The Beatles tour New Zealand

The Beatles at Wellington Airport

Photographer: Morrie Hill, The Beatles at Wellington Airport, June 1964, Black and white original negative, Photographic Archive, Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference: Reference: 1/4-071857-F

The Beatles tour New Zealand

For many New Zealanders, the swinging sixties kicked off on Sunday 21 June 1964, when The Beatles arrived in Wellington. They were here for a week on the final leg of their Far East tour – and what a week it turned out to be. Young people all over the country had latched onto international 'Beatlemania', to the bemusement and consternation of older generations. In each of the four New Zealand cities, hordes of hysterical teenagers threw themselves at the band members, and the situation sometimes got out of hand. On one occasion, someone pulled a clump of hair from John Lennon's head, causing the band to threaten calling a halt to the tour until security was improved. Auckland police were, however, not only unprepared but disinterested – they had only provided three officers to control a crowd of several thousand. Things became ugly in Christchurch as well, with people hurling marbles and rotten eggs at the stage during their performance.

The Beatles tour marked a significant moment for younger generations of New Zealanders, whose connection to international youth culture had been aided by the introduction of television four years earlier, and by the impact of jet airliners, which had effectively made the world a much smaller place. Music had changed, and so had fashion – long hair was as much de rigueur for the lads as short skirts were for the girls.

The concerts were a very different experience from what you might expect today – the screaming was so loud you couldn't hear the music; and as the sound equipment was woefully inadequate, that was probably no bad thing. Astonishing from today's perspective is that they were only on stage for about 30 minutes. Each city got the same set of 11 songs, which included 'I saw her standing there', 'I want to hold your hand', 'All my loving' and their biggest hit in this country, 'She loves you'.

It was the only time the fab four came to New Zealand. Two years later, in 1966, they stopped touring and they disbanded in 1970.

Find out more

You can see more photos from The Beatles' time in Wellington on the National Library's page on Flickr.

More Beatles photos – Flickr website

You can also read more, and listen to interviews with Ringo Starr and John Lennon, on the New Zealand History online website.

The Beatles in New Zealand – New Zealand History online website

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Permission of the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image