1964 - when I didn't see the Beatles

Documentary-makers and pop historians have often rung me over the years asking for memories of the Beatles in Dunedin.

On top of the world - but on tour down under

Over the past few weeks this has started up again, 50 years ago on Thursday, from that historical appearance, June 26, 1964.

None of these eye-for-a-story people ever assume for a minute I DIDN'T see the Beatles that Friday in late June.

They even assume I interviewed them.

Of course I would have, I was 14.

And I didn't see them. Fourteen is not too young to see the Beatles.

Every kid in my class who I desperately and jealously wanted not to go, all went, something to do with having rich parents - it was 54 shillings and sixpence, though door sales around 10 shillings appeared on the day, still too much cash for pocket-moneyless me.

My classmates also had the nerve and skill to get in for free.

The Beatles, after all, sang the best things in life WERE free.

But this was crime at its lowest ebb.

Had they let me into their evil peer group and explained The Plan - something to do with toilet windows that opened out into Municipal Lane just above where Mr Thomas taught us woodwork in 1961 and managed to effect the expulsion of a boy called John, who told him to go forth and multiply when he was asked to come up to the front bench - I still wouldn't have gone.

I had a moral code back then.

And I would have been weeing myself with scaredom.

So I didn't see the Beatles.

Or the other great bands I loved so much, the Stones, the Kinks and, most of all, the Pretty Things.

I took comfort from the fact the Beatles played through a 50W sound system, pretty much what my smartphone has, and that nobody heard a note because of the screaming.

It still would have been nice to be there, to have a visual image of their two concerts, 6pm and 8.30pm, better than the one I do have, that of a row of fifth-form bottoms besquishing their way through nearly-big-enough-windows in Municipal Lane.

I have been reading a lot of ''When I Saw The Beatles'' stories this past week.

A close personal friend, let's just call him John - everyone in the column today will be John, except Paul, George and Ringo (Mr Thomas MUST have been called John Thomas) - rang a week ago with his tale.

And it's a good one.

John loved the Beatles, and being a restless teenager with a keen desire to rip off The Man, decided he would bootleg the concert.

This was before there was bootlegging of music.

Heaven knows bootleg liquor had destroyed 10 billion livers by this time.

John had a small battery-run reel-to-reel tape recorder, about the size of a shoe box, a Geloso 268.


You could buy them from Russell Oaten's Disk Den in Rattray St.

John stuck it up his jumper, threw a huge oversized plaid coat bought from a Dutch immigrant over the whole shaboodle, and headed off to the town hall.

Nobody frisked shaboodles in those days, and the bootlegger moved seamlessly inside, where he set up the Geloso 268 on his knees under the coat.

Those who went to the concert might remember John.

He was the only one sitting down.

Everyone else was standing and screaming.

John was at work, he couldn't afford to move.

He was bootlegging the Beatles.

The concert ended and John was retrieving the Geloso 268 when he noticed the right reel was spinning wildly, no tape to be seen.

Then he looked down at the floor.

A mountain of brown oxide tape lay in a pile as big as John, Paul, George and Ringo's bottoms, probably even bigger.

The Beatles Live At The Dunedin Town Hall was on that tape, but all John could see was him in prison, so he scuttled for his life into the Dunedin night, the tape, someone else's problem, left behind.

Did, ummm, anyone, ummm, pick up that huge pile of tape?

Could you give me a ring?

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.


Add a Comment







Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter