Forget New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, and One Direction. The first pop group to cause mass hysteria in every far-flung corner of the globe was unquestionably The Beatles. Yes, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr no doubt enjoyed the perks of being the kind of stars that every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with. But their stratospheric levels of fame also came with a price. Here’s a look at 30 photos that show how Beatlemania was often synonymous with danger.
1. “Three Beatles grimace at crowd antics”
In this photo, George seems to be taking all the madness in his stride, but two of his bandmates look entirely unnerved. Yes, it’s clear that Paul and Ringo aren’t exactly enjoying all the screaming fans from the grimaces on their faces. In fact, the latter looks like he’s just seen a ghost! Who knows where John was at the time? But apparently all four members of The Beatles were at John F. Kennedy International Airport for a changeover as they continued their tour of North America.
2. Police drop fan
You might expect that two policemen would have little problem lifting an injured Beatles fan to safety. But the pair in question here look as if they’re about to add to her woes. Yes, the poor youngster in blatant pain is on the verge of being dropped by the men carrying her out from the crowd. Let’s just hope she enjoyed the parts of the show at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium she did get to see. The gig was part of the Fab Four’s North American tour in the summer of 1964.
3. Fans sobbing at a concert
Screaming incredibly loud wasn’t the only noise pollution The Beatles had to put up with whenever they took to the live stage. Their highly emotional fans also had a habit of bursting into uncontrollable tears upon coming face to face with their musical heroes. No doubt that staff at Comiskey Park in Chicago had to stock up on tissues when John, Paul, George, and Ringo came to town for one particular 1960s gig. Approximately 20,000 tearful Fab Four lovers descended to the venue, many of whom turned on the waterworks.
4. Buy your own Beatles’ hair
John, George, and Ringo might not have had much hairdressing experience. But you can’t blame Paul for relying on his bandmates to give him a trim as seen in the right-hand side of this throwback photo. It appears as though at least one former barber — or perhaps one of their other clients — helped themselves to a lock of the bassist’s hair during a previous snip. And to capitalize on the need for all things Fab Four, the shrewd hair collector then sold their slightly icky stash for a cold, hard profit.
5. Fans mobbing a car
It wasn’t just inside the venue where concertgoers tried to get closer to the pop idols who adorned their walls. The more persistent fan would also follow the path of The Beatles’ getaway cars in order to increase their chances of a very brief meet and greet. And road safety obviously wasn’t much of a concern, either. This snap shows a sheriff’s officer for San Mateo Country trying, and mostly failing, to keep the crowd in check as a vehicle — presumably with at least one Beatle or a member of their entourage — drives by.
6. The Beatles vs. Jesus Christ
From the Disco Sucks movement to the Dixie Chicks’ criticisms of George W. Bush, several pop controversies have prompted the mild-mannered general public to destroy their own records over the years. And one of the most famous involved Liverpool’s finest. Following John’s remarks that the Fab Four had more popularity than Jesus Christ, many of the group’s fans took to the streets to protest. Here, a gathering of teens make their feelings about such blasphemy crystal clear by setting fire to their Beatles paraphernalia at an event organized by radio station WAYX-AM.
7. Ringo gets cornered
In most other bands the drummer would be completely overshadowed by the guitarist, bassist, and frontman. Not the Fab Four. Ringo might still be most people’s fourth-favorite Beatle, but he still got the kind of attention that most of his peers could only dream of. As this photo taken during the band’s Miami leg of their North American tour in 1964 shows, Ringo couldn’t even take a quick dip in the ocean without getting mobbed when he emerged on dry land.
8. Paul McCartney gets mobbed
We can’t quite work out whether the bespectacled older lady closest to Paul is trying to stop the younger girl from invading the bassist’s space, or whether she’s joining in with all the mob action herself. Either way, the Scouser’s walk to Teddington’s ABC Studios in 1964 appears to have been quite the ordeal. Paul and the rest of the Fab Four later ended up using a boat to swerve all their hysterical fans. But that didn’t stop their determined army from trying to get a piece.
9. Beatles fans storm Buckingham Palace
It seems unlikely that any Beatles fans who turned up to Buckingham Palace in this particular photo were interested in seeing any member of the royal family. They obviously only had eyes for George, John, Paul, and Ringo. And from the looks of it they weren’t going to let the small matter of a team of policemen stand in their way. The Fab Four were at the historic residence to receive their OBE from none other than the Queen herself.
