In 1964, New England – along with the rest of the country — was 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.
On September 12, 1964, it was Boston’s turn. All summer, the Beatles weighed heavily on the minds of New Englanders as the 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 that was being fueled by parental disapproval.
Arthur Fiedler put a smile on concert-goers faces by adding a rendition of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to the summer concert. Fiedler had been in Liverpool earlier and was fascinated by the appeal of the group. 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.”
When the band 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. Crowds were minimal.
They stayed at the Madison Hotel, on an upper floor of the building located next to Boston Garden whose sign was a familiar landmark to people of a certain age. Any effort to keep a low profile failed, however, and hundreds of fans stampeded the hotel to get at the quartet.
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, the Boston Garden was packed with an official head count of 13,909 fans, each with 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 a dozen songs later – which went virtually unheard because of the screaming fans – history was made with a 35-minute show. The British had conquered Boston again. The boys were on a flight to Baltimore before midnight as thousands of fans lingered outside the Boston Garden hoping for one last glimpse.
This story was updated in 2017.