of interviews of my own - the first was with Glenn A. Baker, musicologist, knower of all things musical, and author of the book The Beatles Downunder. The audio documentary will be broadcast on Saturday 12 2004.

Demetrius Romeo: Glenn, when the Beatles came to Australia, there was a lot of hype surrounding it, and Australia seemed to have the biggest audience response up to that time. Why was that?

GLENN A. BAKER: Not only up to that time, but in the entire span of Beatlemania, the Australian reaction stands in the history books – some of which I’ve written – as the biggest, most astonishing outpourings of Beatlemania of all time. Let me put this in perspective: in February 1964, when they arrived in New York for the first time, at Kennedy Airport they were met by ten thousand fans. Four months later, in June 1964, they flew into Adelaide and from the airport into the city was 350,000 people; Melbourne; 250,000 people.

Just to show you this wasn’t just the early days of Beatlemania: when they got back from Australia, within days they went to Liverpool for the opening of A Hard Day’s Night, for the premiere. 100,000 people. I think that speaks more about us than it does about the Beatles. It tells us more about our sense of isolation: this small community – I think there were about 11 million people then – far flung to the bottom of the world, in touch only through newsreels and only moderately accurate TV news… In other words, we sensed there was something happening overseas, and it was wild, and it was exciting, and it was the liberation of youth and there was something about that that when we got closer and closer to it, it got unbearably enticing, and when these four young gods from Liverpool, who could spin the world off its axis by just their funny way of saying ‘luv’, and hair just over the collar – when they arrived in our presence, the nation just exploded.

See, Britain and America were part – at that time – of the real world. Sensations happened there. Not much happened down here. We’d had the conservative years of Menzies’ government, and it really was your white picket fence world. Not that much happened. And suddenly, a sixteen year-old – and that’s generally the age; nowadays for teen sensations it’s nine, ten, eleven, twelve but back then it was sixteen – to stand in a public thoroughfare, outside a hotel, and scream at the top of your voice, particularly if a policeman had told you to move on and you had ignored him, was the most breathtakingly daring act that an adolescent could possibly engage in. So it was our coming of age. I mean, we caught up pretty quickly to the rest of the world after the Beatles but I once wrote that it was like knocking the scab off or lancing the boil of this stifling, conservativism that had built up and up and up and like I said, we sense that there was more, and once the Beatles arrived, my god, there was.

Demetrius Romeo: Could it have been anyone else, had the Beatles not been the ones to come and do it for us?

GLENN A. BAKER: It would have eventually happened, we would have been connected to the real world finally, but I think that it was the incredible potency of the Beatles. Remember, the Beatles were bowling people over all over the world.

The first stage of post-war explosion of youth culture was Elvis. Those kids born probably during the war, got to see Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, and when he shook his hips, that represented something to them. But by the 60s, they had even more disposable income, they had even more sense of their own identity as teenagers – there hadn’t been teenagers. Once upon a time you were a child, and then you went to work. The teenager thing just didn’t exist. But suddenly they were this group of people being catered to by advertiser and by radio, and so they had a sense of importance. And so those who hadn’t, I suppose, been swept up with the Elvis boom because they were too young, their time was in the early 60s when the Beatles arrived. There were vast numbers of them. I was part of it – the postwar baby boom. Huge, huge numbers of us waiting for something to come along – we didn’t know it at the time – and ignite us.

With the Beatles, I can remember – I’m telling you this personally; when the Beatles arrived in 1964, I was twelve years of age. But I was then so attuned to pop music and its power, to me, it was a window on the world. I used to go into a record shop, and I couldn’t afford to buy the singles, but the ones on Parlophone, which by 1965 were the Beatles, the Hollies, the Easybeats – they came in a buff-coloured paper bag, and it was enough for me to go to the racks and touch the bags. Touch those buff-coloured paper bags. And the electricity went through me. I can only tell you from my own perception of it that it was the most exciting thing imaginable.

Demetrius Romeo: But you’re Glenn A Baker; I’d expect you to have a story like that. What about the multitude of people, the thousands who were waiting for the Beatles. Was it having the same effect on them?

GLENN A. BAKER: It certainly was having the same effect. It was said that in concerts in Melbourne particularly for some reason, but also in Sydney, that it wasn’t just working class Western Suburbs kids; there were the daughters of socialites – the Rose Bay set – were out there as well. It had managed to cross all levels of society. The hysteria was real.

