It was 1965 and the Fab Four ― as the international press used to call the four young boys from Liverpool ― were on top of the world. The Beatles craze was in full force: over 180 million albums had sold worldwide, equaling nearly 1 million euro for each album; millions of fans (especially girls) were going crazy to see them live; a record number of the Nehru-collared “Beatles jackets” had sold, and the spread of their signature haircut that became a trend during the ‘60’s.
The Beatles became a cultural phenomenon of inconceivable proportions. Italy was no exception, as thousands of fans there eagerly waited for the day that the Beatles would reach Italian soil. This dream was finally set to come true in the summer of 1965 in Milan.
On the night of June 23, the Fab Four arrived at the city for their “mini-tour” which was eagerly organized by Leo Wächter, manager of the Vigorelli Theatre. He had just stolen the contract for other concerts in three Italian cities ― Rome, Genova, and of course, Milan ― from the famous Sergio Bernardini and his La Bussola, a historic venue in the wealthy area of Versilia.
After worldwide success, the Beatles arrived to Milan ready to ride out the Italian heatwave. Their train was expected to arrive at 10pm at Platform 16 in the elegant Central Station, where almost 3,000 restless fans were waiting.
“Colored banners and signs, pageboy wigs, printed t-shirts, skinny jeans, and mini skirts. Restless teens were eagerly awaiting to catch a glimpse of their idols. At 11:15 pm, the crowd broke through the police line and ran towards the platform. By 11:20 pm the police were already pushing back, and with the counterattack came the first punches. At 11:30 pm the crowd was forced to retreat from the battle. Down all the stairs, and into the arena the people were subdued by police batons.”
Tensions were high, but the enthusiasm was even higher. Right after midnight, the loudspeaker announced that the train was arriving from Lyon, but at Platform 3 instead of 16. Moments after the announcement, pandemonium ensued. People ran, people screamed ― all trying desperately to reach Platform 3 in time to attempt to touch their idols. Their efforts were in vain.
With the help of the policemen, the Beatles disappeared out of a side exit, without letting anyone see them. But even though the fans missed their first chance to see the Beatles, there was no time to be upset, as the following day was the day of the long-awaited debut concert. All the conditions were there for a successful trip for the Beatles.
However, something a bit odd happened. While fans were anxiously waiting – massive lines were forming outside the Hotel Duomo ― the press quickly lost interest in the event. The press for some reason couldn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the Beatles phenomena.
Right after the arrival of the Beatles on June 23, the main national newspapers were, in fact, quite negative. In the distinguished Il Messaggero newspaper, for example, the Fab Four were called “sublime idiots”, while Italian television hosts considered them useless musicians and bad singers, ignoring the Beatlemania that was far from over among fans. The mania was so strong that the most dedicated fans were the girls who loved the Beatles just for their looks, not even bothering to listen to their music.
“The Navy was forced to ban the ‘pageboy haircut’ among soldiers, while the members of the Italian Parliament started complaining about the Police Force, who was running after the Beatles, and forgetting routine public matters in the process.”
The Fab Four were expecting almost everything they encountered ― except being mockingly snubbed by the Italian press, stuck in the eternal duel between crazy fans and tepid reviewers. This duel rose once again the next day at 12 pm when a press conference took place at the Hotel Duomo. The press was animated, trying to find the most off-putting questions, while the Beatles mocked them in return for even more uncomfortable answers.
“How long do you think you will be successful for?”
“Until it lasts. And it will last a long time.”
“Do you think there is anyone more important than you guys?”
The Beatles performed two 35-minute mini-concerts, one in the afternoon and one at night, (as was the custom back then). 26,000 fans watched the concerts in a sweltering 100 degrees Fahrenheit summer heat.
The press was more focused on reporting the soccer derby match between AC Milan and Internazionale than the Beatles gig. At the end of the day, the press said that neither of the two concerts had sold out.
The reality was, Beatles fans were going crazy trying to fight their way into the packed concert hall. The Italian public television Rai even decided not to attend the night performance, considering it unworthy of recording.
Because of the unanimous decision by the Italian press to snub the collective delirium that the Beatles roused from their adoring crowds, very few pictures and video recordings of the concerts exist of what ended up being the only Italian tour of the Fab Four.
A short video recorded from the personal video camera of the Italian singer Peppino Di Capri ― the opening act for the Beatles, together with Fausto Leali, Guidone and the New Dada band ― and some pictures were taken during the afternoon photo shoot at Hotel Duomo are the only visual records.
The happy memories of the ones who were lucky enough to be there during that night at Vigorelli, though, are still alive ― just like Beatlemania, that after 52 years is still vivid and intact although the career of the Beatles was short-lived.