HITS AND MEMORIES
IT’S A STORY I remember well, one my dad, Greg, often told as my two older brothers and I sat in the back of his 1984 Corolla.
That car was a revelation for our family – clearly not for its horsepower but the fact it had a cassette player. It also provided a moving but captive audience for my old man, who would create extensive mix tapes of classic to not-so-classic rock; let’s say from Zeppelin to Feargal Sharkey.
With each song there would be a story from Dad — a former music journalist and rock lover until the very end. But there was one that topped them all.
It would usually follow as the opening chords of the Beatles’ Twist and Shout crackled through the car’s speakers. We kids knew it as the song Ferris Bueller sang but, for my dad, it was a much different story — and one he would happily tell ad-nauseam.
“I sat front row for their concert about two metres from Paul Mc Cartney,” he would say, slowly turning the volume down.
“Oh God – not again,” my eldest brother Matt would sigh.
We were young and had no idea how important this band was, or how amazing it was that my father paid just 36 shillings to sit front row at a Beatles concert. He was only 16. He’d moved to Adelaide from Naracoorte a few months before and had heard the Beatles singing I Saw Her Standing There on Victorian metropolitan station 3DB.
As soon as he heard tickets were going on sale for the Adelaide performance, my father’s cousin and best friend, Gillian, joined the queue to purchase tickets. He was always quite proud of the fact they slept out in the CBD to buy tickets – which was always my bartering tool at a young age when I was trying to organise a sleepover at a friend’s place or a night on the town
“But you slept out in the city when you were my age!” I would say, to no avail.
My father’s principal at Pulteney Grammar School even said students were forbidden from doing this and he was “warned” about the dangers.
My dad the rebel – who would have thought?
“I’ll never forget seeing the Beatles perform,” he’d say. “The show at Centennial Hall was a revelation.”
The Beatles played a 10-song set, which went for only 30 minutes. One thing my father always emphasised was the fact he saw the Beatles, but could hardly hear a note over the screaming, even though he was in the front row. A few years ago, he even wrote a piece on his experience.
“I know they sang This Boy, because for some reason the audience quieted down for a few minutes,” he said.
“I also heard Mc Cartney scream out the final song — Long Tall Sally. I was only two metres from him. I’m sure he smiled at me. But then again he might have been smiling at the pretty screaming, sobbing girl next to me.”
This story, often told in that blue Corolla, would last more than the length of a short Beatles hit. Soon after the volume would go back up and we would continue on our drive — that is until a song by The Who came on.
For anyone who knew my father, you would know his stories of this band would go on for the entire drive.
GILL SMITH (Greg Kelton’s cousin)
The Beatles queue was great fun. It was Greg’s idea to go in the queue and he organised the roster. Carol (my sister) went in first on the Friday afternoon. She was only 13, at school, which finished early, so that’s why we were right at the front of the queue. It went down North Tce from John Martin’s back entrance (now David Jones) and round the corner up Gawler Place and Rundle Mall. We all took different shifts, and the first time I went in I couldn’t believe how many people were in it. I don’t think we had any sleep.
On the Monday morning, every one, no matter how tired they were, stood up from about 7am and started pushing toward John Martin’s door.
It got worse the closer it got to 9am, and when the doors opened people just pushed. We were all there and bought tickets – I think each person was limited to two.
The Beatles arrived and there was a motorcade that came up Anzac Highway and we were near Adelaide Boys High when they came past. People, including my sister, ran out on to the road to try and touch them – we didn’t get close. The concerts were held on 12th and 13th June and I think we went Saturday night at 8pm – they had two shows each night, 6pm and 8pm.
The atmosphere was amazing and when they came on stage the noise was deafening. The first song they sang was
I Saw Her Standing There and I think the last was Twist and Shout and I don’t think we heard much else in between as there was so much screaming!
People queue in John Martin's department store to buy Beatles tickets
Greg Kelton, circa 1964