Beatlemania is a term that originated during the 1960s to describe the intense fan frenzy directed toward British rock band the Beatles during the early years of their success. Psychologists have attempted to explain the hysteria of the phenomenon- they described Beatlemania as “the passing reaction of predominantly young adolescent females to group pressures of such a kind that meet their special emotional needs.” — ummmm. riiiight.
Beatlemania was not normal. No one had ever seen the likes of these young girls from every race, creed, and nationality act so peculiarly that had the older generations stupefied. In this blog, I am going to list several incidents of absolute hysteria over the Beatles to try and put this phenomenon into perspective. WHY did these young people react this way? Was it “all in good fun”? I know the Beatles are great- handsome, charming, talented young lads- but why the extreme hysteria that has not been duplicated before or since the ‘lovely lads from Liverpool’ graced us with their presence.
Some might say it was magical… spellbinding…. enchanting…. what would you call a stadium filled with adolescent girls screaming louder than a Boeing 747 jet engine?
“The thing is- we don’t know why we act this way”
- In the USA, hotels found doorknobs stolen by Beatlemaniacs who thought they had been touched by a Beatle.
- One female fan screamed so loud that she burst a blood vessel in her neck, requiring first aid.
- The Shea Stadium footage offers an interesting glimpse of the hysteria, screaming, fainting and storming the stage at a Beatles concert.
- In Australia, approximately 20,000 fans waited for over 24 hours in pouring rain to see The Beatles arrive at the airport.
- Fans wait in line for up to 36 hours or more to buy tickets to see The Beatles.
- When The Beatles were staying at a house in Los Angeles during their summer 1964 U.S. tour, enterprising fans hired a helicopter to fly over the house in order to meet The Beatles.
- When The Beatles were scheduled to make their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, 50,000 people requested tickets – for a theater with a maximum capacity of 728 seats.
- At Heathrow Airport on October 31, 1963 20,000 fans were at hand to greet The Beatles upon their return from their Swedish tour, apparently delaying the departure of both the Queen and the Prime Minister.
- One entire hotel room at the Georges V hotel in Paris was used for fan mail, packages and presents.
- In Amsterdam, the band toured various canals passing large crowds and countless Beatlemaniacs taking a leap into the water in order to attempt to reach the band.
- On the way to Australia, the plane had to make various refueling stops; one such stop was in Pakistan at 2 in the morning. Paul decided to exit the plane in search of something to buy – only to run back on, chased by a horde of screaming girls.
- In Melbourne, Australia the army had to be summoned to help the police control the Beatlemaniac masses.
- It wasn’t uncommon to spot Beatlemaniacs scaling the walls of a hotel The Beatles were staying at.
- One British fan famously tried to mail herself to The Beatles, in a box marked “Presents for The Beatles.”
- At the fan club convention in London in 1963, the queues started early in the morning for the lucky fans that would meet The Beatles and see them live. The Beatlemaniacs got to shake hands with each Beatle (although this caused quite some hysteria and fainting).
- The concert was held with the fans behind a fence, a secruity measure (prompting John to say “If they press any harder, they’ll come through as chips.”).
- Twice during their 1965 appearance at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, The Beatles had to leave the stage because of fans storming the stage in a dangerous crush.
- 11 February 1964: After the Washington D.C. show ended, fans scrambled to the stage, picking up all the (infamous) jelly babies, because, “the Beatles stepped on them!”
- In Dallas, Texas fans stormed the airport runway when The Beatles landed and climbed onto the plane’s wings.
- Fans would hold constant vigils outside any hotel the band stayed at while on tour.
- Whenever the band went to record at EMI Studios, fans would hang around outside and climb the roof attempting to get in.
- Fainting fans were a common sight, as many, including photographer Terence Spencer recalled.
Whenever a Beatles movie premiered at London’s Piccadilly Circus, surrounding streets came to a standstill due to the crowds.
- During the band’s 1964 U.S. tour, they played 32 shows in 24 cities in 34 days, to scenes of complete mayhem.
- Two girls hired a helicopter to fly over the house The Beatles had rented in Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills, in August 1965, proceeding to jump into the pool from the helicopter in order to meet The Beatles.
- Some girls in the U.S. ate the grass Ringo had walked on. (When told about this, his comment was: “I just hope they don’t get indigestion.”)
- “Fainting fans were commonplace, with bodies littering the foyer of the theatre… One nurse told me that some girls reached such peaks of excitement they genuinely had orgasms.” – Photographer Terence Spencer on British Beatlemania, It was thirty years ago today
- Carol Dryden, of Sunderland, England, had herself packaged and sent to The Beatles (she didn’t get very far, having forgotten about the lack of oxygen in a closed box…).
- “Girl Bites Steward At Leeds Dance” – the headline about the Beatles’ performance in June 1963, Yorkshire Evening News
- The Army had to be called in to help the police quell the Beatlemaniac masses in Melbourne, Australia.
