It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, Twenty Years Ago Today –
Part II: Interview with some women who saw the Beatles live
In addition to the interview with Glenn A. Baker, conducted for the audio documentary that John Barron is putting together for ABC NewsRadio for the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles Australian tour, I had the pleasure of chatting to some women who had attended Beatles concerts in 1964, and one who didn’t. The finished audio documentary will be broadcast on Saturday 12 June.
Demetrius Romeo: Zelie, what aspects of the Beatles was it that made you like them?
ZELIE: I think that being sixteen at the time, they were just the most wonderful thing for people my age. I just thought they looked gorgeous, we loved their hair which bounced about when they [sang], and basically the songs: the songs were about the things we cared about at the time.
Demetrius Romeo: How about you, Dianne? What did you like about the Beatles?
DIANNE: They were four handsome young men with that beautiful long hair, and their songs were just amazing. Every month, say, a new song would come out and we’d rush down and buy it. They were just different.
Demetrius Romeo: Gaye, how about you?
GAYE: I loved the rhythm of the songs – I know I used to love to dance and I remember we had really pointed shoes, and really brightly coloured shoes at one stage, and we all wore silly little mop caps. I remember wearing a little velvet mop cap to the concert and I thought I was great. It sat on my really bouffant hair style.
Demetrius Romeo: Bridgette, what was it that made you a Beatles fan? What attracted you?
BRIDGETTE There was so much going on. The songs were really catchy, they were great to sing along with. There was lots and lots of airplay. Being a young girl, we looked at our singers as idols. There were a lot of singers in the 60s, and the Beatles were huge.
Demetrius Romeo: Cheryl, how about you? What attracted you to the Beatles?
CHERYL: I just remember that it was a really exciting time. They were just there and it was something different. We hadn’t had this aspect in our lives before of four young men come to our country that we were able to idolize.
Demetrius Romeo: What do you remember about going to see the show?
CHERYL: I think my most vivid memory was that my cousin and I were really, really lucky; we got to sit in the front row at the old Stadium. And after the show, my cousin had been so excited about this show that there was a policeman standing right in front of us – they weren’t allowed to watch the show, they had to watch the crowd – and after the show he came up to me and said, ‘when your friend calms down, will you thank her very much, because she’s really given me a wonderful show, a show I’ll never forget, with her throwing of jelly babies and her screaming and yelling.”
Demetrius Romeo: Now, Gaye, you were that cousin. What was it like from your point of view?
GAYE: I just remember screaming. Everyone screamed at the top of their voices. I remember looking at the Beatles’ faces, and I remember I really liked Paul; he had really smooth skin and I guess he had a really baby face. But my friend Di here, I remember she just loved George Harrison, and she used to live for George. But that night is something that I will never forget, and it’s something that children today – they have so many bands to love and go to and see, but this was the one even we all just lived for. We all just lived for that day and we still have it in our memories like yesterday.
Demetrius Romeo: Di, did you throw jelly babies?
DIANNE: I don’t know if I did throw jelly babies, because, unfortunately we weren’t as close up as Gaye and Cheryl were, but I do remember standing and screaming through the whole show. I guess we heard snippets of the music. It was so exciting because we were dressed up in our rather mod gear, which was the fashion of the time, and it was so exciting, and I think, as Gaye said, teenagers today think that they’re quite unique but we were just the same forty years ago.
Demetrius Romeo: What exactly were you wearing to the show, forty years ago?
DIANNE: Well I think that I was wearing a very short miniskirt and blond hair of course, very mod cut, and the Beatles’ black cap that we wore, and I think – and I hate to say this – I think that I had knee-high socks at the time. So it was really funny. But we thought we looked absolutely gorgeous, of course, and it was just so exciting.
Demetrius Romeo: Zelie, you didn’t see the Beatles at Sydney Stadium, you saw them at Melbourne’s Festival Hall. What do you remember about the show?
ZELIE: Well, my strongest memory is of going with a group of friends, and I thought I was a bit more sophisticated. I was very concerned that they would lose control and scream and carry on. And when we got there, guess who screamed the loudest! I went totally hysterical. I have never experienced, since or before, a feeling quite like it. It was atmosphere, it was the build up, it was the waiting for them to arrive. And when they did arrive, the feeling of excitement – it was hysteria, really, was overwhelming. There were people around us, girls fainting and policemen trying to keep everyone calm. I remember one girl being carried out. It all got too much for her and she missed the show totally. But in the distance were these four little figures with their heads bobbing up and down, and you could vaguely hear this [faintly] ‘she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’ through mountains of screaming.
Demetrius Romeo: Cheryl and Gaye, you were ringside. What did the music sound like from where you were sitting?
CHERYL: It sounded wonderful but we could still hear the screaming – the screaming did take over. But the music was just fantastic. I think we were screaming too; it’s just one of those things – you can’t describe it. You can’t describe the feeling that you had. Forty years on, you’ve still got this feeling and you can still close your eyes and think that you’re back there in that stadium with all that hysteria and screaming and yelling. And by the way, we did have our little box brownies and we were taking photos of the Beatles up there on the stage. And we’ve still got these little black and white photos of the Beatles in the distance – because even though you’re ringside there’s still quite a distance between you and the actual stage. It’s just something you can’t describe.
Demetrius Romeo: Gaye, did you try to rush the stage, as people would today?
GAYE: No. I remember I stood up, but there was a policeman, and he was only about six inches away, really, we were quite nose-to-nose. I wouldn’t have been game enough to jump up on the stage, I think. But I know my own daughter has jumped into a mosh pit so her mother didn’t have enough courage to go up onto the stage. But a lot of people behind us from about the sixth row back, crowding, and trying to come up to the stage, but I think in those days we were more in control of our emotions, I guess.
