The Beatles' legendary tours of America between 1964 and 1966 are etched in rock and roll lore, as are their various tours around the world. Which Beatles fan doesn't know about their Australian tour when Ringo was ill and a substitute filled in for a fortnight? Or their disastrous experience in the Philippines in 1966? These are all part of rock tour legend, but a vital part of their touring history is often overlooked, and for reasons which are at once confusing and inexcusable. I refer to, of course, the six UK tours they undertook between 1963 and 1965. These tours were what set the band on their path to superstardom and were the genesis of the phenomenon known as Beatlemania, yet they are often overlooked when the bigger picture of their touring years are considered. Clearly this shouldn't be the case and an in-depth look into these tours and their import in the Fab Four's career is the subject of Martin Creasy's book Beatlemania.
Having read and reviewed the definitive work on the Beatles' American tours, I was very interested in reading Beatlemania as I viewed it as a companion work in the sense that it focused on the same aspects of the UK tours that Some Fun Tonight did with regards to the US tours. However, it does this in a completely different format: whereas Some Fun Tonight is a mammoth tome full of photographs, memorabilia, and breaks each tour down by show, Beatlemania is more of a narrative chronicle of each UK tour. Martin Creasy has exhaustively researched each tour and takes the reader through them in chronological order from beginning to end. There are details and background on each of the support acts, cities and venues, and in most cases the tour managers and venue support staff as well. Additionally, the memories of numerous audience members from each show who were interviewed for the book help put each show into proper context. There are also quotes from interviews the Beatles gave to newspapers in each city they visited as well as what contemporary reviewers in the press said about each concert. Photo sections corresponding to each tour show the reader some of the tour posters and ticket stubs (see photo below), as well as photos of the Beatles and their tour mates onstage and backstage. There are even some great never-before-seen pictures, most notably the only surviving photographs of the band from their first UK tour in early 1963 (supporting Helen Shapiro).
As the book progresses, the Beatles go from being an unproven supporting band far down on the bill who were virtually unknown outside of northwest England to the the biggest headliners the country (and later, the world) would ever see. Indeed, on their first two tours, supporting Helen Shapiro on the first and Chris Montez/Tommy Roe on the second, the band won over new fans and eventually made such an impact that by the end of them they had usurped the headliners. Concurrent with these tours were their first #1 singles, "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You," which cemented their status. However, even on their third tour they were not headlining and were supporting the great Roy Orbison (of whom they were all big fans). To his credit, Orbison graciously gave up his headlining slot when he saw the riotous reception the Fab Four were getting although in doing so, he put them in the unenviable position of following directly after him! By their fourth tour of 1963 there was no doubt that the Beatles had arrived and were bonafide headliners. The success of "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and their first two albums solidified their spot as the top rock band in all of England. The mania was at fever pitch but the band, though exhausted, didn't seem to be tired of it. A different picture is painted for their final two tours, though. The 1964 UK tour saw slightly dampened crowd frenzy, but it was still a harrowing adventure getting into and out of every gig. The band were physically wearier and also tired of the incessantly banal and stupid questioning they were subjected to before and after every show. By their final UK tour in December 1965, it was clear they'd had enough and were nearing the end of their touring rope. That final UK tour consisted of only nine dates, although they had support from the Moody Blues as well as the Paramounts (who would eventually form the nucleus of Procul Harum). While the Beatles should be commended for continuing to add their new material to their set lists, they were hamstrung by the state of concert equipment in the mid-1960s and could no longer reproduce their ambitious material onstage. As we all know, this was the primary (but not the only) factor in their decision to stop touring after their summer American tour of 1966.
Beatlemania is, overall, an enjoyable book to read although it does tend to get monotonous the further along you get into it. This is down to its construction, which consists of very similar paragraphs for each show of each tour. After the first few tours, it becomes a repeated cycle of the band getting smuggled into the venue, the crowd shouting down the support acts with "we want the Beatles!" and the band playing into a hailstorm of screams and constant crowd mania before making a mad dash for their lives to escape the venue. The excerpts of archival newspaper, radio, and TV interviews with the band and their support that are sprinkled throughout, as well as new interviews with the support acts and fans who were at the shows, help break the monotony up and place the reader back in that moment in time. As an added bonus, at the end of the book there is a list of every UK tour date and venue the Beatles played between 1963 and 1965 as well as a splendid appendix with more in-depth interviews the author conducted with many of the central figures from the tours. These include tour promotion staff, support acts, and fans. I actually would have preferred more of these interviews were included in the main body of the book in place of the repetitive analysis of every show. I do still think this is a valuable and fun book for the hardcore Beatles fan, though. While it doesn't do for the Beatles' UK tours what Some Fun Tonight does for their US tours, it is still a worthy and impressive reference work. Creasy's attention to detail and his level of thorough research are certainly impressive and commendable, making this a valuable and substantial Beatles book that I am happy to have in my library.
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