The New Zealand rocker Johnn Devlin, one of the support acts, told me that he recalled in Adelaide teenage girls lying down and smashing their heads into the concrete. Now you think about that – headbangers in the punk era, you don’t think in the civilized Australian society, where, by the way, the shows ended with ‘God Save the Queen’ and everybody stood up. It happened then.

I was once told by Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye about the Australian days of rock n roll. They said, ‘people think we created it; we were swept up in it.’ He said, ‘there was this massive audience who just wanted to let themselves go and we happened to be the people who uncorked the bottle”. I think to a large extent, that was still in place by 1964: these were people who wanted to scream, who wanted to let out steam, and the fact that the Beatles were there was just a wonderful opportunity to do it.

Which is not to take away from the magnetism of the Beatles. They had this wonderful cockiness, a cheekiness that seems tame now, but remember all we’d ever had visiting here, even though Gerry & the Pacemakers beat them down, was the Vienna Boys Choir or Marlene Deitrich or the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the media would sit there and politely ask them questions, and they would be politely given stock answers. But they’d sit down with the Beatles and it was, “Paul, what do you expect to find in Australia?” and John cuts in with “Australians!” “Are you millionaires?” “No, we pay too much tax; Her Majesty’s a millionaire!” Seemingly light-hearted banter like that was unheard of; people didn’t do that at press conferences. So there was a charm about them and a slight irreverence, even though they were wearing ties and white shirts. There was still something about them that spoke of another world that we still weren’t quite in step with.

Demetrius Romeo: Was part of their charm that they did have that ‘Goon Show’-type humour? The were being interviewed every day along the way to Australia and once they got here. Did they have enough to say for each of those interviews?

GLENN A. BAKER: I have gathered together all those interviews and believe me, they did have an enormous amount to say. You mention the Goons, and George Martin had been the Goons’ producer and John particularly, as we saw in his books ‘In His Own Write’ and ‘A Spaniard in the Works’ had a very ‘Goons’ sense of humour, and Paul was very bright and fast and sharp, and remember, these guys had spent months and months and months in Hamburg, Germany, one of the more ‘wordly’ cities and they had been playing six-hour sets into the wee hours; they were very much men of the world. They were no innocents from housing estates in Liverpool. They’d been around and they’d traveled, they were sharp, they were funny, and in a way I suspect they thought of us as colonials and I suspect they were enjoying it. You know what it’s like: if you get an audience and you think they’re paying attention to you, you go into a song-and-dance act with the straw hat and the cane.

Demetrius Romeo: Were we too naïve as an audience to know that we were being played?

GLENN A. BAKER: No, I think that’s over-stating it. But I will tell you one very interesting thing: there’s a television documentary that Channel 9 shot called ‘The Beatles Sing for Shell’ and in it John Lennon – who, by the way, on the roof of the Southern Cross Hotel, or the balcony, was doing Hitler impersonations, about which noone said a word – but on this TV special, if you ever see it, he actually does a spastic imitation. I mean, it’s actually quite good – no one says a word, there was no criticism, there was no question. Nobody wrote to a newspaper, nobody rang a radio station – he was a Beatle! He could do anything he wanted to do. And to that end, and I do not exaggerate when I say this – particularly in Adelaide – there were cripples brought into their presence so that the Beatles could lay their hands on them and presumably cure them. They took it that far. They did see them has having these powers almost.

John – as Bob Francis, the Adelaide DJ told me – John was kind of pretty inured to all this. He’d part the curtains, look at it all and go, ‘what the hell’s that?’ and play another round of cards and drink another scotch and that’s it. He said to Bob Francis, ‘we’re here, let’s make the most of it. This happens wherever we go.’ But the person who couldn’t handle it and didn’t want to handle it was George. George was found wandering around the South Australian hotel in the corridors, shaking his head, feeling very uncomfortable, feeling very claustrophobic, thinking, ‘how can we live up to this out there?’ Ringo was just – in all kindness – Ringo was just a happy-go-lucky fool. The luckiest man on earth. Ringo was older than the others. George was the youngest, George, who we would realise later had a very sensitive disposition, he was unsettled by it. He found the Australian reaction was more than he was ready to accept. Though he kept up a brave face most of the time.

