Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fans went a little wild in Wellington

At some of the Wellington concerts, the fans got a little crazy.   No one got seriously hurt, but the fans did start to move out of their seats and forward toward the stage when the Beatles came on.  Many fans tried to get onto the stage, and few of them were successful.  In his 1999 book, The Beatles in New Zealand, Bruce Renwick says this:

Police battled with hundreds of screaming teenager in near riot scenes, forcing girls back to their seats.   Everyone of the seventy strong police contingent was called to a position in front of the stage to reinforce a wall of constables fighting a losing battle with the crowd.  Policemen were knocked to the ground or slid helplessly towards the stage under the pressure of the surging fans.  People sitting in the front row were advised to move aside when the crowd showed signs of getting out of control.  By the time the police had formed a wedge in front of the hall, the entire crowd was on its feet and surging forward.  Screaming girls climbed over seats to get close to their idols.  The crowd came in waves and the police only had enough time to deal with one outbreak before another would surge towards them.  As the group sang it's last song, a solid wall of fans was struggling with the police.   One fan did manage to get on stage and almost knocked a bemused Ringo from his stool before four burly policemen got on the stage and grabbed the youth and tossed him back up the stairs.  Ringo who was taken totally was surprise was able to still smile cheerily at the youth.  Paul was nearly dragged into the crowd but the four remained straight faced throughout the incident and did not stop playing.   Some of the more exuberant girls were almost catapulted back into their seats by the arms of the law.  Paul facetiously commented later that it 'got a bit exciting towards the end, we were hoping for few fans on stage dancing, but the police dragged them back. '

This Wellington concert photo shows some of the chaos that broke out

This is what the newspaper said

First, two girls started dancing in front of their seats from the time the Beatles started their first number, then two more girls tried to invade the stage and so it went, with someone always on their feet from then on.   Four girls were next to venture into the aisles twitching, stiff limbed and glassy eyed in time with the music.  Police rushed from the stage to stop them.  It wasn't the right place for the Birdland Twitch or the Hippy Hippy Shake.  Two youths then rushed the stage but were similarly dissuaded, but soon scores of young people in the stalls were on their feet.  Police were on their  feet too, guarding the stage.  One young acrobat dived between the police, ran along the stage and grabbed Paul before the police removed him off the stage.  He was last seen retiring to the back of the hall holding his stomach.  Two other youths also succeeded in mounting the stage but they too were individualists, with insufficient backing, causing their success to be brief.   The crowd standing in the aisles meanwhile pressed forward with a couple of the more husky ones attempting to wrestle with the police.  Some verbal abuse was given and the police needed reinforcements when they were pushed back.  From the stage it was obvious to see that the melees were getting closer and things were getting rougher.  Finishing their last song the Beatles were off and away before the fans knew anything and when the National Anthem started a few second later practically everyone was on their feet, if only to see what was happening.  There was no more trouble and the crowd dispersed but no bodies were left behind, not even a fainted one and there had been no arrests.

Fans at the Beatles concert, Wellington Town Hall, June 1964
Photographer: Morrie Hill
Reference number: 1/4-071853-F
Cellulose triacetate negative.
Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library

The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library".
 In this photo, the constable in the helmet is Trevor Morley, who worked all four of the Beatles concert in Wellington.   He is currently trying to find out who fan in this photo is.  So if any of you know him, let me know because I have the email address to contact.   He says, "At the time things were pretty hectic in the Town Hall, so there was no thought of arresting him.  We were just trying to get him off the stage, so I didn't get time to get his name."  (Thanks to Lucy Atkins for sending me the article).

Of course not everyone recalls there being a surging crowd during those shows.   Damien O'Shaughnessy who attended the 3rd show said in 1984,
There were no great crowd surges at the concert I was at.  The occasional girl would run down the aisle and try and throw herself on the stage and just get dragged away.

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