These Photos of the Beatles Will Take You Back to Beatlemania
Anyone who loves The Beatles will probably remember the term “Beatlemania,” the name given to the frenzied enthusiasm for the English band in the 1960s. Beatlemania began in 1963 and continued long after The Beatles broke up in 1970. The phenomenon took hold in Europe and then crossed the pond to the United States. And everywhere the band went, they were greeted by crowds of screaming fans.
Ahead, discover some amazing photos that trace the story of The Beatles and take you back to the height of Beatlemania.
1. The Beatles began with John Lennon and Paul McCartney
The group that would become The Beatles got its start in 1957, with a chance meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney at a show that Lennon played with another band. NPR reports that Lenon and McCartney wouldn’t adopt the name “The Beatles” for another three years. But NPR notes that “that meeting between two boys on a sweltering summer afternoon kick-started a creative partnership that yielded nearly 200 songs valued at close to a billion dollars.”
Next: Their first gig didn’t pay very much.
2. They earned £5 for their first gig at Cavern Club
In the photo above, Paul McCartney plays onstage at the Cavern Club during the early days of The Beatles. The Telegraph reports that for the band’s first show at the London venue, “was hardly an auspicious affair.” The show took place at lunchtime on February 9, 1961. “They were paid £5 for the appearance, a concert that wasn’t advertised, and George Harrison was nearly denied admission to play because he was wearing jeans.” The basement club wasn’t full, and customers ate sandwiches and hot dogs during the show.
Next: They went abroad to hone their skills.
3. The Beatles honed their skills in Germany, and then got discovered
Billboard reports that The Beatles’ first recording contract was signed in Hamburg, Germany, where the band — which then consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and original drummer Pete Best — “honed its craft playing gigs in the city’s boisterous nightclub district.” They played every night for three months in a row. Then, a 1961 recording session produced the single “My Bonnie,” which never hit the top charts. But it led to The Beatles’ discovery in Britain, a manager named Brian Epstein, a contract with EMI, and then their first hit, “Love Me Do.”
Next: This was the beginning of Beatlemania.
4. Beatlemania soon broke out
Soon, The Beatles replaced Pete Best with Ringo Starr. And when they hit it big, fans loved all four members. The Daily Beast reports that “John was typecast as the clever, intellectual one; Paul, the romantic charmer; George, quiet and mysterious; and Ringo, the easygoing goof.” When “Beatlemania” got its name in 1963, any appearance the band made was attended by masses of “teenage girls fainting, weeping, and peeing themselves en masse, even as battalions of policemen herded them behind fences and barricades. And always, of course: the screaming.”
Next: The band performed at this huge event.
5. They played ‘the biggest night in British show business’
By 1963, The Beatles were playing at what Slate characterizes as “the biggest night in British show business”: the Royal Command Performance. The performance was a gala variety show recorded for television broadcast, and it typically had both royalty and A-list celebrities in attendance. (The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret attended in 1963. But Queen Elizabeth II did not, as she was pregnant with Prince Edward.) Teenage fans waited for The Beatles to arrive for the performance, which earned the band their first American coverage, with Time proclaiming the group “the very spirit of good clean fun.”
Next: Police had to get involved.
6. Police often had to hold back the band’s fans
The Guardian reports that wherever The Beatles went in 1963, there were reports of “teenage girls screaming, crying, fainting and chasing the band down the street; police escorts were already required.” But once the term “Beatlemania” caught on, “it seemed to cement the phenomenon in the collective imagination.” The publication notes that the media’s attempts to explain Beatlemania “were at best comically square” and “at worst viciously snobbish and misogynistic.”
Next: The band members grew incredibly close.
7. Paul, John, George, and Ringo became very close friends
The Daily Beast reports that together, The Beatles “reached a level of success that was so extraordinary and improbable that they soon began suffocating under its weight, at which point they began forging an even tighter bond: the special camaraderie that came from being the only ones on the planet who truly knew, firsthand, what it was like to be a Beatle.” As a result, they became incredibly close. As Ringo later recalled, “They became the closest friends I’d ever had. We really looked out for each other and we had many laughs together. In the old days we’d have the hugest hotel suites, the whole floor of a hotel, and the four of us would end up in the bathroom, just to be with each other.”