- Arriving in San Francisco on 18 August 1964, The Beatles were greeted by 9,000 hysterical fans. “The plan was for them to make a brief appearance at ‘Beatlesville’… a small platform about a mile northwest of the main airport buildings, surrounded by a cyclone fence and guarded by 180 San Mateo County Sherrifs… Ringo was the first in but his presence caused mass hysteria: thousands of girls pushed forward, some trying to scale the fence as other fans charged a barrier of parked cars but were driven back by counter-attacking deputies. No sooner had Paul, George and John mounted the stage than the deputies herded them all back to their limousine and rushed them away from the hysterical scene. The link fence was being pushed over by the sheer weight of fans, those in front crushed against the links, with only the burly police straining with all their weight to keep the fence upright.” – The Beatles A Diary by Barry Miles
- In Las Vegas, NV in August 1964, fans attempted to reach the band’s suite on the 18th floor of the hotel by scaling the walls, climbing through the garbage shoot and using the freight elevator… Scaling the walls was something fans tried all around the world while The Beatles were on tour.
- On 21 August 1964, the car that was to take the band back to the hotel from the performance was so damaged by fans that The Beatles had to wait half an hour until they were eventually sneaked away in an ambulance.
- August 20th, 1964, a girl managed to climb high above the stage and fell, right in front of Ringo’s drum riser.
- In Cincinnati, Ohio on 27 August 1964, “a technician from a television station was trying to measure the sound [of the screaming Beatlemaniacs] with an instrument. He gave up when the instrument recorded its maximum reading and broke.” (The Beatles A Diary)
- In Baltimore, Maryland on 13 September 1964, two girls had themselves delivered to the Civic Arena in a large cardboard box marked “Beatles Fan Mail”; however, they were discovered by a guard who was checking all deliveries. (The Beatles A Diary)
- At the New Orleans performance on 16 September 1964, “some 700 teenagers… attempted to crash through the barriers keeping them from the stage. It took 225 police more than 20 minutes to restore order. Mounted police patrolled the area around the stage while the fans who broke through were roped off to one side. More than 200 fans collapsed and had to be revived… and one girl had her arm broken but refused to go to hospital until after the show.” (The Beatles A Diary)
- The Lockhead Electra plane chartered for the U.S. tour was, according to the captain who met George again in the ’70s: “He said that when we had finished the tour, the plane, it’s tail, it’s wings were full of bullet holes, and he said, ‘these crazy guys… they were at the end of the runway trying to pot us off.’ Jealous boyfriends had come down with pistols and rifles trying to kill us.”
- In Houston, TX, on 28 August 1965, “fans swarmed out onto the runway as the plane taxied in to the terminal. Fans began climbing over the plane before it had even stopped moving, some of them smoking cigarettes next to the plane’s fuel tanks. The group and Brian Epstein were unable to leave the plane until a forklift truck arrived for them.” (The Beatles A Diary)
- Armored trucks, or more bizarre things like delivery trucks etc., had to regularly be used to shuttle The Beatles to and from venues/hotels.
- In San Francisco on 31 August 1965, fans climbed on top of The Beatles’ limousine, crushing it – thankfully without anyone in it. At the show, the crowd got so wild that the show was interrupted, the band had to leave the stage and wait until things calmed down a little before continuing their performance. “Beatlemaniacs “seem to have no fear of injury or even death in the cause of Beatle worship… It is the girls clinging on to the door handles [of the car] who worry me. If I drive away too slowly they will try to climb into the car or on to the roof. If I put my foot down and speed away they will still cling on desperately and be dragged dangerously along the road.” – Former Beatles chauffeur Bill Corbett, cited in The Beatles Files
- Outside the Plaza in NYC: “Several times the crowd waving banners and autograph books crashed the restraining police barriers and mounted an attack on the hotel. At the doors, police reinforced by special guards stemmed the onslaught and drove the attackers back to the barriers. At one point police lines were broken, and the flag they had used to mark their command post at the fountain was snapped in two. During one assault a seventeen-year-old girl from Queens was knocked unconscious. Police carried her into the hotel. Her first words upon reviving were, ‘Where are the Beatles?'” (Love Me Do! The Beatles’ Progress)
- “Don’t wave or smile, the fans can barely contain themselves just looking at you.” – ‘Instructions’ to The Beatles as they arrived at JFK on 7 February 1964.
- By the time of their last live performance at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on Aug. 29, 1966 The Beatles had understandably reached the limit of performing to hysterical, screaming fans leaving their increasingly sophisticated music inaudible and drowned out.
- The stadiums in which the Beatles played their concerts smelled heavily of urine. Some of the girls were so excited in the presence of the Beatles that they uncontrollably urinated on themselves during the show.
Special thanks to Anothergirl83 for some of the facts and figures used in this feature.