On this day 60 years ago (June 11, 1964), Beatlemania hit Australia when the fab four landed at Sydney’s Mascot airport to begin their tour of Australia and New Zealand, thrilling music fans and inspiring a legion of musicians.

To celebrate the occasion, authors Andy Neill and Greg Armstrong have released a fantastic 300 page book titled, When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 by – the definitive and deluxe account of the Fab Four’s Australian tour.

An LP-size hardback book of over 300 pages, lavishly illustrated with more than 500 photos and based on decades of research by two internationally-recognised Beatles experts, When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 is in stores now.

Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips had the pleasure of chatting with Andy Neill and Greg Armstrong, authors of When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964, sixty years on from The Beatles arrival in Australia

More about When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964
The importance of the Beatles’ Australian tour remains deeply significant, not only in the memories of baby boomers who lived through it, but also to today’s millennials who wish they had. It remains as one of the rare “where-were-you-when-it-happened?” moments for Australians of a certain age, and not just because of the music. The Beatles’ two weeks in Australia were marked by the sorts of massive crowds and mass adulation that have never truly been surpassed.

Scenes of the band disembarking at Sydney airport in the rain and greeting the crowds in the packed Melbourne city centre in front of the Town Hall balcony are indelibly marked into the national psyche. In staid Adelaide, a staggering 300,000 people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the world’s pop heroes. That welcome is officially acknowledged as the largest ever crowd to welcome the Fab Four.

More than all that, the tour continues to be celebrated as a major landmark in the growth of the nation and an extraordinary cultural turning point, a coming of age for our country and a huge and lasting step in the advancing development of our youth and arts culture. It set the stage in Australia for the remainder of the ’60s as well as the first half of the ’70s, and it remains a major highlight of the Beatles’ remarkable career. And a unique one, given not only the unprecedented mania, but Ringo’s unavailability for the beginning of the trip – which led to the temporary drafting of unknown drummer Jimmie Nicol – and the fact that the Beatles themselves made very little income out of the tour, given their agreement with Australian promoter Kenn Brodziak was made before Beatlemania really took hold anywhere.

The 60th Anniversary of the tour follows last year’s hugely successful and newsworthy Australian tour by Paul McCartney, the end of which coincided with a new Beatles single “Now and Then”. All of this of course followed the record-breaking release of Peter Jackson’s acclaimed The Beatles: Get Back series, which was one of the most-watched television events of 2021. The Beatles remain a ubiquitous presence.

Written and compiled by UK-based New Zealander Andy Neill (whose previous work has included acclaimed books on The Who and Rod Stewart & The Faces) and Melbourne-based Beatles expert Greg Armstrong (co-host of the world’s longest-running Beatles radio show), When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 is the definitive account of this most extraordinary cultural turning point. It tells the story in unprecedented detail, with lavish, eye-popping illustration – using hundreds of evocative and mostly never-before seen images, including original documents, press clippings, vintage memorabilia and hundreds of unpublished photographs – and is beautifully designed.

Based entirely on exhaustive first-hand research spanning two decades, When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 is authoritatively written by experts on the subject. The authors’ process involved sourcing hundreds of original newspapers, magazines and business documents as well as first-hand interviews with over 100 key participants – many of whom have not previously shared their memories – including promoters, support acts, press and radio personalities, as well as original fans who came out in their thousands to see the Beatles. As a result, a vast amount of new information behind those extraordinary weeks appears for the first time, correcting many ‘facts’ misreported for six decades. It really will be the last – and lasting – word.

The world continues to love and enjoy the Beatles. Their music resonates with each new generation. As has occurred with past celebrations of the tour, the 60th anniversary in June 2024 is certain to raise significant interest around Australia, and When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 is the brim-filled, ready-made one-stop-shop for stories and images relating to those wild few weeks.

The Beatles’ landed in Australia at Sydney’s Mascot airport just before 7:45am on Thursday 11 June 1964. Their Australian tour consisted of 20 concerts. There were two shows performed each playing day, at 6pm and 8.45pm, as follows:

Adelaide (4 concerts) – Friday 12 June and Saturday 13 June
Melbourne (6 concerts) – Monday 15 June, Tuesday 16 June, Wednesday 17 June
Sydney (6 concerts) – Thursday 18 June, Friday 19 June, Saturday 20 June
Brisbane (4 concerts) – Monday 29 June, Tuesday 30 June

About the authors:
Andy Neill is a UK-based music writer, researcher and historian, born in New Zealand. He co-wrote the best-selling, illustrated authorised biography, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle Of The Who (Friedman/Fairfax, 2002). Additionally, he compiled and annotated two Beatles photo anthologies, Across The Universe: The Beatles On Tour And On Stage (Haynes Publishing, 2009) from the British Daily Mirror’s photo archive, and Looking Through You: Rare And Unseen Photographs From The Beatles Book Monthly Archive (Omnibus Press, 2015). He is the author of an acclaimed biography, Had Me A Real Good Time about the lives and careers of Rod Stewart and the Faces (Omnibus Press, 2011). His most recent book was the warmly received chronicle of the pioneering 1960’s UK TV pop music programme Ready, Steady, Go! The Weekend Starts Here (BMG, 2020).

Andy has compiled and/or contributed extensive liner notes for archival reissues, including the back catalogue of the Who and the Kinks. He has been consultant, editor and archive producer on numerous best-selling music biographies and documentaries. His music writing has appeared in magazines including Record Collector, Mojo and Ugly Things

Greg Armstrong is a Melbourne-born and based radio presenter, researcher and Beatles historian. He is a co-presenter on Australia’s Let It Be Beatles radio programme (LIBB), the world’s longest running, weekly live radio show dedicated to the Beatles, on Melbourne’s 88.9 WynFM, streaming live with a global listener base. The show is now in its 32nd continuous year live on air, having broadcast over 1,450 episodes. He maintains strong connections administering the LIBB Facebook group and Blogspot.

Greg has made numerous appearances on radio and television programmes, been interviewed about the Beatles’ Australian tour (multiple times by ABC radio), provided Beatles historical expertise (The Auction Room, ABC TV) and regular special guest appearances on various radio shows. He was also archival consultant to the widely acclaimed Beatles’ Australian tour 40th anniversary multimedia theatre shows and has contributed to a number of Beatles features in Australian and worldwide newspapers and magazines.

When We Was Fab: Inside The Beatles Australasian Tour 1964 by Andy Neill and Greg Armstrong is published June 1, 2024 by Woodslane Press.
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