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June 6, 2024

The day Beatlemania arrived in Adelaide

A new book recounting The Beatles' 1964 Australasian tour will be launched at the Adelaide Town Hall next week as part of the City of Adelaide's 60th anniversary celebrations of the legendary visit.

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  • Words: Charlie Gilchrist
  • Pictures: Supplied

When The Beatles touched down in Adelaide on June 12, 1964, a young fan, Jan Gardner, was among the first to greet them.

The 14-year-old suffered from a lung condition and her friend Jill, who worked at the airport, decided to organise a special treat to cheer her up.


When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 

Book launch and LadyBeatles in Concert

Auditorium, Adelaide Town Hall
128 King William Street, Adelaide 5000
June 12, 2024
12:30pm ’til 2:30pm



Standing among the journalists and photographers on the tarmac at Adelaide Airport, Jan managed to snap around half a dozen photos of Liverpool lads as they descended from the plane.

Jan’s story is one of the numerous colourful anecdotes peppered throughout When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australian Tour 1964 (2024) by Greg Armstrong and Andy Neill, which recounts The Beatles’ first and only tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The new book will be launched next week at the Adelaide Town Hall as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the tour.

“Jan was standing right there on the tarmac. When The Beatles came out of the rear of the plane, Lennon, as he was coming down the steps said, ‘you look too young to be a photographer’, and she snapped seven or so photographs of The Beatles as they alighted from the plane,” Greg tells CityMag.

“Now Jan is going to be at the Adelaide Town Hall with her husband and son on the 12th, and we’re putting Jan in the front row…”

The celebrations of the 60th anniversary will also include a Beatles display at Town Hall, and tribute concerts by the LadyBeatles and The Collective String Quartet as part of the Candlelight Concert series.

When We Was Fab tells the story of the tour chronologically, from “the spark early in 1963 when there were the beginnings of the possibility of The Beatles coming, right through to after The Beatles were ended and the legacy thereafter,” says Greg.

The Beatles played four shows over two days at Wayville’s Centennial Hall. Picture: supplied

Greg, who has a background in record management for businesses, says he began collecting Beatles-related material following the death of John Lennon in 1980.

“I really started to amass, over the years, a very healthy video collection of The Beatles, having traded with people and stuff, and The Beatles’ Australian tour really stuck out to me,” he says.

“I started to specialise in the Australian tour because I was so very interested in learning about it.

“A friend of mine who really loved The Beatles would always ask me, ‘Oh, tell me, what have you discovered now? Oh, Greg, that’s fascinating – you’ve really got to put this in writing’.”

After he was put in touch with fellow Beatles fan Andy, who has written books on The Who and the Faces, the two decided to embark on a book.

“He has amassed a treasure trove of information but felt that it wasn’t enough for a new book on The Beatles in New Zealand on its own because there had been another book. But he felt like a bigger book needed to be done,” says Greg.

The narrative-driven book is based on archival material and interviews with more than 100 key players involved in the tour, including promoters, publicists, fans and radio personalities.

Greg says the chapter on Adelaide, which chronicles the saga caused by the city not being included on the original itinerary and the stunning reception The Beatles received on arrival, is the equal largest in the book.

“The realisation by the people of Adelaide that they were not coming there was a shock,” says Greg.

Greg says Adelaide radio announcer Bob Francis decided to take matters into his own hands, calling for the public to sign a petition that quickly amassed 80,000 signatures.

“They were gathered by everybody out on the street. Kids, mums and dads on vast rolls of paper, toilet rolls – you name it,” says Greg.

“Adelaide wanted The Beatles, and Bob Francis wasn’t going to take it lying down.”

Following the uproar, the Melbourne promoter Kenn Brodziak wrote to The Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who agreed to add an extra two days to the tour.

But that was not the end of the story.

The Adelaide leg of the tour was almost cancelled when the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia demanded £440 per night to hire Centennial Hall instead of the usual amount of £60.

Bob Francis was up in arms and listeners followed his instructions to lobby the society.

“This is where John Martin and Ron Tremaine really kicked it up, and that’s where John Martin’s decided that they will fund the whole thing,” Greg says.

However, it was the unmatched reception The Beatles received on arrival that most South Australians remember.

More than 300,000 people lined the streets from the airport to Adelaide Town Hall to catch a glimpse of “the Fab Four” (minus Ringo who was sick at the time), making it the biggest Beatles crowd anywhere in the world.

“Everybody knew that when The Beatles came from the airport, they would parade in a car travelling slowly down Anzac Highway into the city, and everyone knew they could come out of their homes or come out of their shops,” says Greg.

“Some of the schools let their kids out with their teachers and stood on the side of the road for the length of the entire motorcade route because it was published in the newspapers exactly when and where they would be.

“In 1964, [The Beatles] swept into Australia and really heralded the decade open, declared the 1960s open in Australia.

“They changed music in the sixties and culturally they made it possible for kids to own something.”

The Beatles were greeted by the Lord Mayor before travelling to their accommodation at the now-demolished South Australian Hotel on North Terrace. Picture: supplied

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