60 years ago today The Beatles touched down in New Zealand: A day by day account

Publish Date
Friday, 21 June 2024, 5:45AM

Day One

Seven thousand fans, 30 police officers, the Te Pataka concert party, some egg throwers, and a handful of bemused baggage handlers are on hand at Wellington airport to welcome the TEAL Lockheed Electra carrying The Beatles with the screaming starting 45 minutes before touchdown.

One of the first to meet them was airline traffic supervisor Peter Andrews.

"As traffic supervisor for TEAL at Wellington Airport my job was to ensure the timely turnaround of Electra flights from and to Sydney and Melbourne. When I learned that the Beatles were due to arrive at the airport my immediate concerns related to likely congestion in the terminal. A cunning plan was devised.

"I found a drawing of a Lockheed Electra in a company maintenance manual and traced an outline of the plane. From that I formed a cardboard cut-out of the plane and, along with a map of the airport taxiways, I called on John Redstone the airport manager and placed the cardboard cut-out on taxiway adjacent to the fence surrounding the airport. The idea was to stop the aircraft at a point on the taxiway so that fans behind the fence could see the Beatles disembark. And that's how it turned out.

"The aircraft came to a halt and shut down the two port engines. Along with Customs, Health and Agriculture we met the group in the first class cabin at the rear of the plane.

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"I met each Beatle and welcomed them to NZ and got their signatures on a flight menu. The group disembarked and chaos ensued. The Beatles drove up and down the taxiway and headed in to the city. We pulled the gangway away; the pilot started up the two port engines and taxied on to its, regular park for a normal on time turnaround.

"As a footnote the following year I was transferred to another company position in Auckland and somehow the menu got lost along the way. It might have been worth something."

Once on the ground they are ushered onto a Holden ute for a lap of the airport before being paraded through the city to the St George Hotel, where they were snuck in through the bottle shop. The elevator breaks down trapping them between floors.

After police used dogs to shepherd the huge crowd, the Beatles finally appeared on a balcony with two men climbing a fire escape to join them and a group of Cliff Richard fans venting their disapproval. A press conference follows, and then the Beatles watch television before retiring to their twin bedrooms. A news report said, "Their hair appeared longer and considerably more shaggy than shown in most photographs."

Day Two

The Beatles spend the day in their hotel, phoning home, and writing letters. John Lennon and Ringo Starr found time to meet their respective second cousins.

Lennon had brought his Aunt Mimi, who raised him, to New Zealand and she stayed with family in Eketahuna and Hamilton for months afterwards - before heading to the Wellington Town Hall for their first show.

As with every performance, they play 10 to 11 song sets featuring I Saw Her Standing There, I Want to Hold Your Hand, You Can't Do That, Till There Was You, All My Loving, She Loves You, Roll Over Beethoven, Can't Buy Me Love, This Boy, Long Tall Sally, Twist and Shout.

Day Three

Their second Wellington show. One of the support acts, New Zealand's own '50s-style rocker Johnny Devlin, complains loudly about the sound quality.

A sentiment John Lennon echoes later when he heads backstage to shout, "What the f****** hell is going on?"

No one else notices due to the screaming and the crowd goes home happy. The band then retreats to their hotel and the siege surrounding it.

Four girls sneak past police and make it to the fourth floor where they run into Ringo Starr while another slashes her wrists in the room of support act Sounds Incorporated's drummer after being refused an introduction to the headliners. Police smash the door down to rescue her.

Day Four

Auckland fans are angry after officials snuck the group out of Whenuapai Airport. The police's attitude is shown by an officer who reportedly told a tour manager, "We didn't want 'em here and I don't know why you brought 'em."

Only three police are on hand to control the thousands outside their hotel. The band are trapped (again) in their car as it's pushed through the crowd before the lads are trampled while dashing to the door.

Ringo is injured and Lennon is so angry he almost cancels the tour. Police refuse to escort the group to the venue, informing them that "you are not royalty."

The Beatles hold a press conference at their hotel after their arrival where the questions include their reaction to the previous night's Wellington shows where there had been one or two stage invaders.

McCartney: "The thing is when you look at them, the fellas and the girls who jump up, you realise they're not going to belt you or anything, they're not trying to get you really, they're just coming up to say hello."

Also on the gathered journalists' agenda: What did they think of rugby (not much); what did they think of Howard Morrison's parody song I Wanna Cut Your Hair (hadn't heard it) and what did they think of the press (not much)?

Day Five

Before their second show, Auckland mayor, (Sir) Dove-Meyer Robinson holds a civic reception, controversially costing 60 pounds, for the band outside the town hall and in front of 7,000 screaming fans.

Lennon compliments its brevity; a rugby administrator Tom Pearce bemoans the "hysteria, antics, adulation, rioting, screaming and roaring" accompanying "these bewigged musicians," Battle of Britain hero Sir Keith Park suggests limiting future receptions be limited to "very important people" and the Auckland Education Board plans to prosecute parents of children who wagged school to attend.

Harrison manages to escape to Mt Albert after the show to meet some rellies while the threat of a "germ bomb" on their plane sees the band's gear held at police headquarters overnight and The Beatles' flight out of Auckland the next morning delayed.

Day Six

Again, only three officers are on hand to control the crowd welcoming the band to Dunedin. With only a 1m lane between the hotel and the crowd to scuttle down, all four are mauled trying to get inside.

Lennon loses some hair and McCartney's face is scratched. The 4,000-strong crowd for the two shows that evening are the rowdiest of the tour with fans grabbing police helmets and kicking them down the aisles. Lennon describes the experience as "a bit rough," a condition assisted by their daily diet of pills and booze.

Day Seven

A fan throws herself at The Beatles car, bounces off the bonnet and is later invited to meet the band and have a coffee.

Among the 5,000 some throw eggs and tomatoes when the band appear on yet another hotel balcony. A banner reads: "We like Elvis, Cliff, Castro and Mao Tse Tung but not the Beatles."

Two men are caught hiding inside a hotel cupboard - they wanted to give The Beatles haircuts to impress their girlfriends.

The subsequent show is the shortest of the tour, 26 minutes, and while some were throwing jelly beans - the result of an off-the-cuff interview comment from George Harrison - others threw marbles. The crowd in the gallery stamp so hard that those below can see the support beams swaying.

Day Eight

Two thousand people watch The Beatles leave the Clarendon Hotel with another 2,000 waiting at the airport.

The band paused, turned and waved before boarding their flight to Australia. A young boy makes a break for the plane, only to be caught by police, then the door closes and The Beatles are gone, never to return as a band.

This article was first published by theĀ NZ Herald and is republished here with edits and permission.

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