The Beatles came to S’pore on July 2, 1964. 3,000 fans showed up at Paya Lebar Airport.
The one and only time the Fab Four landed here as a group.
British romantic comedy, Yesterday, opened in cinemas in Singapore on Aug. 8, 2019.
The film, directed by Danny Boyle, is about what happens to a singer-songwriter in a world where The Beatles never existed.
The filmmakers paid US$10 million for the rights to use the Beatles’ music in the movie.
Even though none of the Beatles were involved in the project, Boyle received blessings from them and their families.
Currently, only two of the four Beatles remain — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
John Lennon and George Harrison are deceased.
And this may come as a surprise to the uninitiated and the relatively young: The Beatles, besides being the most influential band ever, did pop by Singapore very briefly once back in 1964 — and naturally, sparked a mini-Beatlemania here.
The Beatles in Singapore
On July 2, 1964. The Beatles set foot in Singapore.
This was following The Fab Four’s historic visit to the United States earlier in the year on Feb. 7, 1964 — which marked the start of the Beatles invasion across the Atlantic.
Five months later, the British super group was taking over the world.
Straits Times reported The Beatles’ arrival
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 stopover in Singapore the next day, while on their way back to London.
The short stop in Singapore was scheduled to last for a mere 55 minutes at Paya Lebar Airport, which was Singapore’s main civil international airport before Changi Airport opened in 1981.
Though brief, the article hinted at the preparations made for the band’s arrival.
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.
Beatlemania in Singapore
The Beatles landed in Singapore on the evening of July 2, 1964.
A 3,000-strong crowd made up of youngsters showed up 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.
Fights broke out as fans scuffled with the airport policemen.
The police had to call for reinforcement 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 returned to the aircraft because fans had broken into the venue.
Lennon was reportedly fast asleep in the plane, and Harrison was reading a book.
As gifts, the four Beatles were each given a songkok, which is a cap usually worn by Muslim males in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
McCartney subsequently expressed regret to fans during an interview for not being able to see Singapore and meet them.
The fact that thousands of fans showed up was an impressive feat, considering that it was before the advent of social media.
The Beatles would also have the dubious honour of rallying young people in Singapore from all walks of life together, given how political and racial strife were soon going to rear its ugly head here at that time.
Here is the ST report dated July 2, 1964 on the Beatlemania:
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 one and only time the four members had ever set foot here together.
They disbanded in 1970.
Beatles’ arrival a blip in Singapore’s history
In 1964, Singapore was still 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 these days, would erupt later in the month on July 21.
The Beatles, on the other hand, were experiencing good fortune.
By the time they arrived in Singapore, they had conquered America.
The band’s movie, A Hard Days’ Night, premiered in London on July 6, four days after their Singapore stop.