Arts and Leisure

Beatles Roll Through Boston – With Pandemonium to Spare

In 1964, New England – along with the rest of the country — went Beatles crazy. Since the day they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in February, with their scandalously long hair, the boys from Liverpool did nothing but wow crowds across the U.S. on their first American tour.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

On Sept. 12, 1964, Boston took its turn. All summer, the Beatles had made their presence known in New England parents. Images of girls shrieking and fainting at their concerts disturbed parents and inflamed teenagers.

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital tried to explain the frenzy as a sort of natural reaction fueled by parental disapproval.

Beatles Meet the Pops

Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler put a smile on concert-goers’ faces by adding a rendition of I Want to Hold Your Hand to the summer concert. Orchestra members did not find it amusing.

Fiedler had traveled to Liverpool earlier and found the band’s appeal fascinating. The band members joked a bit about it, but one loyal Beatles fan would later say the Pops turned her on to the group. “I thought if the Pops did it, the Beatles couldn’t be that bad.”


Girls with their Beatles tickets. (Boston Public Library)

Girls with their Beatles tickets. (Boston Public Library)

When the Beatles finally arrived in Boston, they tried to stay low-key. Their plane arrived at 3:40 a.m. at Hanscom Field Air Force Base under tight security. Only a small crowd greeted them.

They stayed at the Madison Hotel, on an upper floor of the building located next to Boston Garden. People of a certain age knew well the Madison Hotel sign. Any effort to keep a low profile failed, however, and hundreds of fans stampeded the hotel to get at the quartet.

North Station area in early 1960s, Hotel Madison (with Boston Garden immediately behind it) at upper right

The (Short) Main Event

A quick press conference – crashed by three fans – let the band giggle with the media over their success and teed up the main event that evening.

By the start of the show, 13,909 fans officially packed the Boston Garden. Each had a ticket tickets priced at $3.50 to $5.50. Girls screamed and fainted. Causeway Street was flooded with thousands who couldn’t get in but wanted to witness the event anyway.

The band took the stage at 9:15, and sang a dozen songs that went virtually unheard because of the screaming fans. They began with Twist and Shout and included two recent hits: She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand. They ended with Long Tall Sally, making history with a 35-minute show. The British had conquered Boston again.

The boys boarded a flight to Baltimore before midnight as thousands of fans lingered outside Boston Garden hoping for one last glimpse.

This story was updated in 2022. Images: Beatles with Ed Sullivan By CBS Television – eBayfrontbackarchived copy of auction and photos, PD-US, Hotel Mdison and Boston Garden By Urban Redevelopment Division, Boston Housing Authority – West End project area looking northeasterly via City of Boston ArchivesBoston Housing Authority photographs in Boston Redevelopment Authority photographsCollection # 4010.001, File name: WE_0021, CC BY 2.0, 

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