Next: All four of The Beatles did this.
8. The Beatles documented their lives in the spotlight
Though The Guardian notes that few Beatles fans had cameras, the members of the band turned to photography to document their lives in the spotlight (or behind the scenes, at least). You can find many photos of The Beatles holding and using cameras. George Harrison, for example, took lots of still photos, but also used a movie camera to capture film footage of the band. And Ringo Starr was also a passionate photographer.
Next: They achieved this in 1963.
9. They ‘found their voice’ in 1963
The Atlantic characterizes 1963 as “the year The Beatles found their voice.” The Beatles were “a veritable human jukebox that year,” and one of their many commitments was “to turn up semi-regularly at the BBC, horse around on air, read requests, make fun of each other, make fun of the presenter, and lay live versions of whatever people wanted to hear, whether that was their own material or a vast range of covers.” They recorded 40 BBC sessions in 1963, and The Atlantic reports that those recordings show “the band’s startlingly rapid evolution.”
Next: Crowds got even more enthusiastic.
10. Police had to protect the band from fans
The Atlantic reports that “At the start of 1964, the Beatles were at the top of the charts in the U.K., but had just started to attract audiences overseas with songs from their first two albums Please Please Me and With the Beatles.” John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison set off on a series of tours in 1964, starting in Europe, and later visiting the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. As The Atlantic reports, “Beatles fans were so excited and determined to see the band that police sometimes resorted to using fire hoses to hold them back.”
Next: The band had eight years together.
11. The Beatles were together for eight years
Time reports that “The Fab Four were together for only eight years, from 1962, when Ringo joined the band, to early 1970, when ‘Get Back’ was released.” And as PBS notes, “From June 1962 to the time the band quit touring in August 1966, The Beatles performed 815 times in 15 different countries and 90 cities around the world. The cultural phenomenon that their touring helped create, known as “Beatlemania,” was something the world had never seen before and, arguably, hasn’t seen since.”
Next: This is how they became a household name in America.
12. A chance encounter got the Beatles their big break in the United States
History reports that even as The Beatles became a household name across Europe, they weren’t as widely recognized across the pond. That changed after a chance encounter at London’s Heathrow airport. There, American television host Ed Sullivan noticed hundreds of teens waiting to see the band as they returned from a tour of Sweden. “Sullivan had never heard of the shaggy-haired quartet, History notes. “But after learning about their fanatical following, he felt they had the potential to be as big as Elvis Presley.” He booked them to appear on his show, and because of that booking, Capitol Records agreed to back their upcoming record. The rest is history.
Next: The show brought Beatlemania to the United States.
13. Beatlemania took the United States by storm after the Ed Sullivan Show
The Atlantic reports that after they spent the first part of 1964 touring in Europe, The Beatles headed stateside, where their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” had become a huge hit. Their first televised concert in the United States was an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, when Sullivan introduced John, Paul, George, and Ringo to America with the now-famous words, “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!” 73 million viewers — 34% of the American population — watched that performance. History reports that the Beatles had no idea what awaited them in the United States. “When they touched down in New York, the group found themselves greeted by a flock of 3,000 ecstatic, screaming fans — many of them teens playing hooky from school.”
Next: The Beatles performed in this city after New York.
14. Next, they performed in Washington
After what History characterizes as their “star-making turn on Ed Sullivan,” the Beatles left New York for Washington, D.C., where they played their first-ever American stage show at the Washington Coliseum. “By now, their popularity had reached dizzying heights,” History reports. Business were selling Beatles wigs and clothing. The band couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed by crowds of fans. In Washington, “their management team had to distract fans with decoy Beatles wearing wigs just to allow the group time to reach the stage.”
Next: People loved each of The Beatles and their unique personas.