But the Beatles had a certain protocol: no matter where they were in the world, they would never single it out. They would never say it was better than anywhere else. But that just got shredded: in Adelaide they were just standing there, going, ‘this is the greatest reception we have ever received. Nowhere in the world has been like this’. They were just gob-smacked by it.

What’s interesting too about the Beatles’ visit is that they spent three and a half weeks here. They spent three and a half weeks here in the most intense year of their careers – 1964. They had just finished filming ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ before they left, and had just finished writing and recording songs for the soundtrack. And they’d just been to America before that, and they had to go back to America. They had European tours beckoning. And yet, out of an old-world sense of honour on the part of Brian Epstein, they came here for fifteen hundred (1500) pounds a week. They played eight cities – thirty-two shows. They were being offered fifty thousand US a show at that time. They came here for fifteen hundred pounds a week. Because Brian Epstein had made a pledge, and said he would do it, and that’s how English gentlemen behaved. So we were so lucky to see them. We were incredibly fortunate that through the honour of one man – he put his honour above profit – that they did come down here.

And it’s interesting that, when they got back to England, you would have expected that they would have been gushing, that at every chance they got, they would have been going, ‘you wouldn’t believe what we’ve just come from, you can’t imagine what we’ve just seen…’ They never said a word. My theory of that is – and I’m sure Brian had something to do with that – if you go back to our country, England, and say ‘you don’t have a patch on those colonials at the bottom of the world’, that’s not gonna play at all. They’re not gonna want to know in Liverpool that they have a third of the numbers in the streets than you just had in Adelaide a few weeks ago; shtumm! Shut up. I’m convinced that that was the theory, that it wouldn’t have done them any good to go back and start gloating about what a reaction they’d actually received in Australia.

Demetrius Romeo: You were talking about the finances involved. There seemed to be a lot of people who wanted to make the Beatles part of their merchandising, without there actually being a proper merchandising system being in place at the time.

GLENN A. BAKER: Yes, the British Motor Corporation for example, providing vehicles, putting Beatle logos all over the cars, and Paul on one occasion getting so angry that he actually ripped it off, in Melbourne. He got angry about being taken advantage of.

Look, that was in the early days; nobody really knew what merchandising or marketing was. There’s the famous deal, it’s now in legend, when Brian went to America to do the marketing deal, and he told them that he was not willing to accept anything less than a ten percent stake, and they’re sitting there trying to hide their grins going, ‘is this guy for real?’. But nobody had seen that before, least of all humble Brits.

Demetrius Romeo: Was it the case that nobody had seen it before or was Brian Epstein a bit naïve?

GLENN A. BAKER: He could have been a little bit naïve. Even though he ran NEMS record shop, I don’t think he’d ‘sullied’ his hands in commerce too much; he wasn’t from that level of British society. In a way, it was ‘feel as you go’ on every level in Australia. On security, nobody knew what to do; with protecting the Beatles, nobody knew what to do; with marketing, nobody knew what to do; the whole thing was ‘make it up as you go along’. It was that wonderful organic quality that made it all so exciting. This wasn’t Svengalis and spin doctors putting it all together; this was something happening of its own accord.

I have a 2SM chart where they occupy positions one to six on the charts; all six positions. It permeated every level of Australian society. It changed us musically forever. We were into 50s rockers with greased hair and cabaret-type acts who played town halls. You had instrumental bands, mostly. But you think about it: within weeks of the Beatles leaving, suddenly every rock musician in town is growing his hair, if they were instrumental they’re getting a lead singer: the Whispers go and get Ray Brown, and the Playboys go and get Normie Rowe. In many cases it was a case of ‘let’s get as close as we can’: there were groups like the Cicadas and the Flies and they’re all making beat records.

Suddenly elastic-sided Cuban-heeled boots and collarless suits took on and we had beat music. Every second record… sorry, every single record in Austalia had a Beatlish sound.

Demetrius Romeo: There’s a story about Molly Meldrum getting chucked out of a gig. What’s the story there?

GLENN A. BAKER: Molly was screaming too loud; he was screaming louder than any girl and it freaked out the security and they threw he and Ronnie out. They remember weeping and bashing on the door saying ‘let us back in, let us back in’.

