Beatlemania: 52 True Stories About The Craziest Fans That Ever Lived
Written by Jacob Shelton
The Beatles' "Love Me Do" was released in 1962; the following year saw the release of "Please Please Me," "From Me To You," "She Loves You," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Roll Over Beethoven," and "I Saw Her Standing There." That's a lot of legendary, high-charting, airwave-ruling singles within a short amount of time. The Beatles, in essence, took the world by surprise, rising to dominance almost immediately, seeming to turn the world upside down in the process -- it's no wonder their fans developed something like a religious fervor for these four Liverpool lads called "Beatlemania."
For Starters, Beatlemania Was So Much Like A Cult That Some People Forced Themselves To Scream...
"Beatlemania" -- it's a simple term, a description of a madness for the Beatles, that highly influential rock group from Liverpool, England. The Beatles inspired fans, sure, but did they truly inspire "mania"? Hysteria, infatuation, obsession -- are these really fair terms to describe listeners' affection for the Fab Four?
In an interview with The Guardian, one Beatlemaniac compared the screaming that was a must at every Beatles concert to being in a cult.
"I didn't understand why you had to scream and I didn't have an impulse to scream but it was what you did," she said. "It was mandatory. There was this cult-like element to it."
Consider the true stories of Beatlemaniacs going to extraordinary lengths to get a piece of John, Paul, George and Ringo -- a lock of their hair, an item of clothing, a discarded cigarette butt. The truth is, something got into the heads of these young people, some rare herd mentality that made them stalk, steal, hide, surround, and -- for the teenage girls above all -- scream like frightened hyenas at the sight of these mop-topped messiahs. It all seems like an exaggeration today, but it was very real.
Beatlemania made the youth of the world (and the U.S. in particular) into mobs -- not exactly angry mobs, but if you saw them coming you'd get out of the way. If they thought The Beatles were in a car, they'd make sure that car wasn't going anywhere. If they thought the Beatles were staying in a hotel, they'd knock on the door to every room in the hopes of meeting their rock 'n roll gods. The true stories can be shocking, funny, or both -- Beatlemaniacs crept through sewers, swam across ponds, and yes, even came in through the bathroom window, fueled by that desire for connection with the sublime.
In the New Testament, a woman is healed by touching the hem of Jesus's garment -- who knows what the Beatlemaniacs might have expected to get from a feel of those famous suits worn by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr? Maybe it was something better -- after all, as John Lennon observed, the Beatles by 1966, the apex of Beatlemania, were "more popular than Jesus." It was a statement that outraged conservative folks as blasphemous, it almost killed Beatlemania itself -- and above all it was 100% true. Here's a look at the various ways in which certain parts of humanity lost certain parts of their minds, all over a four-piece rock band from northern England.
One Fan Crawled Through Actual Sewage For The Band
Jan Myers, an O.G. Beatles fan, told The Guardian that she not only rode her bike 20 miles to Heathrow airport to see the band arrive in England, but that she literally crawled through the sewers under Abbey Road so she could hear the band while they recorded Rubber Soul.
The Fans Were Literally Louder Than A Jet
Upon arriving in the States for the first time, The Beatles were greeted with an unexpected sound. As the plane taxied through John F. Kennedy International Airport there was a sound that was louder carrying over the engines. John Lennon’s ex-wife Cynthia told Rolling Stone, “We could hear this screaming. We thought it was the engines, but the screaming was that of the fans.”
That Time A Fan Broke Into Paul's House And Stole His Trousers
Beatles fans have always wanted a little more than what the lads from Liverpool could give them. Case in point: one fan staked out Paul McCartney’s house and, when the affable bass player left a window open, popped in and stole a pair of trousers and some personal items. At the time, Paul was furious, but the incident inspired him to write "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window." A pair of pants for a classic tune that's endured for decades -- that's a trade most musicians would take any day.