15. America loved each of the band members
When The Ed Sullivan Show introduced The Beatles to America, the cameras showed a close-up shot of each of the band members’ faces during one of their songs. Time recalls that the sequence went, “Paul McCartney, doe-eyed; George Harrison, jug-eared and stoic; Ringo Starr, grinning earnestly. When John Lennon got his close-up at the very end, an unexpected postscript revealed, ‘Sorry, girls, he’s married.'” It was easy to typecast them. But Paul later said that he was “not comfortable with being ‘The Cute Beatle.’ I’ve never really thought I was ‘cute,’ though I guess some people think so.”
Next: They had to sneak out of their hotel to go sightseeing in this city.
16. The chaos followed them back to New York
History reports that the chaos followed The Beatles when they later took a train from Washington back to New York. There, “their rail car had to be switched to a separate platform to bypass swarms of waiting kids. Some fans came to blows jockeying for a better position in the crowds, and police were forced to contend with teenagers rushing their barricades just to get a chance at touching their heroes.”
Next: They filmed in this Florida city.
17. The Beatles headed south to film with Ed Sullivan in Miami
The Beatles also headed south during their time in the United States. They flew to Miami to appear on another episode of The Ed Sullivan Show being filmed there. Though they could escape the northeastern cold, they didn’t get away from the crowds that had followed them around Washigton and New York. On their second live television appearance, they played six songs before a crowd of 2,600 fans. Plus, as History reports, an estimated 70 million gathered around their TV sets at home to watch.
Next: The band took time to do this, too.
18. They spent a few days exploring Miami
History reports that when they traveled to Miami for their second Ed Sullivan appearance, The Beatles also took the time to go sightseeing in Miami. The band spent a few days “taking in the sand and surf around Miami with a small army of photographers and newsmen in tow,” the publication notes. “They also posed for a now-famous photo op with the boxer Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), who was in town for a championship bout with Sonny Liston.”
Next: A huge crowd welcomed the band back to London.
19. 10,000 fans greeted them when they returned from the U.S.
When The Beatles concluded their U.S. trip and returned home, they arrived back in London to a crowd of 10,000 fans “who greeted them like they were generals back from campaign,” History reports. “The ‘British invasion’ of America, as Walter Cronkite had called it, had ended in conquest.” Five Beatles songs landed in the Billboard Hot 100. Their TV appearances broke ratings records. “The Beatles had stepped onto the tarmac at JFK International Airport on February 7 as an overseas oddity, but they left on February 22 as genuine superstars.”
Next: This museum made models of The Beatles.
20. By March, they had wax figures at Madame Tussaud’s
Thanks to the Beatles’ sudden stardom, they were suddenly in demand everywhere, including at London wax museum Madame Tussaud’s. By March, the museum had made and unveiled figures of the four band members. They were reportedly the first pop group to have wax figures at the museum. And once the exhibit was unveiled, The Beatles even stopped by to pose for some photographs with the figures.
Next: This trademark of the band became iconic.
21. The Beatles’ hair became iconic
Even the Beatles’ haircuts became iconic. And as Vogue reports, their hairstyles would evolve during the band’s years in the spotlight. “In just five years, John, Paul, Ringo, and George went from mop-topped heartthrobs on The Ed Sullivan Show to shaggy-haired pioneers of psychedelic rock with albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Yellow Submarine.” In 1964, they had mod mop tops. By 1965, the bowl cuts gave way to shaggier crops. In 1966, they grew out of the fringe and embraced sideburns. And in 1967, they grew mustaches.
Next: The Beatles started to appear on film.
22. The band began to appear in movies
As Beatlemania took over the world, it only seemed logical for the band to expand their on-screen appearances from TV performances to movies. In 1964, the Fab Four filmed A Hard Day’s Night. As The New York Times describes the film, “This is lightning in a bottle: the Beatles and Beatlemania at their apogee, with all the requisite screaming, racing and mop-top clowning.” The Times adds, “Elvis Presley had been pumping out shoddy movies for years at this point. A Hard Day’s Night could have been a cash grab, but it ended up being one of the best movies of the 1960s.” Help! followed in 1965, Magical Mystery Tour in 1967, Yellow Submarine in 1968, and Let It Be in 1970.
Next: The band also filmed this.