10. “Stop that train!”
When fans weren’t trying to accost The Beatles on foot or on the road, they were trying their best to get up close and personal with their idols on public transport. In this telling snap, George Harrison can be seen trying to settle down for a nice cup of tea having spent all day filming the Fab Four’s big screen effort A Hard Day’s Night. But instead of being able to relax in his train carriage, he’s greeted by the sight of adoring admirers pressing their noses up to the window.
11. Excited or electrified?
Perhaps these two excitable young ladies had been carrying out the static balloon experiment before heading to the concert venue? Perhaps they’d gone a little overboard with the hair dryer? Or perhaps they were just so excited at the prospect of seeing The Beatles up close that they couldn’t stop running their fingers through their locks. Either way the pair look an electrifying sight as they watch the Fab Four play the hits in the British city of Exeter.
12. Noisy fans
The police force perhaps should have been kitted out with super strong ear plugs whenever they had to be in the vicinity of a Beatles frenzy. This poor officer no doubt heard ringing noises for days after tending to a crowd at a Fab Four gig. You might notice that he’s not the only individual in this picture perturbed by the high decibel levels. The woman on the left of the pic putting her fingers in her ears also seems to be regretting her decision to tag along.
13. John, I love you
Say what you like about the baying mob that followed The Beatles around, but you could never accuse them of keeping things to themselves. In this pic one hopeful youngster makes it crystal clear how she feels about her favorite member of the Fab Four with a banner which reads, “John, I Love You.” There also appears to be a similar sign for George behind her. But we’re sure that at least some of the crowd waiting outside New York’s Delmonico Hotel also expressed their love for Paul and Ringo.
14. Holding back the masses
The local police force no doubt had to call on every member of staff when John, George, Paul, and Ringo headed toward their hometown. In this dramatic photo two poor officers appear to have been tasked with keeping hundreds of Beatles fans behind a metal barrier. And as you would expect, they’re in a losing battle. All the screaming and hollering was in honor of The Beatles showing up at Cheltenham’s Odeon Cinema. But no doubt the noise outside was louder than anything on screen.
15. George with mail mountain
It seems hard to believe, considering his mature appearance, but George has only just turned 21 years old in this color snap. Fans of the guitarist certainly knew about the milestone, though. Just look at the mountain of cards — and the odd boxed package — on the table wishing him a happy birthday. And there were so many to sift through that a rather pale-looking female employee from NEMS, the Fab Four’s management team, was given the task of helping him.
16. To the rescue
As you would expect from a band who were pretty much dominating the British pop culture landscape at the time the Northern England premiere of The Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night was very well attended. Policemen certainly had to be on their guard at the cinema hosting it, as did their horses. Unfortunately for one fan the excitement got a little too much and she had to be carried away by an officer who couldn’t look more unimpressed by the situation if he tried.
17. Beatles bedroom
There are Beatles fans, and then there are Beatles superfans. No doubt this particular bedroom was a familiar sight in many family homes across the globe back in the 1960s. Everything from the ceilings and walls to the bedside cabinet is adorned with images of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. In fact, the bed that the girl is sitting on is pretty much the only thing that’s not covered in photos of the Fab Four. The Merseysiders obviously hadn’t put their name to a duvet range.
18. Screaming, crying, & stamping
You might think that having pretty much every girl in the world screaming with joy at the mere sight of you would be a rock star’s dream. But no doubt The Beatles soon got sick of hearing such an eardrum-splitting sound wherever they turned. In fact, the group even had to stop performing live in their prime, once the noise from their fervent crowds started to drown out their actual songs. The excitable three women in the center of this pic were no doubt part of the problem.
19. Swarmed by photographers with Ed Sullivan
The Beatles had built up such a reputation in their British homeland that, by the time they finally made it across the other side of the pond, the buzz was uncontrollable. It’s why they’re pictured surrounded by photographers and members of the press during their very first appearance on American television. And what a way to make their debut. The Ed Sullivan Show was one of the must-watch shows in the States at the time. While John looks a little nervous, Ringo appears entirely nonplussed.