Fans Just Showed Up To The Beatles' Offices
In a Reddit AMA, Freda Kelly (The Beatles' secretary for 11 years) wrote about fans using all the money they had to get to the band's office in Liverpool -- just to be sent away empty-handed.
She wrote, "There were a few crazy fans that would hitch up to the fanclub office from different parts of the country and it would be a bother how to get them home, looking for what bus to get or what train to get. When the office was closed and you didn't want them just left deserted in Liverpool, you'd take them up to the train station and look for what bus or train would be best to get them home."
Some Fans Tried To Slip Through Airport Security
In 1964, a group of fans tried to get to the boys from Liverpool by sneaking through the baggage conveyer belt at the London (now Heathrow) Airport. It was a nice try, but they didn’t get to meet the Fab Four.
David Lynch Saw Someone Rip Out A Chunk Of Beatle Hair
Today we associate him with pieces of surreal nightmare fuel like Eraserhead and Twin Peaks, but director David Lynch was a teenager, once -- and was caught up in Beatlemania. He told Variety about seeing the Beatles play in a boxing ring at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. -- and after the performance one fan got a little handsy.
“When they left the stage they went up this steep stairway lined with police," Lynch said. "But I saw a guy leap over the police and come back up with a chunk of hair from one of the Beatles. It’s a frenzy they created.”
One Fan Who Was Almost Crushed Only Regrets Missing Some Of The Performance
When The Beatles played the Empire Theater in Vancouver, they essentially soundtracked a riot. The venue was understaffed, the barricade was a joke, and there were too many people. One of the young women who was at the show was knocked to the floor when fans rushed towards the stages. In the book Our Hearts Went Boom, by Brian Kendall, she said, “When I was lying there on the ground, all I could think about was climbing back to my feet so that I wouldn't miss another second of the concert.”
The Wife Of The President Of The Philippines Declared War On The Beatles -- Because She Couldn’t Meet Them
Imelda Marcos was the First Lady of the Philippines in 1966, and even she was under the sway of Beatlemania. So much, in fact, that when the group came to her country on their final tour, she invited them to her palace. They politely declined – which sent her into a rage. She was so furious that she lashed out at them in the press, essentially making the group public enemy number one. The band couldn’t get room service, had to carry their own luggage, and lost their police escort. Worst of all, Marcos declared that her children preferred The Rolling Stones.
One Fan Collected Blank Pieces Of Discarded Paper From The Band
It's one thing to own a set list or even a guitar pick that belonged to your favorite band, but The Beatles were so big that one fan collected scraps of blank paper that rained down upon crowds outside the band's hotel in New York City. She told The Guardian, “If they'd touched it, we wanted it.”
Fans Screamed So Loud During The Ed Sullivan Performance That No One Could Hear Anything
It’s well known that the US television debut of The Beatles was on The Ed Sullivan Show, but according to John Moffitt, the associate director of The Ed Sullivan Show, it was impossible to hear anything during filming. The audience was screaming so loudly for the group that he couldn’t call out cues for the cameramen. He told Rolling Stone, "The noise was incredible. Nobody could hear a thing except the kids in the audience, screaming. They overpowered the amplifiers. The cameramen couldn’t hear. Even the kids couldn’t hear anything, except each other screaming."
Ringo Fanatics Bought Him His Favorite Jewelry
According to Ringo, at the height of Beatlemania he regularly received cufflinks from his admirers. In 1964, he cheekily said that he preferred gold cufflinks, and that he sends the silver pairs back.
Fans Destroyed An Ambulance
At the Dodger Stadium show in 1966, the band had to sneak out of the venue in an ambulance because someone let the air out of the tires of their armored vehicle. Unfortunately for The Beatles, the ambulance's radiator dropped out when the driver accelerated over a speed bump. By that time, the armored car had returned, and promoter Bob Eubanks was able to get the band from the ambulance into the armored car. But the mob had no intention of clearing out to let The Beatles exit. If not for the help of the Hell's Angels, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to shepherd the armored car away, the Fab Four might still be there today, hemmed in on all sides by unyielding fans.