CHERYL: Were we?
ZELIE: Oh, I don’t think so! I don’t think we had control at all. My memory is of being completely out of control.
Demetrius Romeo: How about you, Di, were you able to maintain control through it all?
DIANNE: No, not really. We were a little bit further away than Gaye and Cheryl but we were pretty well hysterical. But we didn’t try to rush down and jump on the stage.
Demetrius Romeo: Now Bridgette, you were one of the people who didn’t get to see the Beatles perform live in 1964. Why didn’t you get to a concert?
BRIDGETTE I think there was so much hysteria around the concerts that my parents were a bit frightened and a bit fearful that I might be injured with all the screaming girls pushing around the Beatles in the front rows, so I wasn’t allowed to be part of that situation.
Demetrius Romeo: But you still got to see them anyway, didn’t you?
BRIDGETTE I saw Paul. I was still going to school and we knew they were coming that day in 1964 and we were late for school because we stayed down on Anzac Parade to watch the cars go past. I was looking for Paul and I remember his hair, a side view of him, and I think we took off our hats and our gloves as they went passed, and it was really thrilling.
Demetrius Romeo: Were there a lot of people on the road with you, waiting to see the Beatles’ motorcade go by?
BRIDGETTE There wasn’t a dense crowd in that part of Kensington, but there were people all along the way, on every part of the road between the airport and the city. But there were a group of us down on the corner from our school.
Demetrius Romeo: Did you get into trouble when you got to school a little later?
BRIDGETTE I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t remember. I suppose it’s one of those things where the teachers knew that not much work would be done.
Demetrius Romeo: Now Dianne, I understand that you actually have a very nice artefact from the Beatles’ visit. Tell me about the item that you’ve got in your possession.
DIANNE: I’ve actually got a men’s handkerchief that’s signed by George Harrison. My friend who I went with to the concert – her dad obviously had some connections to somebody and he got the autographs of the Beatles.
Demetrius Romeo: Where have you kept it all these years?
DIANNE: I’ve always kept it in my drawer with all my special little treasures. I bring it out every now and then to show the children. They’re quiet flabbergasted. But it is a real treasure, I think.
Demetrius Romeo: Cheryl, you’ve kept a ticket from the show – how have you managed to keep it in such good nick all these years?
CHERYL: I’ve just kept it in my photo album with all my special things. It’s just the original ticket from the night that I took home and kept safely and carted around from home to home. There it is.
Demetrius Romeo: Does anybody else have anything special from the 1964 tour?
GAYE: For a long time I had some jelly babies in a container until they got a little mouldy and the ants attacked them. That’s what I kept. I do have a tea towel - a lovely Beatles tea towel, and I never use it because it’s too precious.
Demetrius Romeo: Now Gaye, I understand that you took time out to take care of Jimmy Nichol, who played for part of the tour in Ringo’s place, because Ringo was ill. Tell me that story.
GAYE: I remember seeing a photo of Jimmy Nichol in the Herald or one of the other newspapers, and he looked so sad. He was going back to England after Ringo Starr had come out for the concerts and so I remember ringing Mike Walsh for a contact, to say thank you to Jimmy for coming out to take Ringo’s place when he had to. Everyone signed and we sent this thank you letter to him.
Demetrius Romeo: Did you ever hear back from him?
GAYE: No I didn’t.
Demetrius Romeo: Zelie, you also kept vigil outside the Beatles’ hotel in Melbourne. What was that like?
ZELIE: Well, again, the excitement was almost the same as being at the concert. Incredible crowds of people, lots and lots of young teenage girls feeling very excited and a little bit hysterical. They came out onto the balcony and waved to everybody. It was a very distant glimpse of them, but very exciting. The crowds were the biggest memory. The number of people – I’d never seen that many people.
Demetrius Romeo: Do you remember who opened for the Beatles in Melbourne?
ZELIE: I don’t exactly, but the friend who went with me thought it was Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. I don’t know if that would be right, though. I have no memory of the concert of seeing anybody but the Beatles. They were definitely the focus.
Demetrius Romeo: Dianne, do you know who opened the show in Sydney?
DIANNE: To tell you the truth, I’ve got no idea. It could have been the Queen of England for all I care, I cannot remember. We were only there to see the Beatles. And that’s who we saw and just thoroughly enjoyed it.
Demetrius Romeo: Gaye, do you remember who opened the show in Sydney?
GAYE: I remember seeing Johnny O’Keefe in this very, very tight, red leather suit singing ‘Shout’. But maybe that was another concert. But I just had a feeling it was Johnny O’Keefe.
Demetrius Romeo: Cheryl, who opened the show?
CHERYL: I have absolutely no idea. All I was there to see was the Beatles, and that’s who I saw.
Demetrius Romeo: Dianne, you were particularly struck by the Beatles; I understand you were going to go to London to see them after you graduated from school. Is that the case?
DIANNE: Yes, it was. My friend and I were madly in love with Paul and George and we had these great plans of, after school, we were going to go to London and get work and probably meet them at some nightclub or something like that and it was just a big dream. But it didn’t actually happen.
Demetrius Romeo: How were you going to finance this trip?
DIANNE: I think we were going to try and get some work after we left school something like that.
GAYE: I can remember, Di, and I’m sure this is true – Lynne used to cut the buttons off all her lovely dresses, and she was going to sell these buttons to raise the finance. I can really remember you two doing that.
DIANNE: Gaye, I can’t remember that at all. I can’t imagine who would want to buy buttons. I suppose it could have financed our trip.