20. Hanging backstage with runaway
On face value, this photo looks like a happy snap of a 13-year-old fan alongside her musical pin-ups. But there’s a dramatic story behind it. Sitting in between George and Paul is Elizabeth Freeman, a girl who ran away from her Boston home to fulfill her dreams of meeting the Fab Four. She may have got her wish as this picture taken backstage at London’s Astoria Cinema in 1964 proves. But we can imagine Elizabeth stayed grounded for the rest of her teenage years when she returned to her parents.
21. Raw emotion
This photo, taken during The Beatles’ tour of the United States in the summer of 1964, proves that the group really did appeal to all ages. At the back you can make out several older women, some of whom will have been fans themselves and some of whom will probably have been mothers of fans. But the two girls at the front appear to be of tween age. And like so many fans who came within a few feet of the Fab Four, they’re both unable to contain their raw emotions.
22. “Fan Faints as John Lennon Sings”
You can understand why some fans of the Fab Four felt a little overwhelmed by the prospect of seeing the Liverpudlians in the flesh. Even without the emotional attachment, there was an assault on the senses via the constantly popping flashbulbs and the sound of the shrieking audience. Luckily, for those Brits who ended up fainting while attending a Beatles gig, there was always someone close by to provide support. And ever the professionals, the group continued to play on!
23. One man down
Following all the chaos at the premieres of A Hard Day’s Night, you might have expected the police force to be a little more prepared for any kind of crowd congestion four years on. But once again the men in uniform appear to be struggling to contain the thousands and thousands of fans who showed up at Piccadilly Circus’ London Pavilion Cinema in 1968. On this occasion the film being screened for the first time was the animated movie Yellow Submarine.
24. Stopped in their tracks
When they weren’t being mobbed on trains, The Beatles were being mobbed at the train station. Here, Paul looks on bemused as a throng of reporters and photographers in Washington clamor to be in his presence. Although the bassist looks like he’s wondering how on Earth he’s going to navigate his way through the crowd, he’d actually just climbed aboard. Paul and the rest of his bandmates were leaving the capital for New York, having attended a swanky Ambassador’s party.
25. The Beatles battlefield
The premiere of the musical caper A Hard Day’s Night should have been a joyous occasion for fans wanting to see a glimpse of their musical heroes on the big screen. Instead, many ended up on a stretcher, in an ambulance, or at a hospital. The chaotic scene here suggests that there was some kind of explosion at the Odeon Cinema, where the comedy was being shown at. But all the bodies lying horizontal is simply a result of over-excited teenyboppers.
26. One of the casualty stations
You could be forgiven for thinking this particular snap was taken in a war-torn country or an area that had just been hit by a natural disaster. But there was no global catastrophe to blame for all the carnage. It’s simply the result of the large crowd that headed to see The Beatles play a San Francisco show. We don’t know exactly why this youngster was being stretchered away from the scene. But the amount of officials close by suggests that she was definitely being taken care of.
27. Climbing the walls
As well as drowning out the sound of the Fab Four on stage, the often hysterical crowd also gave The Beatles and their team another headache whenever they hit the road. Fans would often try and push their way to the front to get a better glimpse of their idols. And as evident in this snap taken at New York City’s Shea Stadium in the 1960s, some would even scale the security fences to get that little bit closer. Let’s hope the two young girls at the front decided against climbing any higher.
28. Another die-hard fan
We’re not sure whether this relaxed super fan, a lady named Geone Regester, had simply run out of room in her actual home to show off her beloved collection of Beatles memorabilia. Or maybe she just wanted to display her pride and joy in the great outdoors for all her neighbors to see. Either way, her space-hogging assortment of photos is another sign of just how invested youngsters became in the Fab Four during their 1960s teenybopper peak.
29. Snatching for Beatles crumbs
You might expect this sort of rush to the front of the stage when The Beatles were actually performing, or if the group had left something conventionally collectible on the floor after their encore. But all we can see in this picture are crumbs from an unknown source. Were John, Paul, George, and Ringo tucking into sandwiches as they played the hits? Who knows? But their fans’ determination to get their hands on anything their idols had touched shows just how out of control Beatlemania was.
30. Fan club office
While fans now can communicate directly with their musical idols in real time with a single tweet or Instagram DM, it was a very different story back in The Beatles’ heyday. You actually had to make the effort to buy a notepad and pen, handwrite your message, pop it in an envelope, and take it to the post office where you’d also have to buy a stamp to send it. It seems like a lot of effort these days. But as you can tell from this snap taken at the head office of the Fab Four’s fan club, thousands and thousands once did.