U.S. Fans Pelted The Band With Jelly Beans
One of the worst things that happened to The Beatles was fans getting the impression (a false one, according to a 1963 letter from George Harrison) that they liked to eat the soft British candy known as Jelly Babies. When playing live in the U.K. in 1963, The Beatles regularly had to dodge Jelly Babies hurled at them by the crowd -- that was bad enough. It got worse in the States in 1964, where fans threw handfuls of jelly beans, which have a harder shell than the similarly-named British sweets. The nightly candy hailstorms twice caused the band to stop playing.
One Beatles Fan Robbed Ringo In New York City
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Ringo brought up his craziest fan experience, and it's uh… pretty nuts. "In New York ... somebody jumped on me and took the necklace I had on," he said. "And I went on a radio station and said, 'If you give me me necklace back I'll give you a kiss,' and they brought the necklace back!"
A Group Of Fans Broke Into The Plaza Hotel And Hid In Empty Rooms
In 1964, during The Beatles' first visit to the U.S., they were staying at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It's a classy joint, and fans couldn’t just waltz in, so they tried breaking in. Dozens of fans climbed the fire escape to the twelfth floor, where The Beatles were staying, and tried to get into their rooms. One maid remembers finding a group of girls hiding in a bathtub.
Many Beatles Fans Were Always Trying To Hide Somewhere
The one thing that’s clear when you hear stories of Beatlemania is that fans of the Fab Four were enthusiastic hiders. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, for The Beatles) they tended to get caught. During the Dallas show of their '64 tour, a bunch of fans were found hiding under the stage and in the venue’s bathrooms, unwilling to leave after a bomb threat had been called in.
The Band Sparked a Riot In Ireland Where People Tipped A Car Onto The Police
The Beatles only played two shows in Ireland, both of them on November 7, 1963. It’s likely they never returned because of the full scale riot that broke out while they were on stage.
According to the Irish Times, more than a dozen men were arrested after a fight broke out while the band played, and the riot properly started when the crowd from the first show started getting into it with the crowd from the second show. Cars were overturned, people went to the hospital, and one group of fans pushed a parked car into a group of policemen.
One Fan Pretended To Be A Reporter To Get Close To The Band
During the band’s first trip to America, they gave a 40 minute press conference in Pittsburgh, open only to journalists. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Joyce Barniker pretended to be a journalist in order to get a second row seat at the conference. Not only did she get some of that keen Beatles insight, but she managed to snag a doodle that John Lennon drew while he sat through the interview.
One Woman Kept Ringo’s Cigarette Butts
After a press conference in Pittsburgh, one reporter who was also a fan, Connie Kienzle, reportedly held onto two of Ringo’s cigarette butts that he smoked during an interview. It’s unclear if she kept the butts on a mantle or an air tight safe.
DJs Gave Out The Beatles' Flight Numbers And Arrival Times On Air
It's hard to wrap your head around some of the things that happened in 1964, given the state of our world today. In the current era, doing anything weird in an airport will get you tossed in the slammer, but such was not the case back then. When The Beatles were going on their first tour of the states, radio DJs actually gave out the band's travel plans, flight numbers, and estimated times of arrival, just to stir up the kids (who clearly didn't need additional stirring up). Those were different times.
In Russia, Where The Beatles Were Banned, Fans Etched Their Music Onto X-Ray Film To Hear It
Like a lot of western culture during the Cold War, The Beatles weren’t allowed to travel to Russia, and their music was a no-go for fans behind the iron curtain. However, a group of crafty fans etched Beatles music onto discarded x-ray film that could be played through a modified record player. (This remarkable tactic, which was used to smuggle music by other artists as well, is described in detail in a fascinating story at Vice.com.)
