“They’re coming: YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!” So trumpeted the headline in the South China Morning Post on March 14, 1964, as “Beatlemania”, now at fever pitch worldwide, swept into Hong Kong. The Fab Four would arrive on Monday, June 8, en route to Australia, staying at the President Hotel and playing the following evening before departing on June 10.
As anticipation grew, the Post’s May 24 edition reported stores doing a brisk business in “Beatles suits” and “moptop” wigs. On June 5, the newspaper reported drummer Ringo Star Starr was too ill to travel. The “substitute Beatle” would be Jimmie Nicol.
“Wild Welcome at Kai Tak for The Beatles”, ran the headline on June 9. “Hundreds of screaming teenagers in Hongkong yesterday gave Britain’s Beatles a wild welcome,” the story read. “More than 1,000 boys and girls waited in the rain at Kai Tak airport for the plane carrying the long-haired pop singers, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Jimmie Nicol. As the plane approached the runway, one English girl said: ‘I told myself I wasn’t going to scream, but I think I will.’ A Chinese girl, asked if she was going to scream, replied: ‘Of course.’”
At the hotel, which stood at the corner of Nathan and Peking roads, the Beatles had to push through screaming fans to face reporters.
“Question: ‘Why did you call yourselves The Beatles?’
“Paul McCartney: ‘We thought it was a good name – at the time.’
“Q: ‘Would you like to go to China?’
“McCartney: ‘I thought this was China.’
“Lennon: ‘I could have sworn …’
“Harrison: ‘We got on the wrong plane.’”
A British journalist travelling with the group said that they had been amazed by the receptions the band had had along the way. “Teenagers fought with police in Beirut, crowds of girls were waiting when the plane touched down at dawn in Calcutta and there were crowds to greet them in Bangkok.”
A suitably stuffy “Guest Critic” had been assigned by the Post to review the concert at Kowloon’s Princess Theatre: “If a Beatles concert had been scheduled for this evening, I would have advised you: ‘Don’t bother to go. Buy their records and listen to them in the comfort of your own living rooms,’” he wrote on June 10. It had been “a pulsating pandemonium of rhythm and sound. [Screaming had] spread like a wildfire epidemic throughout the theatre. In all the years I have attended concerts in Hongkong, I have never quite heard anything like it.”
He signed off, a few paragraphs later, “So much for the Beatles.”
On June 11, the Post reported: “About 200 shrieking teenagers, mostly European girls, and a veritable army of police constables [...] were at Kai Tak airport yesterday when the Beatles took off for Sydney […] in minutes, the jet was lost in the cloudy, late afternoon sky. A freckled faced 11-year-old quickly turned around as if the sight was too much to bear. She whimpered ‘they’re gone,’ held her face, and drifted slowly back into the terminal.
McCartney had left a parting note for fans at the hotel. Reproduced in the newspaper, it read: “Hello Everybody in Honkey-Konk, thanks very much for the applause etc … All the best from the Beatles. P.S. Can’t wait to get back!”