Demetrius Romeo: Did Australia ever go cold on the Beatles, like when they started to make it known that they were into drugs…

GLENN A. BAKER: No, I think we stayed loyal and affectionate and I think we were one of the more loyal markets. I think that was reflected when Paul came back in 76 with Wings, part of the ‘Wings over the World’ tour, with capacity audiences. We certainly didn’t burn their records like they did in American towns because of John’s comments about religion or anything like that. I think we were a little more sophisticated than that.

Demetrius Romeo: The amount of records sold per capita in Australia – how do we compare to the rest of the world?

GLENN A. BAKER: The interesting thing is that in the 80s there were more Beatles records sold every day than in the 60s, but proportionally per capita, we were certainly up there with Britain and America. It was a pretty consistent global phenomenon in that regard. It’s just that something urged Australians – and it wasn’t just kids, obviously: their parents, their uncles, their aunts, their dogs – to get out on the streets and see this.

Adelaide was an interesting thing. They weren’t supposed to go to Adelaide. Adelaide got added because the DJ I mentioned, Bob Francis, organized a petition that was one of the most staggeringly successful petitions of all time – hundreds of thousands of people signed it. And the Beatles saw an opportunity to make a bit more money because they were on that fifteen hundred pounds-a-week thing, which started out as a thousand pounds and pay your own accommodation, but it got bumped to fifteen hundred. They saw it as an opportunity to make a bit of money, so they agreed to do Adelaide provided that – I can’t remember what the exact nature of their take was – but they did a lot better out of Adelaide than anywhere else because it was added later.

Demetrius Romeo: Apart from freeing up youth emotion and giving them an outlet for expression, apart from permeating every facet of music beyond that – what was the lasting legacy of the Beatles’ tour of Australia?

GLENN A. BAKER: I believe it connected us to the top half of the world in a pivotal part of the second half of the twentieth century. It let us know that we weren’t so removed… if the Beatles would come here, my god, we must be part of the world. At the time, before they got here, old diggers were warning that the Indonesians were stirring up trouble and we might have to don khaki and go fight and everything. The world was as scary then as it is now, and there were conflicts throughout southeast Asia and we were watching our doorstep. There was a bit of a bunker mentality going on. But for those precious three-and-a-half weeks, you didn’t have to think of anything like that. You didn’t have to think about anything but ‘Love, love me do…’ It was that astonishingly timeless, evocative beat sound of theirs that still sounds timeless today; it was an effervescence and a cheerfulness and something that just swept us up.

One thing I will mention before we conclude is that Beatle crowds exceeded those for VE Day, VJ Day and any royal tour of Australia, and I remember thinking this as a kid: in a way, it was one in the eye for an older generation who had their world and it was royal tours and rolls royces and going by with metronomic hands, and there was our world, which was the Beatles, and our world beat their world! Our world for that moment stopped traffic and stopped cities and was on the front page of the press every day. It was something that just completely revitalized and energized a pretty staid and conservative world.

Demetrius Romeo: Before I let you go, I have one extra question I need to ask you.

GLENN A. BAKER: What’s that?

Demetrius Romeo: Did you get to a gig?

GLENN A. BAKER: No. I was twelve years of age and I lived in the country for a few years and it was not financially possible, and like I said, at twelve, you didn’t do too many things like go out to shows. I caught up later and was going out to the Stadium to see things like the Yardbirds, Roy Orbison, a wholoe bunch of people – but I never saw the Beatles except, like everyone else, in my red jarmies: I got up early in the morning at six o’clock on June 12 1964 and watched the plane land.

When I wrote the book, it was just automatically presumed that I must have been on the tour. Well, I’ve been on a great many tours since, but I was not on the Beatles’ tour. So I guess I wrote it from the perspective of its target audience, of someone who was just so enamoured of the Beatles and so electrified by their very presence.

Demetrius Romeo: Do you think that the fact that you didn’t get to see them has had anything to do with you becoming Glenn A Baker, the rock journalist?

GLENN A. BAKER: You mean, all my life I’ve tried to make up for missing the Beatles? Perhaps that is the case. I really don’t know. I met a couple of the Beatles later and I truly wish I had, but maybe we should all have in our life something we didn’t actually do – but it looms there something that I didn’t do, but gee, I wish I had.

Demetrius Romeo: Glenn A. Baker, thank you very much.

GLENN A. BAKER: My pleasure.


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