The Scottish Girl Who Almost Destroyed Ringo's Drum Kit
The Beatles first trip to Scotland had been a total drag (there were a reported 15 people in the audience), but by the time they returned, in 1963, they were bonafide stars. With impatient fans getting hysterical, promoters at the Glasgow Odeon decided to bring the band on early, but the venue's bouncers were still drinking at the pub. As the venue filled with riotous teenage girls, one of them managed to get onto the stage and make a break for Ringo’s drum kit; luckily the bouncers got back from the pub just in time to keep her from pilfering the evening's percussion.
A Group Of Girls Bought George A Cake To Remind Him Where He Was
On The Beatles first tour of America, the band was often confused about where they were playing – which makes sense, because America is huge. But when George Harrison expressed his doubts about whether or not he was playing in Pittsburgh during a radio interview (he was), a group of girls from Steel City ordered a cake for George that read, “George, this is Pittsburgh” in icing.
Beatlemaniacs Foiled An Armored Car Escape By The Band
By the time The Beatles played Los Angeles for the last time, in 1966, they were so big that they filled Dodger Stadium, and the only way to safely get the guys in and out of the stadium was via armored car.
This was great for their trip into the show. But promoter Bob Eubanks said that the Fab Four were stuck in the dugout after their show because a fan let the air out of the tires. That’s one way to spend some extra time with the lads from Liverpool.
Fans Destroyed The Beatles' Decoy Limo
After performing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964, a group of about 60 fans descended on a limo filled with decoy Beatles (seriously) and managed to cave in the hood and roof. They must have been so disappointed when they found all that destruction of property was for naught.
The Apple Scruffs Were Fans Who Would Quit Their Jobs To Follow Them Around
After The Beatles started Apple records, a group called the “Scruffs” took up outside their gates. The Scruffs were named for the coats they wore while standing out in the cold waiting to catch a glimpse of their fave member of the Fab Five. Most of the Scruffs gave up their jobs and any semblance of their personal lives to hang out and try to meet the group. These fans inspired George Harrison's song "The Apple Scruffs" on his 1970 album All Things Must Pass.
Fans Tried To Swim To The Stage At One Show
In August 1965, The Beatles played two sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl that proved Beatlemania hadn't faltered a bit. At at the time, the venue had a small pond in front of the stage, and during the show several girls jumped in the pond and tried to swim their way to the stage. Luckily, no one drowned.
When Beatlemaniacs Destroyed A Fence
When The Beatles arrived in San Francisco in 1964, the crowd was so incensed that they pushed down the barricade that was meant to separate them from the group. In the melee several girls and an eight-year-old boy had to be transported to a medical tent by the police.
A Debutante Cut Off A Lock Of George's Hair
Paul McCartney recalls that even when attending a party thrown by the British ambassador to the United States, he still had to deal with crazed fans. He explained to Buzzfeed: "We were at the British ambassador's party, I think it was in Washington, and we thought, oh, well this will be civilized, you know, ambassadors and all that. And we're all standing around with cocktails and somebody comes up behind George, I think, one of the girls comes up with a pair of scissors and cuts a little bit of his hair off."
Wealthy Fans Spent Countless Amounts Just To Be Near Them
During their first tour of the States, The Beatles were dealing with fans trying to get a piece of them any way they could -- and for some fans, money was no object. While The Beatles were staying at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, devotees with well-connected parents checked into the hotel and attempted to find the group as they lounged in between gigs. This was one of the rare Beatlemaniac maneuvers that actually worked -- for those who could afford it.
Fans Ruined Once A Live Recording With Their Screams
Ruined is a harsh word -- but when producer George Martin was trying to record the band’s Hollywood Bowl set in 1964, he realized that getting a live album out of this show would be impossible. Beatlemaniacs' screams were so loud that they pushed the audio meters into the red zone, effectively wrecking the sound quality of the recording. Martin described the futile effort as "like putting a microphone at the tail of a 747 jet."
