The Beatles' Early Concerts Ended in Blood, Tears, and Tear Gas

Monday, February 19, 2024

The Beatles got used to playing shows to crowds of brawling people. They shared what it was like to watch their audience fight.

In the Beatles’ earliest concerts, they played for crowds who seemed to be out for blood. Their audiences picked fights with staff at the venues, brawled with one another, and sprayed tear gas as the band played. They shared what it was like to constantly have this kind of chaos happening during their shows.  The Beatles played to tough, violent crowds in their early concerts.

The Beatles’ first big break came when they traveled to Hamburg. Here, they learned how to play to an audience and work together onstage. They also learned how to continue to perform in the face of tumult.

“The problem with the nightclubs in Hamburg was that most of the waiters and the barmen were gangsters,” George Harrison said in The Beatles Anthology. “They were tough guys, anyway; they were fighters, and there would always be fights.”

Their audiences were so predictably violent that the band knew which songs would whip them into a frenzy. They even learned to play, at least temporarily, through a haze of tear gas.

“I remember there were many nights in Hamburg when they pulled tear-gas guns out … Soldiers were in, and I remember telling one not to mess around with the barmaid, that she belonged to the club manager — one of the tough guys,” Harrison said. “But this soldier was getting drunk, trying to make it with the barmaid, and the next minute ‘Hully Gully’ was playing and all hell broke loose. By the end of the song we had to stop playing because of the tear gas.”

According to Harrison, the shows were always more violent when soldiers were in the audience.

Source: Emma McKee/


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