23. They also recorded a memorable television special
Also in the spring of 1964, The Beatles recorded a memorable TV special, called “Around the Beatles,” which would be broadcast both in the U.K. and in the U.S. According to The Beatles Bible, the band participated in two segments for the show: a musical set and a spoof of Act V, Scene I of Shakespeare’s iconic play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the publication notes, “John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison also mimed a trumpet fanfare at the start of the show, and Ringo Starr appeared with a flag to set off a cannon ball.”
Next: Check out what the band’s Shakespeare skit looked like.
24. The band even performed Shakespeare
The Beatles Bible reports that each of the band members had a role to play in the Shakespeare segment of “Around the Beatles.” The publication notes, “For the Shakespeare spoof, Lennon took the female role of Thisbe, McCartney played Pyramus, Harrison was Moonshine and Starr played Lion. Incidentally, McCartney later owned a cat he named Thisbe.”
Next: The Beatles traveled the world.
25. They went on an official world tour
Seattle Pi reports that come August 1964, The Beatles were embarking on an official world tour, and Seattle was the third stop. They played for a crowd of 15,000 fans, where it was reported that girls outnumbered boys 20 to 1, and the music could barely be heard over the screaming. During their stay in Seattle, the Fab Four stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, where they famously went fishing from their room. The Los Angeles Times reports that most hotels in the Seattle area wouldn’t house the band “because they couldn’t protect them from their ever-present hysterial fans.”
Next: Here’s when Beatlemania peaked.
26. Beatlemania hit its peak as The Beatles grew up
In 1965, the band carried on recording music and touring. They embarked on their second U.S. tour, and The Guardian reports that Beatlemania was “hitting its peak” in America. The oldest member of the band, John Lennon, was just 25 at the time, but columnists wondered what The Beatles would do when they grew up. And “in a market driven by teenagers, the quartet were seen to be approaching their sell-by date.” It was also in 1965 that John became a licensed driver — though he was notoriously inattentive behind the wheel and rarely drove after passing the test.
Next: Their fans propelled them to the top of the charts.
27. The Beatles had many no. 1 singles and top-selling records
The Conversation reports that “Between the 1964 release of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Let it Be EP in 1970, the Lads from Liverpool had a Number One single for, on average, one out of every six weeks and a top-selling album every third week.” Fans propelled new releases to the top of the charts — but not just because of the way they sounded. “There’s a reason Beatlemania is typified by hordes of young women: The Beatles looked good,” The Conversation notes. “Although the fans may have drowned out the music with their shrieks, at least they still had a sight to behold.”
Next: Queen Elizabeth II gave the band this honor.
28. The Beatles became Members of the British Empire
The Telegraph reports that “The Fab Four were invested as Members of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1965, after topping record charts around the world.” When the band went to Buckingham Palace to accept the honor, police had to hold back fans at the palace gates. Interestingly enough, John Lennon later returned his medal, writing to the queen in 1969 that “I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon.”
Next: These two members of the band were competitors and collaborators.
29. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were competitors and collaborators
The Atlantic reports that “the famous partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney demonstrates the brilliance of creative pairs.” In fact, “John and Paul were so obviously more creative as a pair than as individuals, even if at times they appeared to work in opposition to each other.” In December 1966, John wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Paul responded by writing “Penny Lane.” As The Atlantic reports, ” This sort of call-and-response was no anomaly,” and the friendly competition between the duo “helped give birth to the two albums that represent the best of John and Paul’s work together: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album.”
Next: The band eventually broke up.
30. Nothing lasts forever, not even The Beatles
Neither Beatlemania nor even The Beatles could last forever. Rolling Stone reports, “The Beatles hadn’t just made music — they had made their times, as surely as any political force, and more beneficently than most. Why, then, did the Beatles walk away?” In the publication’s assessment, “As much as the Beatles may have loved their communion, the world around them loved it even more. That was the love that, more than anything, exalted the Beatles but also hemmed them in with one another, and they could not withstand it. John Lennon, in particular, felt he had to break that love, and Paul McCartney hated to see it torn asunder. Once it was done, though, it was done.”
Read more: The Beatles: The Best Songs of All Time
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