Fans Once Feverishly Looked For The Beatles At Their Hotel By Knocking On Every Door
Beatlemaniacs were everywhere. The Beatles' second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show coincided with the show's trip to Miami Beach, where obsessed fans swarmed Miami International Airport and then the Deauville Hotel, where the band was staying and the TV show was to be filmed. Regular guests were none too thrilled by the Beatlemaniacs running through the hotel, knocking on doors and ringing doorbells in their attempt to find The Beatles in their rooms.
Joe Walsh Understood Why Girls Loved The Beatles And Joined In
"I took one look on The Ed Sullivan Show and it was, 'F**k school. This makes it!'" Walsh told Cameron Crowe of Rolling Stone in 1975. "I memorized every Beatles song and went to Shea Stadium and screamed right along with all those chicks. ... My parents still have a picture of me all slicked up, with a collarless Beatles jacket and Beatles boots, playing at the prom."
The Girl Who Fell On Ringo’s Drum Riser
In 1964, during the band’s first ever stop in Seattle, the show went off the rails when one female fan climbed the scaffolding of the venue and fell from the ceiling onto Ringo’s drum riser.
Fans Made It Almost Impossible To Film 'A Hard Day’s Night'
Much has been made of the run-and-gun filming style of A Hard Day’s Night from 1964. The film follows the band as they try to relax, and utilizes mannerisms of trendy French New Wave cinema. But the style was also a matter of practicality, as screaming fans ruined any take that was filmed on the streets. The crew could only get in one or two shots before having to shut down.
There Were Insanely Long Lines For 'A Hard Day's Night'
It's impossible to fathom standing in line for anything these days, but Beatles fans were known to stand in lines that stretched around blocks just to see A Hard Day's Night. When was the last time you stood in line for a movie?
Ringo Still Remembers Being Grabbed By The Hair
"It could get crazy, but the four of us supported each other," Ringo Starr told Buzzfeed. "But one of the craziest moments for me, we were playing in Wales, and as we were getting to the theatre someone put their hand through the line of so-called guards and grabbed me by the hair and would not let go.”
Fans Once Shut Down An Elevator
Producer George Martin has spoken about being in elevators with The Beatles while people piled in just to be near them, causing the lifts to be stuck between floors. While such a predicament might have been heaven for a rabid Beatles fan, it sounds like a special kind of hell for the band members.
Fans Slept In The London Airport In Order To See The Beatles For A Few Seconds
In 1964, after The Beatles finished their tour of the U.S., fans slept in the London airport so they could catch a glimpse of the returning Fab Four. Thousands of Beatles fans crashed in the airport so they could get a could spot to welcome home the boys.
Fans Wanted The Beatles To "Heal" Them Like They Were Televangelists
George Martin said that on tour people were constantly bringing paraplegics to meet The Beatles in the hopes that the lads could cure their friends and family members through their ineffable stardom. He said, "It was like Jesus almost." Or, you know, bigger.
Getting The Beatles Out Of Their Dodger Stadium Show Almost Killed Some People
One of the scariest moments of Beatlemania came toward the end of the ’66 tour, when fans rushed the field at Dodger Stadium and started a full-on fight with the police. Fans, some wielding parts of the barricades, clashed with cops armed with billy clubs; dozens were injured and at least 25 fans were arrested. Emptying the venue and extracting the artists themselves -- who feared they might have to spend the night in the Dodgers' dugout -- was a complex ordeal that took hours.
The Beatles' Ed Sullivan Appearance Inspired Billy Joel To Start A Band
The Piano Man said of the February 9, 1964 performance: "That one performance changed my life… Up to that moment I'd never considered playing rock as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn't look like they'd come out of the Hollywood star mill, who played their own songs and instruments, and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon's face — and he looked like he was always saying: 'F**k you!' — I said: 'I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys.' This is what I’m going to do — play in a rock band.'"
