The Beatles live: Centennial Hall, Adelaide

The day after they landed on Australian soil, The Beatles flew from Sydney to Adelaide in a chartered Ansett ANA jet, arriving at 11.57am on 12 June 1964.

An estimated 200,000 people lined the 10-mile route between Adelaide Airport and the city centre in the hope of seeing The Beatles’ motorcade. More than 30,000 surrounded the Town Hall, where they met the city’s mayor, James Campbell Irwin, along with council members and their families.

Nearly 250,000 people lined the Anzac Highway in Adelaide from the charming airport to the city centre. I told the writer Al Aronowitz all about it for the Saturday Evening Post a few weeks later. ‘It was like the Messiah come to Australia,’ I said, understating as best I could. ‘Cripples threw away their sticks and blind men leapt for joy,’ The only thing left for The Boys after this tour, I told him, would be a ‘healing tour’ of the world. It was like that. There were so many people of all ages and types reeling and a-rocking with joy that it felt as good as good can be. And if it felt good to the fans, it felt even better to us. I was called into The Beatles’ open car for the trip from the airport, and the journey was long and joyful and somehow humbling. You shoulda been there, John said on postcards later, and maybe some of you were. In the open car, George, now wide awake and full of delight, pointed in disbelief at the ribbons of people stretching as far behind and ahead as the eye could see. I had some difficulty in believing I was really here, a material witness to this unprecedented public love affair. How the hell, I wondered, do I come to be in Australia in a Victory Parade with the Most Famous People on Earth? Was this what I had always wanted?

Yes. Oh, yes. Definitely.

Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift

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We sat up on the back of our cars and all the people were out of their homes and hospitals, and then we went into the square. We got onto the Lord Mayor’s mantelpiece and waved at the whole crowd. It looked like something out of Dodge City, dirt roads and a Rock Ridge façade, or that’s what it seemed like to me. It was like ‘The Sheriff’s coming, ding, ding, ding.’ I’ve got photos, which I took from sitting up on the back of our car in the J. F. Kennedy position in the cavalcade.
George Harrison
Fifty Years Adrift, Derek Taylor

The Beatles were given toy koala bears. John Lennon told the reception, “Wherever we go, anywhere in the world, this reception which Adelaide has given us will stick in our memories.”

The group was shadowed by local DJ Bob Francis from 5AD, who interviewed them in a range of locations including the Town Hall balcony. Francis also booked the suite next to theirs at the Hotel South Australia, from where he gave listeners hourly updates.

Three hundred thousand people welcomed us to Adelaide. It was like a heroes’ welcome. George waved too. That was the kind of place where we would go to the town hall and they would all be there in the centre of the city. If it had happened suddenly, overnight, it might have gone to our heads; but we had come up bit by bit, so it didn’t (not too much). We were just very pleased that everyone had turned out.

We were still close enough to our Liverpool roots to know how it would feel, and what it would mean, if we had showed up in the middle of town to see a group; so we could feel it in their spirit. I think we quite enjoyed it all. It can get a bit wearing, but it certainly wasn’t then.

We came in from the airport – it was the same in Liverpool for the première of a A Hard Day’s Night, with the whole city centre full of people – and the crowds were lining the route and we were giving them the thumbs up. And then we went to the Adelaide town hall with the Lord Mayor there, and gave the thumbs up again. In Liverpool it was OK, because everyone understands the thumbs up – but in Australia it’s a dirty sign.

Meanwhile, Ringo Starr, who had missed the early part of the tour due to illness, flew to Australia via San Francisco, Honolulu and Fiji, accompanied by Brian Epstein. Starr left his passport in London, delaying the first flight of the journey, but was eventually allowed to board the aeroplane without it.

The passport was eventually found and sent to London Airport, from where it was sent to San Francisco and reunited with its owner during the drummer’s stopover on 13 June.

Over 50,000 applications had been made for tickets to see The Beatles in Adelaide’s Centennial Hall, which had just 3,000 seats. The group played two sets on this day, and two more on the following day.

The compère was Alan Field, and the support acts were Sounds Incorporated, Johnny Devlin, Johnny Chester and The Phantoms.

The Beatles performed the same 10 songs at all their Adelaide shows: ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘She Loves You’, ‘Till There Was You’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘This Boy’, ‘Twist And Shout’, and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

I always remember the one gig in particular, I think it was in Melbourne [sic], doing the count-in to ‘She Loves You’, which was One, Two, dum be dum, ‘She Loves You’, with the down beat coming on ‘Loves’. I looked at Jimmie [Nicol] and said, ‘OK?’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ Right, then… ‘One, Two’ and he froze and sort of had a quick brain-fade. Panicky, he lashed out and went ‘crash’ – and somehow the song got going.
George Harrison
Fifty Years Adrift, Derek Taylor

Brian Epstein sold the rights for one of the 12 June shows to be recorded for radio broadcast. It was titled Beatles Show and was transmitted on 15 June, with sponsorship from Surf detergent.

The Adelaide concerts were recorded for possible release as an album. I recall being driven to a studio to hear and approve the recording: to my uncritical ears, the tapes sounded all right and I gave them the provisional approval I’d been authorized to give. It was a weighty responsibility for someone so recently converted to popular music, and I was far too quickly and easily pleased. Whatever The Beatles sang was perfect to my ears. The Boys themselves later described the tapes as ‘crap’ (or one of its many synonyms) and they were never officially released, though no doubt they have turned up since as valued bootleg.
Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift

That evening a society event was held in their honour in the Adelaide Hills, although The Beatles and their stand-in drummer Jimmie Nicol declined to attend. Instead they held a private party in their hotel suite.

Demolition of the Centennial Hall, a 1930s Art Deco building, began on 18 July 2007. In its place was built the Adelaide Showgrounds, a multi-purpose exhibition hall.

Last updated: 24 January 2024
The Beatles arrive in Australia
The Beatles live: Centennial Hall, Adelaide
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