Dutch Beatlemania 50 years on

On June 6, 1964, in an auction hall in the Dutch village of Blokker, four musicans played two concerts – each lasting only about 25 minutes – and caused a national sensation, writes Tracy Brown Hamilton.

It was the second stop of the Beatles’ first world tour, which was nearly cancelled when drummer Ringo Starr fell ill in London a few days earlier and was unable to travel.

Beatlemania had hit the Netherlands. By that June, the Beatles had already had two number one records in Holland, and had six others ranking in the Hit Parade charts. Shops sold dresses, neckties and even pantyhose featuring the band members’ faces. Yet this would be the Beatles’ first and only time performing on Dutch soil.

Photo journalist Eddy Posthuma de Boer, 83, was on assignment for the Volkskrant when Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and temporary replacement drummer Jimmy Nichol touched down at Schiphol on June 5, 1964 (Ringo rejoined the band ten days later in Australia).

The ‘missing’ Beatle did not discourage Dutch fans. The band was greeted by women in traditional Volendam clothing, journalists, police and thousands of shrieking, ecstatic fans. ‘It was the first time that you really saw Dutch people going crazy for popular musicians,’ Posthuma de Boer says. ‘Today you see it often, but this was quite new.’

Posthuma de Boer, then 33, was granted full access to the Beatles’ Dutch leg of their world tour. This included joining the band on a cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, where a crowd of more than 50,000 people lined the banks and bridges.

Boat

‘The Beatles were flabbergasted by the attention,’ Posthuma de Boer recalls. They were really just four young chaps from Liverpool – so fresh-faced and youthful – and they were delighted and surprised to have their own boat going around the city, and for all the people so thrilled to see them.’

One photo shows a young man treading water in the canal, gazing up starry-eyed at an amused Paul McCartney before being dragged out of the water by police. Looking back at his photographs, which were recently exhibited in Haarlem and feature in a new book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, the photographer wonders about the fates of some of his subjects.

The Beatles in Holland.jpg

‘Imagine, this was fifty years ago,’ he says, flipping through his photos. ‘These people, all these kids in these photos, they are now in their 70s,’ he says. ‘I was hoping the boy from the canal would turn up at the exhibition, but he didn’t. You never know where they are now.’

He says he’d particularly like to meet people who came to see the Beatles fifty years ago who are now 64, a reference to the Beatles’ song, ‘When I’m 64’. ‘It’s strange to me that it was so long ago,’ he says. ‘I wonder how it feels to have been a teenager then and be 64 now. Myself, I still feel 18.’

Although he remembers the Beatles fondly, he was not a fan of their music when he was first assigned to photograph them. ‘I had heard of the Beatles, of course,’ he says. ‘But there was a lot of new rock music at that time that I did not like. I was a jazz man.’

But the experience converted him. Their playlist consisted of just eight songs, including Twist and Shout, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and Can’t Buy Me Love, and Posthuma de Boer took notice.

‘I did not have any of their albums before these shows, but after I bought them all,’ Posthuma de Boer says. ‘The Beatles were really something different. The sounds, the rhythms, the words. It actually changed how we spoke English in Holland. We started saying things like “let it be” and “yeah”.’

And as in other parts of the world, the band’s style had an influence on young Dutch people. ‘It was the hair,’ Posthuma de Boer says. ‘Today you do not consider their hair long, but back then it was really something unusual. Six months after they came, you saw young men with long hair in Holland as well.’

Posthuma de Boer is not surprised by the attention the anniversary of two short concerts is getting. ‘There are other bands that are still around – like the Rolling Stones,’ he says. ‘But the Beatles. That’s something different. Their music from then is still loved now. People keep liking the Beatles, at any age.’

The jubilee has also allowed him to reminisce about his experience. ‘I have a lot of files, a lot of work that is put away and doesn’t come out for a long time,’ he says. ‘And then something like this 50 years anniversary comes along, and this file comes out again. It’s wonderful when that happens.’

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder, available from bol.com