One New York Cop Experienced The Raw Power Of Beatlemania After Touching A Single Beatle
In February 1964, after The Beatles landed at New York’s Kennedy airport, they were whisked away by the police. One officer suffered the wrath of Beatlemania after 500 fans rushed him, screaming, “He touched a Beatle!” According to the New York Herald Tribune, the fans hopped on the cop just to feel the essence of their favorite group.
Ed Sullivan Himself Was A Beatlemaniac: He Even Came To Their Rehearsal For The Show
The eponymous host of The Ed Sullivan Show may not have been a full on Beatlemaniac, but even he could feel the kinetic energy that the group put off. A crew member for the show told Rolling Stone that Sullivan never came to Saturday rehearsals, that he’d only show up for the Sunday run-through and the weeknight shows (which were broadcast live) and that was that. But when The Beatles played, Sullivan showed up so he could meet the band.
Fans Mobbed Their Hotel In New York City For An Ed Sullivan Gig
In the midst of the group’s stay in New York City in 1964, they couldn’t go anywhere without being completely mobbed. in fact, they could barely get out of their hotel because of the massive amount of Beatlemaniacs who formed a giant chain in front of the hotel while chanting, “We want The Beatles!” It’s amazing the lads even made it to the studio where The Ed Sullivan Show was filmed.
Fans Chased The Band’s Bus Out Of A Parking Lot While On Foot
The day of the band’s final concert in the U.S., at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, the band found themselves locked out of the stadium. At the peak of Beatlemania, idling in the parking lot waiting on the promoter wasn't an option -- not the way Beatles fans tended to swarm and surround their idols. The bus driver had to drive in circles around the parking lot until the crowd grew so big that he exited the car park and cruised through residential streets.
Roger McGuinn Had His Own Imaginary Version Of The Beatles
"I got really jazzed by the Beatles," McGuinn said in a 2006 interview. "I loved what they were doing… I imagined that they were more folk-oriented than they really were. I thought they were probably more a folk band that could play bluegrass banjo and mandolin, but they chose to do pop music because it was more commercial. Turned out not to be the case. But in my imagination this whole thing developed and I started mixing up old folk songs with the Beatles beat and taking them down to Greenwich Village and playing them for the people there."
Brian Epstein Jumpstarted Beatlemania
Brian Epstein may have been the Beatles manager, but he was also their biggest fan. Before the band broke out with their single “Love Me Do,” Epstein bought up boxes of the record -- some 10,000 copies, according to Epstein's business partner -- in hopes of propelling it to the top of the chart. The scheme didn't work -- "Love Me Do" peaked at #17 in the UK (but later hit #1 in other countries) -- but even so, how’s that for dedication?
One Fan Describes The Reason For The Screaming
The main thing that’s associated with Beatlemania is all that screaming. Why did so many teenage girls blow out their vocal cords screaming for the Fab Four? A fan of the band, Ellie Segal, says that at the band’s final American show in San Francisco she heard a group of adults ask a girl to stop shrieking, to which she answered, “If I wanted to hear them I would buy their album.” Another girl explained to a group of curious reporters, “Because I love Paul and I can’t tell him.”
Pat Cadigan Imagined A World Where She Had Exclusive Contact With The Beatles
Science fiction writer Pat Cadigan imagined a world where The Beatles had "secret exclusive contact" with her and a friend. She told NPR that The Beatles "came to us for advice about their songs and how to deal with fame and other important matters. On occasion, they would ask us to use our highly developed shape-shifting ability to become them, and finish recording sessions and concert tours when they were too tired to go on themselves."
Fans Lined Up For Four Days To See The Band In England
In 1963 The Beatles were playing at the ABC Cinema in Carlisle, England and no one expected the show to get as crazy as it did. Although the stagehands had an idea that something was going to pop off when fans started queuing up for the gig four days in advance. Fans slept, ate, and held it in on the sidewalk until they could get into the show to catch the band play their classic 30-minute set.
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