The year was 1964, the Prime Minister was Sir Robert Menzies and the band on everyone’s lips was The Beatles who had just embarked on their first world tour.
In peak Beatlemania, fans would do just about anything to grab a glimpse, and that made one building particularly memorable in the minds of The Beatles’ fans – the Sheraton Potts Point. Amidst The Beatles fever which spilled onto Sydney streets, there was an iconic photo taken of the famous four on this hotel balcony after they’d attracted hundreds of fans to the streets of Potts Point.
The Beatles 1964 tour
In 1964, when The Beatles dominated almost every chart in Australia, the band embarked on their first world tour. They’d already toured the UK and would also be heading to the US.
Over the deafening screams, The Beatles played to thousands over the course of 32 concerts across eight cities in Australia and New Zealand, with them making the stage their own at Sydney Stadium from 18th to 20th June. Photos only partially do justice to the pure euphoria and excitement felt by the crowds on those concert days.
It wasn’t just the fans that were in awe of the Fab Four – local Australian music acts, such as Johnny Chester, Johnny Devlin and Melbourne-based instrumental group The Phantoms, were some of the lucky few who scored a ringside seat to the mayhem.
The format differed from modern concerts with two sessions being played in one night. The first 45 minutes was covered by the local act, with The Beatles following an interval to perform a 30-minute set of just 11 songs from their then first two albums, as well as Can’t Buy Me Love from their soon-to-be-released A Hard Day’s Night.
The iconic photo
On the 11th June 1964, The Beatles landed in Sydney from Hong Kong at Kingsford Smith Airport, and were greeted by 700 young fans who braved the rain. They made their way to the Sheraton on Macleay Street in Potts Point, where the usually peaceful tree-lined streets became a temporary home to 300 fans, 40 policemen and six private security guards.
The next day the Sydney Morning Herald reported that amongst the dedicated crowd, Brian Frankham, 17, of Chetwynd Street, Merrylands, managed to throw a letter from his six-year-old sister Jeanette into the first car. Jeanette wrote inviting the Beatles to visit her home, and addressed the letter to “Georeg, John, Ringo, Pual, yeah, yeah, yeah,” with her phone number.
A press conference was held to commemorate their arrival with reporter Jimmy Nicol, of which Dick Lean, managing director of Stadiums Limited said, “They were just brilliant, under any circumstance. They handled the press with a sharp report that we’d just never seen before.” When asked by Nicol, “What do you expect to find here in Australia?”, Paul McCartney replied, “Uhh, Australians I should think.”
The day culminated in a few appearances on the infamous hotel balcony, drawing cheers and screams from the adoring crowd who even caught a glimpse of George in a towel.
One of the most memorable nights for a lucky few at the Sheraton would have been on the 18th June, which was also Paul McCartney’s 22nd birthday. After the concert, a party was held back at the Sheraton which included 17 girls who had won the Daily Mirror newspaper’s “Why I would like to be a guest at a Beatles’ birthday party” competition. To top off the night, rumour has it that Ringo passed out drunk at 3am the following morning.
The facade of the Sheraton was a modern statement for its time, with its striking brick work and structured railings making the building a statement along Macleay Street. Even after the building’s conversion to strata apartments in 1997, 40 Macleay Street still maintains its modernist roots and the integrity of its original facade.
This transition from hotel to home was not isolated to the Sheraton, with another 16 hotels in and around Kings Cross closing their commercial doors between 2000 and 2003 as tourism levels dropped. However, the recent rejuvenation of the Potts Point area has transformed it into a cultural and culinary delight.
Whilst residential apartments dominate the area today where the famous hotel once was, the vibrancy and excitement that The Beatles brought to Potts Point is still alive and well in the eclectic collection of bars and nightlife.
The Beatles recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of their iconic Abbey Road album. First released in 1969, the album was recently remixed by record producer Giles Martin, the son of the producer George Martin who was instrumental in launching the original album.
Just like the modern history of Potts Point, the story of The Beatles is constantly unfolding and evolving, with new bits of historical film and sound recordings emerging still to this day. There is even the flat top truck that paraded the group around after they landed in Sydney being used in Griffith, in the NSW Riverina today.
But there’s one thing for sure – both The Beatles and the streets of Potts Point will remain iconic for years to come.
If you’d like to be a part of the ever-changing, vibrant streets of Potts Point, get in touch with our team of local experts today.