It was 50 years ago today ...

“Loud” doesn’t half describe it! “Deafening” more like. My most enduring memory of the experience is of a girl about 2 or 3 seats away from me, who was so totally in the throes of hysteria: she screamed, jumped, waved, cried, (I won’t swear she didn’t wet her pants, but I was too young then to have suspected such a thing!) – she was completely oblivious of anything but her immediate feelings. She wasn’t alone, there were hundreds, thousands like her in the crowd, but her proximity to me made this very real, very vivid. I don’t know who she was, but the memory of that unknown girl is still my personal embodiment of what Beatlemania was. You can see her by the thousands in any old video of the time, of course. But to really understand it, “you had to be there” …

I can also actually remember the concert – I could hear some of the performance (that show didn’t sell out, so maybe it was a little quieter than the norm!), I can remember “Twist & Shout” and “Money” – I think! To be honest, I knew their early albums so well by then, I could hear the songs without stimulus, and could imagine them even if I couldn’t actually hear anything. (But now their setlist is known - for example, bootleg recordings of the concert are available - and it seems they didn't play “Money” - so the power of imagination must have been very strong - but I will still swear I could actually hear those immortal voices, through the din … and you won’t get me to admit otherwise after all these years!) I can remember the frustration of waiting through the “warm-up” bands (what a hell it must have been for them, to offer their musical souls to an audience that just wanted them to disappear and be replaced by the four gods!), and the excitement that drove it all away once our boys ran onto the stage. I learned later that Ringo had received a death threat, and tried to hide behind his drum kit, eager for the set to end. But that was not at all apparent to me then, I just relished every minute of this incomparable experience. I had never been in such an excited audience before, and cannot think of any that has ever equaled it since. More rewarding musical moments? – sure. But more vivid cultural experiences? Probably not. At that moment, these four guys from Liverpool were the essence of life itself. That feeling passed long ago, but its memory will remain with everyone who experienced it, I am sure.

Some background: at that time, I was about 13. Before serious girl friends, before really having become an autonomous person. I was certainly still a kid, even if one with pretensions of independence! I was a choirboy at the time, and went with a school friend who was also a choirboy in the same choir – we had a choir rehearsal that evening, which was why we went to the matinee concert. I can recall the odd juxtaposition (odder then than it would be now perhaps, since rock’n'roll was still a bit “counterculture” in 1964) of leaving the Beatles concert to go directly to a church choir rehearsal. Nothing would have stopped us going to the Beatles, so this didn’t seem so odd to us, but there was a slight air of unreality in making the change nonetheless.

More memories from other fans
Even more memories from other fans
Some documentary footage