DID THEY DELIVER VALUE FOR MONEY?
SOUTH AUSTRALIA embraced "Beatlemania’’ like nowhere else in the world in 1964.
Demand for tickets in Adelaide outstripped all other Australian cities, with queues outside the two sales offices at John Martin’s city store on North Terrace and Allans Music in Gawler Place stretching for hundreds of metres and taking 48 hours to clear.
When the announcement of four concerts was first made, more than 50,000 applications were received for tickets to see the Beatles in Adelaide’s Centennial Hall, which had a capacity of just 3000 seats.
Not surprisingly, the four concerts — staged at 6pm and 8.45pm on Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13 — were sell-outs. What is invariably overlooked is that there were another 15,000 fans congregated outside the venue on both evenings just hoping, by some miracle, they could get inside.
So, what did it cost to see the greatest band on earth? All Beatles concert tickets cost 36 shillings, (1 pound 16 shillings) or the equivalent of $3.60 today. In 1964, average weekly earnings in SA were the equivalent of $47.60. Today, they are $1282.60, which is a 27-fold increase on the figure from 1964.
Making the comparison, the Beatles tickets sold in 1964 for the equivalent of $98 today. To compare, tickets for teeny bopper sensations One Direction in Adelaide last year — which in the rapid digital world sold out in three minutes — began at $79 for B Reserve and stretched to $399 for the Sound Check Party Package for well-heeled, diehard fans.
Throughout the ’60s the Beatles’ greatest rivals were the Rolling Stones, who are still playing gigs 45 years after their contemporaries played their last impromptu gig — and first live appearance for three years — on the roof of the Apple Studio in Savile Row, London, in January 1969.
Tickets to the Rolling Stones concert at the newly developed Adelaide Oval in October begin at $79 for general admission and stretch to $510 for premium reserve.
That might sound a lot, but in one of the first cases of ‘scalping’ — the act of reselling tickets for admission to major events at a greatly inflated rate — Beatles tickets were being sold for as much as £7.10s— the equivalent of $450 today — the day before the 1964 Adelaide concerts.
So, what else you could you buy for your money in 1964? If you wanted to buy a Beatles album you paid just $5.75 for mono and $5.95 for stereo. A single of I Want To
Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love or Hard Day’s Night, all number one hits in Australia for the Beatles that year, would have cost you between 90c and $1.20.
A schooner of beer cost just 20c and smokes were 75c for a pack of 20. A two pound (900g) loaf of bread was 35c and a pound of butter (450g) a hefty $1.10, while large eggs were also expensive at $1.40 a dozen. Meat ranged from 68c for a pound of mutton to $1.40 for the same amount of pork.
Petrol was the equivalent of 13c a litre while the price for a car ranged from $1600 to more than $16,000 for a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost fresh off the factory floor. An EH Holden standard sedan was $2102. A new prefabricated house could be bought for $5000, but average house prices were about $9000.
So, for those lucky enough to see the Fab Four in the flesh, did the Liverpool Likely Lads provide good value? Well, there were several support acts on the bill including Sounds Incorporated, Johnny Devlin and Johnny Chester and The Phantoms.
None of those are famous names today, but all of them are a cut above some of the support acts offered up today.
At the time Sounds Incorporated, later known as Sounds Inc, was a British instrumental pop group that had recorded extensively and later became the backing band for Cilla Black.
Johnny Devlin was a big star in Australia and his native New Zealand where he was known as the Kiwi version of Elvis Presley.
Johnny Chester was a hard-working and established musician who fronted several bands and helped deliver Australian country music respectability with a pop audience.
Each concert only lasted about 30 minutes compared with the two hours plus that is regularly delivered by headline acts today. Some were grateful the concerts didn’t last any longer, claiming that was the beginning of their issues with hearing loss. The band wasn’t exactly pumping out the volume at the level of AC/DC — but the crowd was.
The screaming and squealing reached a crescendo during Can’t Buy Me Love but there was a slight and appreciated lull from the wall of sound during This Boy, before a rousing rendition of Long Tall Sally — Paul mccartney didn’t so as much sing as yell — to conclude proceedings.
So, if you were lucky enough to snare a ticket to see the Beatles in Adelaide in June 1964, you didn’t pay a fortune to get in — but it wasn’t exactly record quality either.
Not that many would have minded as they knew they were a large part of the biggest event in the history of South Australia. Money can’t buy you love, but at the right place and time, it can buy you memories to last a lifetime.