Beatlemania remembered

Ms Charlotte McColl reports on the unveiling of a plaque at the site of the Old Tin Shed to
commemorate the Beatles concerts held in the Sydney Stadium fifty-seven years ago.


Outside the gates of Weigall Playing Grounds on the footpath of Neild Avenue, where Sydney Stadium once stood, a plaque was laid as part of Woollahra Council Plaque Scheme. This scheme honours exceptional people or events associated with the local government area that have made a significant impact on life in the area or Australia as a nation.

The event was celebrated with the unveiling of the plaque by the Mayor of Woollahra Cr Susan Wynne, Cr Anthony Marano, guest speaker Dr Janis Lander and Bob Rogers OAM, who was affectionately known as the fifth Beatle during the band’s tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Lander recounted her memories as a teenager swept up with Beatlemania, while Bob Rogers had some amusing anecdotes to share about the Beatles. ‘They had a powerful presence on stage; manic; electric performance’ were just some of the ways Dr Lander described the experience. She also recalled ‘running to the Sheraton Hotel and joining this screaming throng of girls waving to the windows hoping for a glimpse of the Beatles’.

The ceremony concluded with a surprise concert by tribute band Beatles Magic, with a number of Edgecliff Prep boys enjoying a dance to the music.

Mayor of Woollahra Cr Susan Wynne and
Cr Anthony Marano together with
Mr Bob Rogers OAM and Beatle Magic

The commemorative plaque

The video below shows part of the performance by tribute band Beatle Magic, which rekindled some memories of the fab four's historic visit

The Sydney Stadium was built in 1908 by Hugh D McIntosh to stage the world heavyweight boxing championship between Canadian Tommy Burns and Australian Bill Squires. The occasion was so successful that McIntosh went on to stage another boxing match. This match would change the history of boxing. Held on Boxing Day 1908, Johnson v Burns was the first match to crown a black Heavyweight World Champion. Johnson made light work of Burns over fourteen rounds, the match being stopped by police who believed Burns had a broken jaw.

In 1912 a roof was put on the corrugated iron and timber stadium, and the venue continued to host numerous boxing and wrestling matches. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Sydney Stadium would become the venue for some of the world’s biggest superstars of music. Overcoming a shaky start with some Sydneysiders believing the concerts to be a hoax, The Stadium was Sydney’s only venue big enough to warrant the expense of bringing the overseas musicians to Australia.

Superstars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, The Who as well as The Beatles were just some of the international stars to grace the spinning stage. Local acts included The Bee Gees, Johnny O’Keefe, Billy Thorpe, and The Easybeats, to name a few.

The unique stage in the almost round stadium could be rotated so the whole crowd would get a chance to see the performers. This was not done mechanically, but rather by hand. Stage hands would normally push the stage a quarter turn and then leave it for a few minutes before pushing it onward, again.

Frank Sinatra signing autographs for Grammar boys.jpg

Frank Sinatra signing autographs for Grammar boys (Fairfax Media FXJ376268)

Beatle poem cropped

A poem written by Old Sydneian and former master at College Street, Robert Alligham, published in The Sydneian 353 December 1964.

Nothing quite compared to the mania and excitement that was the Beatles. Warnings had come from the New York City Police and Hong Kong’s police chief that there would be chaos and confusion and that supporters (particularly young girls) would besiege their hotels. These warnings came to fruition with hordes of screaming fans following the “Fab Four” wherever they went.

The Beatles concert even caused disruption to a match that had been scheduled at Weigall between Grammar and The Scots College, according to a report in The Sydneian 353 December 1964 which stated:

“This match was not played at Weigall as by rote, as unusual civic distraction was expected from the appearance at the Stadium next door of the Beatles.”

You could still hear the animation and joy in Paul Schnider’s voice (OS 1973) as he recounted being at the Beatles concert in June 1964. He attended the concert with his mother, father and brother Robert (OS 1971), standing on the wooden benches, being careful not to fall, and behind a mesh fence, a situation that would not pass today’s WHS standards! Ringo Starr had re-joined the troupe by this stage, and the night was a Fantastic time, absolutely phenomenal!’

He recalled the drama and excitement of the wrestling with caged matches and masks and the overexcited grannies that would be at the front row bashing the stage.

Paul can remember three things about the 1960s: the change to decimal currency in 1966; the moon landing in 1969; and going to the Beatles concert in 1964.

The Fab Four’s frenetic visit was also marked by a poem published in The Sydneian 353 December 1964. The poem (shown above) was written by Old Sydneian Robert Alligham who went on to become Senior English Master at Grammar. Allingham didn’t attend the Beatles concert but a fellow school friend recounting the event inspired the poem. It reveals a sentiment which seemed to be common among fellow concert-goers: the screams from fans drowned out the music.

Martin Rossleigh, Old Sydneian and former long-time Edgecliff teacher, remembers heading off to the Stadium on a Friday night with his father to watch the wrestling after he had checked the newspaper to see who was performing. The basic interior of the stadium, with its wooden bleachers holding a big crowd to watch the spectacle, was enthralling. Children were already dressed in their pyjamas while their animated parents would hit the stage with their umbrellas in excitement.

In 1970 The Stadium held its last concert, being demolished to make way for the Eastern Suburbs Railway.