The Beatles came to Singapore in 1964, went Hello, Goodbye & left very quickly like Lucy in the Sky
Magical Mystery Tour.
The Beatles are widely recognised as one of the greatest bands in history and perhaps Across the Universe.
Comprising John Lennon (guitar), Paul McCartney (bass), George Harrison (guitar), and Ringo Starr (drums), the mop-topped fab-four took the world by storm, after they had Come Together in the 1960s.
They have defined the world’s music scene all the way into the present.
Their legendary musical creativity gave the world classic hits like Yesterday, I want to hold your hand, and I saw her standing there. Yesterday remains one of the most covered songs ever, with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and even Boyz II Men having a go at it.
It was from the huge popularity of the Beatles in their day that Beatlemania was born.
The band’s Long and Winding Road in the 1960s saw them touring widely across the world. Here, There and Everywhere they went, adoring crowds of screaming fans would follow, including those in Singapore.
The Beatles in Singapore
The Beatles came to Singapore in 1964 and went Hello, Goodbye.
A short article in the Straits Times on July 1, 1964 announced that the band had just completed a tour of New Zealand and Australia, and they had a Ticket to Ride to Singapore for a stopover the next day, while on their way back to London.
The short stop in Singapore was scheduled to last for only a mere 55 minutes at Paya Lebar Airport, which was Singapore’s main civil international airport before Changi opened in 1981.
Though brief, the article hints at the preparations made for the band’s arrival, in anticipation of the Beatlemania than the band’s presence in Singapore was likely to cause.
“The Beatles arriving in Singapore
Singapore, Tues. – The Beatles, who recently completed a tour of New Zealand and Australia, will make a 55-minute stopover at Singapore airport before flying back to London.
Their Qantas V-Jet from Sydney will land at Paya Lebar about 7.15pm tomorrow.
As soon as the plane touches down, a special van will drive up to the aircraft and take the Beatles to the VIP suite at the end of the departures block of the new passenger terminal.”
1964 was a significant year for the Beatles and a tumultuous one for Singapore.
Back then, Singapore was part of Malaysia and communal tensions were high between the Chinese an Malay communities. At the time of the Beatles’ arrival on July 2, Malaysia’s Umno politician Syed Jaafar Albar was due to make what would turn out to be a fiery speech at Pasir Panjang, stirring up racial tensions in the process.
Singapore’s racial riots of 1964, which we mark with Racial Harmony Day today, would erupt later in the month, on July 21.
Things were a lot more positive for the Beatles, however, as 1964 marked a great year for them. By the time they arrived in Singapore, they had conquered America with their music earlier in the year, and their movie, A Hard Days’ Night, was due to be premiered in London four days later on July 6.
Beatlemania in Singapore
The Beatles landed in Singapore on the evening of July 2, 1964, to a 3,000-strong expectant crowd of youngsters hoping to catch a glimpse of the band.
But disappointment set in when none of the members left the plane, and the mob broke through steel barricades and climbed over six-foot walls to get close to the Qantas jetliner that the band was on.
Chaos ensued. It was like a Revolution with fights breaking out as fans scuffled with the airport policemen who wanted fans to Get Back to where they once belonged. The police had to call for Help with reinforcements from the nearby Paya Lebar Police Station.
McCartney and Starr would later disembark from the plane to head to Paya Lebar Airport’s VIP room, but had to Helter Skelter back to the plane because fans had broken into the VIP room.
Back on board, McCartney would express regret to fans during an interview for not being able to Please Please fans by seeing Singapore and meeting them.
Here is a Straits Times report dated July 2, 1964 on the Beatlemania:
“Hysterical S’pore teenagers in Beatle battle
THEY BREAK THROUGH AIRPORT GATES AND CLIMB WALLS
Nearly 3,000 Beatle-struck teenagers screamed hysterically at Singapore Airport tonight for Britain’s top pop-singing group, when they flew in for a 55-minute stopover on their way home after a tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The hysteria was sparked off when the Beatles did not get off their plane, and teenagers at the airport never got more than a glimpse or two of the celebrated pop singers.
Steel barricades could not hold the crowd’s enthusiasm as they broke through padlocked gates, and climbed over six-foot walls at the new terminal building to try to get near the Beatles.
Fights broke out as fans scrambled and struggled with airport policemen to get onto the new apron where the Beatles’ Qantas jetliner was being refuelled.
Airport police were unable to control the yelling youngsters, and police reinforcements had to be sent from the nearby Paya Lebar Police Station.
Only two of the four mop-haired Beatles, drummer Ringo Starr and bass guitarist Paul McCartney, came down from the plane.
They were at once driven towards the VIP room after waving to the crowd from the plane.
But because the teenagers had broken into the VIP room, the two Beatles were driven back to the plane.
Beatle John Lennon was fast asleep in the plane, and George Harrison was reading a book.
In an interview on board the plane, Paul McCartney expressed the Beatles’ regret for not being able to meet their fans and see Singapore.
Miss Pixie Monteiro, a model presented four songkoks to the Beatles on board the plane, and also handed them a £5,000-a-week offer on behalf of Malaysia Movie Producers to come to Singapore.
Mr Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, said: “We will think it over.”
Unfortunately, the Beatles’ 55-minute stopover in Singapore was the only time the band had ever set foot in Singapore. They went on to be disbanded in 1970 and would never perform in Singapore as the Beatles.
Top image from Wikipedia and Pinterest.